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Opinions of Monday, 27 June 2016

Columnist: Asare, Kwame Ohene

Our president is not dumb!!

Cry my beloved Country, Cry – 5
By Kwame Ohene Asare

Given the obvious difficulties that even cheaper gifts have posed for politicians the world over, I was initially somewhat intrigued by the absence of a prompt and concerted response from the opposition NPP to the raging debate on bribery in the highest office of the Land. The party has now responded, calling for the President to be investigated in the matter. NPP’s response had such detail as would prompt anyone of sound mind to have found the need to investigate President Dramani Mahama as rather compelling.

What I least expected though, and which struck me as rather confounding, was the fact that the President, after unleashing his herd of attack dogs on Ghanaians, merely made a bare denial of the claim, counter-accusing his political adversaries of being politically motivated. He yelled that the accusations wouldn’t wash. As a complaint has now been raised before the Court of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), it is not particularly surprising that the President may want to be guarded. However, except for propaganda purposes and as a good psychological posture for an accused person preparing or psyching himself up to defend his case, tooth and nail, his denial has not provided the Ghanaian with any insight into the President’s innocence in this mind-boggling Presidential saga.

Unless the President is now accusing Djibril and Bawumia (the High Commissioner), of political motivation, then he has a very difficult case to answer. The indisputable facts are that the Ford Expedition in question was of substantial value, that he received the Car and phoned to say thank you to Djibril. Djibril is and was a Government contractor. The Minister of Works and Housing has confirmed that Djibril is a preferential contractor due to the quality of his work. Checks by Myjoyonline confirms that quality of the roads he has constructed for the country are of poor quality. It is also believed that he overpriced the building of the famous Bourkina Faso High Commission Wall by about 650%.The gift to the President was a brand new vehicle. Although declared at the ports as a second hand vehicle, for which lower taxes or duties were paid, even though state vehicles are exempt. Apart from Kweku Baako’s testimony, whose Judgment in this matter seems rather troubling, Ghanaians have not as yet seen any independent confirmation as to the whereabouts of the vehicle. There is also no trace of the said vehicle at the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Authority showing in whose name it is or has been registered. Incredible!!!!!

The President has since confirmed to some of the Country’s Religious leaders that the vehicle was a personal gift and that he does not even like American Cars; he rather prefers Japanese cars (irrelevant Mr President)..

I find it rather remarkable that any alert or well-informed Ghanaian could quibble with the impropriety or otherwise of a significant gift, given to their Vice President within months of very valuable contracts being awarded to the giver, who prior to his friendship to the Vice President, had unsuccessfully bid for contracts. Even without more, every sensitive President will have a burning desire to offer a full explanation of the circumstances of the Case to his Country, especially if innocent.

The President’s minister, Dr Omane Boama’s recent protestations on National Television, hurling abuse at a well educated professor of Law, whilst hailing his President as incorruptible amounted to a substandard performance in an audition for – ‘Who can mislead an educated political observer.’ As he yelled, “My President is incorruptible” I could hear myself saying “The President is not Dumb”.

Let us pause to undergo a simple reality check by walking through the mind of the President of the republic. The following assumes that the President never expressly solicited for a Brand new Ford Expedition: -

i) What went on in the mind of the President when he received his $100,000 car gift?
ii) If he thought nothing of it then our President is clearly dumb!
iii) However, Mahama may be an incompetent manager but certainly not dumb.
iv) So he must have thought something of it. Shouldn’t he?
v) If so, he must necessarily ask: What did he do to deserve such a substantial gift?
vi) Was the mere attendance at the giver’s Dad’s funeral a likely reason?
vii) Certainly not. It is not a known cultural tradition anywhere in the world, to offer very expensive gifts to funeral guests.
viii) Irrespective, the giver must be very rich, from legitimate business?
ix) If in doubt, he would have run it past another. His wife? His most trusted friend? His Presidential Advisers?
x) You would have expected that under viii) he could have gotten advice to either return the gift OR to openly disclose and/or declare and add it to the Presidential fleet as he purports.
xi) Even if not, it would be dumb for the President to have imagined that the sole reason for the gift was to have attended the Bukinabe’s funeral, it would otherwise be a very profitable business to be attending funerals in Bourkina Faso.
xii) Is it because he was Vice President but now substantive President or such like? A bit more realistic;
xiii) He would necessarily have to think, as a human being, that it has to be for something he has done or expected to do in future! It is getting more realistic.
xiv) If so, then it must be a bribe, either solicited for or unsolicited for or agreed. Probably.
xv) “Djibril won one of my Government’s contracts and clearly may want some more”. The President should be heard to say to himself, even if that innocent at this stage. Voila!!
xvi) “If so, then it must be intended to thank me for something I must have done to facilitate his bid or to encourage me to support one in future.” But did you?
xvii) This scenario gives the President a substantial benefit of the doubt that he did not elicit a payment or other from Djibril.
xviii) However, any thinking human being is expected to ask questions when he receives an expensive gift never solicited for!!!

In England, accepting a gift from a client that is more than merely token, without asking questions or without taking certain procedural steps could expose a practising solicitor to allegations of misconduct. It does not matter whether the gift was solicited for or has actually influenced the recipient in the conduct of his work. Similar rules for other respectable professions in the UK or in the advanced world must necessarily exist.

The rationale for the rule is that a gift can compromise a professional person and may compel him to go beyond his call of duty. It is for the same reasons that the President himself in his code of conduct for his ministers, insisted on a full and frank disclosure of gifts, and that, gifts of a value of more than 200 cedis be rejected.

A more oblique analogy involves purchasing goods on the streets for substantially less than they are actually worth. The buyer is usually assumed to know the goods were stolen.

Fellow Countrymen, even granting the President all the benefit of the doubt, the President could never as a rational thinking human being, have assumed that the gift had no implications for him and/or his country. To have thought nothing of it was to have acted in a way that no reasonably competent human being, let alone a President of the 4th Republic of Ghana, would have acted in the circumstances.

Mr President, we await an apology, which is long overdue, we will not accept that are dumb.