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Opinions of Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Columnist: Damptey, Daniel Danquah

Operation Seek, Search and Destroy: Who are the main targets?

Kwadwo Mpiani and Wereko Brobbey may well be guinea pigs on whom the NDC controversial hidden agenda of incarcerating top NPP members in consonance with the Rawlings directive to expand the Nsawam prison to accommodate more NPP men will be rested. And sure, Dr Don Arthur, Head of the NDC Transition Team on State Assets, appears to be brimming full of venom and vengeance for this exercise.

The aim of this group of hawks in the NDC is to cry wolf when these is none and their vendetta knows no bounds. They have stretched their tentacles everywhere and the fear of concerned Ghanaians is that by the time their transition ends, the octopus might have engulfed many people. But the stomach of the octopus is not a comfortable place to be. It is the worst place to wish even for your enemies.

I am not advocating that guilty NPP functionaries who have dipped their hands into state funds be allowed to go scot free. No, far from that. They should be punished if found guilty for I have no quarrel with that. A punishment for any guilty top NPP functionary would be a deterrent to the perpetrators of similar acts in future to be careful lest the people’s anger falls on them.

If readers would recall, in one of my write ups sometime ago, when Wereko Brobbey refused to appear before Parliament to give account of his stewardship at the Ghana @50 Secretariat, I appealed to patriotic MPs from the then NPP side to break ranks and join their colleagues in the NDC to refuse further appropriations to Kwadwo Mpiani for the completion of the Golden Jubilee House until the House was given a report of what had gone at both Ghana@50 secretariat and the Golden Jubilee House.

I even went further to recommend to the NPP Government to put Dr. Wereko Brobbey’s name on top of those who had caused financial loss to the state. My stance at that time was based on principle and personal belief in the Constitution of Ghana. The write up was titled “Mr President, I beg to differ”.

My grouse with the Dr Arthur- led Transition Team is their disregard for due process. Article 187, section 7A states specifically that “In the performance of his functions under this constitution or any other Law, the Auditor General shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority”.

The constitution is very specific on this and we should expect those who had made an issue of the so called NPP disregard for the constitution to tread with caution on matters of constitutionality. The NDC castigated the NPP government on Tsatsu Tsikata issue. It accused the NPP administration of unconstitutional review after Tsatsu had won his case when the Fast Track Court trying him was declared unconstitutional. This act of ‘illegality’ or ‘legality’ depending on which of the political divide you are, has become a watershed in the political history of the NPP.

It is in the same manners, I am calling on the hawks in the NDC to tread cautiously and act within the confines of the law. The law could be said to be an ass, but not so with the Constitution of the land which all Presidents, (including Prof. Mills) have since its promulgation, sworn to adhere to. They should not do anything to create the impression that they do not respect the Constitution of the country.

Now listen to Mrs. Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, after Kufuor had, on the eve of his departure as President, ordered the discontinuation of the charges against her. “A proper bidding process was put in place for the sale and Caridem won through due process because it was the highest bidder”. She went further to state that “the World Bank supervised the entire bidding process….”

Why was Nana Konadu referring to that issue? She used it to justify her contention that the property in question was obtained in accordance with the laws of Ghana. Why can’t the transition team adopt a similar stance? Why did Mr. Dua Agyemang, Auditor General allow himself to be stampeded into submitting an incomplete job to a Committee which was attempting to usurp the powers of the Law Making Organ of the country?

Whichever way one looks at the issue, one can come to only two conclusions. [i] That the Attorney General is incompetent and should be removed. [ii] That the Transition Committee appears to be nursing a vendetta agenda to hound top NPP functionaries before the law courts on trumped-up charges of having caused financial loss to the state. That is the way it appears to most Ghanaians. I could be wrong though. I see the Auditor General as unprofessional and incompetent because he allowed himself to be pressured into submitting an uncompleted and hurriedly prepared report to the Transition Team. Secondly, by submitting the report to the Transition Team instead of parliament, he had committed an act of illegality.

Any Auditor- General worth his sauce would not have succumbed to any external pressure from any quarters. He should have stuck to his guts by telling them that he had not tidied up the loose ends of the report. For example, there were queries to be sent out and answer to be submitted. He should also have been bold to tell them to the face that he owes a responsibility to all Ghanaians by ensuring that his report went to Parliament and not to any other body or agency.

If he had done so and been fired by the Transition Team, Mr Dua Agyemang would have won the sympathy of all Ghanaians, irrespective of party affiliation. But obviously aware of the fact that “A New Pharaoh has emerged” who might not know Joseph, he decided to take a bite at the carrot dangling before his very eyes, and in so doing , brought his entire career crashing down to earth. And what a great fall it was!

And now to the committee. The Constitution of the country is very explicit on this-that it is only Parliament which should receive the final (not half baked) report of the Auditor General. Any committee worth its sauce would have reprimanded the Auditor General, Mr Duah Agyemang, rejected the report and ask him to go back and tidy affairs before submitting the report. It should also have recommended him for immediate dismissal for bringing his entire office into disrepute. After all, he has exceeded the length of his contract.

What is the way forward? The only way the committee could redeem its image and deemed not to be impartial is to expunge the whole proceedings of the Attorney General’s appearance before it form the record books.

We must operate on principles. We should not allow our emotions to becloud our sense of reasoning. We should not infringe on the laws of the country. At all times, the rule of law must prevail. Anything contrary would spell doom for the country.

Please, do not get me wrong. If Mr Mpiani and Dr Wereko Brobbey are guilty, they must be punished and they alone should bear the punishment. And so, let no one think or say that the party is bringing out these issues because it wants to bail them out of their troubles. After all, Wereko Brobbey resigned from the New Patriotic Party to form his own, and I have not heard anything to the contrary that he is not a card bearing member of the NPP.

Whatever decision they took at the time that they were Lords and Masters of all that they surveyed, were done in their individual capacities, not in the name of the party. They did not act as representatives of the party. But all that we are saying is that the Transition Team acts within the confines of the law so as not to create the impression that it was out to victimize, harass, intimidate and persecute known functionaries of its political opponents.

If the people are guilty, it will be clear to all and sundry that they are, including the victims themselves. During the NPP Presidential Campaign, Captain Nkrabea Effa Dartey was disqualified on grounds of having taken part in a treasonable act against the State. Captain Effa Dartey himself had stated that he was aware he was going to lose. Why not allow him to take part and then lose? Why not allow due process to prevail so that nobody will have anything against the verdict at the end of it all.

Now come to think of it. Parliament approved of only Twenty Million Dollars for the Ghana@50 Secretariat. But it ended up spending more than was approved for it (if what we are being told is correct). If due process is allowed to prevail, then the act of spending more that what was constitutionally and legitimately approved in itself constituted an offence to which Mpiani and Wereko Brobbey might be called to or explain.

But if we are to do things in the manner the Transition Team is going about, we might not have the legitimacy to question them on that. The Law is there. Let it take its natural course and whoever is caught in its long arms must be made to face the music. If my party member has fallen foul of the law, let the law deal with him/her. The party will be better off that way. But for goodness sake, let the due process of the law take precedence.

This brings me to the media hype that has followed the issue of the so-called malfeasance at the Ghana@50 Secretariat and the construction of the Golden Jubilee House.

In the early Nineties, when Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida annulled the freest or fairest elections ever held in Nigeria, he put in place the Interim National Government headed by chief Ernest Shonekan. About 60 or about days after, General Sanni Abacha staged his bloodless coup with the connivance of Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya and Chief Moshood Kolawole Olabisi Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential elections.

Six months into the Abacha’s tenure, Abiola started demanding for his ‘mandate’ which had been annulled by the former dictator, Gen .I.B.B. The agitation gathered momentum so much so that by the middle of 1994, the Western part of Nigeria, particularly Lagos had become almost ungovernable. Amidst this entire hullabaloo, Abacha’ second in command was incriminated in an alleged coup plot against Abacha.

Diya got the hint that he was to be arrested and made an attempt to escape. But the Abacha’s boys were too fast for him. He was arrested, handcuffed and taken to the dictator’s house. There, he started weeping like a child. Abacha gave him a tissue paper and told him, “Dipo do not weep like a woman”. This was captured on video and aired nationwide on television. There was also a video slot of Lt. Diya, prostrating before Major Mustapha, Head of Abacha’s Security Outfit, and pleading with Mustapha to have mercy on him (Diya)

A whole Lieutenant General kneeling before an ordinary Major and pleading for mercy. There was also the issue of Obasanjo who had earlier been incriminated in a previous coup attempt and now in custody of the Abacha’s. Obasanjo was shown on air in handcuff being cross-examined by his alleged “accomplices”

Why have I narrated the above two episodes. I have done so with the sole purpose of unnerving the motive behind the action of the powers that be. They did that to humiliate the personalities mentioned in the write up. The NDC Transition Team has adopted a similar trick. ‘Let us fly the kite that these two people have done this and that so as to demonize the NPP Administration. Let us humiliate them, let them get down on their knees, let them crawl and beg for mercy like Diya did during his encounter with Mustapha. By so doing, their pride and arrogance will disappear’. As simple as that! By so doing an act of illegality has been committed. Yet people are saying we should keep quiet and say nothing on it.

The media hype will not achieve any purpose. All that we are saying is that let proper investigations be conducted first before we decide to crucify any person. There is ample time to conduct all the investigation we want. After all, how long did the Tsikata case drag on? But we all waited patiently. Let the NDC do things in a transparent manner. Let it not appear as if we were back to the AFRC and the PNDC era when people were summoned before the citizens vetting committee to give account of how they came by certain properties.

This write up will not be complete if I fail to offer any word of advice to Ghanaians who would be opportune to be appointed to serve the public. All should realize that power is transient and so we should not lord it over others if they find themselves in certain sensitive positions. We should also realize that we would one day be asked to give account of our stewardship. The Bible and the Koran are emphatic on this.

Mr. Kojo Mpiani and Dr Wereko Brobbey had ample opportunity to explain to us how they spent the people’s money entrusted into their care. Wereko Brobbey who was directly in charge of the Ghana @ 50 Secretariat ran to Kojo Mpiani who stormed Parliament and dared it to do its worst because he had nothing to render to it. If the two had done so at that time, a report of the entire operations of the Secretariat and the celebrations would have been prepared and the ordeal they are going through might have been averted. But at that time, Mr Mpiani was Chief of Staff, the two felt on top of the world, just like Ampadu’s song, “Biribiara nntumi yen” (nothing can touch or affect us). Now they have come to terms that “Biribi betumi won” (something can touch or affect them). It is good lesson to be learnt the bitter way.

I would be failing in my duty if I fail to comment on the action of Alhaji Mumuni, President Mills representative at the Ministry of Interior who is now the nominee for the Foreign Affairs portfolio.. Alhaji Mumuni had extended the curfew on Bawku Township for a period of time and it is this act of ‘illegality’ which has attracted the fury of the opposition NPP party and the support of the NDC. No matter how one looks at it, this is another act of illegality on the part of the NDC Administration.

All of us are aware of the intricate problems in Bawku Township and its environs. But the law stipulates that it is only the substantive Minister or the President who can extend or impose a curfew in an emergency. It must also be borne in mind that it is Parliament which has oversight responsibility over the action of the Minister and can summon him before the House and question him for his actions. But Alhaji Mumuni was not a Minister but was smuggled through the backdoor to perform an act of illegality. That was bad and not in consonance with the spirit of the Constitution

The argument that there was no substantive Minister to perform such a role is neither here nor there. The argument also that there was not sufficient time to nominate and vet the Minister is also not tenable. The way out of this quagmire is simple. Let us adopt a non-partisan approach to the issue. Why not call a stakeholders forum to deliberate on the Bawku issue?

What I had expected the NDC to do in such a circumstance was to bring up the mater before the House and ask for parliamentary approval to have enabled the President’s representative at the Interior Ministry to be given power to act in the capacity as a Minister. To every rule, there is an exemption. I believe that Parliament would have waived that clause in the Constitution to enable Alhaji Mumuni to act on the crisis.

Even, after the “stranger” at the interior Ministry had acted illegally and unconstitutionally, the majority should have swallowed its pride and appeal to their colleagues on the other side of the political divide with words such as, “ Look pals, we know that what we did was ‘illegal’ But we were compelled to take that stance due to prevailing circumstances. Please, pardon us for we meant no evil. We took that action with the best of intention”. I don’t think the other side would have prolonged the issue. The House would have taken a holistic approach to the matter and ratify the illegal action of Alhaji Mumuni, albeit belatedly.

Another option would have involved the leadership of the House who would meet the Speaker and discuss the best way forward. Then, the Clerk of Parliament would summon Parliament to vet the nominee for the Interior Ministry under a Certificate of Emergency. A substantive Minister of Education would then emerge who would be in a position to act in consonance with the spirit of the Constitution. In this wise, there would have been no winners and no vanquished and the country would have moved away from bi-partisan politics. But we allowed such a golden opportunity of arriving at an important decision by consensus to slip away from our hands.

In conclusion, let me repeat what Dr Tai Solarin, an Educationist and Social Critic said on July 15, 1991. “I have chosen a path to tread and I have never veered or parted from that path. I don’t look back to see if anybody is following me or not”. Let me also add what the late Attorney General of the Nigerian Federation, the Cicero of Esa-Oke, Grandmaster of Yoruba politics and proponent of “siddon look”, Chief Bola, said. “Sometimes I fear for the country because of the imbalances within the country and the unwillingness on the part of some of our leaders to deal with these imbalances, straightforwardly and honestly. Unless imbalances are squarely faced and dealt with, the future may be bleak. But I prefer to be optimistic”.

Daniel Danquah Damptey 0243715297