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Opinions of Monday, 20 June 2016

Columnist: Daily Guide

I wish I had a contractor friend!

“No One Is More Hated Than He Who Speaks The Truth” – Plato

I do have friends. Among the few friends I have is Lawyer Mohammed Muniru Kassim of DAILY GUIDE fame, whom I haven’t seen for some time now. It would be dishonest on my part to say I haven’t received a gift from any of my friends before. Neither can I also say I haven’t had the occasion to give any of them a gift. But the beauty of it all is that any gift given or received has no expectation of the favour being returned.

My circle of friends includes lawyers, journalists, teachers, masons, tailors and carpenters. It is sad to note that businessmen and contractors cannot be found in that circle. I used the word ‘sad’ because I have come to realise that it is only businessmen and contractors who give gargantuan gifts. How I wish I had a contractor friend!

If you are still wondering why that wish, then you must be the only stranger in this country. The bombshell dropped by courageous Manasseh Azure Awuni last week is now the most topical issue in the country, and it involves no less a person than President Ogwanfunu himself.

Manasseh had whetted our appetite with his teaser on radio, television and Facebook wall. Not in my wildest dream did I imagine it was about the First Gentleman of the land. The report was as revealing as it was frightening. It was frightening because it isn’t common to hear of a sitting president receiving a Ford Expedition gift from friends in exchange for contracts. Yes, you heard right! President Ogwanfunu received a Ford Expedition worth USD100,000 from a Burkinabe contractor called Djibril Kanazoe.

All manner of interpretations have been given to the acceptance of the gift by President Ogwanfunu. While those under the eagle-headed Umbrella are vehemently defending the President, his political opponents and many anti-corruption campaigners are slamming him for blatantly disregarding the country’s anti-corruption guidelines.

However, one aspect of the matter that almost all my compatriots have not interrogated was the circumstance under which the President and Contractor Djibril became friends. The circumstance is very important because it will give us a better clue to the thoughts and intentions of Djibril. So I ask; how did he meet President Ogwanfunu?

Per Djibril’s own account, according to Manasseh, he did not win a contract in Ghana the first time he submitted a proposal. After losing the bid, a friend called Mike Aidoo (Mikado), who knew the then Vice-President Ogwanfunu, now President, took him to salute (greet) the vice-president. Thus began the beautiful relationship between the two, which led to a USD100,000 gift exchanging hands.

The motive for Mikado taking Djibril to see then Vice-President Ogwanfunu is clear, isn’t it? He had lost a contract, so he needed someone who could pull strings to make things happen the next time. And did the new relationship he established with Vice-President Ogwanfunu not help him get subsequent contracts?

Indeed, according to Djibril, he was sitting his somewhere when the Ghana Embassy in Burkina Faso requested a quotation from his firm for the Ghana Embassy Fence Wall Project. He gave them his quotation and the contract was sole-sourced to him.

Is it not puzzling that, of all the contractors in Burkina Faso, Djibril was the only one contracted to do the fencing job? Is it not curious that he was also a friend to Ghana’s Ambassador in Burkina Faso? Obviously, there were hidden hands that pulled strings to ensure Djibril got the contract.

Djibril may be a Muslim, but he knows the truism in Proverbs 18:16 which states, “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.” For sure, Djibril’s gift had given him special access to our President. Is it any wonder that the President went praising him as if he was the best contractor in the world?

Many have expressed shock and anger at President Ogwanfunu’s indiscretion. I’m, however, not in the least surprised. I’m not surprised because I know human character is like pregnancy; it cannot be hidden for long. I doubt if the Citizen Vigilante is also surprised about Manasseh’s revelation. Remember, he was the one who first revealed the formation of a committee to investigate the messy Embraer jets deal, but never saw the light of day.

Manasseh has done the best that a journalist could, by shedding light on the activities of those entrusted with running the affairs of this nation. I know he is strong enough not to be fazed by the insults and character assassination. He has done justice to his conscience.

As for me, I just cannot stop lamenting. How can I stop lamenting when I need a contractor friend to give me a car gift, even if it isn’t a Ford Explorer?

Hope to see you next week for much more konkonsa on the topic, Deo volente!