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Opinions of Thursday, 18 October 2007

Columnist: Afriyie-Ankrah, Elvis

NPP Aspirants' Vulgar Display Of Opulence

It all began as rumours, which later became stories and is now finally being confirmed in word and deed by the numerous NPP Presidential Aspirants.

The truth is that the whole NPP delegates conference and the preceding campaign towards the December congress is becoming an “orgy of a vulgar display of questionable opulence."

From Alan Cash’s multimillion/billion distribution of cash to delegates, provision of cargo trucks, salon cars and other commercial vehicles, to Mike Ocquaye’s donation of ‘Nika nikas’ (Corn mills), tractors and “loans”, it seems the contestants are poised to showcase how much of their “wealth” they can display.

The latest showboy is Nana Akuffo Addo who is reported to have personally donated 243 motorbikes to the party. An individual aspirant donating 243 motor bikes to the party? And Ghanaians are not asking any questions? How did these guys get all these moneys that they are distributing waa, waa waa waa in this manner?

Take the case of Nana Akuffo-Addo; if one motorbike costs a minimum of about $1,000 dollars then 243 motorbikes would cost $243,000; assuming he even gets a very hefty discount for bulk purchase and gets one motorbike for even $650 dollars that brings the total amount to approximately $170,000.

If one does a conservative estimate of the amount of money being spent by each candidate on their rounds, one realises how serious the money-spending situation is; from the report we are receiving from all over the country, the following picture emerges:

A candidate will spend conservatively an average of ¢20milllion per constituency (this is the most conservative estimate one can make considering the fact that candidates like Alan “K” are reported to be dishing out between ¢1 million to ¢10 million per potential delegate in each constituency) totaling ¢4.6 billion.

A candidate would also spend another ¢10 million on his own campaign team in each constituency to cater for fuel, hotel bills, allowances etc. 230 constituencies equals ¢2.3 billion.

Let's make provision for another ¢20 million per region i.e. ¢20 million x 10 regions making it ¢200 million. Provision of at least ¢250 million for office and operational expenses during the entire campaign period.

All these estimates do not include money spent on media, publicity, advertising, ways & means, including Mallams, Marabouts, Jujumen and ‘Pastors?’.

Again, it does not include the ‘nika nikas’, salon cars, commercial vehicles, T-shirts, mobile phones, wax prints and other accoutrements that are being distributed by these aspirants. Again, if a conservative amount of ¢500 million is to be spent on congress day per candidate then, based on the estimates above we are looking at this possible scenario.

¢20 million per constituency x 230 constituency = 4.6 billion

¢10 million per campaign team x 230 constituency = 2.3 billion

¢20 million per Region x 10 Regions = 200 million

¢250 million office & Operational expenses

¢500 million – Congress Day

Tota ¢ 7.7 billion per candidate

And this figure, I repeat, does not include the vehicles, wax prints, and other goodies that are being distributed like confetti all over the place. In the case of Nana Addo, for example, if you added the estimates of $170,000 for the 243 motorbikes at the rate of ¢9,000 per dollar, it would be about ¢1.5 billion. If you add this to the ¢7.7 billion, it will amount to ¢9.2 billion. WHERE IS ALL THIS MONEY COMING FROM? Let me hasten to add that at this stage, that it is not all the NPP aspirants who are reported to be engaged in this ‘ORGY OF VULGAR OPULENCE’.

Candidates like Dan Botwe, Kwabena Agyepong, Effah Dartey, Frimpong Boateng, Papa Owusu Ankomah, Arthur Kennedy and Agyarko have not yet been mentioned in any of these activities. It is also instructive to note that Hon. Hackman Owusu Agyemang, one of the contestants, has also complained bitterly at the extent to which money is being doled out left, right and centre by his fellow contestants. Again, I repeat the crunch question “WHERE IS ALL THIS MONEY COMING FROM?”

I am very certain, that when this issue comes to the fore, the various spokespersons and spin doctors of these candidates will go into overkill trying to explain it away by saying it came from friends and business associates. “FRIENDS AND BUSINESSMEN?” It will be very interesting to find out which friends and businessmen these are. Particularly when we are yet to recover from the crippling energy crisis which has increased the costs of doing business in Ghana thereby slashing the profit margins of many business entities. It will be interesting to know the crop of businessmen who are making so much money and supporting all these candidates to donate cash, ‘nika nika’, motorbikes, saloon cars, commercial vehicles, tractors and tipper trucks in today’s post-HIPC Ghana.

Without credible and convincing answers to these questions, will it be appropriate to surmise that perhaps following the revelations of Haruna Essieku, that kickbacks were being collected and managed in the Castle by the President himself, maybe the ‘kickback operations’ were or have been ‘decentralised’ and therefore many of these aspirants have or had established their own “Kickback Bureaus” in their ministries before they left office? In this era of ship loads of Cocaine vanishing into thin air? Do we remember the 76 parcels and the lone ‘afutse’ {hunchback} suspect still on the run followed by floating parcels of cocaine on the high seas and reports by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime that Ghana has become the major hub for the drug business? Such stupendous display of cash and largesse is a serious cause for concern.

Once again, I know the spin doctors will bring up the issue of the NDC allegedly raising $700,000 in Houston, Texas some weeks ago. Well, the major difference is that the NDC already has a full fledged Presidential Candidate in the person of Prof. John Evans Atta-Mills and any businessman or group of people putting their money on him will be doing so out of the conviction that he stands the chance of being the next president of the Republic. In the case of the NPP aspirants, any astute businessman, realizing that there are over 18 aspirants with as yet no clear front runners, will hedge and give out only a little money to a few candidates and wait till the actual Flagbearer emerges. It is called common sense and simple business logic.

I know some may argue that in the case of the US primaries, candidates raise a lot of money and may cite Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama as examples. Well, the difference is that in the US, there are transparent, verifiable and time tested methods of fundraising which are matters of public record and can be assessed and scrutinized by any citizen.

Secondly, they have a more credible and independent system of polls which clearly show that the race is really between Obama and Clinton for the Democrats, with Guliani the Republican coming a distant third. And it is for this self same reason that all the other candidates, both on the Democrat and Republican side, are not making much impact in their fundraising ventures.

Having said all this, one may ask what is the objective of this long diatribe? Well the answers are many and varied, but the motivating factor is that in a democracy, citizens need to ask questions of people who aspire to lead them.

We live in a country where a majority of the populace are living in debilitating poverty and struggle on a daily basis to eke out an existence for themselves. We live in a country where public services and utilities are in deplorable conditions. We live in a country where thousands of kilometres of roads that had been constructed recently have been virtually washed away after one or two heavy downpours.

The situation in our schools, hospitals, drainage system, sewerage system, and accessibility to basic social services like water is nothing to write home about. Should we therefore not question those who lavish such extraordinary largesse on so called delegates for a delegates conference? What are the implications for the future of this country? Is democracy now for the highest bidder, and should other political parties also go and look for such huge moneys at all costs and from anywhere to finance their campaigns in order not to suffer political annihilation?

What are the implications for the youth of this country? There is talk about NUGS elections over the past few years being influenced so much by so much cash. Figures of between ¢150 million and ¢400 million were supposed to have been doled out to some contestants.

What kind of future leaders are we churning out? Is it all about money, money, money, money? And finally, what are our pastors, priests, traditional leaders and statesmen in society saying about all these things? Or is it all part of the Property Owning Democracy?

I urge all well meaning citizens to call on the Commissioner of the IRS to immediately proceed with investigations to ascertain whether these candidates and their so-called sponsors have fulfilled their task obligations and whether their huge expenditures is commensurate with their legitimate incomes.

Let all well meaning Ghanaians from laymen to the clergy, civil society, politicians from all shades of the political divide and every conscientious citizen arise and question this “VULGAR DISPLAY OF FILTHY OPULENCE”. God help Ghana.

I Thank God Everyday For You. Stay Blessed!

By Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah
(Deputy General Secretary, NDC)


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