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Feature Article of Sunday, 2 September 2012

Columnist: Thompson, Kofi

President Mahama Must Make Morality Important I

n Public Life In Ghana - For The Sake Of Ghana's Younger Generation

By Kofi Thompson

To drive home the point as to why in his humble view President Mahama ought to put morality at the heart of all his administration's actions, for the sake of Ghana's younger generation (and in order to retain power in the December polls, naturally), by way of illustration, a wag I know made a number of observations about the negative results of some of the actions of Ghanaian politicians, over the years since we gained independence from Great Britain, in 1957.

He made the observation that Ghana has some of the worst oil agreements in the world, simply because the clever politicians who entered into them on the nation's behalf, struck the best possible deals they could for themselves as private individuals: in order to increase their net worth to stratospheric heights through what he described as special purpose offshore entities nominally owned by their "legal fronts-men".

Today our nation receives a fraction of what it should, from the exploitation of our oil deposits.

And according to him, the same could also be said of the disposal of many state-owned assets, over the years since the overthrow of President Nkrumah in 1966.

The divestiture of state assets law-defying sale of a 70 percent shareholding in what was cleverly described by those who oversaw it, as an "enlarged Ghana Telecom" to Vodafone, being a classic example of the short-changing of our nation in such deals.

That same wag also pointed out the saga of Jake Obestebi-Lamptey's purchase of the official ministerial residence allocated to him when he was a cabinet minister in President Kufuor's New Patriotic Party regime.

He said Mr Obestebi-Lamptey deliberately refused to vacate the said official ministerial residence, and continued to live in it, despite resigning to fight an election for the selection of a presidential candidate for his party.

In the old wag's view, in no other nation in the world, would a politician who had acted in the self-seeking manner Mr. Jake Obestebi-Lamptey did, be leading a campaign for his party to return to power again in any election.

He did not also see how a properly constituted court of law in any civilised nation in which truth was sacrosanct, and morality important in public life, could ignore the larger interests of society in general, and find in favour of a politician taken to court for the abuse of power by his ruling party's regime, which had enabled him purchase an official ministerial residence - never advertised to enable the state get maximum value from its sale and for other Ghanaian citizens to avail themselves of the opportunity to bid to purchase same too - by the said law court firmly closing its eyes to the shabby tale of unfathomable greed, blatant abuse of office by his party colleagues, and the manipulation-of-power-for-self at the people's expense, which his action and those of his colleagues actually represented.

The old wag said he did not for a moment imagine judges in the UK, where morality in public life still counts for something, for example, ignoring the glaring need for those with the power to do so (the judiciary, ie), and failing to act to safeguard and preserve their nation's stock of official ministerial residences, by not denying political office holders and leading politicians the opportunity to use their party's being in power, to acquire such government properties for themselves - using a bad law deliberately passed for selfish reasons by a powerful and greedy few: as personal-body-armour to protect themselves from the people's wrath.

In the light of all the above, he was sure that no judge in the UK would have found in favour of Jake Obestebi-Lamptey in a judgement, under any circumstances if that matter appeared before any of them.

Not when it was clear to all but the deliberately blind that Mr. Obestebi-Lamptey obviously decided to seize the opportunity that his party being in power presented him, to purchase (grab would probably be the most appropriate word, said the old wag) his official ministerial residence - going forward - whiles still in office as a cabinet minister: for which reason he had consequently insisted that the renovation of that selfsame property, carried out at great expense to the taxpayer, be redone again to suit his exact and demanding tastes.

And to add insult to injury, said the old wag, had retorted, when condemned for being amoral and avaricious, for so doing - when his party had finally been voted out of power and he had gone on to win the legal case filed against him by two of his political opponents who subsequently themselves became deputy ministers in the successor-regime to Mr. Obestebi-Lamptey's defeated ruling party - that morality did not come into it. Incredible.

(No wonder we are where we are today, dear reader - a nation full of fence-sitting hypocrites and super-religious moral cowards, afraid to speak out against society's ills. But I digress.)

Yet, in the old wag's view, morality had everything to do with the matter, particularly when the only reason that he was able to continue staying in the said property, after resigning from office as a cabinet minister - the position which entitled him to stay in the said property - to campaign to be selected as his party's candidate for the 2008 presidential election, was just because he was so powerful and influential in the ruling party that empowered him to continue living in what he once described as a Ghanaian equivalent of a UK grace-and-favour crown property (homes in the crown's property portfolio usually given out mostly to retired royal retainers and senior public servants).

There are those who say that it says a great deal about the ethos of greed that underpinned most of the actions of the top tier of his party's leadership, when it was in power from January 2001 to January 2009 , that despite the widespread public disapproval of politicians selling state properties cheaply to themselves, Jake Obestebi-Lamptey is still clearly indispensable to his party, and such an important voice in the scheme of things in its bid to return to power again.

Since all regimes (including the one led by President Mills that came to power in January 2009) that have ruled our nation since we gained our independence have included members who were guilty of such abuse of power for self-enrichment, President Mahama would be wise, in the old wag's opinion, to make morality in public life - in as far as it concerns the protection of the public purse and national assets - the heart of all his administrations actions.

He can make a fresh start for Ghanaian politics and the good people of Ghana, by setting a precedent to help establish the convention of political office holders in Ghana publicly publishing their assets immediately before and after their tenure, by publicly publishing the assets of both himself and those of his wife, and asking all those who wish to continue to serve in his administration (and their spouses), to do same too.

And if he were to top that by appointing Martin Amidu to the position of Attorney General again, to deal ruthlessly with those in their regime whose greed led to the judgment-debt payment order scandals, he would be putting clear blue water between his party and the party that Jake Obestebi-Lamptey's undoubted genius might in all probability help bring back to power again, if he fails to do so. Since time is not on his side, he must act swiftly.

Above all, he must bring an end to the destructive, divisive and pervasive influence of the "greedy bastards" (to quote his party's founder former President Rawlings) who wielded such power when the terminally ill President Mills was alive - and being held hostage by those selfsame individuals - in the Osu Castle.

It is true that no mortal being is without blemish. But in a nation in which poverty is endemic, politicians ought to be as honest as it is humanly possible to be, in matters to do with the protection of the public purse and their stewardship of the resources of our nation.

For the sake of Ghana's younger generation, perhaps President Mahama could set us on a course towards real change, and make a fresh start for our nation, by putting morality at the heart of his administration. A word to the wise...

Tel: 027 745 3109.

Email: peakofi.thompson@gmail.com

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