His voice is as booming as ever, but the body has taken a bit of a battering from 80 years of the hustle and bustle of life generally.
President John Agyekum Kufuor arrived at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra to perform the inauguration ceremony to kick start various activities to mark the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) yesterday, in a wheelchair.
When he sat at the Castle as the constitutional Head of State of this Republic of Ghana, and initiated various interventionist policies to move this country forward and expand the frontiers of media freedom, Mr. Kufuor was a tall and handsome man, full of vitality.
The changing trend in manhood associated with age was not lost on the former President and one-time Board Chairman of Kumasi Asante Kotoko Football Club. Yesterday, dressed in his top and down grey suite, he began his speech by alluding to his advancing age and its ramifications.
The ‘Gentle Giant’ expressed that today the youth are now making a mockery of his grey hair and old age, but he is not perturbed by such acts, for that is a normal phenomenon in Africa.
The ex-President was warmly welcomed by executives of the GJA, and as he took his spectacles to read his speech, he expressed that recently, people are openly giving him funny names, which, in Africa, comes as a result of his grey hair and old age, but he finds it hilarious and nothing to worry his head over; he is okay with that, for it does not necessarily mean he cannot do anything for his society.
Speaking at the launch of the 70thAnniversary of the GJA in Accra, the statesman enumerated his young days in Kumasi, saying he was in Standard 2 in Primary School when the GJA was founded in the then Gold Coast in 1949.
The ex-President said: “Today, thank God I am 80 years old and classified culturally and socially as an ‘OLD MAN,’ and, indeed, many an impudent youngster pokes fun at me in public by catcalling me ‘OLUU’ to indicate that my time is past and not too relevant to current issues of society.” (then paused his speech as he giggled)
With this proclamation, the entire audience present at the programme was plunged into amusement as they were seen smiling and shouting, and he continued after the uproar settled; “Truth be told, in my younger days I too used to perceive such older people with similar impudence. So now, I can absorb such youthful cheek with humour and not be hurt,” he stressed.
The statesman said that his reason for repealing the Criminal Libel Law in the year 2001 immediately he assumed office, while the current President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, was then the Attorney General, was because he has always believed in the “mantra of freedom and justice.”
“The point here is your association is quite aged, but happily because it is instituted and organised to be timeless in the sense of its day open-ended with successive generations of journalistic membership, it is still youthful. It does not suffer the perception of irrelevance to the ever changing circumstance of culture in society. It’s essential and central purpose (of the GJA) was, is, and must always be to train and discipline its members to seek information, verify, digest and report it with such commentary where necessary, as objectively as it can be.
He continued to congratulate some fallen veterans of the GJA for their exceptional services rendered to the state, and also admonished journalists not take anything for granted, but rather be circumspect in their investigations and reportage in helping shape the evolution of the society, for this could help society to educate itself, and deepen its self awareness to make requisite decisions where needed.
“You must always remember that the abuse of immense power of the media led to the Rwandan genocide, through which almost a million people perished in the East African country in 1994.The Ghana Journalists Association must monitor its members to ensure that the rights of individuals in governance are not unduly violated. You association should be able to pull out its members who flout your ethics and rules for the necessary discipline and sanctions,” Mr. Kufuor added.