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Opinions of Monday, 23 February 2009

Columnist: Damptey, Daniel Danquah

Who Is In Charge, Mr President?

Ordinarily, I would have preferred to keep my mouth shut and adopt a “sidon” look embarked upon by the Cicelo of Esa Oke, the late Chief Bola Ige, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Nigeria. But we are not in the best of time. For we are witnessing a disastrous escalation of the culture of thuggery, violence and intimidation.

And I am at loss to fathom what is actually going on in Ghana, the country we all claim to love and cherish. I am at a loss because negative things do occur in close succession almost on daily basis and nobody provides explanation as to why such things do occur. I am at a loss because adherents of the NDC Government do not want to hear any voice of dissent from anybody, not to talk of construction criticism. Just express your views on any Government Policy, and the hawks would descend heavily on you, insult you and call you imprintable names.

The other day, I was giving some ideas on how to re-invigorate the NPP and some NDC supporters started sending me some unsolicited mails in such uncouth language. Somebody called me a fool and refer to me as Dumb Dumber Dumbest. What those die hard NDC supporters do not realize is that, they by their comments and reaction, have portrayed their party in very negative terms. I have never in any of my write up insulted any member; both within the NPP and outside the party, but NDC activists continue to hurl insult at me. I have grown immured to their threats intimidation and insults.

Just yesterday, a group calling itself the New Generation of Ghana’s Youth issued a so-called Press Statement and sent a copy to my e-mail box. The aim of this group, according to their President is to counter the Free Gyimah’s Movement. The group has threatened to use every means at its disposal to destroy the latter. While I do not want to hold brief for any of the two associations, I wish to re-iterate that it is within the legitimate rights of any group of individuals to come together to pursue a legitimate cause and no earthly power can prevent the group/ Association from exercise its rights as enshrined in the UN charter of Fundamental Human right as guaranteed in the Constitution of Ghana. Thus both groups, one led by Egbert Faigbellie and counterpart which is led by have equal rights of existence.

Now the question is who is really in charge? Is it Professor Evans Atta Mills or some touts within the NDC masquerading as agents of the Presidency who are calling the shots? And what is the NDC and its leader, our elected President doing to keep these over zealous party thugs and touts in check and prevent our ship of state from foundering in the high seas?

I am asking these questions because in less than one and half months since being given the mandate by Ghanaians, the ship of state appears to be floating rudderless in the turbulent waters. And when is our elected Captain going to take effective charge of the ship? The party campaigned to implement policies to which would uplift the economic fortunes of Ghanaians from the tentacles of degradation, poverty and deprivation. May be, the Government needs time to settle down and study the situation on the ground before coming up with solutions to our numerous problems. But I am also of the opinion that a party which criticised the then NPP government would have had its blueprint on how to tackle the numerous problems ready ever before the elections.

But that is not the subject of this write-up. That will come up some other time. However my utmost concern at the moment is the culture of intimidation and cow boy tactics being exhibited on our streets almost on daily basis. When they happen, they appear as if we were watching some movies, but they are real.

Now, just imagine the following Scenarios. Some few weeks ago, Chief Kufuor’s car was seized from him after he had gone to the offices of the DVLA to conduct some transactions on behalf of a relative. No amount of explanation would convince the new Pharaoh’s of Egypt who did not know Joseph to release the car to him. An Apology had to be rendered to him by the NDC Government.

A few days later, it was Mrs. Kufuor, ex President’s wife who had her car also seized by operatives of the Government. Another, apology! Then came those of Ama Busia, a member of the former Council of state, to be followed by Gladys Asmah, ex Minister of Fisheries, Mr. Obiri a member of Nana Akufo-Addo campaign Team. We should also not overlook the seizure of the vehicle of the Managing Director of Barclays Bank who in addition oversees the operations of the Bank in Africa.

Earlier on, Victor Smith had stormed the Castle with armed soldiers to seize and commandeer some vehicles which had gone there on legitimate business. The NDC issued a statement that it had neither sanctioned nor authorized any such action. It meant therefore that what Victor Smith did was not authorized. And what did Mills Presidency do about it? Nothing! And because the government did not sanction party members who had arrogated to themselves the power to harass, molest, intimidate and deprive people of their legitimate properties, they became much more daring in their determination to teach such NPP infidels where power lies. And so the trend continues unabated.

And just this Monday, the operatives were at it again, doing what they know best - siezure of vehicles belonging to top members of the NPP. And this time, it was the personal vehicle of the flag bearer of the NPP, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. The driver had gone to Opera Square to buy some things. Just as he was about to take off, he was accosted by one Arnold and told to surrender the keys for according to him, he was under orders for the vehicle to be seized and sent to the Castle. Order from where? “From above!” retorted our man parading at the corridors of power. And true to his word that the order came from above, he used his cell-phone to call for "reinforcement" from the seat of power. Duplicate copies of registration, car ownership and other relevant documents were presented but the power that be would accept none of them. When questioned about their identities, they produced none. And so, “no do, no do” that was how the vehicle was taken to the Castle, the seat of power. The driver later went there with the original car papers which show that the vehicle indeed belongs to Nana Akufo- Addo, but was told the man in charge of the case was not in. And that was how the personal vehicle of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was "detained" overnight at the Castle.

By the way have you heard of the prosecution of a goat by the Police in one of the Northern States of Nigeria on a charge of armed robbery? Well, if you have not heard, I am telling you on authority that the “thing” did happen. When the case was called up in court, the Police presented the goat as one of the accused arrested at the scene of the armed robbery.. At the end of the first day of trial, the goat was presented to the press by the police and newspapers and television stations had a field day with different sensational headlines. Of course that boosted their sales. The goat was latter on auctioned after the case against it been dropped.

And so, I believe the operatives were looking for an appropriate charge to be preferred against the vehicle and when they could not arrive at any, they decided to release it. Apologies were then rendered to the Flag-bearer of the New Patriotic Party by Alex Segbefia, a member of the NDC Transition Team and Mahama Ayariga, Presidential Spoke person.

Even though they have rendered apologies, I do not think that is enough. I remember an incident which involved a colleague of mine at Muritalla Muhammed Airport in the Eighties. A custom officer suspected that he had hidden some "contraband" in a toothpaste and proceeded to rip it open. My friend looked on helplessly as the pot-bellied oversized being of a human carricature went about the duty which he had assigned to himself. It was quite obvious that he could not be trusted. He had two small eyes resembling those of a snake and he never looked my friend in the eye when he was talking to him. All of a sudden, he shot his cluntched fists up to the sky and shouted "hemp"! My friend thought he was joking and so started smiling at the officer. That was his biggest mistake. Before he knew what was happening, men and officers from various security outfits had pounced on him and beaten him to a pulp. He was only "freed" after he had spent almost the entire money he was bringing home for his Christmas.

On a lighter note I asked him why he had smiled at the anago custom official and this was his response. "I was thinking of the possibility of asking him for a refund. I was imagining what his face would be like after he had found nothing in the paste. I played the fool and paid dearly for it", those were the words of my friend.

Yes, that was the way civilized people would handle matters when it dawned on them that an individual's rights have been trampled upon. But it is not so in thse parts of our world. People act with impunity and dare you to do your worse just because they are in charge. The other day. one NDC sympathiser wrote in reaction to one of my write-ups on Maame Dorkono that if one were to tell a policeman in the United States that the policeman should go and that he/she would follow up later to make a statement, the police would bundle the one into their vehicle and drive away. I did not bother to respond because I realised the person who put the mail in my e-mail box was ignorant of the law on invitation to make statement at the police station. Moreover, somebody had already reacted by "educating" and "enlightening" this ignorant and half-baked intellectual on some aspects of the law.

And just on Thursday, 19th Feb., 2009, during the newspaper review segment of Good Morning, Ghana, hosted by Yaro Kassambata of Metro Television, one, Nurudeen tried unsuccessfully to defend the action of those over-zealous and uncough NDC "operatives" who take the law into their own hands by using the good names of others to commit bad things. Nureedeen sees nothing wrong with the operatives stopping people on the streets and taking over or "commandeering" their vehicles. He asks rhetorically whether there is a law in the country which prevents the operatives from doing what they are doing.

Let it be stated loud and clear that most of us do not have any problem with State Apparatus taking action against any person who has infringed on the laws of the country. What we are protesting against is the act of taking arbitrary action without recourse to the Rule of Law or Due Process. Let things be done with decorum and in line with the laws of the country. The action of these over-zealous party men is reminiscent of the PNDC era when citizens were accosted by operatives of the regime, forced out of their vehicles and such vehicles either taken away from their rightful owners or driven to unknown places.

We are now in a democratic era and things must be done or seen to be done in a transparent and civilized manner. It is not uncommon to hear some activists and sympathisers of the NDC branding all NPP members as thieves and narcotics peddlars. Why? We are not in a military era when known cadres of the PNDC regime committed serious attrocities in the name of the revolution and got away with them.

Now could somebody please give me answers to these posers? Is this Arnold, by any chance, the body guard to then Candidate Mills, who, together with now Honourable Nii Lante Vanderpuye, assaulted one Carlos, a known NDC activist, for shouting too loud about the disappearance of some two or three thousand dollars which Honourable Nii Lante-Vanderpuye was supposed to deliver to an NDC aspirant during the Odododiodoo Constituency Bye-Election. The two or three thousand dollars grew wings and flew away just like the the cocaine which disappeared from the police exhibit room. Is he the same person? I mean no mischief; I am just curious.

Now, did Arnold, Victor Smith and all those whose actions have led to Government offering apologies almost on daily basis have the expressed permission of the Executive to do what they know better at doing? I mean siezure of cars? In other words, did the NDC Administration deliberately ask them to do that? If it is not so, then the Government should have called them to order by now. It is just like what we read in the Holy Bible. Genuine repentance comes from the heart and it is accompanied by the desire not to go back to the former negative things. But if you do something and pray for forgiveness and the transgression keeps occuring at regular intervals, then, there is no genuine desire for repentance. The fact that the Arnold, who spearheaded the siezure of Nana Akufo-Addo vehicle could call some operatives from the Castle and they appeared at the scene within a matter of minutes shows that he had the mandate of the New Pharoah who does not know Joseph. If he did not have authority, why should the security operatives heed his call? If at all the vehicle should be seized, why shoud it be sent to the Castle of all places? And what is tha guarantee that such barbaric and irresponsible acts and actions will not re-occur?

Again, how does one differentiate an over-zealous party operative who stops a vehicle on the highway and demands the key from the driver and the armed robber who accosts you on the hightway, shoots his gun on the streets and dare you to challenge him. We are told that the so-called Arnold was in a civilian dress and did not show any ID. Neither did the operatives from the Castle. In this instance, how does one distinguish a genuine policeman from a fake one or an armed robber in a police uniform? Nowadays, one cannot be hundred percent sure of the genuineness of some police personnel, judging by the story we read and heard about some policement who allegedly robbed a Ghanaian who was residing in a hotel in Accra. What makes the case a serious one is the fact that the alleged robbery was led by an Assistant Superintendent of Police. What would have happened if the driver of Nana Akufo-Addo's vehicle had struggled with the operatives and refused to surrender the key to them? Would they have shot him and term it "accidental discharge" before belatedly offer an apology to the victim's family and Nana Akufo -Addo? Do they have to storm the venue in such a "commando style operation"?

And by the way, if they were looking for stolen vehicles, was there no better and decent way they could have gone about it other than embarrassing and making the victims look like criminals before their fellow Ghanaians? Don't they have the chassis, engine and registration numbers of those vehicles to enable them conduct an "on the spot assessment checks" on such vehicles instaed of driving them away to the Castle? This would not have taken more than five minutes and the brou-haha which erupted aftewards would have been prevented. The operatives and the powers that be only wanted to humiliate and teach the personalities concerned a bitter lesson and also drum it into their ears that they were now in charge.

Sometimes, a little bit of logic, reasoning and discretion on our part will help solve some intricate problems. Nana Akufo-Addo had returned two vehicles in his custody. Why should he keep anee for his own use and if he should keep it, wouldnt it be foolish on his part to be driving the vehicle around town in broad daylight? And if it were a Government vehicle which he wanted to keep for himself, does common sense not dictate to us that the driver would have been under strict instruction not to "touch" the vehicle without his expressed approval? And was it not odd that the driver should be driving a "state vehicle" at the time the master was not in the country? "There is no hiding place for the goldfish", so the saying goes and so it is with Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Wouldn't it have been politically naive and suicidal to keep a state vehicle? And unless Nana Addo wanted to bow out of politics, I do not think he would have indulged in what the operatives alleged he had done. Couldn't they have asked the driver to bring those papers for inspection later on. At worst, they could have followed him to the house to check on those documents. These are some of the ways things are done in a democratic era.

The way these "operatives" are going about their"job" makes one believe that we are in a war-like situation and that Emergency Rule has been clamped on the country, giving crudence to the fact that our individual rights have been curtailed. But, even at Guatanamo Bay, prisoners of war held by Americans have some of their rights restored to them. Some American military officers who trampled upon the rights of some POW were court-martialled and sentenced to serve as deterrent to others who might be tempted to indulge in any such acts. But it is not so with Mills Ghana. Thus, "a state of emergency" has to be declared in the country to give a field day to some faceless and unrecognised operatives, maintained at state expenses, with unlimited powers to embark upon "Operation Stop, Seek, Search and Destroy".

And Ghana Parliament, by turning a blind eye while all these illegal acts and breach of the constitution are carried out with impunity is acting as a clog in the wheel of our progresss .

Many of us are happy that Nana has decided not to use the vehicle again. No one knows the motive behind the seizure of the vehicle and then sending it to the Castle which serves as seat of Government. We are Christians, Moslems and followers of other faiths. At the same time, we are Africans and some of us do not rule out the issue of "ways and means". We have not forgotten the issue involving the "tampering" of the minority leader's chair.

And as some commentators have suggested, there is the possibility of the vehicle being tampered with. There could be some listening and other devices fixed in some secret compartment of the vehicle to enable their operatives to be listening to conversations and monitoring the activities of Nana and other top members of the Party. We should also not rule out the possibility of putting some drugs in a secret compartment of the vehicle so that their operatives may accost Nana on the high way and demand a search of his vehicle. They have accused him of using drugs and which beter way to nail him than this? "Se wo maame atu wo fo a, yen so yen mame atu yen fo". If you have been cautioned or advised by your mother so also have our mother advised us.

There could be some tampering with some safety devices in the vehicle so that beyong a certain mileage, the vehicle would be involved in a fatal accident. These are mere probabilities and possibilities. I am not saying the operatives have done such things, but the way these hoodlums have been embarrassing innocent Ghanaians on the high ways while the powers that be either turn a blind eye or give tacit support to them do not rule out the possibility of one or more of such scenarios being enacted right before our very eyes. One therefore has to sleep with one eyes being open at all times.

The NDC alleges that some of those Government vehicles were taken to some garages and were at the point of being sold. Can they, in all sincerity tell us when and where they found such vehicles and mention the names of perpertrators of such heineous crimes? I will be the first to shout on top of my voice for the prosecution of such criminals.

I now come to a very important aspect of this write-up and it has to do with the reaction of the NDC to utterances of their party men and women. There is no documemted case where a member of the party has criticised any top official of the NDC. No individual could do that and get away with it. We know what happened to the Honourable MP who said "something" on the health of the then Candidate Mills, now President Mills. We know what happened to Carlos when he questioned Honourable Nii Lante Vanderpuye for short-charging the Party to the tune of about two thosand dollars or thereabouts. We know what happened to Frances Essiam for talking back at ex President Rawlings during their party's congress. We know what happened to Obed Asamoah for supporting a different candidate against the "annointed son and official candidate of the party".

So, you see, both the rank and file of the party have been trying very hard to outdo each other in lauding the actions of members of the "politburo". They have all the time been attempting to defend the indefensible. An as at now, there has not been any reprimand of the actions of the so-called operatives. If Government claims it has not sanctioned any such acts, why are the perpetrators not brought to book? Why not discipline such people to serve as a deterrent to others?

1n 2001, shortly after the NPP had assumed the reigns of power, some overzealous and hardliners NPP "operatives" carried out a raid at the Mills residence and subjected his wife to a horrendous experience. Ex Prersident Kufuor, then President sent his Press Secretary, Kwabena Agyapong and the then National Security Advisor, Joshua Hamidu to the house of the Mills to render the Government apologies to them In addition, the operatives who spearheaded the "raid" were sanctioned. But as at now, none of the culprits has been sanctioned and so they have become emboldened and daring in "siezing" more cars.

I, personally have taken a serious and stronger view at some of the actions and inactions taken by the Kufuor's administration which at the time they ocurred, I found to be inimical to the corporate existence of the country. Some of these write ups which were published by some media houses and web sites includ' "The Man Died" 9the handling of the Anloga chieftaincy crisis}, The Other Side of the Story {the handling of the TelekuBopkazzo Crisis} "Mr President, I beg to differ" and "Please, remember that twenty Good Years at Nsawam Prisons Is Non-Negotiable" which spoke against government's inaction over allegations of impropriety and financial recklessness on the part of some party functionaries. In the next few weeks, I hope to reproduce some of those articles for the role some of us played to bring some sanity into the system.

I have gone to greater lengths to enumerate all these because I want the best for my country, party or no party. I love my party, the New Patriotic Party very well, but that does not mean I should close my eyes to the shortcomings in the party. In the same vein, I expect the National Democratic Congress to adopt a similar stance when their members realise something is not well. It is only by doing that the country will progress. What is wrong is wrong and cannot be right. It is as simple as ABC. The way the so-called operatives are going about harrassing and intimidating innocent Ghanaians going about their legitimate duties who happen to be on the other side of the political divide is alienating the Governmant from the masses. Such men and women need to be stopped in their tracks. Period! We are not in a military era where force reigns or rules supreme. We are in a Decmocratic setting and things should be done in accordance to certain norms. Stopping people on the streets and the highways, pulling them out of their vehicles and forcing them to surrender the keys to the vehicles is tantamount to cow-boy diplomacy and armed robbery.

Now I ask the question. Who is actually in charge of the country? Is it the operatives or Mr President? If Mr President is, then he should please execute the mandate Ghanaians have given to him. He should not abdicate such an important responsibility to party activists and operatives. He Should call these men to order!

Ghanaians Would Be Grateful To Mr President if He Did Just That.

Daniel Danquah Damptey