The president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, is not my friend. I haven’t even set eyes on the man before but I pretty much have a fair idea what style he gravitates towards. It is his style and it tickles my senses in ways that my senses have not tickled in a very, very long time.
This his style of suiting all the time is very much a concern to me as much as the expectations of a great number of Ghanaians on having promises fulfilled them following his government’s impressive victory in the general elections of 2016. So let us just consider a case in point here where I am having to only concentrate the energies of my aching fingers to speaking about the president’s preference for what to wear. I don’t like wearing suits and jackets for every reason for which I don’t like it although I admire people who spot them every time and stylishly.
The president is not everybody. He might have been but he ceased being that the very day his hardwork of many years running of running for the highest seat of governance was given an emphatic and overwhelming embrace, so let’s just go past that for now.
Without mincing the words or making calculated attempts at massaging it, it should be obvious by now that I don’t like the fact that the president, since his investiture as the Fifth President of the Fourth Republic, has not worn anything depicting of the Ghanaian he is. Okay, let’s be a little factual now: the president wore an all-white batakari on his first day as president and maybe the next and then the next. Just maybe he did but then what happened? He got tired already?
When on November 23, 2015, former president John Mahama launched the Made in Ghana Campaign at the Accra International Conference Center, I was explicitly excited. And especially because of the many challenges encountered in attempts made in the past to promote the consumption of made-in-Ghana goods and services, it was truly refreshing to see that a government had made it a priority to make this one too a priority.
They didn’t have to like it because it mattered that it was good for the image of this country – simply that. I don’t know how far beauty is defined but in my honest view, it was always beautiful seeing the people at the top there look so radiant in fabric or anything else that can be traced directly to “Ghanaian.” And to add that I insanely admire the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Attah is a proud statement I can make repeatedly. To add a little to that, I think this last sentence is my most favourite in this entire write-up because he just finds a nice way of making a statement with his choice of what to wear.
He did during the president’s announcement of him and others for various ministerial portfolios at the official seat of government and he did again during his vetting before the Appointments Committee of Parliament at the Parliament House in Accra. His subsequent public engagements like the press briefings and other official meetings just went on to add to this point.
Again, I love him for that and I am positive this love will reflect in his job of turning around our economy, making it an even prouder statement to be made. I wish I had to make the same case for all the many women appointees in this government but it would be almost cliché to have to single out any of them to be congratulated for selling made-in-Ghana because that’s all they are made of – local fabric or African.
My salutes on this page are all for our amazing women by the way. Perhaps, coming from the background I hail from, and from the little experiences I have been privileged to have been exposed to, it is the reason I have brought so much passion to this subject matter especially when it has the president at its very core. I made a personal decision a few years ago to wear only fabric or African wear to work. I actually wished I had started earlier but until I had stepped into the arena of financial strength where I could pay up the cost for my own dresses, I just had to manage the few I had.
Luckily, I can afford that now so it makes the decision even more seamless. Maybe it is politics as we’ve been so forcefully brainwashed to believe that “everything in this country is politics” but I will help you with a little throwback to Friday, November 12, 2004. On this day, the government launched a National Friday Wear Programme, an initiative aimed at projecting a unique Ghanaian identity through the extensive use of local fabric and designs as business wear.
John Agyekum Kufour was the president of this great nation at the time and Nana Akufo-Addo, our current president, was Foreign Minister in the same government. He had worn enough suits and ties up until this point in his life-long life as an astute lawyer of repute and a foreign minister par excellence. He must surely not have forgotten this too early now.
So should we not be applauding the governments that followed for building on this by instituting other great initiatives like the Wear Made In Ghana Campaign, and the Batakari Day, which was expected to be observed on every first Friday of a month? I shudder to fathom the doubts that a case would be made that it is early days yet to be making such a wild call or could it be that I am already jumping the gun in calling for especially president Akufo-Addo and his vice, Dr Bawumia to promote local fabric beyond the mere talk (that is if there is) to actually living it? Almost two months in the high offices of president and vice should be that short a time should it?
Our president has already been to very high-ranking events of global status such as the France Africa Summit in Mali, and the African Union Summit both in January of this year, as well as his recent trip to The Gambia to join other world leaders in gracing the second swearing-in ceremony of Adama Barrow, president of The Gambia.
Do you want to take a guess at what he wore in all these events? On Tuesday, February 21, 2017, Akufo-Addo returned to the Parliament House but this time as president of the republic to address the nation and some 275 Members of Parliament on the State of the Nation. I was glad to hear him say that he was proud to be the first president to be privileged to tap into the knowledge of three living former presidents and while he received a lot of heckling during his address, that did not worry me so much.
It should be obvious by now that I would have to comment on his choice for attire again right? A suit and a tie? And that some people thought that his choice of shirt colour and his flying tie did little to compliment his looks is just another one of them.
Here is the verdict: this is not a hate speech or a popularity-search note for myself because I sincerely know a better way to that but if there have been conscious attempts by previous administrations at pushing the wear-Ghana and promote made in Ghana products and services, should we beg for it to be sustained? My very good friend, a senior brother and a great encourager, Kofi Effah went for lectures on a Monday morning in a batakari and a lady asked him why he was in an African-wear on a Monday. I don’t blame the young lady much because she still has an erroneous mindset about what “official” is – and many other Ghanaians do, and if it is not a shirt with a foreign designer tag on it with a matching flying tie, that must definitely be bad news.
I can only imagine how far that lady could receive transformation if, Mr President, you also decided that you would wear African print to the office on Monday mornings. Sadly, I am not interested in preferences; I am not interested in politics; I am not interested in feelings; I definitely am not even interested in ideologies – I am interested in Ghana and Ghana means selling us right. If I had a quarter of a quarter of all the privileges and global opportunities that our president had, I doubt I would compromise on a decision such as choosing between what to wear or not, whether it crosses the thresholds of diplomacy or whatever else is related to that term.
The King of the Kingdom of Morocco, His Majesty King Mohammed VI, was in Ghana only last week and pretty much what he came here to do were very official and diplomatic of a sort. The king was not seen in a suit or a tie.
The Nigerians hardly do that too and while we are not Nigerians or even Moroccans, we aren’t suit-wearing people too. Besides, who ever saw the president of America ever wear an African print to even jog before? Mr. President, you don’t know me but I count as a number that makes up the over 27 million or so (if not more or less) Ghanaians that have you as their only president today. I am not even popular because my family name has been in the shadows for as old as the word “old” is so there is no need making that attempt but knowing how much you love Ghana, I know you would be considering my concern. If it is true too that you have a listening government, I want to know, “Have I been heard?”
*The author is a trained journalist and writer. His debut book project “Epistles To My Bubune” is scheduled for release soon.