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Opinions of Sunday, 9 July 2017

Columnist: Kwadwo Agyapong Antwi

Lying or lobbying; a rational defense of Adwoa Safo

The internet is empowering but can also be mean and vicious when it chooses to. For the past couple of days, the unfortunate victim of its viciousness has been the Hon. Adwoa Safo, MP for Dome Kwabenya Constituency and Minister of State for Public Procurement.

Someday it could be me or you. I'm merely here to point out the absurdity of the politically instigated trolling – hopefully I can make my point without being subjected to abuse myself.

I’m doing this not because Hon. Adwoa Safo needs any defending per se (I would have been the least likely person), but simply because any unjustifiable trolling that attempts to assassinate the character of any person deserves sound condemnation, whether the subject of the troll shares in one’s political view or not.

I hope those who see every issue through big political lenses understand that I’m no sympathiser of either political party. I’m just an ordinary citizen with an opinion who just happens to know that I have the freedom to express it.

I should state clearly that this piece is not an attempt at answering the question of whether it was necessary for her to utter such a statement at the gathering.

Having watched the video which sparked this whole controversy, what I see is an unnecessary but successful attempt, by some elements, at creating a storm in a tea cup. Key questions to ask are: Is it inconceivable that someone of her stature, who purportedly had some previous relationship with the World Bank, could lobby for the siting of the school in her constituency?

Do you think that the allocation of districts for the siting of those schools (or the siting of development projects in general), was done in a purely objective manner, that NO ONE could lobby for their districts to be included?

Would you expect the World Bank to officially corroborate her story that indeed she successfully lobbied some people within their administration? Does their denial provide incontrovertible proof that she didn't?

Hon. Adwoa Safo didn't state, as has been erroneously shared, that somehow she singlehandedly dealt with the World Bank for the project and hence deserves all the credit.

She stated categorically that she lobbied within the larger financing agreement between the World Bank and the Mahama administration. Lobbying is part of politics.

Anyone who denies its existence either doesn’t understand how politics work or is simply being hypocritical. There are human beings within the World Bank who deal with human beings within governments, and when relationships develop, unofficial "favours" can be sort and granted.

Unfortunately the nature of lobbying is such that she cannot provide documentary proof and it would also be irrational on her to name specific officials she dealt with within the institution.

Also, no institution will officially provide proof of lobbying since the nature of lobbying itself, especially at the individual level, is largely unofficial. Does that make her a liar then?

For the benefit of those who are deficient in Twi (and in order to allow for a more rational analysis of her statement), I have provided a rough translation of part of her statement which reads:

"There was no SHS in this big constituency. Owing to my hard work with my committee in Parliament, it happened that World Bank, based in Washington DC, whom I have worked with, was bringing some money into this country to construct secondary schools FOR GOVERNMENT.

I engaged with them and they told me that if I could provide a litigation free land, even though I was not in government, they will give us one.
The NDC administration constructed the SHS only in their strongholds. We are the only NPP stronghold to get a school. That should tell you that it IS NOT FROM GOVERNMENT."

Taking in context, the very last sentence is merely a confirmation of the second paragraph, since she had already stated in the first paragraph that the World Bank was building the schools FOR GOVERNMENT. It was just a way of saying 'But for my intervention you wouldn't have the project in the constituency'.

She obviously didn't intend it to mean that the project was not by the NDC government since that would have been in stark contradiction to her previous statement that the money was to build secondary schools for the government. It’s therefore absolutely disingenuous to use the last sentence as proof that she claimed absolute right to the project.

In a response to her statement, the Hon Okudzeto Ablakwah stated "Hon. Sarah Adwoa Safo claiming in the said video that the Community Senior High School constructed and commissioned in her constituency during the tenure of President John Dramani Mahama was as a result of her personal intervention with the World Bank, that the Senior High School was not from the then NDC Government…".

That is factually inaccurate since Hon. Safo never said that! She stated emphatically that the World Bank was bringing the funds to build schools FOR THE GOVERNMENT. Wasn’t the Mahama led NDC administration the government at the time? Should we call Hon Ablakwa a liar then? Of course not!

Has the Hon. never lobbied for a project for his own constituency before? Were the districts chosen for the project the only ones which qualified under the selection criteria outlined? If not how were they selected among the lot?

Did the committee toss a dice?

Was there no successful lobbying at all by anyone within the Mahama administration to site a school in their district? Beyond the nice policy papers presented by governments, there's always the ugly underbelly of politics because it’s humans who make up governments and humans do not act like robots. Let’s forget this trivial issue and evaluate the performance of the minister on more important issues. Adios!