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NDC MP Victimized To Death by Elusive FOI Law?
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Opinions of Monday, 31 August 2009

Columnist: Prof Lungu

NDC MP Victimized To Death by Elusive FOI Law?

“…….No wise people of any nation ever remembered a “befitting burial” just one generation removed from that pompous event. And if we want to be taken serious that the Ghanaian tradition of wasting enormous amount of resource on burials and funerals is foolish and must stop, we ought to be able to do better. Mr. Mills, Mr. Bagbin and the NDC have a choice: They can honor the late Mr. Salia by a statute, a law, an institution. How about the “Edward Kojo Salia Freedom of Information Bill.” Who in Ghana or outside Ghana would complain about that? ….(Prof Lungu, Tokyo, Japan, 25 August 2009)……”

We intended to title this piece “NDC can’t have ‘Good Public Service’ before FOI bill.” But then, we recalled that back in February of this year, President Mills directed that the late MP for Jirapa, Mr. Edward Kojo Salia, be given a state burial because having served Ghana very well, there was nothing else to do than provide a “befitting burial” for him. According to one version of the report from Masahudu Kunateh, of Ghanadot, Professor Mills said that it was a “a pity that Mr. Salia did not live long to witness the victory by the NDC…(that)…a nation that does not honour its heroes is not worth dying for…”

Right off the bat, belated condolence to Professor Bruce Banoeng Yakubu and the entire family of the late Mr. Salia.

That said, we will remind the reader that Prof Lungu published a piece on Ghanaweb 21, June 2008 titled “MP Victimized by Elusive Freedom of Information (FOI) Law.” That essay was about none other than Mr. Salia. You see, around that time, Mr. Salia, then in the opposition NDC party, expressed profound outrage at the failure of the then-NPP Speaker of the House, Mr. “Grabalicious” Ebenezer Sekyi-Hughes, to “table” two rather elementary questions about the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program, to wit:

“…To ask the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning what was the total amount of the funds received since Ghana joined the HIPC Initiative in 2001 and what is the regional and sectoral distribution of the HIPC Funds so far received?…”

That was in 2005. Almost 3 year after Mr. Salia had carefully composed those questions and sent them forward for answers, Mr. Salia was still waiting for Mr. “Grabalicious” Sekyi-Hughes to provide answers to those mundane, but FOI-grounded questions.

Without a doubt, we can now conclude that the time-dated questions are now pointless because the NPP lost the elections and a lot, frankly, has moved on. Mr. “Grabalicious” and his party are out of power. Practically, therefore, answers to those two simple questions are now as worthless as a Zimbabwe dollar!

But wait, here are two ideas!

Why can’t we ask “Good-Governance” Professor Mills to provide answers to those questions to the people on behalf of the late Mr. Salia?

Here is the other grand idea. Would it not be a fantastic opportunity for the NDC to enact the FOI bill in memory of Mr. Salia? After all, as we now know, is it not the case that Mr. Salia, an NDC MP, remains the single-most important, high-profile victim of lack of access to information held by the Government of Ghana on behalf of the People of Ghana?

Why is it difficult for the NDC to see there is a connection here? Was it not the NDC people who told Ghanaians that they would pass the FOI bill within 100 days, if Ghanaians gave them another chance in the President’s mansion? Eight month into the administration of Mr. Mills, that mission unfulfilled.

What is the NDC waiting for?

Must we continue believing that the Mills-Mahama administration is actually not serious about the FOI bill?

Regretfully, since taking office, Prof Mills, Mr. Mahama, and Mrs. Mould-Iddrisu have not caused a draft FOI bill to be published. In fact, the NDC administration has not even bothered to establish a website as a first step to institutionalizing the FOI bill. But this is not for lack of yapping about the bill and “good governance..” (Consider that Mr. Kufour’s NPP had a draft FOI bill online before they yanked it offline in 2007, after Prof Lungu critiqued that draft as a dud, a loophole-laden joke of a FOI bill).

We hope that Prof Mills and Mr. Mahama are not thinking Ghanaians are stupid. We hope that the NDC crew does not think that Ghanaians have the memory of cockroaches.

We will paraphrase our earlier point and underscore our original intent: No society ever delivered or institutionalized a humane, transformational public service without first making sure the peoples’ access to public information is at the cornerstone of its governance, accountability, and transparency agenda. That is what builds strong institutions.

It is the FOI bill, stupid!

ITEM: It is plain to us that unless the NDC (1) join BNI prosecutions with dramatic progress on the FOI bill, (2) actually link that law to the Asset Declaration law, (3) meaningfully integrate the Serious Fraud Office, the CID, and CHRAJ to those investigations/prosecutions/decisions, and (4) demonstrate a commitment to leading the battle to amend the Constitution of Ghana in a Ghana-centered way, Ghanaians will have every reason to conclude that this NDC administration is wasting our time, once again. More seriously, this Mills crew, regardless of what they tell the people and who they prosecute, would be known as another group of “with-hunters” who spent little capital to break that shameful Ghanaian political “tradition.”

Further, Prof Mills ought to understand that the NDC cannot govern through patronage.

Fundamentally, the NDC is helping to perpetuate massive rumors through their inaction on the FOI bill. We know that the best-run governments of today have far fewer rumors surrounding them. The takeaway here is that the FOI bill will help control rumors and thereby promote good governance. That ought to be elementary to a lawyer worth her/his salt! We know that the NPP has already bested the NDC with the draft FOI bill. That leaves the NDC with little room. But they can choose to be consigned to the super- minimalist corner on the left of Mr. Kufour’ NPP.

We are here using our sacred electronic ink to convey to the NDC administration to swiftly pass the FOI law without any further delays. Call it the “Edward Kojo Salia FOI Bill,” if you will. That would be a more profound and significant testimony to the important work Mr. Salia did for his constituents and the people of Ghana. That would be a more permanent, a more valuable legacy befitting of a true Ghanaian hero caught in the grand and beneficent light of the bigger Ghanaian history.

Pass the FOIB right now, NDC!

Support the institutionalization of the FOI bill in Ghana!

4 Notes: 1. Coming soon – Hit song from Prof Lungu dedicated to Mr. Appiah-Ofori, Ghana’s Star Whistle Blower and Defender of the Public Purse. Visit www.GhanaHero.com for more information!

2. Visit www.GhanaHero.com for more information about the FOI Bill. Read more from Prof Lungu!

3. FOI Bill. Visit www.GhanaHero.com. Read, learn, listen, act on it!

4. Prof Lungu, Ghana-centered, Ghana-Proud, Always!

©Prof Lungu, Tokyo, Japan, 27 Aug 09.

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