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Opinions of Friday, 24 June 2016

Columnist: Africanus Owusu-Ansah

A Ford automobile bribe or a goat bribe

“As a fellow human being, a fellow citizen and a fellow Old Vandal, I send my consolation to President John Mahama on the death of his mother. May Allah forgive her sins, multiply her good deeds, and grant her a lofty place in Paradise.”

I.K. Gyasi

The Chronicle: Monday, June 20, 2016

Please, join me for the supplication to Allah for the repose of President John Mahama’s mother. I am not doing so as a “fawning publican” (Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice), but as “a fellow human being, a fellow citizen and a fellow Old Vandal” a la Gyasi.

My solemn and pious assignment over, I now turn to the topic on hand. I learnt (or rather, was taught) the figurative expression: “What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander”, meaning “If some kind of behaviour is wrong, it is wrong for both (or all) sides, not just one. Mrs. Lucy Peprah-Tawiah at College would insist that the words in the figurative expression be not changed. Thus, I have avoided saying with others: “What is good for the goose is good for the gander”. God will bless those who ditto me, Amen. Again, “The Golden Rule” or the “ethic of reciprocity” is “Do unto others what you want others to do unto you”. The converse is: “Do not do unto others what you would not wish to be done to you.” If you are a black pot, you do not call the kettle black. Perhaps you may remove the beam in your eyes before removing the mote in another person’s eye.

The President who as head of state qua head of state is entitled to so many goodies, including the last loaf of bread in Ghana in case of acute famine, is gifted a Ford Expedition by Burkinabe Djibril Kanazoe somewhere in 2012. As African tradition enjoins us, the President expresses his thanks for the wonderful gift. But why the gift? The Burkinabe had been awarded a contract to construct a wall around the land allocated to the Ghana Embassy in Ouagadougou, at a cost of six hundred and fifty thousand dollars (US $650,000). Was it Jericho Wall or the Great China Wall?

Ever since the story broke out, there has been heated debate over it, and one is the claim by Kofi Adams that it was a second hand (used) vehicle for which duty was paid at Tema. O-h-o! The records should be available. In whose name was the vehicle registered? Are the records not available at DVLA? Government vehicles do not pay duties and taxes. Neither do vehicles belonging to foreign embassies. They are exempt or deferred, so why should duty be paid for a vehicle put in the government transport pool? The mystery could be unravelled if the details of the vehicle are examined. The Head of the Chancery of the Ghana Embassy in Burkina Faso, His Excellency Maxwell Nyarko-Lartey wrote to the Customs Divisions of the Ghana Revenue Authority at Paga: “… the Ghana Mission in Ouagadougou is assisting with the transportation of a gift donated to His Excellency John Dramani Mahama… by Mr. Djibril Kanazoe, a renowned contractor in Burkina Faso. The said gift is a Ford Expedition with Engine No: E173A1905101 and Chassis No: IFMJUIJ58AEB748. I am to request the competent Ghanaian Border Authorities at Paga border to kindly assist with the passage of the said vehicle and those transporting it without any let or hindrance…”

. Who says all of us are equal? When President Mahama’s story broke, many were the people who jumped into his defence: some did so genuinely on the grounds that it would be petty for the President to stoop so low as to accept a $100,000 car as a gift from a Burkinabe; it was infra dig, and would not speak well of the President of Ghana to entangle himself with such an act.. Others were telling so many stories to justify the act or at least belittle its effect. Honourable George Loh, MP for North Dayi, smells no rat, comparing the vehicle with the sheep, goats and smocks the President receives on his working tours. Yet others talk about “conflict of interest”, a “bribe” offered, a “kick-back” to influence the president to offer more juicy contracts–road contracts ‘sole-sourced’ or without tendering – to Oumarou Kanazoe Construction. A re-play of the “create, loot and share” phenomenon. Some people have condemned the journalist, Manasseh Azuri of Joy FM for scooping the story. One may recall the President’s composure during the recent BBC interview: Q: Have you ever received a bribe? A: As a President or as a…?” Prime Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia warned Ghanaians: “Don’t receive gifts; they are bribes; they can corrupt you”.

Comes in the Anas Aremeyaw Anas’s story. When the scandal broke about corruption in the judiciary, some of us wanted to see how the respected judges had besmeared themselves. Bewitched Ghanaians simply took the story hook, line and sinker, forgetting that the method Anas used was as crude as it was damnable. How can a man with his identity hidden (sometimes going in three’s) go to the residence of a judge with a hidden camera and plead for assistance for a relation in trouble; then offer unsolicited gift (sheep, goat, yam, 2000 cedis cash), and film this- then use this as the basis to suggest that the judiciary is corrupt… and they buy food at GH¢ 5.00 for a hapless court clerk and this is captured and used as ground for suspension and dismissal. And nobody wants to talk of ‘entrapment’! Due consideration was not even taken of the length of meritorious service rendered by the particular judges; their educational background; their families; their contacts… not even a warning; no, no… This is CHEAP, MEAN, CRASS, THOUGHTLESS, VULGAR, and to crown it, HEARTLESS. And you call this investigative journalism? Let the Anas boys continue to be hooded, but learn from Manasseh—who is not a phantom nor an invisible man.

We have three arms of government; the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature, the members of which are all bound in their actions by the Constitution. Article 284 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana 1992 stipulates; “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts or is likely to conflict with the performance of the functions of his office.” Article 286(5) states: “The public offices to which the provisions of this article apply are those of (a) The President of the Republic (b) the Vice-President of the Republic (c) the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and a member of Parliament (d) Minister of state or Deputy Minister (e) Chief Justice, Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature, Chairman of a Regional Tribunal, the Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice and his deputies and all judicial officers (f) Ambassador or High Commissioner; (g) Secretary to the Cabinet; (h) Head of Ministry or government department or equivalent office in the Civil Service (i) chairman, managing director, general manager, and departmental head of a public corporation or company in which the state has a controlling interest (j) such officers in the public institution as Parliament may prescribe. There are similar codes of ethics and the Procurement Act to guide office—holders.

Some of us are waiting and watching critically to see what the Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice or the Chief Justice will do since Article 287(1) expects him/her to investigate the contravention… 287(2) enjoins them to “…take such action as he/she considers appropriate in respect of the results of the investigation or the admission—and PPP and the Youth Wing of the CPP have presented their petitions—just as Honourable Alban Bagbin sent a petition against President Kufuor for allowing a farmer to construct GH¢40m security items in his residence in 2001.

My brother, I.K. Gyasi, says in his article: ‘A vehicle for Mahama’ (The Chronicle: 20/06/16): “There are many squealers in the Mahama government. They either think we will believe any story they tell us, or they do not care a hoot whether we believe them or not. I am sorry for President Mahama.” I say: “Ghanaians have not been fair to the sacked judges and the judicial officers. Their cases must be reviewed. I weep for these otherwise honest men and women”.

Africanus Owusu-Ansah