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Feature Article of Monday, 23 January 2012

Columnist: Asante-Yeboah, Joseph

Martin Amidu was wise not to resign

Following a press release issued by the then Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Martin Amidu, on 12th January 2012, some commentators, even outside the NDC Government, felt that he had made his position untenable within the Government and should resign. Others pressed him to give the name of his fellow Cabinet member who, he said, perceived that his integrity and professionalism as a lawyer “was a threat to the concealment of gargantuan crimes against the people of Ghana in which they might be implicated.” I felt it was improper to put pressure on him to mention the name as it might be impracticable for him to do so at this time. As it turned out, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice did not resign, but President Atta Mills dismissed him on 19th January 2012. I felt sad about the dismissal.

I was disappointed but not surprised that members of the NDC Government were vocal in calling for Martin Amidu’s resignation. No wonder that, in the press release, he had called members of a communication team of the NDC young and inexperienced. To me, if they were not, they would have considered that a response to the press release required “cool heads”, as Martin Amidu had mentioned in the press release, and calm and soul searching by the Government as a team, including the President.

This did not happen, as is shown in the reason given in the dismissal letter. I will return to that later.

I would be surprised if Martin Amidu’s press release had come out of the blue, as far as the NDC Government is concerned. As he was courageous to issue the press release, particularly in the light of threats to his life, as he stated in it, I feel that Ghanaians should commend him and should not press him too hard to give the name. After all, it was obvious to many people the person he had in mind. He must have raised this matter within the NDC and Government structures but not got anywhere. It is up to the people of Ghana not to miss this lifeline thrown by him to save the sinking ship which is the nation itself.

It is significant that, after Martin Amidu had issued the press release on 12th January 2012, despite the threat to his life as he had said, he was in court in person on 16th January 2012, amongst other things, to pray the court to place an order of refund of the C51m judgement debt paid to Alfred Woyome. The case was adjourned to 14th February 2012. One other issue is that there is a missing link between the time the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice instituted the court case and the date the President dismissed him for misconduct. It is important to find that missing link as the President claims not to have know about the payment.

As pointed out earlier, members of the NDC Government were naturally vocal in calling for Martin Amidu’s resignation. Surprisingly, similar calls were made from some leading politicians outside the NDC. But I was disappointed when the Ghana Bar Association said the President could not be faulted in any way for terminating his appointment. “According to the GBA, by the provisions of the constitution, the President reserves the right to fire any member of the government with or without convincing reasons. ... If the President’s view is that the minister was rude to him and he wants to fire, then the President is well within his right to go ahead and terminate his appointment” – Ghanaweb 20th January 2012.

When I read this, I asked myself why the GBA took this narrow view of the matter and based its position on the technicality or the process and not the substance. I wondered whether the GBA was politicised. I felt that, in matters of state such as this, the GBA would take a position based on what was lawful and good for the country. Sadly, to me, the GBA has misplaced the national interest in this case.

According to the GBA, the President has the prerogative to fire a member of his government with or without giving reasons. In the present case, as he has chosen to give a reason for his decision, I feel Ghanaians need to go behind the veil to look for the facts that gave rise to that reason. The reason was contained in a terse statement from the Castle which read: “The decision is as a result of Mr Martin Amidu’s misconduct at a meeting last Friday, January 13th 2012, presided over by His Excellency President J E A Mills. Mr Amidu’s conduct is incompatible with acceptable standards expected of ministers and appointees of the President.”

According to reports, the President demanded proof of the allegations Martin Amidu made in the press release or a resignation letter from him without which he would be sacked. The President gave him the opportunity to substantiate the allegations he made against colleague ministers but he failed to do so. This sounds childish to me. Did the President ask Martin Amidu to substantiate the allegations and give the name of the Minister concerned at the same meeting, i.e in front of his colleagues who attended the meeting which might have included the Minister he had in mind? If so, it sounds like mob rule. We all know that, if your subordinate is aggrieved and makes allegations against his colleagues, you do not call the person to substantiate the allegations and give names in front of those colleagues. You call the person on the quiet and have a word with him or her. We do it all the time, as parents, teachers and managers. The NDC Government has an explanation to give here and tell us all the facts, otherwise I am afraid I would question whether the President genuinely wanted to deal with the matter properly.

We must not lose sight of the fact that, in the 2000 election, the then presidential candidate Professor Atta Mills selected this same Martin Amidu as his running mate. If President Atta Mills now finds him to be a man of misconduct, what would have happened if he had won the election in 2000 with him as his Vice-President? Ghanaians do not deserve this incompetence. I hope Martin Amidu’s dismissal does not mean that the substance of the matter he raised in the press release and the subject matter of his appearance in court on 16th January 2012 are buried.

Since the Castle issued the dismissal letter last week, many people have said how disappointed they are in the President. One person who posted an article on Ghanaweb said he travelled to Ghana to vote for then candidate Atta Mills in the 2008 elections thinking that he was the man to be believed when he said he would work hard to fight bribery and corruption. Now he is utterly disappointed. In a news item also posted on Ghanaweb on 20th January 2012, Hon Paul Collins Appiah Ofori, MP for Asikuma Odoben Brakwa in the Central Region, was quoted as having described the dismissal of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice as shameful. He revealed that “... his trust in President Mills nearly created a brawl between him and his party (NPP) but has now realised Mills is a man of no integrity. ‘My support for President Mills when he was in opposition created a problem for me. My party pursued me for praising Mills for his genuineness and I expected much sincerity from him but when he became president worst form of corruption has happened.’ ... In fact Mills has disgraced all of us from the central region, his family and Ghanaians because he aids fraud and corruption in the country.”

People are increasingly having doubt on the competence of the President. There have been the big headlines such as the STX housing deal, the judgement debt paid to Alfred Woyome, arrogance and insult by Ministers, and now the dismissal of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. There are also pieces of information that filter through. Recently, a junior member of the Government or an NDC functionary accused some Ministers of dragging the President to launch projects that they well knew would not take off the ground. Early this year, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Albert Kan Dapaah, complained that action was not taken on reports issued by the PAC and an independent body might have to be set up to oversee implementation of recommendations made by the PAC. To me, this gives credence to the belief that President Atta Mills is not his own man at the Castle. I ask myself: “How long are we going to wait for this incompetence to continue?” Maybe the election scheduled for 7th December 2012 will come sooner.

For the present, all I can say is that the NDC Government can continue to tighten the noose it has put round its own neck. All eyes are on NPP winning the elections on 7th December 2012 with Nana Akufo-Addo taking charge of government. His team will comprise of seasoned politicians. They will be men and women who are intelligent, humane, humble and cultured. They will be seriously committed to the rule of law and order. They will be resolute in fighting bribery and corruption. We as grassroots and members across the board will make sure it happens. I have the belief that Ghanaians in all spheres of life are waiting to join the crusade. The nation, Ghana, shall rise.

PS: This article is a follow up to an earlier piece I posted on Ghanaweb on 17th January 2012 entitled “All die be die – the other side of the coin”. I dedicate this article to the Black Stars who are currently playing in the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea as co-hosts.

jasanteyeboah@yahoo.co.uk 22nd January 2012

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