Feature Article of Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Columnist: Yekin, Kofi Ali Abdul
Most of us will be expecting our politicians in this day and age, after our sacrifices for a common position on democracy, to work selflessly hard in serving the people to earn votes as appreciation for hard work than bribing men of God to win election. I still find it difficult to believe what I have just been reading regarding an article on the Vice President of Ghana Mr. Dramani Mahama giving out a brand new car to a religious leader as a gift for no particular service in return.
The article in a nutshell is that the Vice President of Ghana, Mr. John Dramani Mahama, has presented a Toyota land cruiser 4-wheel drive car valued at 77,955 USD with the number plate customized as “IMAM 2 – 12” to the National Chief Imam of Ghana, Sheikh Dr. Osman Nuhu Sharubutu at his residence in New Fadama, Accra for his 89th birthday celebration.
One touching on the rationale behind this holy gesture should be expecting political party sympathizers of our Vice President to be letting the hell lose in his defence. Rather than asking if the action of the VP actually serves the interest of Ghana and Ghanaians, most of those who warship Mr. Dramani Mahama will never see anything wrong with how public money is being misuse in such circumstances and how questionable the sources of this money might be?
On the other hand, many Ghanaians will have thousands of questions going over their minds but few might think of putting their thoughts in writing, as this is not the first time the Chief Imam, other religious and traditional leaders have been receiving gifts from politicians as government officials.
Few might also even see any rational behind querying why a public official and in this case, the number two public servant of the state of Ghana should openly be dolling out gift of such magnitude to a presume holy and incorruptible representative of God under the Islamic faith. The public blind eye could even go as far as seeing nothing wrong with the position of the Vice President as a public servant whose duty in serving the nation come first before none.
Our vice president was on record to have sworn an official oath of not allowing his personal interest to come above the national interest, where there exists a clear conflict of interest. In this particular case, could one ask if such gift was officially from the state of Ghana to the Chief Imam or a personal gift by Mr. Dramani for his personal interest as the vice president’s that goes contrary to his oath of office in serving no any other interest than the interest of Ghana? One could also ask if this action is done with the knowledge of the number one public servant of Ghana, President John Evans Atta Mills and that the gift was actually done on behalf of the President for the people of Ghana to the Chief Imam?
Ghana as a state is among the world’s poor nation that is incapable of operating a balanced budget independently. We annually have to rely on over forty five per cent of our annual budget coming from donor funding just to balance our budget. It is also on record that over sixty per cent of the families in Ghana live below US$2 p/d. We are also aware that Ghana recently swallowed her pride by declaring herself bankrupt due to the carelessness’ of public servants entrusted with public responsibility. Unlike what most are unaware of, the state of Ghana had to swallow the bitter economic piles administered to her by the external creditors for which our external debt were waved off. The reality before us now is that the same people in another political party are embarking on another hopeless race of plunging us deeper into debt again, knowing fully well that we shall never overcome the earlier condition for which the debt was said to be “forgiven”. At the time of this very unfortunate satiation in Ghana when the debts were being accumulated, Mr. Dramani was among those the nation entrusted her faith with and interestingly, the same people who are plunging us all into perpetual debt are the very ones who championed the war against the previous government’s selling our future for peanuts to foreign creditors in return for selfish kickbacks.
Our nation’s Vice President Dramani Mahama oath of office was a promise of taking all Ghanaians out of poverty and debtor nation into an independently industrialized nation. Now with election in just six months to go and most of the promises unfulfilled, the desperate effort of covering up the U-turn is a gift to the holy man of God.
In fact Mr. Dramani came across to the Ghanaian Moslem Community as one of us, who is also poor that understands our plight with the ability of helping the president to solve our problem, and if giving out a car to one of us is the answer to this, then the real democrats among us still have a lot in reserve. How a gift of a car to the holy Imam make up for the teaming unemployed youths that daily hibernates our ghettoes remain a miracle.
Most of us recalled four years ago when the party in government at that time engaged themselves in bribing us with our own money to mislead us into voting for them again but the opposite was what happened. Our own life experience was enough an indication of how our votes were casted. Interestingly, the very ones who advised us on what to do are those desperately bribing us again just to hold to power at all cost. When will these hopeless politicians learn?
In less than four years in office, our Vice President is now a “father Christmas” to the extent of giving out an item estimated to worth $77,000 for whatever reason. Does this then call for the question of whether the money is the VP’s personal money or it is the money of the state of Ghana?
If Ghana at its present state is currently burden with foreign debt making her officially a debtor nation, does the source of this money not a challenge to the mind of the Ghanaian? I recently recalled the Vice President encouraging the nation to go for a foreign loan of about US£3 million desperately needed to carry out some important national project. So if my humble understanding of a nation’s external debt arises only when nationals of a state in question are not wealthy enough to lend to their nation, then the question of why Ghana has to amass external debt cross the mind with our Vice President throwing such colossal sum at religious leaders.
In addressing the concerns of public office holders engaging in such questionable activities was the reason why individuals were requested to have their assets declared on their assumption of office. If our Vice President Mr. Dramani Mahama is said to be dolling out an asset worth US$77,000, then the question of this particular item being included in his asset earlier declared to the Assert Declaration Committee easily cross the mind. Did Mr. Dramani Mahama joined his boss in declaring his assets on assumption of office or he chose not to? If this particular gift of such amount amidst the harsh reality of our masses is not included in our vice president’s items declared, could one ask if the salary we paid to our Vice President financed this gift? And what does this make our President Professor Ata Mills who declared his own asset on his assumption of office but failed to make it mandatory to those he appointed to work with him to equally declare their asset as any attack on the image of our president’s appointees is also an attack on the person of the president?
Another question that crosses the mind is the relationship between Mr. Dramani and the Chief Imam, and if this is anything more than that of the Vice President of Ghana and a citizen of Ghana? Could this act of a public office holder even be justify if the chief Imam is Mr. Dramani’s biological to warrant such a gift on his birth day celebration? Could there be anything Mr. Vice President desperately needs from the Imam? Well, since the coming national election is in less than seven months, what easily crosses the mind is the desperation to win the Chief Imam over. Is this just about the Chief Imam as a person or the Chief Imam as a representative of the institution of Islam whose position is capable of influencing the votes from the Islamic community? Is this then fair to say that the Vice President of Ghana, Mr. Dramani Mahama is buying the Moslem Community through the Chief Imam in this day and age?
It is a fact that human beings are of different nature. Some are very economical in their act of giving out to others while some are very reserve. Most people will be very comfortable with individuals like Mr. Dramani that gives freely out of the public entrusted wealth than people like my humble self, who are very careful in whatever must be given out to others. The concern here is how many of us are very comfortable with those who are giving out to others items of questionable source? In robbing Peter to pay Paul, what the Vice President is doing is robbing the Ghanaian taxpayers of his needs to meet the flamboyant need of the Chief Imam of Ghana. If the personality of our Vice President is that of a person who use questionable money to buy favour from holy individuals to whom the public have entrusted sacred institutions, then how much has our vice president doll out to all the traditional rulers and other faith leaders to lure them into voting in his favour in the upcoming election?
In the principles of democracy the act of openly buying of votes from citizen is a threat to the nation. It is even a challenge when those directly responsible for the national purse allow themselves to directly engage in employing monetary and material means to influences votes. This desperate and unfortunate action is not only a recipe for undemocratic reaction but also a bad signal to our hopeless unemployed youths who are feeling they have been excluded and marginalized by the nation. Does this then explain why the vulnerable Ghanaian youths could easily fall prey to desperate political slogans like “All die be die” and other unfortunate incitements that threaten the national security?
Sure blaming the Chief Imam for taking a $77,000 worth of present from an individual who is supposed to know better will be like blaming a child in a Somali refugee camp for taking a bowl of rice from an aid worker. Our faith leaders, particularly the Chief Imam have officialised begging. We have moved from taking coins of passers-by in the bowl to bag of rice and sugar from politicians. It is now the era of big cars which still makes a beggar a beggar. Sad enough, nothing is worse than having a beggar for a leader and, a religious one for that matter. If our holy leader is a beggar, what then does that make us all in the Islamic Community? How well are we doing in stopping Islam from being synonymous with begging?
Our Vice president is suppose to know better that his action is not promoting democracy but destroying it as electing individuals into public office make their private action a public concern.
To think of such private super rich individuals as one of those in charge of our nation with the state itself being consider as a poor country while millions of our citizens live in squalor, is mind bugging. This gesture will only be serving to confirm the excessive capitalists’ dimension of the rich man’s democracy than the true will of the free people of Ghana. Getting ourselves out of this mess is a must but what are the options before us? Are they any different? Is this not the reason for our call of “one-man one-vote” Africa Union authority presidential election by every Ghanaian than having just individuals like Mr. John Dramani Mahama being the only ones representing Ghanaians in the Africa Union voting?
Kofi Ali Abdul Yekin
Action Group of Africa (AGA)