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Opinions of Friday, 15 November 2013

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Is “Vickileak” tape Mahama’s doomsday?

I was dumfounded when I read the news item on Ghanaweb, “I won't quit politics until I make US$1m” and concluded that if the tape was genuine, then Mahama’s government is in real trouble. The following morning, Ghanaweb reported, “Victoria Hammah fired”. After reading the story, I visited other Ghanaian media websites for confirmation and I realised that the alleged tape contained more damaging allegations than was reported on Ghanaweb. In this piece, I want to discuss three of the explosive allegations that led to the dismissal of the Deputy Communications Minister, Victoria Hammah, because they have very serious constitutional implications and cannot and must not be brushed aside.

The deputy minister is reported to have told a friend in a conversation that: Nana Oye Lithur, the minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection allegedly played a role in securing a favourable outcome for President Mahama in the presidential petition. Ms Hammah allegedly said, “I learnt even before the verdict, Nana Oye Lithur was with the Justices and all that. You don’t know the role she has played for us to win the court case” (see Peacefmonline, November 7, 2013); Mr Tony Lithur, the President’s lead Counsel in the presidential petition and who is not a minister or presidential staff controls three ministries; and Mrs Lordina Mahama has been either making ministerial appointments or is influential in who gets which (presidential) appointments.

It is reasonable to assume that Ms Hammah’s dismissal is an indication that the tape is genuine. In other words, the presidency has confronted her with the tape and she has admitted that the voice on the tape is her. If that is the case then, President Mahama must go further than merely dismissing the deputy minister. There must be a through investigation into the allegations contained on the tape by Parliament, the Chief Justice and the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).

The first allegation if true, is a very serious threat to the 1992 Constitution, the Supreme Court judgement on the presidential petition and the legitimacy of President Mahama. It also threatens the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers between the Executive and Judicial arms of governance, if a member of the Executive influenced members of the judiciary to secure a favourable court decision for the Executive.

The second allegation is equally damaging to constitutional democracy, if an unelected citizen who is not a minister or presidential staff could control ministries of government. There is no secret that Mr Tony Lithur might have recommended his former colleague, Mrs Marrieta Brew Appiah Opong, to the president for the appointment of Attorney General and Minster for Justice. It is therefore plausible that he has control or influence over the AG and Minister for Justice, considering his connection with the president. Therefore, it would not be wrong to infer from such relationships that Mr Tony Lithur controls the ministry.

I will even go further to suggest that the minister’s appointment was done with ulterior motive(s) and purposely to protect the interests of the law firm led by Mr Tony Lithur with regards to the judgement debt claim by Waterville and Woyome (since his law firm is alleged to have represented one of the parties and the claim has been ruled unlawful and the payment described as “create, loot and share”). Perhaps, it was also to shield the president from any harm that may emanate from Woyomegate and other allegations of corruption and mismanagement such as GYEEDA. Mrs Marrieta Brew Appiah Oppong is seriously compromised as Attorney General, as far as her willingness and ability to ensure that there is a successful prosecution outcome in the Woyome trial is concerned because of conflict of interest. No doubt, the case is being poorly prosecuted by the AG’s department and I suspect it’s deliberate to secure Woyome’s victory. How such victory would stand legal scrutiny relative to the Supreme Court judgement on one part of the same matter will be interesting. We are keenly watching.

Nana Oye Lithur is the wife of Mr Tony Lithur and it is also possible that he might have recommended his wife for the appointment as Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, though she is more than qualified for the position. Nana Oye Lithur has a very strong character and a woman who could dominate men and therefore I doubt if Mr Lithur could control her as a minister. Probably, she consults him but that is normal as most good couples often consult each other on work related matters and on important decisions.

On the allegation of the First Lady, Mrs Lordina making appointments, though it may be difficult to prove, there is no role for the wives of Presidents and Vice-Presidents in the 1992 Constitution. I am also aware that throughout the world, including the advanced democracies, some first ladies have been very powerful and influential when it comes to appointments and important decisions made by their husbands. Names such as Mrs Reagan and Mrs Clinton come to mind and so I cannot really fault Mrs Lordina Mahama. However, my interest is the roles being played by the First and Second Ladies of the state.

Whenever, I watch live news on GTv, Tv Africa, Adom Tv and Joy News on my laptop, the First Lady is often seen playing the role expected of the Minister for Health whilst the Second Lady plays roles expected of the Minister for Education. If the two are performing these duties, what are the ministers doing? Are these roles not potential for a clash and if there are differences of opinion, approach and policy between the two and the substantive ministers who will have the last word? My concerns are that their roles should be ceremonial but it appears to me that they are making policy and even sometimes operational decisions affecting the two ministries. Are they running parallel ministries and if so, how are their activities financed (by the state or through charitable donations)? What are the constitutional implications of the modus operandi of the First and Second Ladies?

So what must be done regarding the allegations by the dismissed deputy minister for Communication? First, Parliament must set up an all party parliamentary committee to investigate the allegations. Second, the Chief Justice must investigate the allegation that Nana Oye Lithur was with the Supreme Court Justices who heard the presidential petition and played a role in securing a favourable outcome for the President Mahama and NDC. Third, CHRAJ should investigate the wealth of Ms Hammah since her appointment as deputy minister. All these investigations must run parallel and concurrently. The allegations should not be investigated by the Executive because it would lack credibility. The investigations should be conducted and completed within a month.

In the mean time, the President should revoke the appointment Mrs Marrieta Brew Appiah Opong as AG and Minister for Justice immediately and also suspend the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection whilst the allegation against her are investigated.

Ms Hammah’s objective of making $1 million before leaving politics is a clear manifestation that some, if not most Ghanaians go into politics and public service not to serve but to make money. She is not alone in NDC but there are many Victoria Hammahs in the Executive, Legislature, the Judiciary as well as the civil service and other public agencies. Her $1 million target is just the tip of the iceberg. Just look around Ghana and what do we see and hear? GYEEDA, SADA, Woyome, Waterville, Subah Isofoton/GRA, Drillship, dubious judgement debt claims and payments in “create, loot and share” enterprise by politicians, civil servants and judges. The very people who are charged with protecting state resources turn themselves into financial galamsey operators to rape, steal and destroy the state.

The past month has been very bad communication and publicity wise for the Mahama government but “Vickileak Tape” is beyond description. This tape has the potential to derail the Mahama’s presidency because if it is true that a member of the Executive who is also the wife of the President lead Counsel in the presidential petition influenced SC Justices, then, was the President aware and involved? If yes, that could amount to subversion of the Constitution which should result in his impeachment. Even if he was unaware and was not involved, but his minister influenced the Justices, then could the verdict be set aside? We are in uncharted waters if the allegations on the tape are true.