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Opinions of Monday, 28 May 2012

Columnist: Antobam, Kobina

Kufuor and the EO Group

Give Us An Early Christmas Gift

By: Kobina Antobam

When Alfred Woyome’s case broke, ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor came out and made some unnecessary CYA (cover your a@*) comments, particularly about how he wouldn’t have allowed it to happen under his presidency. It was unnecessary because Mr. Kufuor wanted us to consider him an honest Abe while making President Atta-Mills look weak and complicit. Now, let’s examine the honesty in Mr. Kufuor’s claim.

But before we move ahead, I want to let Mr. Woyome, Joromi, or whatever his name is, be aware that, as far as I am concerned, he is not off the hook. I have a word or two for this ambuscader in the near future about how he and his hidden abettors, who probably have already received their shares, have so far been able evade prosecution for wrestling in broad daylight over $50 million from poor struggling Ghanaians without holding a gun to anyone’s head. Now, let’s get back to my topic of the day.

Ex-President Kufuor said the following about this Woyome guy: “Where did Woyome say my government awarded him a contract, we never awarded him any contract so if he is being sent to court he should be sent for the right thing to be done...I came to work for Ghana and to protect properties that belonged to the state and not to steal what belongs to Ghanaians. Whoever wants to know the truth has the right to know.” Mr. Kufuor was also disturbed by the fact that Atta Mills government would claim that the country was broke and could still afford to pay that huge sum to one person. The Woyome court settlement, according to Kufuor, was “surprising,” “disturbing,” and because the “system is not working.” Mr. Kufuor, I agree with you that the Woyome settlement is surprising and disturbing and the system is completely broken. That is the extent of my agreement with you on Woyome. You’re very right Mr. ex-President, the “system” is not working now, it was not working under your watch and we do not know when it’s ever going to work. The system has never worked, period.

At this point, if you catch my drift then your guess is as spot on as mine as to the reasons for bringing up Kufuor and Woyome when I want to talk about Kufuor and the EO Texas tea hijackers. If you are also wondering if the mention of the Woyome settlement and the EO dubious deal in the same article is a comparative analysis, my answer is yes. So, read on.

If Kufuor, and even Akufo-Addo, claim they would never have allowed the “disturbing’ Woyome settlement to occur under their watch, how come President Kufuor allowed the EO group to grab a whopping 3.5% of the newly discovered oil that belongs to all of Ghana’s people? Are ordinary Ghanaians aware of how much that 3.5% of Ghana’s oil is worth? The initial estimate is that the EO Group will pocket about $200 million annually. The $200 million is not just a one-time payment. My goodness, this amount is meant to go to ONLY two Ghanaians annually for as long as Ghana pumps oil. It also means that after only ten years of pumping oil, these two guys will take in AT LEAST $2 billion. Allow me to translate how this works out in the simplest terms. Look at it this way: if Kufuor were giving away large quantities of garri, every time he gives 10 margarine cans of garri to 23,000,000 Ghanaians, he will give to ONLY TWO GHANAIANS, Kwame Barwuah Edusei and George Owusu, 3.5 cans. In other words, each Ghanaian will get 0.00000043478 cans of garri while each of the two people will receive 1.75 cans. After that, every Ghanaian has to go hungry and wait a full year before their next supply of 0.00000043478 grains of garri. This is exactly what Kufuor allowed under his watch.

Need I say more, my fellow Ghanaians? Isn’t it also right for me to point out that since that $200 million estimate, there have been discoveries of more oil deposits that now may have doubled, tripled or quadrupled EO’s share in dollars? Don’t you want to go punch the wall when you realize that EO’s share represents 26% of the portion that goes to everyone in Ghana, which is a piddling 13.5% of the gross oil revenues? Listen to me again: all Ghanaians, other than those two guys, are actually getting 74% of the total of 13.5% of the oil revenues that is coming to the country, and the EO Group of two is getting 26%. My fellow mathematicians please explain it to those who do not get this simple arithmetic. We can deduce logically that, contrary to what we have been made to believe, the country, Ghana, was originally awarded a total of 13.5% of the oil revenues not 10%. What do you think?

And to even imagine that if results had been different, that small clique of Ghanaians would have taken an estimated 50% of the remaining Ghanaians’ portion of the oil revenue, too? How do I know that? I know because the additional 50% would easily be skimmed off from what has become the norm of padding contracts for multi-million dollar projects. This is like your typical Ghanaian wife, “What I earn is mine; but what you earn is for both of us, our children, all the marital bills, and my extended family members.” Kufuor and his cronies are crafty you-know-whats (you can fill in the blank). I am sorry, but I can’t hold that thought back. Do you realize now why it was extremely difficult to accept a change in 2008? They had humongous plans for the oil money, and Atta Mills was their damned spoiler from nowhere who came to pooh-pooh their premature oil victory celebration.

There are many rich Ghanaians who run their own private businesses. They work long hard hours to EARN their living. I really love them. I love to see them progress and make my country better and proud. I personally have a business in Ghana, another in the U.S., and I have a regular eight hour a day job, too. I rarely get adequate sleep. But whenever people enter into politics, they lose credibility with me. I immediately become afraid and skeptical of their intentions. Bawuah Edusei, George Owusu, and Kufuor are the closest of friends. Dr. Edusei was a well-known medical doctor on the U.S. east coast when Kufuor tapped him to leave his lucrative practice to become a low paid government employee, an ambassador to Switzerland and later to Washington, DC. Political appointee Bawuah Edusei and businessman Owusu, who is also a very close friend of Kufuor’s one-time Energy Minister, Ken Dapaah, suddenly become re-discoverers of oil on Ghana’s shore. Can you believe that?

They claim that if it weren’t for them, Ghana would not have discovered oil. They claim to have led Kosmos Energy of the U.S. to the oil. In that case, they said that not only did they deserve a finder’s fee, they also wanted a share of the oil proceeds as long as oil gushes from the bottom of Ghana’s shores. In this world, whether it’s fair or not, as long as you type up a bunch of language and sign your name to it, it is cast in stone and becomes legally binding. So these two Ghanaians were able to extract the whopping 3.5% of the country’s oil deal. But, wait. Do you in your right mind believe that those two guys made that deal alone? Hell, no! You see, Ghana had been in search of oil for many years before NPP came to power. Fortunately for NPP, the search party hit pay dirt on NPP’s watch. So, naturally, it was politically expedient for NPP to loudly sing their own praises and proclaim to the whole world that they were the ones who came all the way down to the shores of Kwame Nkrumah’s birth place with hand-held drills, pickaxes, and shovels to dig up that buried national treasure. I bet it was even Danquah’s ghost that led them to the Nzema shores and to the oil site.

When Kufuor makes his CYA declaration that, as a president, he protected what “belonged to the state and not to steal what belongs to Ghanaians,” an ugly snake-headed skepticism rears its head immediately. I don’t know about you, but I can bet my life on a firm charge that Mr. Kufuor, who hasn’t made a single comment about it when he was the President and after, knew about this EO plan before it became a legal deal. He did not stop his friends but he claims he would have stopped the Woyome payment. Now, you realize why Woyome does not feel an ounce of guilt for snatching $50 million from Ghanaians. To Woyome, what is a $50 million one-time court-settled extraction compared to a $2 billion ten-year EO deal (bribery)? Peanuts!

It’s more than speculation, because I can also bet my pet’s life on the overwhelming probability that ex-President Kufuor was and still is a party to this deal. As a president, it would have been a political suicide and an international disgrace for Kufuor to have been directly and openly connected to the EO deal. Would you have put your signature to the deal if you were the president then? You would rather set up a top secret behind closed doors meeting with your most powerful cronies and decide who stays in the background and who fronts the deal. Therefore, I can say emphatically that, just as Woyome has shadow abettors who have been paid off, Bawuah Edusei and George Owusu are the partnership front men for very powerful people leading all the untraceable path to…….

I can also see vividly how the deal was put together. If I were a U.S. company dealing with a developing country like Ghana and I wanted to avoid prosecution under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, I have to carefully devise a plan as to how I would comply with the customary bribery practice of the foreign country without leaving a trail. It’s simple. I would accomplish the deal the way EO agreement was put together, utilizing the expert advice of my confidential U.S. and Ghanaian attorney cronies. Of course, there were upfront payments that have been reported in the media; but they say the payments were made “legally.” For example, the well publicized $2.25 million front payment to the EO Group was explained to us as work done by EO and salary for George Owusu. Just think about a gigantic looming conflict of interest: here is a government employee, a Ghana ambassador to the U.S., who supposedly does work for his country and gets rewarded handsomely with a 26% share of the country’s portion of the oil wealth. This deal belongs in a criminal court; not any of the courts in Ghana that Kufuor claims are “broken,” but in an incorruptible foreign court. Anyway you spin it, the whole EO deal does not stand up to scrutiny. There have been many other handsome payments to these same two Ghanaians and others since then with the explanation that the payments have been legitimate expenses and perks. That’s the way I would do it too, if I were the president of Ghana. I would also have to be ready to spin the deal to the Ghanaian public when questions about duplicity and crime begin to surface. All parties to the deal, Kosmos, Dr. Edusei, Mr. Owusu, and Mr. Kufuor and especially the hidden silent partners are now untouchable.

What I have written here today is neither fiction nor my imagination but exactly what all other Ghanaians that I have talk to believe. So, for all that I have said, I would like Mr. Kufuor to come out and look Ghanaians in the eye and tell them that, though the two Ghanaians are his friends, he did not know anything about this EO deal when he was President, and after he has finished talking to Ghanaians he should wait for the kind of response we all expect will come from his fellow citizens. When it comes to Woyome, Mr. Kufuor says the buck would have stopped at his desk; but when it comes to the EO Group, the buck leapt very high and soared so surreptitiously that it missed Kufuor’s desk, flew over the Christiansborg Castle and landed in some obscure secret foreign bank accounts. Now you can agree with me that Kufuor was clearly lying through his teeth to Ghanaians with his empty promises of transparency in managing the oil revenues. Mr. Kufuor also says that Ghanaians have the right to know the truth with respect to Woyome. The same applies to the EO Group’s dubious deal. We want to know the truth; we would also like to know if we’ve been bamboozled, flimflammed, or “famfooled”. Ghanaians will make that judgment about the veracity of your knowledge and involvement or complete innocence in the EO deal after you answer their questions and allay their doubts and concerns. The ball is in your court now, Mr. Ex-President.

To sprinkle salt and to hammer nails into the open wounds of poor Ghanaians, the EO Group, typical of corrupt American nonprofit organizations, has a pitiful one-page website, www.eogroupghana.com, teasing Ghanaians with “look-what-I-am-doing-for-you” self-promotion. Go look at the website and come back and tell me that you live in the southwestern area of Ghana where the oil is being pumped and that you or any of your relatives and friends has received even one bag of rice and/or one cheap foam mattress being displayed on the EO Group website. You also have the prerogative to let them know that you do not need their insulting donation or handout.

Sometimes, I wonder whether, as hopelessly struggling as our lives have always been, we might as well kiss most of the oil money goodbye. A select small number of powerful Ghanaians are always in control of our destiny and they will find ways to hold on to your money; money that should normally go to durable infrastructure development such as multiple lane interconnecting super highways, modern rail systems, and safe internal air transportation, education, modern medical facilities, and truly assist needy Ghanaians. This $200 million a year can buy us these items and more in just ten years. They often will come to your village to bore one water hole for the entire village and pave an un-tarred dusty road to the outskirts of your village, and then pat themselves on the back by holding durbars to commemorate this infinitesimal contribution to your life, and they quickly return to their mansions in Accra satisfied that they have actually made a change to society. We are also a bunch of sorry people because we always buy into this ruse.

So, if someday Dr. Bawuah Edusei becomes a billionaire, is he going to tell Ghanaians that he was a straight and narrow honest physician who made all of his money from only his medical practice? Would Mr. Kufuor also tell us that he made his millions or billions from legitimate business ventures and paid speaking engagements just like retired American presidents? And all those hidden backers to the deal will one day surface and proclaim shamelessly to poor Ghanaians that they “legitimately earned” their millions or billions and then expect Ghanaians to buy their ludicrous fibs. I feel so sad for my country.

There is also a slim possibility that very soon it will not be Mr. Kufuor who would be doling out “3.5 cans of garri” to the two front men and the hidden beneficiaries of the EO Group; it may be Nana Akufo-Addo, if he becomes President. Before that ever happens, the best early Christmas gift to give to Ghanaians will be for EO Group to cede their “3.5 cans of garri” to the Ghana government now and wash their hands off the deal completely. I am not holding my breath. Good day.