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Opinions of Saturday, 14 May 2016

Columnist: Asare, Kwame Ohene

Cry my beloved Country, Cry – Part - 5

Kwame Ohene Asare

Despite the seeming uproar preceding yesterday’s anti-corruption summit held in London, following a leaked private conversation between David Cameron and the Queen of England, there was quite an invaluable lesson that African Leaders may have learnt; - That it pays to have a good name.

In the leaked conversation, David Cameron was heard advising the Queen that there were Leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries attending the summit. He proceeded to mention Nigeria and Afghanistan as possibly two of the most corrupt countries in the world. The Archbishop of Canterbury was heard interjecting to exonerate someone from the corruption in Africa. That person, president or man, to all intents and purposes, had to be President Buhari. “But this particular leader is actually not corrupt. He is trying very hard”: the Archbishop was clearly heard saying.

For an African leader, that was quite a priceless testament or reference. A reference Buhari had neither solicited for nor paid for, from none other than an English man of God of the Church of England without the pretence of a revelation or a prophecy. God can be really good.

Unfortunately, by just an odd quirk of fate, in a related matter, the day saw yet another debacle in the life of the incumbent presidency of Ghana, just to add to an unending list of gaffes and global embarrassments which are becoming a trade mark of the NDC government on the international scene. President John Mahama rushed off to England for a summit, during which he is supposed to have granted an interview to the BBC.

It was an occasion which, with ample preparation and anticipation, would probably have given the President an opportunity to sell Ghana to our development partners. However, he was hindered and inhibited by 2 important but debilitating factors: 1) the truth and 2) a conspicuous lack of preparation & planning by the President and his team.

In the interview with the BBC host, Peter Okwoche, a presenter in the mould of the late Komla Djomor, President Mahama woefully failed to convince the world that he was incorruptible and that he was prepared to deal with corruption within the team of friends and associates he governs with.
Asked about increasing corruption in Ghana and as to whether he had prosecuted or even simply, investigated any of his ministers and/or errant ones, President Mahama effectively dismissed corruption in Ghana as more of a perception.
“What about you, Mr President, have you been offered a bribe before?” Peter Okwoche (PO) asked. Obviously reeling under a shock of sorts, John Mahama (JDM) was really struggling and asked back: “you mean as a president?” PO: “as John Dramani Mahama”; JMD: “as a human being?” PO: “as a person”.
John Dramani Mahama then answered as follows:
"“Any human being in the world would have encountered corruption in a way, one way or the other, either being offered a bribe or a bribe being demanded from you. What you need to do is to put yourself in a position to………..…”
Asked by PO, whether he took it, the President moved on quickly as if he didn't hear the question and maybe he didn’t hear his interviewer well, but Peter pressed on: "Mr President did you take it?" wearing a smile that obviously suggested that PO believed he had hit that rare moment in the life of a great journalist. The real jackpot was however on its way.
Then the President answered in a rather passive voice, "No, I didn’t take it" and then moved on.

For me this was quite a self-indicting moment for His Excellency John Dramani Mahama. His response to the question about the need to prosecute and investigate his errant ministers or associates demonstrated his complete lack of interest and determination to deal with the problem, especially in the light of the long list of incidents which have bedevilled his regime, such as:

- World Cup Scandal,
- Inflated costs on Bus Branding Saga,
- Wayome, Isofoton and Waterville,
- Judgment Debts,
- Kumasi Airport – bloated costs
- Kasoa Interchange - bloated costs,
- the STX deal and the
- Circle Interchange bloated costs,
- AMERI - the inflated cost of purchasing electricity; just to mention but a few.

The interviewer undoubtedly must have had a fair grasp of the above issues. The expression on his face said it all.

There is a growing perception that H.E. John Dramani Mahama’s problem has always been one of anticipation. He either never anticipates or plans properly for anything. He obviously places great confidence in his soft-spoken eloquence. He never anticipated the above ‘killer’ question in spite of the fact that the likelihood of being asked such a question was as clear as mud. The ‘King’ was thus left completely ‘undressed’ for the question on a very informed platform - the global stage. In such moments, it is only the truth and nothing but the truth which can set you free. H.E. John Dramani Mahama would have been found to have answered his questions rather untruthfully in the eyes of any discerning viewer. Whether as a person, a president, a human being or whatever guise he may have operated under, JDM was clearly thinking of how he may lie to the whole world about something he knew to be all too painfully untrue.

The President is neck deep in corruption.

Mr Martin Amidu, the former Attorney General not too far back in time, disclosed that the late President Mills, before his unfortunate, if not untimely death, set up a committee to investigate Mahama, which committee Mahama dissolved on becoming President.

It is ridiculous for Mahama to tell the world that the way to avoid being offered bribes is simply to push off the responsibility to someone else. Are you sure Mr President? What if your delegate comes back to you with an offer? As I understand it, in every project that has been commissioned by his Government, the relevant procurement has been undertaken on the basis of the sole sourcing route contrary to the existing regulations on Government Procurement, which former President Kufuor left for his use.

In 2012, John Dramani Mahama told us that he walked into the Presidency of Ghana without any expectation of it and in point of fact he was in the process of even retiring from politics when the Vice Presidency landed on his laps. He least expected the death of the late President, Professor Atta-Mills, when it happened and indeed it was almost with some reluctance that he was sworn in as President on the day of the late professor’s death. Curiously he states himself that after the news of the professor’s death and the invitation to be president, he actually went to bed that afternoon. He only accepted his constitutional duty to become president after what appears to be a very sound sleep.

This may all fit in with his declarations after his 2012 election, that indeed he was ordained to be president. It also does not come as a surprise that he has never made any such prophecies regarding his capacity to deal with Ghana’s problems.

I listened to most of the deliberations at the anti-corruption summit and whilst it was rather riveting to watch the passion and genuineness of the contributions from most of the participants and actors, the leaked conversations between the Archbishop, David Cameron, the Queen of England and the Speaker of the House of Commons have rather left an indelible imprint on my mind. David Cameron had Ghana in mind when he referred to Leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries attending the summit. The Archbishop’s testament on Buhari is exhilarating news for Africa but Ghanaians must do the decent thing, vote in 2016, for someone who can properly partner Buhari in the fight against corruption in Africa, to exterminate this canker from our continent. Corruption makes you poorer. It creates in you a need to take a bribe and vote. Please take it no more! Vote for the best to rule Ghana. We all heard the Archbishop's voice on the leaked video about Buhari - He is not corrupt. A Great pronouncement over his life, it went unchallenged. I am not surprised he did not make a fuss about the allegation on corruption made against his country. He should be a much-fulfilled politician after this conference but he needs strong and decent partners to break Africa free from this malaise.