By: Dr. Nana Sifa Twum, Communications Consultant
Sika ɛmpɛ dede” is an Akan phrase, which was used by President Nana Akufo-Addo in his first broadcast to the nation on the state of the economy last week Sunday. “Sika ɛmpɛ dede” which literally means, “money does not like noise” has gained roots within this relatively short time in national discourse. It has come up very high on social media trending matters. It has become a phrase and mantra of the moment and is used by almost all classes of people at the least chance or opportunity.
The phrase “Sika ɛmpɛ dede” has been at either number one or two on almost all social media platforms, especially on Twitter and Instagram. It has been humorously used at events and meetings. While it has been turned into a joke and a fun-making statement, the use of it by the President has a special connotation in political communication. Such phrases are often used by high-profile politicians.
The use of satire in communication was popular in the United State of America and its use made some American leaders so famous. History has it that Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the USA for instance, was known as an inventor and tinkerer because of how he used portions of the Bible in a satirical manner.
He was said to have created a New Testament of his own, one that most Christians would hardly recognize, but he told his story anyway. The French monarch, Louis XVIII George Cruikshank was also said to be one of the first to pioneer the genre of political cartoons to depict failure to fit into Napoleon’s boots as his crown falls from his head in a satirical communication. People often ask how Abraham Lincoln became a great speaker and writer. His speeches during the presidential years were so powerful as a great speaker, because of the use of satirical messages. Mention can also be made of President Barack Obama’s tweet about Russia and Donald Trump’s birth certificate as satire and Tony Blair’s statement, “We are light years from being a true meritocracy and the famous story David Cameron quote about his wife Samantha, enquiring about turning off the faucet.
These appear funny, but they are with a deep sense of political expression. In his broadcast to the nation on that Sunday night, President Akufo-Addo’s use of the “Sika ɛmpɛ dede” phrase, has led many to question the impact humour has on politics and its communications, but one thing is clear and that is: satire has made politics more accessible, leading to more informed citizens, who have the potential to form more educated opinions and discuss those views with others. Even though the statement was not initially made in Akan, but rather in French and later in English, no one seems to be using other languages in the discourse, except in the Akan language.
This is the point of attachment of the people to the subject the President has raised and the expected impact he wanted to exert on his people. His statement, very impactful as it has become, is considered by some as a joke. This is normal because satire is usually considered a form of high comedy or a joke, but there is a sharp distinction. Comedy or joking is a much broader genre. It must be noted, that all satire is humour, but not all humour is satire and includes everything from intelligence.
The main objective of the use of satire in political communication is to raise people’s awareness about the current state of affairs and to challenge their viewpoints by using humour and irony. In the case of President Akufo-Addo, he has been able, with the use of this satirical message, to confront the unpleasant reality, which was the “noise” in the society, which he has observed to be blurring the real economic discourse.
For him, when the “noise” is off and there is calm in the system, there would be the needed focus for the nation to work together to find lasting solutions to the economic downturn. He used satire here as a genre, or category, of art that uses wit, irony and sarcasm to talk about what he sees as a bad attitude of “noise making” and used that for the main purpose to change or correct the wrongdoing being highlighted by ridiculing it.
The question then would be, where was the “noise” coming from and who were those in the Ghanaian society who are making the “noise?” He is the President of the land and obviously, he sees and hears what other citizens or people in the country do not see or hear. He then has to use his Executive Powers to call for calm for development to continue, as he espoused in his broadcast and to find solutions to the difficulties and challenges facing the nation.