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Opinions of Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Columnist: Apaak, Clement

Massive Corruption Made Ex-President Kufuor Unfit For Mo Ibrahim Award

By Dr. C. Apaak

Introduction

Recently, Ghana, the most stable democracy in Africa, renewed its place in the annals of African history and by so doing made an indelible mark in the global consciousness on two fronts; capturing the attention of many millions around the globe. In the first instance, the heroic victory by the Under 20 National team over Brazil, against all odds in the premier U-20 world cup hosted on African soil in Egypt, sent the entire African continent into instant euphoria and jubilation. The second instance, the focus of this article, also remarkable, can best be described as public humiliation of the Ex-President of Ghana under the NPP regime from 2000 to 2008. According to the Associated Press, the Mo Ibrahim foundation snubbed recent ex-presidents, including John Kufuor, denying him both the prestige and prize money of $5 million.

The truth is that massive corruption, abuse of office, and divisive politics rendered Ex-President Kufuor unfit for the Mo Ibrahim Award. Even the children who were born on the day the Kufuor led NPP took power know this, let alone the rest of us Octogenarians. To understand why our Ex-President did not get the award, it is important to explore why and to examine the factors that may have led to this snub as the Associated Press put it. The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership is awarded only to democratically elected heads of state who have left office in the past three years. According to former Botswana President, Ketumile Masire, a board member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the committee considered "some credible candidates" but could not select a winner. Big Mo Ibrahim was asked at a news conference about politicians who meet the award criteria but were not chosen and he noted that "I made clear when I started the foundation that there may be years when a winner is not chosen and this is such a year”. But the question that remains is why not a winner this year? Certainly the candidates were unfit.

Responds from Former President John Agyekum Kufuor

The responds to this rebuke from the Former President, John Agyekum Kufuor, a leader who led a lopsided government that worked for the interest of the capitalist elite, is that even though he failed to win the Mo Ibrahim award, he was not embittered but rather privileged to have been named in the final list. Speaking on behalf of the Ex-President on Peace Fm’s “Kokrokoo”, Mr. Agyekum, the spokesperson of the Ex-President, stated that he does not believe that former President Kufuor’s was undemocratic during his tenure as President, as portrayed by some people. He added, “talk of good governance, respect for human right, rule of law and expanding educational and health centres…Kufuor was pivotal in all of these…he addressed all these sectors of the economy and even travelled to other African countries to help resolve conflicts and other issues…,”. He may have done all that, but he allowed corruption too. Even so, it was mostly those who adhered to the private property owning ideology of the NPP and Kufuor who benefited during the eight years of his rule. The bulk of the people suffered and still do as a result of corruption, cronyism, nepotism, tribalism, and blatant abuse of power from 2000-2008.

The decision not to award the Mo Ibrahim award to Ex-President Kufuor has a lot to do with the abysmal record on corruption. After all, Ghana seems to have done well in the area of good governance, according the very same Mo Ibrahim Foundation based on its 2009 Ibrahim Index published on October 5, 2009. Logically then, since Ghana ranked fairly well, Ex-President Kufuor should have won, but he did not, which begs the question why? The answer is simple; he presided over the most corrupt government, one that channeled public resources and wealth to a few individuals, a fact not lost to the Committee, interesting Chaired by Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary General, and a Ghanaian. Why then did Ghana rank well in the overall area of good governance under him, you ask? Well, governance is much broader and involves more than the ruling party, it has to do with the three arms of government; the executive, the judiciary and the legislature. Therefore, in looking at the possible reason why he did not win the award, the countless reports of corruption could be the only plausible explanation for the decision of the committee not to give him the ward. Corrupt practices during his reign nullified all the so-called good things listed by his spokesperson as we shall see when the definition of corruption and its effects on the masses are outlined

Corruption Under President Kufuor and Ideological Links

That Ex-President Kufuor presided over the most corrupt government is vividly understood if we understand the operational definition of corruption. According to Transparency International (TI), CORRUPTION IS OPERATIONALLY DEFINED AS THE MISUSE OF ENTRUSTED POWER FOR PRIVATE GAIN. Corruption is said to thrive where temptation coexists with permissiveness. What is particularly interesting is the apparent historical and cross cultural connection between high rates of political corruption and governments guided by private property owning ideology, going back to the early days of democracy itself. While it is true that political corruption has been a fact of life for thousands of years, beginning with the first attempts at a democratic form of government in ancient Greece and Rome, it is also true that political corruption reached its zenith in Ghana under President Kufuor. In the years between 1998 and 2008, a period of ten years, the highest corruption index assigned to Ghana occurred under the NPP led Kufuor administration according to “The Role of the Corruption Perceptions Index” (CPI). In 1998 Ghana ranked 55th, and by 2004 Ghana reached 70th, repeating this highest level in 2006, and by 2008, Ghana became less corrupt by three points at 67th. Some may say so what, well; the Mo Ibrahim foundation was not unaware of these highest digits Ghana scored in the CPI ranking at 70th twice under President Kufuor, I noted this earlier. This should come as no surprise to students of political history, it is well documented that there is a relationship between higher levels of corruption and leadership/governments dominated by political representatives from the wealthier class, what party represents this in Ghana?, yes you know it. Generally, corruption hits the poor hardest, a key reason why one in six of the world's population lives in extreme poverty. Corruption plays a role in the deaths of the estimated 10 million children per year who die before their fifth birthday, most of them from preventable diseases. This evil, undertaken by the greedy, works to prevent about 75 million primary-aged children from going to school. Many thousands in Ghana fall in the statistics noted, and since it is known that Kufour presided over massive corruption, as per the CPI by TI, any other so-called achievement of his is a mockery because the impact of public corruption is far reaching; it undermines the fight against poverty. Some Specific Examples Of Corruption Under President Kufour Even former NPP supporters like Ama Frema Busia publicly suggested that the basic principle governing the Kufuor administration was greed, and the use of political office to amass wealth to the detriment of the people. Most certainly, this is why President Mills is justified in looking at every single major project and transaction related to public property, like GT, and projects negotiated under the Kufuor administration. Much like in the days of the Roman and Greek Empires, the Kufuor administration planted the nurtured of corruption. Political corruption, or THE MISUSE OF ENTRUSTED POWER FOR PRIVATE GAIN under Kufuor was blatant, rampant, and even condoned, here is just a handful most Ghanaians will never forget:

1) Hotel Kufuor: The Ghana Palaver news paper provided a vivid explanation on circumstances that could not have supported the claim that the Ex-President Kufuor had no knowledge of what would have been a brazing act of public corruption involving John Addo Kufuor, the 41-year old Chartered Accountant son of President John Agyekum Kufuor. The Hotel was situated two doors away from the residence of Chief Kufuor's father, John Agyekum Kufuor. The cost of US$3.5 million was funded by Prudential Bank, a Bank part-owned by SSNIT, a state-owned enterprise, and by the National Investment Bank (NIB), another state-owned Bank, and by the ECOWAS Regional Investment Bank (ERIB), which advanced US$1 million to the Hotel. At that time, President Kufuor was the Chairman of ECOWAS and Mr. J. S. Addo, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Prudential Bank, was President Kufuor's representative on the ERIB and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of ERIB. Yet, the President was found to be clean, wow.

2) The Dr. Anane Abuse Of Power Case: The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) recommended to then President Kufuor to relieve Dr Richard Winfred Anane, Minister of Transportation of his post following findings of abuse of power and conflict of interest made against him by the Commission during an 18-month investigation. Yet President Kufuor saw nothing wrong with Dr. Anane and went on to again nominate him as Minister for Transportation. Dr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr. an NPP supporter wrote "What we are seriously concerned with in this particular instance is the apparent fact of President Kufuor’s woeful inability or abject and flat refusal to appreciate the glaring fact of Dr. Anane being incontrovertibly akin to a veritable package of damaged goods. And the logical procedure for dealing with damaged goods is to promptly discard them, lest they rapidly infect the hitherto wholesome lot. Or is this also just another typical case of “justice Kufuor style”?

3) Popular Cocaine Trade: Even more disturbing was the linkage of government and public officials to canine trading and smuggling. How can the people of Ghana forget the significant amounts of cocaine, 77 parcels, that vanished from police surveillance, while an NPP parliamentarian, Eric Amoateng, went to jail, and is now serving a prison sentence in the US for heroin trafficking. Amoateng was arrested in 2005 for smuggling 136lbs of heroin into Newark airport. He was jailed in 2007 by a US court after resigning his seat but enjoyed significant support from fellow NPP MPs, why?, you guessed it. Largely under the NPP and Kufuor Ghana became a transit point for drugs. As Kwesi Aning, head of conflict prevention at the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra put it then; there was an increasingly organized framework within which drug transactions took place.

4) Corrupt Ministries and Ministers Galore: This was expressed strongly soon after the last election by Mr. Kwesi Pratt Jnr., a member of the CJA. He noted that was not enough to vote out a corrupt regime but allow its officials and functionaries to escape public accountability. The CJA had over the past few years accused the Kufuor led NPP administration of corruption and maladministration. The group cited corrupt practices at the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and NEPAD and the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing. Kwasi Pratt stated that there were doubtful payments at the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Trade and Industry, and Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Relations. According to the CJA eight ministries under the NPP government lost 440,814,014,679 cedis belonging to the public in 2005 as a direct result of a combination of factors including corruption, maladministration, inefficiency and sheer negligence.

Conclusion

Based on the above analysis, it makes sense that Kufuor had to be deemed undeserving as one who presided over the most corrupt government in the history of our nation. While Ghana may have remained stable democratically, and Kufuor may have engaged in diplomacy, he was at the same time nurturing, enhancing and entrenching a corrupt government detrimental to the wellbeing of the people. It is becoming clear that the legacy of President Kufuor will be the deepening of corruption, and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation knew it. Kufuor did not fail to recognize corrupt practices by personnel in some state institutions during his time in office; he refused to act because his government was leading that effort by example. This is the reason why the people of Ghana must be patient and to allow President Mills to clean up the mess Kufour and his NPP left behind. President Mills will reinstate honour to the high office of the Presidency, and will lead us to a better Ghana, meriting an award his predecessor did not, and was rightly not given.

Dr. C. Apaak, Quest University, Canada

E-mail: caapaak@yahoo.ca

Producer and Host, African Connection on 90.1FM (www.cjsf.ca)