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Opinions of Saturday, 4 June 2011

Columnist: Ghanaian Chronicle

Koku Anyidoho More than a Presidential Spokesperson

With his body size, dress mode and outstretched hands, he cuts a picture of a security officer who has forgotten his brief. Yesterday’s front page picture of the Daily Graphic showing President John Evans Atta Mills descending from what the paper called a pontoon at Donkorkrom in the Afram Plains, as part of the Presidential tour of the Eastern Region, told a lot about the untold story of the leverage enjoyed by the Communications Director at the Presidency, Koku Anyidoho.

From the picture, one gets the impression that Koku directs more than the information outflow. He could effectively be likened into a manufacturer of information, rather than the conduit pipe. As a newsman, the picture told me a lot about the director and his influence on the Presidency.

Last December, when Prof. Atta Mills commissioned the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah, and turned the wheels to signify the first pouring of oil in commercial quantity from the Jubilee Field, Koku was by the President, while former President Jerry John Rawlings and ex-head of State John Agyekum Kufuor were abandoned on the tarmac at the Takoradi Air Force Base.

It looked like the Communications Director had assumed a more prominent role in the long search for oil than the two former heads of state, who committed their time and resources into the long search for the black gold.

Presidential press secretaries are no innovation in the Mills era. They have been with us since independence. Never have they ever been identified in the action as what obtains at the seat of government at the moment. Over the years, they have tended to be in the background, rather than the front row.

In the Atta Mills Presidency, Koku Anyidoho is in the front row. I do not believe many Ghanaians ever saw the Press Secretary to President Barack Obama, when the United States President came visiting recently.

No one saw the Press Secretary going down the dungeons at the Cape Coast Castle with the President and his family. Even the security detail was not seen all over the American President. Then again, as stated earlier, we have had press secretaries in Ghana over the years.

When Jerry John Rawlings sat at the Castle as constitutional head of state of the Republic, he operated a nebulous system of press representation. The Castle Information Bureau was headed by Mrs. Valerie Sackey, with Opoku Acheampong as her deputy. Neither Mrs. Sackey nor Opoku Acheampong played the frontline role at public functions.

When ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor was voted President of Ghana, his Press Secretary was Kwabena Agyei Agyepong and later, when Kwabena resigned, the mantle fell on Mr. Andrew Awuni. While both ran very busy schedules of speaking on behalf of the then President, none of them put themselves out on official functions.

Koku Anyidoho is singing a different tune. He is putting himself into the Mills Presidency. I have taken the trouble to make the distinction, because I am getting the impression that Koku is performing more than the spokesman role. He is part and parcel of the Presidency.

I am now beginning to understand why some of the information emanating from the seat of Government appear to be skewed in favour of political expediency, than presidential representation.

For instance, when President Atta Mills returned from Switzerland, where he had met with the President of the world’s governing body on football in August 2010, Koku Anyidoho held a press briefing at the Kotoka International Airport and told Ghanaian newsmen that the FIFA President had given permission to the Ghanaian head of state to investigate the Ghana Football Association (GFA).

Some of us knew that the statement could not represent the truth, because FIFA would never sanction political interference in the running of the game. Somehow, the Ghanaian media and the general populace swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker.

Some of us were considered enemies of the state when we tried to correct the impression that had the potential of harming football organisation in this country. When I wrote to FIFA to clarify the situation, I was virtually declared an enemy of the state by some sections of the media and adherents of Umbrella politics.

The assertion was that I had challenged the word of the President. I knew to all intents and purposes that the idea of a FIFA fiat to the government to investigate the GFA was manufactured in the figment of Koku Anyidoho to fit into the grand scheme hatched by some National Democratic Congress (NDC) apologists who had tried unsuccessfully over the years, to take over the administration of Ghana football.

The modus operandi was to undermine the integrity of those running the game, as a means of paving the way for a take-over of Ghana football by some unscrupulous people, using their connections to the seat of government.

Barely one week after Koku Anyidoho’s press conference at the Kotoka International Airport, at which he claimed that FIFA had given the President a blank cheque to investigate the FA, the former Serious Fraud Office, now Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) wrote to the President of the GFA, ordering him to appear before the office to account for monies received by the GFA in respect of certain sponsorship deals brokered by the FA itself.

The SFO and its successor organization, EOCO, harassed the GFA leadership, culminating in the raid at Football House in December 2010, during which computers and files documenting football administration in Ghana were carted away.

It is to the glory of the men running the game that they went to court to get the EOCO off the back of Ghana football.

As it turned out, the information churned out by Koku Anyidoho about the presidential freedom to subject the FA under scrutiny was palpably false. FIFA headquarters in Zurich, in answering queries on why they should allow governmental interference in Ghana football, responded in the strongest possible terms available to them.

In a strongly-worded letter to the GFA, for onward transmission to the Government of Ghana, the world governing body on football stated, in no uncertain terms, that all that Sepp Blatter told President Atta Mills, when the two leaders met in Zurich, was that the Government of Ghana had a right to hold an inquiry into monies paid by the state to the GFA, in respect of the various national teams. Neither the President, nor any other authority in this land, has any right to ask the GFA to account for any pesewa earned through sponsorship or received from FIFA, the Confederation of African Football, or any other source.

My beef is simple! I do not believe that information put out there by Koku Anyidoho on FA investigation, ever emanated from the President. It is beginning to look like Koku does his own thing, knowing that there is no way the President would call him to order.

The situation is akin to the proverbial rat on the Akwapim mountains which roams freely knowing that whatever the case, it would never be chased by any human being.

When the President was made to stand throughout his two-hour encounter with the media on January 7, 2011, to mark the second anniversary of his coming to power, with Koku Anyidoho as the conductor of the orchestra, close analysts were unanimous in their assertions that it was a ploy by the Director of Communications at the Castle, apparently in answer to critics who had questioned the health of the President.

I am not a fan of the Castle’s way of doing things. But, I felt uncomfortable throughout the period. I do not believe the exercise was to exhibit the macho in a leader heading towards the era of a septuagenarian.

When Mahama Ayariga was shipped out of the Castle and his position as Presidential Spokesperson abolished, it represented a great triumph for Koku Anyidoho in his silent war with the former Member of Parliament (MP) for Bawku Central.

Unfortunately, the event, which also marked the rise of Koku as the official spokesman of the President, has coincided with the churning out of more propaganda material from the Castle, than the packaging of information in its mature form.

Koku Anyidoho may be doing well as a party propaganda agent, than packaging the President in a manner that may truly reflect his role as head of state of this republic. I would like to believe that the time has come for the Communications Director to be given a clear demarcation of where his boundaries are as the President’s official spokesperson.