But man, proud man, Dress’d in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d, His glassy essence, like an angry ape, Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven As makes the angels weep.
— Isabella in Shakespeare’s play, MEASURE FOR MEASURE
A little under two weeks ago, JOY FM reported the story of a woman in Accra who claimed to have been assaulted by a soldier who was among a group of soldiers working on a road.
According to the report, the woman stated that a soldier on a road-making vehicle moved the machine so dangerously towards her that she felt the soldier was going to kill her by running the machine over her.
The woman went on to state that, in the altercation which followed, the soldier assaulted her, giving her a swollen face. She admitted hitting the soldier back in retaliation.
JOY FM made two statements: that the police were yet to investigate the alleged assault and that, at the time of the news report, the radio station had not been able to contact the Ghana Armed Forces.
The following day, as is expected of any credible news medium, JOY FM contacted no other person than Colonel M’Bawine Atintande, newly appointed Public Affairs Director of the Armed Forces Public Relations Directorate.
The apparently highly irritated Colonel behaved in a manner unworthy of someone appointed to provide a good image of his organization.
One would have thought that Colonel Atintande would promise to look into the allegation with a view to finding out whether the woman had actually been assaulted by the soldier or whether the Armed Forces were dealing with a publicity-hungry woman.
Instead of any such promise, Colonel Atintande unburdened himself of the sentiment that we civilians were too free with allegations of military brutality.
He surprised me further by admitting that he had not even seen the woman, neither did he have any information that the woman had made a report to the police. Case closed, perhaps?
Before writing this article, I had been fortunate to read Major(rtd) Albert Don-Chebe’s article entitled, WHEN COMMUNICATION FAILS…..and published in the ‘’Daily Graphic’’ of Monday, March 14,2011.
Major Don- Chebe writes, ‘’If only organizations and individuals will give a little thought to the strategic value of communication, we will all be spared the ‘fear, panic and alarm’ that is slowly becoming a national pre-occupation.’’
Writing about heads of organizations who do not appreciate the true worth of the communication professional, he writes; “A communication professional often acts as another protective shield for the head and provides the head with one last card in case the institution is getting too much flak.’’
Again, according to the retired Major: ‘’The communication manager or director also acts as a sponge for the institution or a wind vane for the head of the institution.’’
Who should not be appointed as communication manager? Major Don-Chebe notes that some heads of organization wrongly imagine:
‘’Any pleasant-looking person who can string together a number of phrases in
English is enough to represent the institution.’’
When Col. Atintande was appointed to replace Col. E. W. K. Nibo, ‘’The Mirror’’ did a write-up of him. From all indications, Col. Atintande has solid academic and professional credentials for the job.
Unfortunately, he failed to acquit himself creditably in the case of the alleged assault. By being dismissive of frequent public complaints about military brutality, he showed that he would never bother himself about such reports.
He may not like it, but he should know that, all too often, defenceless civilians have been victims of police and military brutality. In a number of such cases, the provocation initially came from the police or the soldiers.
A soldier would go to a place and misbehave. When the civilians fight back, this unruly and undisciplined soldier would go back to the barracks, tell an embellished story of how he had been attacked without provocation, and then return to the scene with his colleagues to brutalize anyone they can find, even if the victims were innocent by-standers or passers-by.
Col. Atintande should check the records before he annoys civilians with his attitude.
Like the police, if there is one thing soldiers hate most, it is being challenged by civilians. We appear to them like rats and cockroaches (apologies of Col Muammar Gathaffi) that must be exterminated.
If Col. Atintande had not even seen the woman, on what grounds did he dismiss the story? How did he know that the woman had or had not reported the case to the police?
In any case, did Col. Atintande actually expect the police to spring into action by arresting the soldiers on the mere report of a mere woman? Have we not had cases when soldiers have taken deep offence following the arrest of one or two of their number by the police?
I find Col. Atintande’s angry and dismissive attitude a bit ironic. In the first place, as part of the Independence celebrations, the air arm of the Ghana Armed Forces had tried to present a ‘human face’ to the civilian population by taking some of them on a flight in military planes.
Secondly, from time to time, there are calls for military training to form part of preparations for civilian work because of the perceived discipline in the armed forces.
If there are alleged reports of undisciplined behavior, how can the Armed Forces convince civilians that they have a human face and that their training is worth inculcating into civilians?
As the Ghana Armed Forces PR man, Col. Atintande should note that he has been ‘’dressed in a little brief authority’’ to present the best face of the armed forces to the public by consistently proving that soldiers are not the enemies of civilians and that the military Code of Conduct is against soldiers assaulting innocent civilians.
He will not last forever as the armed forces PR man. Before him was Colonel Nibo and before Col. Nibo was Col. Agyemfra, I think. When he eventually retires from the armed forces, as he is bound to do, he will become ‘civilianized’. He should treat civilians with respect, and not with contempt. Hitting a woman is regarded as a cowardly, dastardly and unchivalrous act.