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Opinions of Monday, 19 October 2020

Columnist: Melvin Tarlue

Dr UN and the culture of impunity

Kwame Fordjour, popularly known as Dr. UN Kwame Fordjour, popularly known as Dr. UN

For the past few days, I been asking myself, what on earth will make a man so brave to use the names of the United Nations (UN) and the late former Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan, Harvard University, in what has now come to be termed a Ponzi scheme?

So many answers have been coming. And I will try to present some of them here as I try to discuss the Kwame Fordjour aka 'Dr UN' fake awards saga.

Recently, news broke that Mr Fordjour, while pretending to be a global ambassador and diplomat, with a doctorate degree from Harvard University, succeeded in perpetuating a scam on a large scale.

While pretending to be partnering with the UN and using the legacy of Kofi Annan, Dr UN organized an awards ceremony and presented 'golden' trophies and citations to over 20 "accomplished" Ghanaians whom he described as having achieved extraordinary feats in their endeavours.

The 20 personalities included celebrities and television hosts such as rapper Sarkodie and Berla Mundi.

Dr UN as I have gathered from media reports organized similar awards ceremony at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, in the Ashanti Region in 2018, leading to his arrest back then. He is said to have been sent to court at the time, granted bail by Her Worship, Portia M.A. Salia. He later jumped bail and apparently, nothing was done to make him to face the law for his scandalous activities until a few days ago when it emerged that he had organized what can be described as the 'Part 2' of his fake awards ceremony.

I am not a legal person, but I suppose his claims of being a doctorate degree holder from Harvard University, being a global ambassador, constitute acts of impersonation, something the 1992 Constitution of Ghana frowns upon.

But I ask once again: what gave him the audacity to use the names of Mr Annan, Harvard University, UN so publicly in organizing a dubious award scheme? Is the case that he's so brave or reckless that he doesn't care what the outcome might be?Is it the case that he felt no one, not even the laws of Ghana will take him on? What really was he thinking on?

A couple of days ago, I had a chat over the awards scheme with a senior friend of mine. I asked him the same questions above because I really wanted to know what went into Dr. UN's thinking before he came to the conclusion to organize the recent awards ceremony, especially after being arrested in 2018 for similar scheme. My senior friend's response was simple and straightforward: "Dr. UN is nothing but a great con."

A great con? I asked. And he retorted, “yes, he's a great con.” I was not really surprised about his response because I had prior to our discussion, heard a number of Ghanaians described Dr. UN as a "smart guy," "great con." I do not want to dispute how they think of him, whether a "great con", "smart guy", etc.

But for me, I actually believe he's someone who has taken advantage of the culture of impunity in the Ghanaian society when it comes to certain things - that one can do something wrong and instead of him/her being punished to deter others from contemplating on doing same, our society rather appear to take the act for fun or even pretend to be taking action against the act but nothing comes out of it at the end of the day.

I see people making fun of the awardees rather than pushing for Dr UN to be punished.

And this is while politicians in this part of the world would steal huge sums of monies from state coffers, knowing fully-well it is criminal, but at the end of the day would get away with it because people are not really punished in our part of the world. They will steal and the next day when they are to be processed for court, chiefs and religious leaders will move in to beg for them to be let off the hook.

And I think he was clear in his mind also, that the media in our part of the world, the media is sometimes at its best when it comes to promoting mediocrity or idolizing nonentities. DR has suddenly become a kind of a “celebrity” in the media, and there is that kind of craze from journalists to host him on their shows and promote him.

Again, I see Dr UN as someone who taken advantage of one of the cracks in our lives as a people, our seeming inability to do thorough due diligence before committing ourselves to certain ventures, similar weakness that got into the $150 million overpriced Ameri Energy deal.

Someone says he's a global ambassador for UN, and he wants to give you an award. If you cannot do due diligence on the award scheme itself, at least you can do due diligence on his personality. Find out whether truly he is a global ambassador and for which organization. I strongly believe one of the reasons he succeeded was because there was no background checks on him by the awardees to raise alarm about his dubious award

Again, I will add that the so-called Dr. UN took advantage of the high desire by some people in our society to get titles and honours even if it means going the extra mile by buying the titles. Some people are spending a lot of monies in Ghana yearly to win awards of all kinds, get themselves in the newspapers the next day after the awards ceremony.

I have come across a number of corporate executives and individuals from the other fields of life who have demonstrated strong desires for awards or honours. I have had the chance to visit and interview some of these executives and in their offices, I have seen several trophies, medals, citations and plaques packed in their offices. And their concluding remarks at the end of my interviews have always been "we look forward to win more and more awards in the coming years, you know."

These awards come with price tags - from silver, bronze, gold, platinum sponsors - just name it, the awardees have to pay and the organizers will use part of the payments to book luxurious hotels, hold glitz and glamour awards nights, pose for the cameras, appear on TV and in the magazines, newspapers and that's it.

So, it is now a lucrative business to hold awards events. It's like running a civil society organization in Africa.

Get the funds from the donors, drive across Ghana in Toyota Landcruisers to visit a Community with no pipe-borne water, fail to construct a hand-pump or drill a borehole to provide water for the poor community while driving a V8 car but instead tell the donors you are doing advocacy works and hoping for Government to drill a borehole, and the donors too will keep paying for your advocacy, enabling you to continue driving V8, booking luxury hotels to hold workshops to do advocacy for Government to provide a hand-pump when indeed the funds being used in booking hotels could be used to meet the needs of residents in the poor community for whom the so-called advocacy is being done.

No wonder why so many awards schemes and civil society organizations continue to spring up every day in Ghana because it has become highly profitable to do.