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Why The President Of Ghana Said He Was Like A Dead Goat

President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana has goats on his mind.
Issouf Sanogo
AFP/Getty Images
President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana has goats on his mind.

A goat stew has been simmering in Ghana's cooking pots for months.

It all began in March. President John Dramani Mahama was definitely in hot water. He'd been facing an unprecedented series of strikes and protests over poor delivery of services and economic difficulties.

On an official visit to Botswana, he reportedly told an audience of expatriate Ghanaians:

"I have seen more demonstrations and strikes in my first two years. I don't think it can get worse. It is said that when you kill a goat and you frighten it with a knife, it doesn't fear the knife, because it is dead already."

So just as a knife doesn't bother a dead goat, the strikes no longer bother him.

The Ghanaian online newspaper JoyOnLine ran the headline: "I have dead goat syndrome — Mahama tells Ghanaians."

It's a curious and crypticanalogy. But Ghanaians, especially opposition politicians, jumped on it and have been making hay ever since.

"Goat" promptly became Mahama's nickname. (And it's not the kindest of nicknames. Calling someone a goat is akin to calling him or her a dunce.)

Even children can tell you the president's new moniker.

The goat has horned its way into politics. At a Sept. 15 anti-government demonstration in Ghana's capital, Accra, one sign said: "Ghost names vote goats."

It was a tongue-in-cheek reference to next year's elections. The idea is that "ghost names" — fake names — will be casting votes for Mahama, who, as vice president, first assumed the highest office in 2012 when President John Evans Atta Mills died. Mahama was elected in a close vote later that year.

The president isn't the only goat in Ghana.

The ruminants can be seen corralled in certain areas: near the beach in Accra and at a goat market atKwame Nkrumah Circle, near a major crossroads in the heart of the city. There's the odd goat tied up in a family compound or backyard. And goats also roam freely in Accra and other parts of the country. No one bothers them.

Goat is a staple in many delectable dishes, including goat stew, goat soup, roasted goat and goat kebabs. All are popular. Many Ghanaians enjoy eating goat meat and relish the taste.

Occasionally, a plump goat, clearly ready for the cooking pot, may be purloined and a pilferer chased.

But Mahama has had second thoughts about being a dead goat. On Aug. 13, the banner headline in Ghana's Daily Guide was "I'm a Living Goat! Mahama speaks. See stories on page 2 and 3."

Flip to Page 3 and the Daily Guide quotes the Ghanaian leader saying he has been resurrected.

" 'I am a living goat not a dead goat,' Mahama said jokingly, after the backlash from his 'dead goat syndrome' comment," writes the newspaper.

The Daily Guide says that Ghana's president gave an interview to state-run Uniiq FM radio in which he "backtracked and said he had now changed from a dead goat to a living one."

So the Mahama "dead goat" saga has become another juicy goat dish to dig into and savor. You could say he's had something of a (goat) roasting.

And the nickname has stuck.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.
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