Feature Article of Thursday, 19 April 2012
Columnist: Obetsebi-Lamptey, Jake Otanka
‘MILLS IS CREATING A DANGEROUS ENVIRONMENT IN GHANA’
A STATEMENT BY THE NPP NATIONAL CHAIRMAN
18 April, 2012: Today has been a shameful day in the history of the rule of law in our country with state prosecutors presenting the New Patriotic Party’s Member of Parliament for Assin North, Kennedy Agyapong, before a magistrate court on three charges of (i) treason, (ii) treason felony and (iii) attempted genocide. The charges are ostensibly based on remarks he made in reaction to the acts of violence perpetrated in the Odododiodio constituency by Presidential Aide and parliamentary candidate of the ruling National Democratic Congress, Nii Lantey Vanderpuye.
The Attorney General, knowing so well that the magistrate court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter, brought the ‘prisoner’ there only to request for the court to remand him in police custody for an additional two weeks. It was merely to seek to keep the member of the parliamentary Minority in custody in order to “teach him a lesson”.
The treason charge levelled against Mr Agyapong can be described only as a mockery of the law being perpetrated for reckless partisan advantage. President Mills, in deploying state resources against political opponents, is prepared to sacrifice the rule of law and the national interest to satisfy his desire for his own political gain, even if via violence and cheap propaganda. The NPP is worried that Mills is deliberately building an environment that will compromise the potential for a free, fair, and peaceful election in Ghana.
The arrest, detention and prosecution of Mr Agyapong are, in our view, not because the government is genuinely concerned about the use of intemperate language—which has been actively wielded by some of their own supporters in this heated election cycle with no consequences brought to bear. The arrest, detention and prosecution of this leading member of the NPP are purely to serve two major agendas of the ruling party: (1) to put the fear of the ‘Asomdwehene’ in the NPP—to intimidate and cow our leadership into submission and; (2) to punish MP Agyapong for leading the crusade on the single biggest corruption scandal in the history of Ghana: the unlawful payments to Alfred Agbesi Woyome and other equally dubious multi-million dollar judgment debts made by the Mills-Mahama government mainly to its major financiers.
Seeking to discredit the character of MP Agyapong will not whitewash the criminal wrongdoing of the Mills-Mahama administration. Ghanaian citizens and friends of Ghana should be concerned with the narrowing political space in Ghana.
? WOYOME SCANDAL It is obvious that President Mills and his administration have been rocked by Kennedy Agyapong’s exposé on the judgment debt scandals, in which GH¢51.8 million was doled-out to Mr Woyome, and arbitration settlements of €35 million and €94 million were given to Waterville and CP Construction Ltd, respectively. These payments were illicit because no evidence was proffered to support the claims. On the contrary, government ignored all the glaring evidence that the claims were fraudulent.
So far, out of GHC642 million worth of judgment debts paid by President Mills’ government between 2009 and 2011, at least US$197.5 million (or GHC356 million) has been clearly identified, in the words of the sacked Attorney-General, Martin Amidu, as “gargantuan crimes against the state” and fraudulently given to just three or so individuals and entities.
The NPP MP, Mr Agyapong, has, over the last few months, shown exceptional courage and patriotism in exposing the extent of the “gargantuan crimes” being committed through the instrumentalisation of very senior people in the government, including the President, who ultimately authorized these payments.
However, the nature of the selective justice being displayed under the law professor, President JEA Mills, is unprecedented in the history of the Fourth Republic. Ghanaians can judge for themselves why the two Ministers of State directly and actively responsible for making these corrupt payments, Dr Kwabena Duffuor, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, and Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu, the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, have not been charged for this unprecedented fraud against the Ghanaian people.
IMPEACHMENT President Mills is neck-deep in this whole judgment debt saga and he may soon have to answer impeachment questions on these very serious charges, which are supported by considerable evidence. President Mills has left many questions unanswered and lied outright when he initially told Ghanaians that he knew nothing about these fraudulent judgment debt payments, until he was exposed by an investigation he set up to cover-up his complicity and that of his Ministers. The President has, thus, made any probable case for impeachment proceedings to be brought against him weighty.
VIOLENCE IN ODODODIODIO AND BEYOND DURING THE BIOMETRIC REGISTRATION After warning the NPP after our successful regional rally at Mantse Agbona, the Director of Operations at the Office of the President, who also happens to be the President of the Association of Weightlifters in Ghana, has always been known for his incendiary political statements. But he became more specific and vitriolic towards the NPP after our recent successful regional rally at Mantse Agbona. He proceeded to unleash his gang of machomen on our supporters and on ordinary, innocent Ghanaians in the constituency he is campaigning as the NDC Parliamentary Candidate, Odododiodio. He has not been questioned once by the police even though in his case, he evidently followed his threat of violence with acts of violence, committed in his name by his supporters and hired thugs.
Earlier this year, Vanderpuye offered that: “I swear to you that the NPP can never organize any rally in Odododiodio in the near future, if that is their mission. The only place that will be safe for them (to hold their rally) will be in space, and not in my constituency.” This set the tone for intimidation and violence in the commercial district which he has carried forward into the registration period. The violence in Odododiodio reflects the way this important national exercise of compiling a new and credible voters’ list has been marred by the ruling party.
In the Ashanti Region, the police identified a gang of NDC thugs who were moving from registration centre to registration centre assaulting people queuing up to register and destroying registration machines. When a district police commander offered a prize for information leading to the arrest of the criminal gang, the response of his superiors in Accra was to disassociate themselves from that move to apprehend the culprits who were terrorizing Ghanaians and disrupting the registration exercise.
The following are just a few examples of incidents of violence documented in Odododiodio and beyond during the voter registration period: • Justice Opoku, an NDC agent at the registration centre at the Foase Kokoben Electoral Area in the Bekwai constituency, shot a 12 year old boy.
• On 25th March (the first day of registration), some NDC supporters attacked the Takofiano polling station and inflicted severe cutlass wounds on Kwadwo Sarfo, a known NPP activist.
• On 25th March, the driver and bodyguard of Professor Ameyaw Akumfi, NPP MP for Techiman North, were attacked with machetes at a polling station at Jama Timponim, the MP’s hometown.
• Sheriff Mohammed, secretary of the Okakoi North Youth Wing of the New Patriotic Party, was stabbed to death allegedly by NDC supporters at Fadama on 10th April.
• John Kofi Donyina (Communications Director for Techiman South NPP) was attacked by an NDC supporter around 7:30pm on 10th April.
• A reporter of the Daily Searchlight newspaper, Bright Amo-Addo, had a portion of his thumb chopped off by irate activists of the NDC at Fadama in Accra on 8th April.
• Ursula Owusu, NPP Parliamentary Candidate for Ablekuma South, and Abu Jinapor, an aid to the NPP Presidential Candidate, were subjected to physical assault by some heavily-built NDC acitivists during a tour of some registration centres in the Odododiodoo Constituency last Wednesday.
It is in the context of the ongoing violent incidents during the ongoing biometric registration that Mr Agyapong spoke last Friday. In the interest of peace and unity, the NPP believes that he should not have allowed himself to be provoked into making any intemperate remarks. Our own flagbearer, Nana Akufo-Addo, has repeatedly called for vigilance and courage but also calm and peace throughout the past few years, even as NDC intimidation tactics have mounted. However, that Agyapong was then taken into custody to silence him during a hotly contested election shows that President Mills and the NDC have no such qualms about the use of force and intimidation.
For the duration of Mills’ first year in office, after the NPP candidate conceded the close presidential election and called for national unity and reconciliation to move Ghana forward, NDC footsoldiers terrorized Ghanaians in all 10 regions, seizing and destroying government properties, beating up public workers and unleashing violence on ordinary people without a single word of rebuke or a single order of arrest from the President. This has set the tone for the current political environment in Ghana, and the President is responsible for these growing tensions.
TREASON CHARGE AS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED This treason charge against the MP for Assin North is a diversionary tactic by a failing, incompetent and corrupt government that has lost touch with the concerns of the ordinary people of Ghana. We have no doubt the case will be laughed out of court eventually but the President must be hoping MrAgyapong will be silenced by the trauma. Whatever your opinion of Mr Kennedy Agyapong statements, he has done nothing to show that he has the capacity to levy war against his motherland.
In Ghana, before a charge of treason is levelled against a person, the state must prove beyond all reasonable doubt that Article 17 of the constitution has been breached. Subject to clause (18) of article 17, treason shall consist only:
(a) in levying war against Ghana or assisting any state or person or inciting or conspiring with any person to levy war against Ghana; or (b) in attempting by force of arms or other violent means to overthrow the organs of government established by or under this Constitution; or (c) in taking part or being concerned in or inciting or conspiring with any person to make or take part or be concerned in, any such attempt.
Whatever your opinion of Mr Kennedy Agyapong’s statements, he has done nothing to show that he has the capacity to levy war against his motherland, nor was he engaged in a criminal conspiracy to mount one. Ghana is long past the days when criticizing a weakness of the current government or making an irresponsible remark should amount to treason.
The political motivation behind these charges is made clear by the fact that an earlier statement from General Secretary of the ruling party Aseidu Nketia, in which he stated that “there would be civil war in Ghana if biometric verification is implemented” for the December 2012 elections, was ignored by the same police who arrested MP Agyepong. (The Electoral Commission has proceeded with biometric verification for this year’s elections after the NPP helped champion this technology.) It is this kind of double standard that threatens the peace and security of our nation.
Mr Agyapong’s tone and manner and the unnecessary reference to ethnicity was a clear misjudgement. It is clear that these views do not reflect those of his party and his constituency, but were offered out of his own personal frustration for the current state of affairs and polarized political environment in Ghana. Long before the MP’s pronouncements, there had been violence all across this country. The NPP sees this as the inevitable outcome of the NDC’s discriminatory, patronage based governance and policies. The charge of treason levelled against Mr Kennedy Agyapong for comments no different than those offered by other NDC representatives is only the latest example of this.
ABUSE OF POWER Kennedy Agyapong’s arrest is about the abuse of power by deploying state resources against political opponents and not about the enforcement of Ghana’s laws. Only the Attorney General who could have approved the charge of treason and this charge exposes President Mills as playing a very dangerous game.
Ghanaians can all bear witness to the system of apartheid and “ethnic cleansing” being supervised by Nii Lantey Vanderpuije in the Odododiodio constituency. People who are ordinarily resident in the constituency but deemed by NDC agents to have non-Ga-sounding names or who cannot speak Ga are prevented from registering, a blatant breach of the Constitution. In our view this has been the starting point of violence and the introduction of ethnic divisions in the ongoing biometric registration exercise.
The acts of violence being perpetrated in Odododiodio by NDC thugs have been accompanaied by an air of impunity. Some of the thugs who brutalised Ursula Owusu and Abu Jinapor have been positively identified (as agents of the Director of Operations at the Castle) and yet the police have refused to take action to bring these men to justice. The police have apprehended none of the weapons-wielding NDC thugs identified in photographs in the newspapers as tormenting ordinary residents and traders in the constituency, which is the commercial heart of the capital.
Yet, when a member of the NPP voices his deep frustration at the selectivity with which the Ghana Police Service is upholding and enforcing the laws of the country, he is whisked away with lightning fast speed and immediately charged with treason. This will deepen the divides within the country and sets a dangerous precedent.
3 YEARS OF POLICE INACTION AGAINST NDC THREATS AND VIOLENCE If, indeed, Mr. Agyapong’s words are landing him in court for treason, quite a few of our fellow citizens should have preceded him to jail and then into court. Amongst these would be: • President Mills for his 2008 threat to turn Ghana into Kenya if the elections did not go well.
• The Hon. Baba Jamal who declared a “Jihad” during the Akwatia by-election in 2009. This declaration of war by Baba Jamal was followed by a shocking incidence of barbarism and thuggery by NDC supporters, who inflicted severe injuries on 15 NPP supporters.
• The events of 25th August 2009, involving the gruesome murder of three traders and workers in the Agbogbloshie market (Alhassan Fuseini from Tamale, Soale from Yendi and Sule J.Y from Tolon) in broad daylight in front of a police station. Witnesses identified the alleged perpetrators to be NDC members, including one Sule, Sahana Mohammed Ayatu, Awal Voulina Naa, Sule Nabiya, Abdalla Say and Abdalla Rasta. Three years on, the nation is still waiting on the law enforcement agencies to even invite these suspects for questioning.
• The Tamale incidents of February 17th 2009, where violence erupted after discussions on Radio Justice following the seizure of the vehicle of Nana Akufo-Addo by agents of National Security. There were arson attacks in Nyihini, Lameshegu, Worizehi, Choggu and Gumbihini. All the 27 properties that were attacked belonged to NPP members. Not a single one belonged to an NDC member. In the most outrageous case, Madame Sadia Seidu, a thirty-five year-old Nursing Officer was brutally assaulted after a mob burnt and razed down the family’s 18-room house. She had to be airlifted to the 37 Military Hospital for treatment where she underwent surgery and weeks of treatment. No one has been arrested and charged for the attempted murder of Sadia, even though she identified those who led the mob attack. No attempt has been made by the state to assist the innocent victims, numbering about 800, who had their homes and belongings destroyed. Those affected by the violence are first and foremost Ghanaians, whatever their political colours. The apparent revival of the idea of the “democratisation of violence” in our politics is unwelcome and unacceptable.
PRESIDENT MILLS AND EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY The President has declared that he cannot be responsible for preventing violence though the Constitution and our laws are very clear about his responsibilities. Article 58(1) of the Constitution states that: “The executive authority of Ghana shall vest in the President and shall be exercised in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.”
Article 58(2) further explains that, “The executive authority of Ghana shall extend to the execution and maintenance of this constitution and all laws made under or continued in force under this constitution.”
Regarding the President’s police responsibilities, he appoints eight of the ten-member Police Council, including his vice and the IGP. Furthermore, all leadership appointments in the Police Force are made by the President or in his name.
So if the President is not responsible for what the Police does, who is?
It is clear President Mills does not want peace in Ghana, and contrary to his declarations on local and international platforms, he does not want a peaceful, free, fair and transparent election. It is clear that the NDC either intends to use violence itself or to look the other way while third parties acting in their name deploy violence.
Ghana has been peaceful since 1992. We have had 5 elections and none of them have brought Ghana to the brink of violence, but this is a real danger in the election about to be supervised by President Mills.
The selectiveness with which Ghana’s laws are being enforced by the Ghana Police Service, under President Mills, must end.
President Mills must be held accountable as the President of our Republic, who is also the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces and on whose shoulders the fortunes of the nation rest.
The NPP wants an electoral process free from violence and intimidation, free from the use of intemperate language and free from the selectiveness with which Ghana’s laws are being enforced by the Ghana Police Service.
The NPP remains firmly behind the Hon. Kennedy Agyapong in his quest for justice in the unfounded accusations of treason made against him. We would not sit by and allow the rule of law to be transformed into the misrule of Mills.
Ghana deserves better.
Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey.
NPP National Chairman