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Opinions of Friday, 26 June 2009

Columnist: Kyei-Mensah-Osei, Kofi

Is Okudjeto Ablakwa the official mouthpiece of the BNI?

Ghana has suddenly become a den for armed robbers. The spate of attacks in various cities and towns has reached alarming proportions. Nowadays, people live in dread of the darkness. In fact, they feel insecure 24/7 since the armed robbers do not mind attacking their unsuspecting victims in broad day light. A clear case in point is when a pastor of Assemblies of God Church flew into the country from London early this year to undertake charity work in the northern part of the country. The pastor was picked up by another pastor friend of his at the KIA. Unknown to them, they were tailed, stopped mid-way to their destination in a suburb of Accra by armed robbers. The armed robbers robbed the men of God of their personal possessions and physically assaulted them in broad day light. The car they were driving in was also taken.

The police who are supposed to look after the citizenry in these perilous times have some of their officers complicit in these heinous crimes against the very people they are paid to protect. Children of Ghana do not know who to call on for assistance especially when one could be stopped on the street or ‘visited’ at home by people who they are not in anyway acquainted to. In circumstances such as the one encountered by the Asamoah Boatengs, any man or woman would instinctively put up a fight to resist arrest especially when the officers to effect the “arrest” refuse to produce evidence of their status or an arrest warrant. The above sums up why the arrest of Asamoah Boateng and his family at the airport by personnel supposedly from the BNI who had no badges, IDs or arrest warrants appeared a bit dodgy. Mrs Boating’s subsequent resistance based on the officers’ behaviour and subsequent refusal to produce ID or arrest warrant was justified. Mr Asamoah Boateng has had no phone call or letter inviting him for an afternoon soiree at the BNI prior to this trip. How else could he have known he was due one? I do not have the wherewithal to know if the man was corrupt while in office or not; however if there is any meaning in “innocent until proven guilty”, then the man should not have been treated the way he was treated at the airport. Such soviet style arrest right in front of their children was uncalled for. Only God knows how traumatised this incident has left the children. I hope to God what they experienced at the KIA does not impact negatively on their psyche and cause them to view anything associated with the NDC as evil in future. The problem is, the NDC has painted everyone associated with the NPP as “corrupt” and “guilty” and seem to suggest that those corrupt individuals must be able to predict their pending arrest and should not dream of travelling outside the country. I detest corruption in any shape or form. Thus, if anyone in the NPP is proved to have abused his/her office, such a person should be made to face the full rigours of the law. It is quite obvious to anyone with common sense though that the NDC don’t appear to do anything right and tend to do things the only way they know best; ‘bugabuga’. Funnily, any form of criticism of such behaviour whether constructively or otherwise always results in a querulous response from its members. Some would even tell you that the NPP did the same thing whilst in power. My question then is this: If it was wrong for the NPP to do, would it then be right for the NDC to repeat same? In any case, successful individuals/institutions/organisations the world over do not judge their successes by the failures of their major competitors. In the same way, it would be wrong for the NDC and its followers to justify their actions and inactions on the perceived wrongs/failures of its main competitor and predecessor, the NPP.

Back to the Asamoah Boatengs’ case, even more surprising was when Okudjeto Ablakwa, deputy minister for information waded in with the explanation that; “The BNI takes serious view of the wife’s action which amounts to obstruction of justice.” With the shoe on the other foot, would Okudjeto have submitted to an arrest by people with no badges, IDs or arrest warrant? Assuming the airport was the only place to arrest Mr Asamoah Boateng; couldn’t the officers have carried IDs and arrest warrants on their person? Since the BNI knew the Asamoah Boatengs were at the airport at the time, it is assumed the BNI knew they had their 2 young children with them; couldn’t they have carried out the arrest a little bit more professionally without subjecting the couple’s poor children to the ordeal of witnessing their parents’ humiliation? Clueless Okudjeto went on further to say that, “Mrs Asamoah Boateng could have been allowed to board the flight but for her unruly behaviour which is actionable.” Yes! The almighty and magnanimous BNI could have let Mrs Asamoah Boateng to board the plane but for her unruly behaviour!!

I do not know whether Okudjeto is married but at least he should understand the concept of marriage. Marriage couple are one emotionally and spiritually and though they are 2 physically, yet they are united in thought and in deed. No true married man/woman would stand by and watch or would be happy to travel while the other is being manhandled or given an informal invitation for tête-à-tête with the dreaded BNI. With the notoriety the BNI is currently gaining, their formal invitation is even shunned like bubonic plague. Okudjeto should understand that what the poor woman did was what every responsible man/woman would do in defence of husband/wife if any group of persons turn up to arrest one of them without any arrest warrant or IDs. A government with morals would not touch the already traumatised woman considering the circumstance of their arrest let alone to threaten her that her “behaviour was actionable.” The last time I checked my records, Okudjeto was the deputy minister for information so I dare I ask, who made him the spokesman for the BNI? The police, army, navy etc have their information directorate and they can explain issues to the citizenry as and when necessary. They certainly do not need the deputy information minister to fight their corner. Is Okudjeto inadvertently confirming the common notion that the ruling government is using the BNI to conduct a witch-hunt of members of previous government? A clear case of who pays the piper calling the tune huh!?! So much about “emi dze me pe asomdwee.” Things aren’t peaceful at all and typically, the “Asomdwee Hene” appears oblivious of the goings-on around him.

Lawyer Okudjeto of Okudjeto chambers called such form of arrest and seizure of passports as “unconstitutional”. Ras Mubarak also of the NDC made a pathetic attempt at challenging lawyer Okudjeto’s statement by saying that the Ghanaian passport “is the property of the government of Ghana and must be surrendered on demand by AN AUTHORISED REPRESENTATIVE OF THE GHANA GOVERNMENT” as stated on page 1 of the same document (emphasis is mine). What I want Ras Mubarak and his ilk to understand is that any “authorised representative of the Ghana Government” must have an identification confirming status in order to trigger the correlated response as and when necessary. In the Asamoah Boateng’s case, the “representatives of the Ghana Government”, BNI who went to arrest them had no IDs and no arrest warrant. Is Mr Mubarak implying that Asamoah Boateng should have acquiesced without asking for IDs and arrest warrant? Would he have meekly followed the men if he were in the shoes of Asamoah Boateng? Perhaps Asamoah Boateng and his family were thinking about what happened to the three judges during the hey-days of the PNDC, the siamese twin brother of the NDC. Don’t we all we all read and learn from history? Whatever happened to the judges could have happened to Asamoah Boateng and his family.

Now, with BNI issuing a categorical statement to deny their involvement in the arrest of Asamoah, what is Samuel Okudjeto Ablakwa going to say in his defence? It has been said many times that some elements in the ruling party are using the security agencies to settle personal scores thereby, giving the government a bad name. While the citizenry are suffering the scourge of armed robberies, the fighting up north is ongoing and yet, some people who issue “orders from above” have managed to arrogate to themselves sections of the security services just to settle personal scores. In spite of these sad occurrences, the presidency only exudes deafening silence. See no evil, hear no evil. All that Okudjeto, Ras Mubarak and others are doing is to whitewash over the black spots of the government but let us bear in mind that a parent who goes to any length to justify his/her child’s misdemeanours ends up witnessing the latter’s sentencing at his/her felony trial. Four years comes and goes quicker than people really do care to think.

To Ras Mubarak, Samuel Okudjeto Ablakwa and others who think like them, I will like to refer them to the statement in the first page of the same Ghanaian passport which is this: “These are to request and require in the name of the President of the Republic of Ghana all those whom it may concern to ALLOW THE BEARER TO PASS FREELY WITHOUT LET OR HINDRANCE and to AFFORD HIM OR HER EVERY ASSISTANCE AND PROTECTION OF WHICH HE OR SHE MAY STAND IN NEED.” (Emphasis in mine). This is the signed statement of the Director of Passports on the very first page of the Ghanaian passport. Asamoah Boateng had neither been written to nor had he received any phone call from the BNI prior to embarking on his journey. He has not been tried and found guilty by any court in the land. Ok, in the eyes of the NDC, he is ‘guilty of corruption’ by virtue of his association with the NPP but that is where it ends. His alleged ‘guilt’ is not proven and hence he could embark on his journey at any time of his choice. And that his where the above quote comes in: That “…those whom it may concern” should have allowed Asamoah Boateng “...to pass freely without let or hindrance” and should have “…afford him every assistance and protection of which he may stand in need.” Current events are sending out wrong signals to the international community about Ghana’s democratic credentials. Okudjeto should help the foreign minister to send out a better image of the country rather than his lame and pathetic defence of the BNI. Was the BNI really not involved in the attempted kidnap/arrest? How come Asamoah Boateng was invited just a day after the incident and what happens to the imposters? Indeed, there are more questions than answers in this saga.

Kofi Kyei-Mensah-Osei