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Opinions of Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Columnist: Arhin, Kwesi

Retribution Or Necessary Justice?

As history continues to be made in our infant democracy lingering questions continue to be asked on what type of leadership Professor Mills should offer to a politically polarised Ghana on his pyrrhic victory.

Should Pres Mills be transformational as Obama? - As some already claim he is - transactional? unifier? play the pay back rhythm as some vengeful people have requested, or fuse all of these leadership traits expected into one tactful leadership style.

Either way, some big toes will be trod on whatever trait he adopts or practices but this writer believes the interest of the country should at all times triumph and these to a large extent mirror candid expectations of the average Ghanaian taxpayer.

He should not hesitate to be firm in emergency situations, as Bush would; but not as Kuffour hesitated to do the at the height of the election run off; be a pacifier when the national interest demands this, be transformational, getting people to transcend their individual beliefs, reach to the people and not sit in Kuffour’s palace and distance himself from the people, a leadership trait Rawlings exploited to his advantage. Blair also used this during his leadership and currently, Cameron, UK opposition leader, is also defining his leadership by this style.
For some, payback time echoes the sentiments of a large group of NDC sympathisers who want to avenge the treatment NPP officials meted out to NDC party stalwarts and sympathisers in the aftermath of 2000 elections. By their definition it equates to both a similar level of chastisement to deter the excessive greed of public office holders and similar reprimand for those misplaced business decisions (such as the economic loss to the state - as defined by the NPP) of CEO’s of public offices, the likes of which got NDC’s legal luminary, Tsatsu T, in penitentiary.
How acceptable is this? Many are asking Mr Mills to exhibit tolerance possibly akin to appeasement, demanding no vindictiveness, nor tit for tat, but “fa ma nyame” traits to signify political maturity and possibly heal the seeming rift between political rivals.
Right or wrong?
As an advocate of democracy in Africa, I believe the green signal would be sent to NDC appointees if they embrace the appeasement line of ignoring the excessive greed of certain members of the previous government as some Ghanaians have requested. Forgiving looters of taxpayers’ money is not part of the democratic principles we embarked on and obviously out of the appeasement quadrant citizens’ thumb printed at the ballot box.
However to hold past public appointees accountable for their actions where there is an indication of misappropriation of state funds is a sine qua non for a functioning democracy such as our newly found one and most decent and discerning Ghanaians will demand this from their government. Appeasing and unifying the divided Ghanaian populace will mean not to embark on a witch hunt the likes meted out to Tsatsu who was not proved to have embezzled state money or used any state funds for personal gain but rather undertaking risky business decisions as a CEO. These are some of the piffle and illogical arguments we cannot afford to in our democracy. This is the type of hunting President Mills should not do to the likes of those who orchestrated the filthy, parade of a third world country’s opulence resulting in the coronation of President Kuffour and his cabals during the “state funded awards sleazy” shindig.
Any action beyond a slap on the bottom to these people will be divisive and fall under the vengeance we want to avoid. Politically, grey haired democrats will shy away from this action and no tax payer will expect this from a government who emphasises CHANGE and RECONCILLIATION for a divided country.
For those who could do with some re-education, I will jog some memories. A trailblazing precedent was set; the NPP government audited NDC government officials who “misappropriated” state funds. Victims were the late Mr. Selormey who was proved in the law courts to have used state funds for personal gratification. This was sad case (given that he passed away in jail) but as the legal brains found out, he was guilty. For me and most Ghanaians, I believe this is a trend we expect our leaders to tow and uphold. If you consciously steal state money you have to pay back and suffer the consequences our constitution prescribes. For the recent past, public officials who have been found to have embezzled state funds or inappropriately awarded themselves and families finger licking state contracts without going through laid down processes of procurement and perhaps fortunately escaped the president Kuffour’s selective axe, we need to hold them to account and punish them through our law courts.
This is a necessary evil and a welcome deterrent for public office holders For those who have embezzled state funds we need to ensure they are also duly tried by the precedent set by President Kuffour. If we don’t do this and in the name of unifying and peace, newly appointed NDC officials will also be given the carte blanche to a finger buffet of state funds and property, and will be expecting and nonetheless receive the same favours from the next government. My concern is the average taxpayer will not want to be burdened themselves with this mutually acceptable arrangement for political shenanigans. It is only they and their families who will benefit and possibly could be a ground for sceptics to continue to trumpet their view that democracy is not right for Africa. The precedent has been set by the ex - president and for me it is a good one; no public official should be allowed to abuse state money for personal benefit. These checks happen in the West and that is the democracies we are trying to replicate so please let us not be selective in the good things of the process.
Whilst we are auditing the NPP officials, we are also serving a notice to current NDC government to avoid touching anything that is not theirs. These are the checks and balances that public officials need to arm themselves with so at the end of the NDC’s tenure we are assured politicians’ choice of serving the people is borne out of selflessness and devotion and not selfishness and greed.
Kwesi Arhin, Researcher and Political Analyst UK