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Opinions of Friday, 20 February 2009

Columnist: Mubarak, Ras

Ghana's FBI Must Apologize to Akuffo Addo

It is our time to chop. This is the thinking of so many people who enter into politics in Ghana. And indeed they do “chop” a lot. It is only a handful of Ghanaians politicians who can hold their head high for not “chopping” government money or abusing their powers. Being in opposition everywhere in the world is nightmarish and you can understand why people do everything necessary to get or keep power. But you should feel more than nightmarish if you were in opposition in Ghana. You are most likely to be hounded and intimidated.

Ghana’s new president promised to steer the country away from this culture of intimidating opponents using state apparatus. But that looks like far from happening, at least for now. For persons in opposition, it is a bad time to own luxury vehicles such as a land cruiser, Chrysler, Jaguar, BMW or the latest model of Mercedes either acquired genuinely or stolen from government pool. You could be stopped in the middle of nowhere.

The latest in the series of attempts to retrieve vehicles from former government functionaries and officials have yet again generated tongue lashing from well meaning Ghanaians who obviously would not, and should not tolerate any attempt by any government, past, present or future to unjustifiably intimidate Ghanaians.

An opposition member of parliament said recently in parliament that the apology from the presidency to a high profile opposition politician for wrongfully sequestering his vehicle is not enough. If the security forces are making mistakes, surely an apology is not enough to assuage victims of such wrongdoing who may have been embarrassed and injury caused to their person. But the presidency has no business apologizing to Nana Akuffo Addo in the first place.

The president’s public affairs advisors are certainly doing a very bad job. Their job is so bad it has rightly or wrongly tainting the presidency. Professor Mills’ spokesperson issued an apology on behalf of the president to Akuffo Addo, candidate in the last presidential election for the wrongful seizure of his vehicle by reported operatives of the Bureau of National Investigation, BNI.

Has the presidency questioned why these “genuine mistakes” were committed and what it is doing to the persons who gave the orders for such embarrassing moves? If mistakes have been made, it is not for the presidency to apologize. That is the job of the agency that committed the mistake.

The BNI has humiliated the presidency to the extent of ridicule. The apology by John Mills is an admission of guilt, but guilt by whom, the presidency or the security agencies? We know for a fact the new administration is having difficulty retrieving vehicles from some former government officials. But that should not be reason enough for recklessly embarking on endeavours that certainly undermine their intentions and bring the presidency into disrepute. It started with ex president Kufour’s son, Chief Kufour. His vehicle was impounded on suspicion of belonging to the state. No proper checks were undertaken. And barely a week after the first seizure, the vehicle of the Managing Director of Barclays Bank-GH was improperly confiscated and returned to him with an apology. The two incidents were bad enough to hurt and force the government into taking action against persons who gave clearance for the wrongful seizures even though the government had been busy trying to assemble a team and get a grip on affairs. But nothing happened and I was not particularly surprised when news broke of the confiscation of Nana Akuffo Addo’s vehicle. Again it was a mistake. And the government’s press secretary wants us to believe these incidents are as in his words “genuine mistakes.” Granted that they were genuine mistakes as he puts it, obviously someone wasn’t doing their job properly and if someone wasn’t doing their job well, you query them or replace them.

Our security agencies are the way they are largely because many of our security capos are eager to pander to the dictates of some politicians. Many would do anything just to be in the good books of political office holders. It is their shortcut to getting a medal. I cannot believe how the BNI, which is to Ghanaians what the M15 and the FBI, are to the UK and USA respectively, continues to make such mistakes and expect heads not to roll?

I can bet my big head on a guillotine that such acts of irresponsibility by our secret service would continue unless the Interior Minister, by instructions from the President, punishes those responsible for the troublesome situation. These events certainly do not reel of the change Professor Mills promised Ghanaians. Someone has to take responsibility and quit their job. It is for the BNI to issue a statement apologizing and promise to sin no more. I don’t know why the presidency wants to be drawn into this unless of course there was an order from the presidency.

Security is one of the things the new President mentioned as topmost on his agenda for change in the next four years and rightly so because citizens, expatriates s and investors have to feel safe. Citizens have a right to be protected and governments have a responsibility to protect lives and investments of its people. But we can question the viability of the state’s ability to keep us all safe if our men and women in uniform and plainclothes are exhibiting such repeated incompetence in intelligence gathering. Bad intelligence can hurt so badly. It is unforgiving for us to continuously harass and intimidate our own people in our own country. The intelligence services have erred so badly.

The Castle, which is the seat of our government should seize from being a place where impounded vehicles are kept. The Castle is not a police station. The government should expect to be bashed because it got mixed up in something it should not have gotten involved in to start with.