Feature Article of Monday, 15 July 2002
For eight long years, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), then a minority party, kept up a constant barrage of criticism of the then National Democratic Congress (NDC) government.
The NPP Minority in Parliament raised issues on the budget, loans and other matters. Members of the Minority staged walk-outs, called press conferences and demanded investigations into what appeared to be scandalous conduct on the part of government.
The NPP took the Ghana Broadcasting Corppration (GBC) to court on what the party considered to be unfair practices of GBC, con?trary to the provisions of the Constitution.
The party also took the government to court on the celebration of the 31st December 1981 coup d'etat as a public holiday. By a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that 31st December could be celebrated but not with public funds.
When ex-President J. J. Rawlings contemptuously ignored the Supreme Court ruling, the NPP never allowed him to forget it. The party called for investigations into the Kume Preko killings, the scandalous and fraudulent acquisition of the Gulf-stream jet, the shady agreement between a Canadian company and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) on the treatment of waste in the city, the alleged $5 million 'loan' (or 'gift' or 'bribe') to ex-President Rawlings by the late General Sanni Abacha, the handling of the Keta Sea Defence Wall, the illegal acquisition by SABAT Motors, and many other matters. The party did not stop there.
It demanded a full investigation into the tapes that alleged wrong-doing including the bombing of the Ringway Hotel as well as the killings and attempted killing of certain persons.
The NPP made us believe that, in criticising the then govern?ment, the party was carrying out its constitutional duty. It never said anything about wanting to capture power in the next election.
Today, the shoe is on the other foot, with the NPP in power and the NDC forming the Minority in Parliament. As happened about nine and a half years ago, the NDC is also at the throat of the government.
The NDC has also staged walk-outs, called a number of press conferences and asked for investigations into issues raised by that party in and outside Parliament.
Issues raised have included works to beef up security at the home of President J. A. Kufuor, the renovation of the Castle and the Sahara oil contract. Other issues have been the arrest and detention of Mr. E. T. Mensah, Member of Parliament (MP) and ex-Minister of Youth and Sports, in connection with the Nima riots that followed the May 9, Accra Sports Stadium deaths, and the handling of the case involving a man of doubtful nationality, Mr Odinga.
In the case of Mr. Mensah, the beef of the NDC was that not only had the security agencies arrested a sitting Member of Parliament but had also kept him behind bars for more that the constitutionally-allowed forty-eight hours.
The NDC has queried the acquisition of Peugeot vehicles from Nigeria as not having been approved by Parliament. The vehicles were meant to enhance the work of the Ghana Police Service.
The party raised moral objections to the appointment of Mr Justice D. K. Afreh to the Supreme Court. The contention of the party was that Mr. Justice Afreh had sat on the Fast Track High Court and that his elevation to the Supreme Court was a political act meant to tilt the balance in favour of the government at the review hearing.
When the verdict of the review hearing was announced, the NDC organised a press conference and damned the decision as "the Supreme Court's Day of Shame." The party was also of the view that the Supreme Court had been manipulated to serve the interest of the government.
The latest in the series of criticisms of the government concerns the procurement of a loan from International Finance Consortium (IFC).
According to the NDC, the overseas people involved have deliberately chosen the initials IFC and UBS to deceive the Ghana government and others who might go to them into thinking that the loan people had something to do with the World Bank affiliate, the International Finance Corporation and the Union Bank of Switzerland.
At the NDC press conference, Dr Josiah N, Aryeh, the General Secretary, was in his element as he laced his speech with such expressions as 'fraudsters', '419,' 'azaa people,' 'crooks,' etc.
He and the NDC had not the least doubt that the government was dealing with a bogus company and that the end result could be a big financial loss to the country as had occurred in the 1970s.
When the NDC criticises the government for some of the very bad things it did when it was in power, what do we make of it? I have had occasion to state, and I wish to state it here again, that the government and the NPP have every legitimate right to point the moral failings, the illegalities and the incompetence of the NDC government in answer to criticisms launched by the NDC against the government.
Whenever the spokespersons of the NPP and the government attempt to rebut and blunt NDC criticisms by reminding that party of its own past, the stock reply is that that was why Ghanaians voted for change.
Another stock answer is, if what the NDC did was wrong, should the new government also do the same thing? To me, that is a dishonest answer designed to make the NDC wriggle out of its past wrongs.
All the same, it would be a grave mistake for the government to dismiss criticisms by the NDC or from other sources as of no consequence. The proud boast of the NPP is that it suffers from a surfeit of competent men and women, not a lack of them.
But it should not forget that the government is not made up of Solomons or angels and that, therefore, they are likely to err. Again, on taking office, President Kufuor announced his policy of "Zero tolerance for corruption" to the hearing of all Ghanaians.
It will be recalled that ex-President Rawlings had much earlier brought in his slogan of Integrity, Accountability, Honesty, and Truth. As far as a number of Ghanaians are concerned, Mr. Rawlings failed to deliver on his promise and has known no peace ever since.
In the same way, President Kufuor, the NPP and the government will be judged by his "Zero Tolerance" policy. Therefore, he needs to open his eyes wide and clear his ears. And when he has done that, he has to prove that he has the political will and resolve to deal ruthlessly with acts that negate his policy.
It is in this vein that a close look should be taken at the $1 billion loan that the government wants to obtain in order to improve conditions in the rural areas in particular. I do not think anyone will stop attempts by any ruling government to improve the lot of the people, whether in the rual or urban areas. But we should be careful not to enter into any contract that might later on turn out to be an albatross round our necks.
The government should remember the Gulfstream jet, Westel, Ghana Telecom, the Quality Grain and other agreements as well as divestitures that have had all the hallmarks of sheer incompetence, fraud or greed or a combination of all of them.
What is the truth about the Finance Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo Maafo, recalling a CEPS man who had been interdicted and the President ordering his interdiction again? What are the facts about the printing of the ?l0,000.00 and ?20,000.00 notes?
Mr. Yaw Barimah has defended Mr. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey and Mr. Kwamena Bartels over the allegation of impropriety (embezzlement?) regarding claims for the renovation of the Castle. But even Mr. Barimah had to admit that the procedure used in getting the money to the contractors was wrong.
Mr. Osafo Maafo has reportedly complained that external financial inflows expected from donors (or development partners) have been slow in forthcoming. The exchange rate is apparently going against the cedi and we have had some fanciful explanations.
Some of us are getting a bit tired with the excuse that the (P)NDC had twenty years and the NPP has had less than two years.
Mr. President, place your government on red alert and act fast.