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Opinions of Friday, 17 July 2009

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.

Certainly, not Dan Abodakpi

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

The list of 32 nominees for appointment as Ghana’s Ambassadors or High Commissioners has stoked the fire of criticism against the manner in which President Mills is handling the affairs of state. A quick glance at the list reveals that there is something drastically wrong with the choices that have been made. Forget about the constitutional prerogative of the President in making such appointments.

Although we are not told who is going where, it is certain that these political appointments into Ghana’s Foreign Service leave room for much to be desired. I will say above board that some of the nominees are liabilities and shouldn’t be on the list at all. Prominent among them is Dan Abodakpi, who needs no description because I assume that his huge presence in Ghana politics is common knowledge.

President Mills may be cheering himself with the illusion that he is his “own man,” but the reality is that Ghanaians see things differently. Most of his political opponents still consider him as a cat’s-paw. He has a lot to do to change that impression. But he cannot do so if he continues creating anxious moments.

In fact, in nominating the 32 appointees, President Mills has made a choiceless choice and is now pushing himself and the NDC government into the center of the political fog, where they will be haunted and cannot avoid being scathed!

Is the NDC bereft of capable and credible “fresh blood” and will now recycle the “old, tired faces” for the President to appoint to public office? Or is the NDC government interested at all in making any positive difference felt in the way Ghana should be ruled? It is baffling.

Many of those nominees may be useful for NDC’s local or national politics, not for Ghana’s Foreign Service. And I intend to take on President Mills for not being circumspect in the choices that he has made. It is a worrisome development.

In civilized democracies where public office-holding is built on principles of public spiritedness, meritorious service, morality, and good conscience, such nominees (who know very well that they have credibility problems) will politely decline the positions being offered them. They know full well that they’ll have no public trust and can’t, therefore, represent national interests or even get the chance to pursue personal goals in public office. Such systems have no room for waywardness. On the contrary, our system condones it. Here is why.

DAN ABODAKPI

Dan Abodakpi’s political career as a CDR cadre at Tema in the early 1980s raised him to the status of the Minister of Trade only for him to tumble down into the dark cells of the Nsawam Prison after being convicted of defrauding by false pretences and causing financial loss to the state. He was to pay $400,000 to the state, which he hasn’t done to date. Bang!! An end of an otherwise glorious political career.

Re-inventing him to become an Ambassador or High Commissioner (whichever works for him) is not in the interest of Ghana. He is not the kind of “face” that Ghana should present to the international community. Abodakpi is a liability.

SAMUEL VALIS AKYIANU

Akyianu is better respected for his successful career as a Fire Officer, rising through the ranks to become the Chief Fire Officer than a politician. Great achievement! Has he had a successful political career? No! As Central Regional Minister, aspiring to become MP for Cape Coast, the death of his body-guard during his (Akyianu’s) visit to his ancestral home in the Volta Region dented his image as he attracted damaging public comments. In consequence, he resigned as the Regional Minister but contested the Parliamentary elections.

He lost his political bid but was sustained by JJ Rawlings when appointed as Ambassador to the far East (Serbia, Croatia, etc.). He resurfaced as the Central Regional Chairman of the NDC. Now, he is being re-engineered as an Ambassador. More questions than answers.

MRS. AANAA ENIN

Mrs. Aanaa Enin is remembered for being booted out of the PNDC for what was described as “insolence” and impolitic behaviour only to be sent out after two years in the doldrums by Rawlings as Ghana’s Ambassador. That appointment shouldn’t have been made if the right thing was being done. She has now been brought back into the limelight by President Mills.

Is this the new face of the NDC?

There are others too whose peculiarities cannot be dismissed as insignificant. One of them is Hodari Okae, former Deputy Director of the Ghana Immigration Service whose encounters with the NPP government reinforce public apprehensions of the wickedness in our political dispensation. Pitiable though his plight is, I don’t think that he is qualified enough to become Ghana’s Ambassador or High Commissioner. He is already a retiree and has had no stint with “diplomacy” either.

Daniel Ohene Agyekum, who was once Ghana’s High Commissioner to Canada before becoming the Ashanti Regional Secretary and holding other appointments in the Rawlings government, is another. As the Ashanti Regional Chairman of the NDC, he stood his grounds against the NPP’s intimidation and worked hard for the NDC’s good showing in the elections. He is rumoured to be on his way to Washington. Good for him.

The crux of the matter is that by this very issue of appointments, President Mills has created anxious moments for the NDC. Let nobody deceive himself that all these appointments into the Foreign Service are agreeable or acceptable. They are not, for several reasons.

Abodakpi and all others with questionable characters who are now being honoured with these “juicy” appointments are liabilities in the current political dispensation. They may still function in the NDC as party stalwarts but in reality, their public image doesn’t warrant their being sent to represent the face of Ghana in foreign lands.

In the Nietzschean sense, they are like coins which have lost their picture and now matter only as metal, no longer coins. Ghana’s Foreign Service deserves more than what President Mills is offering it.

Our political leaders must learn to separate partisan political party interests from those of the country. For instance, what works well for the NDC in national politics shouldn’t be misconstrued as beneficial for Ghana. It is in this sense that the current list must be reviewed and those known to be carrying baggage of skeletons weeded out.

In all considerations, President Mills appears to be mindless of the broad implications of what he has just done. In effect, he is rewarding malfeasance, which the Judiciary frowned upon in the case of Abodakpi and the other felons (Kwame Peprah, Dr. George Sipa Yankey, Ibrahim Adam, etc.). But it shouldn’t be so. No national leader should do things to create the demoralizing impression that he is condoning wrongdoing by public office holders.

Forget about Kufuor’s pardoning of Abodakpi and the other felons, which some might raise as a vindication, because that pardon came after the fact. None of them has had his conviction wiped off the slate in spite of that pardon. Whether the Judiciary was manipulated in convicting them or whether the trials were politically motivated doesn’t matter. The fact still stands that they were convicted by competent courts of jurisdiction at the end of the day and they spent time in prison. They are felons and remain so for life, which disqualifies them from holding public office!

One could argue that the above-cited instance belongs to the dusty archives of earlier political dispensations but it confirms that we (as Ghanaians) do not believe that we have learned a great deal from historically dangerous memories (within the context of the June 4 Uprising, especially, and other military interventions in our country’s political development).

This is where the call for prudence and moral rigour is subverted by the weight of the new NDC’s own acts of omission or commission. This blind belief in reward for party loyalty provides such disreputable characters with a safe haven from which to attempt to manipulate the system to personal advantage. It is a practice that generates hatred for the party in power and throttles public confidence in our democracy. In other words, rewarding malfeasance has only one end: to destroy the foundation of our democracy.

President Mills’ action is politically dishonest and misleading to the degree that it ignores the very ideology of the NDC, which touts probity and accountability in public office. Again, it reduces to absurdity the constitutional and judicial precepts under which Abodakpi and the other felons were exposed and punished.

Our leaders shouldn’t appoint people to office just because they want to spite their political opponents or massage the feelings of their party stalwarts and followers. Why is it not constitutionally stipulated for Parliament to vet all these nominees for the Foreign Service appointments as happens in other countries?

The NDC seems to be on a mission to destroy itself with all these appointments. Take, for instance, the appointment of the party’s Regional Chairmen to positions that will detach them from party work, which is a good way to create confusion. Removing all these party stalwarts from wherever they’ve been is not the best option to sustain the party’s fortunes. But I’ll leave that aspect to the party itself to handle. What matters to me is the impact of these appointments on Ghana’s image abroad.

Such appointments make it clear how distorted the desire for politicking can be, especially when it is disconnected from socio-economic and political reality. In addition, such a distortion feeds into the misconception that Ghanaian politics is a goldmine to be exploited by those participating in it. Such appointments fracture the people’s hopes, dreams, and aspirations. This fracturing of hopes, dreams, and aspirations usually leaves behind an indelible psychological scar. Our democracy is in danger, then.

One would expect the NDC government to indulge in a “politics of hope,” based on sound policies and actions to move the country forward in a properly coordinated manner. Such a “politics of hope” will then seek to reward honesty and public spiritedness, not malfeasance.

Only through honesty and public spiritedness that are rooted not only in the interests of individuals but also in the collective self-determination can we sustain and nurture our democracy to maturity.

What President Mills needs to understand is that he cannot impose people with questionable backgrounds on the system only to turn round to seek public sympathy when they create hiccups for his administration. Appointments to public office are some of the factors that inform the electoral decisions that the people make, which ultimately determine the outcome of general elections. Don’t the conditions that foster corruption in public office adversely affect our political development? They do.

It is not too late for him to undo the harm that such appointments might have done already. He should withdraw the nominations of all those whose credibility is on the line and replace them with “agreeable” people to assure Ghanaians that the new NDC is prepared to do the right thing.

Don’t tell me that it is too early to judge him harshly. As Achebe tells us, “the chick that will grow into a cock is noticed the very first day that it is hatched.” President Mills’ government was hatched seven months ago and we must know what it will become even before the four years’ tenure expires.

How does President Mills want to be remembered? Certainly, not by the ridiculous “ECOMINI” faux pas but by more serious and lasting determinants—his practical achievements or failures. He has every opportunity now to redeem his image and reassure Ghanaians that he is leading a government that will leave a huge positive impact on them at the end of his term. It is only then, that the decision by the electorate to give him the mandate will be justified. Otherwise, he and the NDC will be endangered at the next polls.

The fact is that the political market will dry up some day for the industry of lies and mediocrity; in fact, it is drying up already, and those politicians who seek to be relevant in Ghana’s political life had better learn to be prudent.

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