Feature Article of Thursday, 31 May 2012
Columnist: Jackson, Margaret
By Margaret Jackson
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, and to be compassionate.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
The man who together with his then Liberian wife was swiftly evacuated from the chaotic burning bushes in far away war-torn Liberia in 1991 by the PNDC government during the height of the explosive civil war in that country so that he would not die a senseless death, is today looking for a nonsensical opportunity to plunge peace-loving Ghana into a civil war due to his insatiable desire for power.
This man who seems to have totally forgotten how providence smiled on him by helping him to escape death through the eye of a needle, is today calling on Ashantis to demonstrate courage as their counterparts in Ivory Coast did through force of arms. And to make matters even worse, this ex-refugee has loudly shown unflinching solidarity with Ghana’s most extremist politician who has called for the extermination of Gas and Ewes by the Ashantis. They say good living at times make people to forget their past, otherwise God would never have warned the Israelites through Moses to never forget Him when they arrive in the land flowing with milk and honey and find themselves living in good houses and enjoying life to its fullest.
It is important to note that sometimes power, glory, sheer arrogance, riches, immoral behaviour, self-centeredness, wicked intensions and largely greed, are able to blind or sway some people to forget their lowest points in history by giving them the false sense to behave that they are the monarchs of all that they survey when they bounce back in life.
Majority of Ghanaians do not know how Jake Okanta Obetsebi Lamptey landed on the safe shores of Ghana in February 1991 from war-torn Liberia, a beaten and subdued soul, who was hoping against hope and had nowhere to lay his head. I guess those who even know about Jake’s story, do not know the magnanimity of an NDC man, Mr. Kofi Portuphy, currently the National Vice Chair of the NDC, and his compassionate wife, who out of sympathy, love, kindness and compassion for a fellow human being, helped a penniless and wretched Jake Okanta Obetsebi Lamptey and his wife for a whole year by providing them with food, clothing and other needs when they landed on the safe shores of Ghana.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to know that it is this same kind Kofi Portuphy, who as the Director of the then National Mobilization Programme (NMP), personally played a major role in helping to snatch Jake and his wife from the claws of death and made sure that they got seats in the last Ghana Airways flight that left Liberia with Ghanaian refugees in February 1991, which eventually ensured Jake’s safe arrival to Ghana to once again breathe life. It is important for Ghanaians to know that at the height of the chaotic war, Jake Okanta Obetsebi Lamptey had invested in Liberia through his Lintas Company.
When the civil war broke out in Liberia as a result of Charles Taylor’s uprising from the Nimba County in the late 1980s and innocent citizens from various countries including Ghana were caught in the carnage and crossfire, the PNDC government headed by Chairman JJ Rawlings did the right thing by evacuating thousands of stranded Ghanaians who were out there for greener pastures. And surely, one of the Ghanaians who had their backs pinned to the wall due to the senseless slaughter of people in Liberia was Jake Okanta Obetsebi Lamptey and his then Liberian wife and children. Word has it that Jake and his wife as well as other Ghanaians who were so scared to death had no option than to run to the bushes for cover and it took the ECOMOG and other Ghanaian officials a lot of persuasions and assurances before Jake, his wife and other Ghanaians emerged from the bushes to board the last flight commissioned by the PNDC government.
I strongly believe that when Jake got a seat on the LAST EVACUATION FLIGHT from Liberia he may have heaved a big sigh of relief, thanked God and silently sang the following song by John Newton (1725-1807) whilst praising the Almighty for giving him another lease in life; Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now I see. Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; 'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home. When Jake landed in Accra, he and his then wife became stranded and had to sleep that night at the offices of the NMP at Kofi Batsa House (Opposite Ghana Standards Board) at Okponglo, Accra. But Mr. Portuphy who was touched by Jake’s plight offered to assist him and his wife by providing for their basic needs for a whole year. Mr. Portuphy, who wanted to lift up the broken spirit of Jake, went further to offer Jake the opportunity to assist the NMP to register and distribute relief items to the Liberian refugees of which he became a beneficiary. Furthermore, Mr. Portuphy assisted Jake and his wife to establish an NGO and continued to give him pocket money, clothing and food for a year. But the most gratifying thing to note is that Jake at the offices of the NMP never ceased in praising the PNDC for saving his life and that of other Ghanaians.
There is another twist to Jake’s life story in Ghana after his return from Liberia. Jake and his family were thrown out of a property he acquired from SSNIT at Cantonments due to non-payment in the early 1990s. The situation was so bad especially for Jake’s Liberian wife and children who became homeless.
The situation became so terrible for Jake’s wife and children that the Chairman of the PNDC, JJ Rawlings heard about it and immediately asked Mr. Kofi Totobi Quakyi, then Secretary of Information to help save the family from embarrassment. Mr. Totobi Quakyi immediately moved in and Jake’s wife and children ended up being accommodated free of charge for several years at the State Protocol Guest House at Switchback Road, opposite the 37 Military Hospital in Accra. It took JJ Rawlings and Kofi Totobi Quakyi, two individuals whose NDC party is being vilified today by Jake, to save Jake’s family from homelessness.
In life, they say one good turn deserves another, but with people like Jake who have short memories, they always repay kindness with inhumanity. And that was what Jake Obetsebi Lamptey did to Mr. Kofi Portuphy, who God used in saving his life and also assisted him with all his basic needs for a year when he landed on Ghana’s shores from Liberia.
We all know what ex-president Kufuor did immediately he was sworn into office in January 7, 2001. He descended heavily on perceived supporters or members of the NDC and removed all of them from sensitive positions throughout the country. Even chief directors of the various ministries were not spared, as Kufuor somehow concluded that they were all NDC supporters, and therefore, replaced them all. Co-incidentally, Kufuor’s Chief of Staff or Iron Fisted Rod at the time was no other person than Jake Okanta Obetsebi Lamptey.
But Jake Okanta Obetsebi Lamptey who claims to be a Ga, yet does not speak Ga; the man who claims to be a Ga, yet shows solidarity with a bigot who calls for the extermination of Gas by the Ashantis, showed Mr. Kofi Portuphy where power lies by poking his hands into his eyes. Can you believe that Mr. Portuphy, the man who gave food and comfort to Jake when he returned from Liberia in a hopeless state, was one of the first NDC officials to be dismissed from office by Jake when the NPP assumed power in 2001? I have it on record that Jake personally walked to the offices of Mr. Portuphy with Brigadier General (retired) Joseph Odei, but did not meet him. Jake then told Mr. Portuphy’s secretary that he Jake has fired him and that he should hand over to Brigadier General (retired) Joseph Odei when he returns.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is how Jake Okanta Obetsebi Lamptey repaid Mr. Portuphy. He walked straight to his offices and fired him in his absence. Yes, Jake fired Mr. Portuphy by word of mouth. No letter of dismissal, and if you connect the dots just go and listen to Sammy Awuku’s speech to NPP students in the Eastern Region in which he coached them on how to grab posts if the NPP should return to power. And if you do not shudder when people like these make such pronouncements in our cherished Ghana, then I don’t know what to say. Mr. Portuphy was given the marching orders by Jake and immediately replaced with Brigadier General (retired) Joseph Odei as head of NADMO. But thanks be to God, Mr. Portuphy returned as Head of NADMO when the NDC returned to power. Mr, Portuphy, who has no ill-feelings towards Jake, simply stated that it would be good if Jake and his followers read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.
Mr. Jake Okanta Obetsebi Lamptey, National Chair of the NPP, also seems to have forgotten his days in the Liberian bushes where he was hiding with his family for fear of being devoured by the warlords, and called on Ashantis to demonstrate courage as their counterparts in Ivory Coast did through force of arms. That is why it is equally important for Ghanaians to note the quote by George Santayana which states that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". If indeed Jake had not forgotten his pathetic situation in Liberia before being rescued, he would not today turn into an ethnocentric by calling on Ashantis to take up arms and also show solidarity with Ken Agyapong who called for the extermination of Gas and Ewes by the Ashantis. Jake has seen war before, and he saw death staring him in the face, therefore, he should normally be the first person to educate Ghanaians on inflammatory statements. He should have been the first person to chill the NPP hotheads out, but he is rather the chief perpetrator.
I am amazed that Jake who had seen war and its devastating effect on life and property, and even got his business totally destroyed in Liberia does not seem to have learnt any lessons. In fact, Jake behaves as if he does not care about the war drums being beaten by the likes of Kennedy Agyapong, Nana Akufo-Addo, Sammy Awuku and Karbo who have all made some contentious statements that can plunge the country into war. Because Jake and his NPP party are bent on coming to power at all cost, he sees no evil and hears no evil. Even when Ursula Owusu went to Metro TV with an “All Die Be Die” ‘T’ Shirt Jake had nothing to say but full of praise.
Mr. Jake Okanta Obetsebi Lamptey, whose true colours are coming into sharper focus is again in the news. As the first chief of staff and later tourism minister in Kufuor’s government, Jake was given a state bungalow at No. 2 Mungo Street at the Ridge Residential area to live in. But this man later turned round to grab that property which did not go down well with Mr. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwah and Dr. Edward Omane-Boamah, who took him to court on alleged abuse of office and cronyism. But the NPP packed Supreme Court, which has vowed never to rule on any case emanating from the NDC on merit, by a majority decision last week ruled in favour of Jake. But in a swift move which may even be cheered by JJ Rawlings, the government of Ghana reversed the decision by the Supreme Court, and in a press statement signed by Information Minister, Fritz Baffour, stated that Cabinet has resolved “NOT to sell the said property,” currently being occupied by Nii Lamptey Vanderpuye, a presidential aide. The statement added that “no political appointee should be allowed to engage in such unacceptable transaction.” There is however one thing that the NPP folks are missing or are refusing to understand. They should go and study the laws of the land very well. The government of Ghana has the vested powers to buy any land or property in the interest of Ghana. That is why people are at times compensated when their houses or other properties are destroyed to pave way for road construction or other national projects. So all what the government is saying is, yes, the Supreme Court has given the property to Jake, but in the better interest of Ghana, the government has taken it back. Therefore, if Jake indeed paid for the said property, all what he would get is a refund and some little compensation from the government.
Sometimes in life, when things go well for us we tend to forget where we were sometime back when God used some people as angels to lift us from our doldrums. As a result, we erroneously begin to behave that we are what we are through our own efforts. This is the mess Jake finds himself today. Ladies and gentlemen, my big question is, if we have such people like Jake in leadership positions in the country, do we have any hope of moving forward as a country? This is the Real Jake Okanta Obetsebi Lamptey, Chairman of the NPP, which Ghanaians must know to draw their conclusions on his character traits and behaviour in general. It is people like Jake whose attitude drive good people to refuse to help genuine people who encounter problems. I am happy that when it counted most, it is men and women in the NDC family who Jake today consider as demonic and evil people who came to his rescue and that of his family.
I will leave my friends from the NPP camp with this wise saying, “Don't worry so much about your self-esteem. Worry more about your character. Integrity is its own reward.”