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Opinions of Thursday, 9 July 2009

Columnist: Damptey, Daniel Danquah

The Muntaka Saga: Time to Unmask

“There comes the midnight hour when all men must unmask”. These are the very words of Soren Kierkegaard. The midnight hour for Muntaka is now and in our bid to unmask, I shall try to do a critical and objective analysis without fear, favour, malice or hatred.

There is no doubt that triple M (Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak) is a lucky man. He was tucked away in an obscure International school in Kumasi as a teacher, he worked his way up to become Personal Assistant to Alhaji Sulemana. When the Asawasi Parliamentary seat became vacant, he won the election to become one of the ‘honourables’ in the honourable law- making chamber of the country. From that position his meteoric rise to the top was only a matter of time. He was given the juicy position of Minister in Charge of Youth and Sports. And yes, indeed he deserved that position.

During the last registration exercise, the New Patriotic Party made some frantic attempts to wrestle the seat from the grasps of Alhaji Muntaka. Students from the KNUST and other institutions of higher learning were made to transfer their votes to the Asawasi Constituency. Election Day came and the students marched to various polling stations to cast their votes. The first batch of students who attempted to change the status quo were given the beatings of their lives and that put paid to attempts by the students to oust Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak from the Asawasi Parliamentary Seat. This “Muntakagate” has been the evil machination of the NDC right from the time they lied their way to power for the second time. Like the equivocator in the tragedy, ‘Macbeth’ who lied and lied in an attempt to get to Heaven, the NDC lied and peddled false and dangerous information just to get to power. Once in power, they make no attempts to hide their agenda. They openly did things against the Constitution of our land and dared us to confront them. Systematically, they have tackled the various state institutions and anyone who stands in their way will have to be sacrificed. We have taken refuge in our Tunnel of Hope. There appears to be a ray of hope but will this lead us to safety and freedom? It appears we have dined with the tiger and ended up in its belly. Odwontofohene Nana P.S.K. Ampadu captures it all in his Apan Dankwa story.

I foresaw their evil intention that was why I gave an insight into the two scenarios that were likely to be enacted when the Muntaka’s issue first made headlines. For the sake of those who did not read it, I am reproducing that portion of the piece titled, “You be thief, I no be thief”

“And I perceive the outcome of the investigations to be two folds. Either the Minister would be found guilty, sentenced and later be pardoned by the President or he will be acquitted and discharged in which case an attempt would be made to purge the Ministry of the so-called mafia group. This, in a nutshell is the crux of the mater”. In another part of the same script, I stated: “The truth of the mater is simple. Government wants to deal with those people at the Sports Ministry. It wants to get rid of some officials who are not in its good books and replace them with their cronies. And what better way to go about this than to order an investigation into the activities of the Ministry. I learnt security operatives are hovering all over the place under the guise of carrying out investigations” Why was the case assigned to State Security instead of the CID, the SFO or CHRAJ? What differences exist between the ex-speaker and the Muntaka’s case? Why was the ex-speaker’s case referred to the CID? Even when the ex-speaker returned most of the items he took away and agreed to re-imburse the state for those items which could not be returned he has been ordered to report at the CID’s offices at periodic intervals. Why should Muntaka be allowed to go scot free after he has refunded some monies to the state? He collected more money as his per diem allowance, just as the ex-speaker took away more things than he was allowed. Shouldn’t the equation be said to be balanced? Stealing is stealing. If the EX-speaker’s action can be regarded as stealing, why should Muntaka’s own be an exception? If Muntaka’s sin could be attributed to ill advice, why can’t the same criteria be adduced for the ex-speaker’s action? I am not holding brief for the ex-speaker’s conduct and deed. But all that I am saying is that both cases must be treated in their own merits. The speaker thought he was entitled to those items and Muntaka too thought he could take his girlfriend along on trips extravaganza to Cote D’Ivoire and Germany at State expenses. Muntaka again thought that apart from having free accommodation, free electricity, free fuel, free telephone calls, free this and free that, the state should also be responsible for HIS mouth wash, diapers and many other “free frees”. Yet people are not talking about his attempts to cheat the nation if the Chief Director and the Principal Accountant had not been honest enough to spill the beans. In one of my previous write-ups, I gave an insight into the mind of Muntaka as against that of Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa. The latter, whose first appointment was that of a Deputy Minister, realized that he was not entitled to the money which was brought to his office. What was his first reaction? He asked the lady to send the envelope back. He then made enquiries and confirmed his earlier notion that he was not entitled to that lump sum. But the greedy Muntaka took it and had wanted the poor citizens in the country who can hardly afford tooth paste, and so have to do with chewing sticks to pay for his mouth wash. What a rip off! There is a saying that when one is in doubt, please, do ask.

So, is the NDC telling us that after Muntaka has refunded the said amounts, he should not have a date with the CID? Is President Mills saying Muntaka should be left off the hook after paying back the said amount? If that is the case a level of fairness must be created and the ex-speaker, Sekyi- Hughes should also be made to go scot free. And if the President and the NDC are telling the whole country that because they are in power, they can make and unmake the laws of Ghana to suit their own whims and caprices, they could go ahead and do whatever they want. Ghanaians are watching their every move with eagle eyes. They should not deceive us with their pledge of fighting corruption. They are rather sowing the seeds of corruption in the system. They, by exonerating Muntaka from all the criminal charges, with the exception of the moral ones, are telling us that under the NDC, one can commit a heinous crime like murder and get away with it because one has got god-fathers on one’s side. This is what they are telling us and they have even given us signs that we should expect more of such things. At least the hounding, beating up and killing of some NPP sympathizers at Agbogbloshie in the aftermath of the 2008 elections were a prelude to such acts.

This well-orchestrated and well-rehearsed script has just been played before our very eyes and people say, indeed, Mills Government is the best we have ever had in this country. Was it not President Mills, who, in an attempt to demonize the Kufuor administration told us in unmistaken words that his Government will not ask for evidence before prosecuting an alleged offender? I am not saying Kufuor’s handling of such matters was better. No, I took him up on some of those things. But when President Mills said he would not ask for evidence, some of us felt such a stance was a recipe for chaos and see what has happened. Here is a situation whereby the complainant has become the accused. This Muntaka case has now become the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World. It is also the First Wonder of the Modern World. Kufuor, at least was truthful to tell us that the onus of proof lies with the accuser. Mills, on the other hand told us in plain language that the onus of proof lies with the accused. Meanwhile he sings a different tune altogether when confronted with the practical issue. But unlike King Solomon when confronted with the issue of determining who the real mother of the baby was, Professor Mills has failed miserably and disappointed a greater number of his teeming admirers. National security is asking the whistleblower to provide evidence in support of his claims. Meanwhile the evidence is there staring at their faces. The evidence is in the boxes which the operatives carted away from the Sports Ministry and from the homes of the interdicted officials. The evidence can be fathomed from their refusal to allow their victims legal representatives to be present during their interrogation.

Now see the lies and inconsistencies in their utterances. Initially, all the NDC members who spoke on the petition when the issue first cropped up said the petition was unsigned. In other words, it was anonymous. Later they changed to tune and said it was the Principal Accountant who wrote it after he had been transferred by the ex-minister. That was lie number one which incidentally, was the mother of all lies. According to Alhaji Muntaka, it was the responsibility of his Secretary to make claims on his behalf. He went on to say that many of the allegations were false ones peddled by people who are uncomfortable with the changes he made at the ministry. Now, is Muntaka telling us that since some of the invoices did not emanate from his secretary, they were forged? If so, why did he sign those documents and then turn round to blame the Chief Director for ill-advising him? Now who made him believe that he was entitled to a refund and so submitted a list of items which included baby oil, food and other items? Whether the amount involved was insignificant or not, we must not lose sight of the fact that an attempt was made to dupe the state and that is the point at issue.

Let us not forget the fact that Asamoah Boateng, his wife and their two children were prevented from travelling because of certain allegations involving the award of contract to the sister of Zuleika, Asamoah Boateng’s wife. Even though the work was completed but no money has yet been paid, the state is spending so much just to ensure that Asamoah Boateng is nailed. If the State could spend such a huge amount of money just to get a particular former minister implicated in a ‘deal’ which has not resulted in any loss to the state, what moral justification does the NDC have to let Muntaka who has accepted the charge of impropriety to go scot free?

Let us be careful of what we are sowing today for it may bounce back to haunt us at the time when we least expect. If we produce one ‘sasa-bonsam’ today, we may be sure of ‘harvesting’ thousands of such sasa-bonsam to contend with in a few years time.

How could the Principal Accountant and the Chief Director at the Sports Ministry fabricate such ‘big’ allegations against their superior officer, who happens to be the Almighty Youth and Sports Minister? If these were not true, why did he append his signature to the petition? At least the Principal Accountant could have flown the kite by sending an anonymous petition to the presidency and it would have captured a similar reaction from the Presidency. If National Security wanted us to believe that a thorough investigation was done, couldn’t they have video recorded the entire interrogative process for the general public to see that no underhand current was made to sweep the Principal Accountant away? I see the entire hullabaloo over the Muntaka’s issue as the hand of Esau tele-guiding the entire investigative/interrogative process. Were the Principal Accountant and the Chief Director allowed legal representation during the entire investigative process? Also, were the two ‘victims’ and the ex- Minister brought together to cross-examine one another? What documents were used to exonerate the ex-minister? The public would like to know.

Now, on the alleged $10,000.00 landing fee which has generated much controversy, let us be cautious here. Were invoices raised for the amount? If there were, who signed for them as recipient? If there was none, upon what evidence are both the Principal Accountant and the Chief Director being asked to pay for it? The Principal Accountant claims he collected the money and gave it to the Minister in Cote d’Ivoire and the Chief Director too is singing the same tune. Over there in Abidjan, there was no way they could ask the Minister to sign for the amount. But knowing the power ‘Almighty’ Ministers such as the Muntakas hold over their helpless civil servants, no sane person would dare contradict them. The issue of reduced winning bonuses for the Black Stars and Sulley Muntari’s confrontation with the ex-Minister at least, has given us the extent of power Alhaji Muntaka wielded at the Youth and Sports Ministry. “If you don’t accept your reduced bonuses with gratitude, I will not hesitate to replace the entire Black Star team with the Satellites”. That seems to have been the ex-minister’s way of telling the Black Stars Players the enormous power he had. Just like that! An executive fiat! It needed men with guts and two big balls in between their legs to challenge or contradict the ex-minister. Sulley Muntari and some of his colleagues (especially the professionals) had them in abundance. Unfortunately, these poor civil servants did not have. They were perhaps thinking of what the repercussions would be if they did not fall in line with the ex-minister’s marching orders or pace.

All that I can say here is that, we can or may as well use some technicalities to exonerate the ex-Minister for Youth and Sports of any wrong doing. But as long as we have a God who is all-knowing, all-seeing and all-present, the truth will eventually come out. It may take years, but we shall definitely be there. The Almighty God will not allow an innocent person to suffer injustice, harassment or disgrace. Awurade Nyankpong will speak. Awurade bekasa. I am glad Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak is a devout Muslim. We therefore leave everything in the hands of the Almighty God.

Now, did the ex-Minister lie about his amorous relationship with Babgin’s secretary? If he lied about it and latter events proved the contrary, can’t we then deduce that he is not a man of truth? Is it not possible that he could have lied his way throughout the entire charges/allegations? Of what benefit did her inclusion on the official delegation to both Cote d’ Ivoire and Germany bring to the country? And if she was not supposed to be on the official delegation, but the Minister used his position to influence her inclusion, does that not amount to causing financial loss to the state? What sanction is the state meting out to the lady in question?

Asamoah Boateng is being investigated for the award of a contract to the wife of his sister. The Mills administration believes that somehow, Asamoah Boateng might have been instrumental in awarding the contract to his sister in law. The contract has been executed but no amount has been paid out. On the other hand, we have a Minister of State who unilaterally included his girlfriend on the official delegation to many places at the expense of the state. When the truth comes out, you say the minister should only make a refund of the amount spent on the girl’s trips. Is this fair? Is this the justice we should expect from the NDC?

What does the majority leader have to say about the ex-minister’s action? Did the ex-minister ask the Majority Leader for permission before he “eloped” with the secretary? And who acted as Babgin’s Secretary when the lady ‘eloped’ with her mentor on both occasions? And was she paid for the period she went on her French leave? Did the lady channel her request to travel through the appropriate channel, in this case through her immediate boss? And is that the way things are done at the Majority Leaders Office? If such well-established principles could be breached with impunity, then there are many more questions than answers. On the alleged usage of vehicle VW Passat No GT1351Z by the ex-minister’s wife, I would want to state that Ghanaians are not fools as apostles of the NDC would want to portray them to the whole world. The petitioner quoted the registration number of the vehicle in question. The investigative panel just dismissed the charge on the flimsy excuse that the vehicle had been retrieved from Dr. Emmanuel Owusu Ansah, Director of Sports Development. Now, the questions. After it was retrieved from the Director, where was it sent to? Was it among the cars used in the poll? Was it in the garage? If it was, can we know the name of the garage, the location and the period that it was there? Can we ascertain from the neigbours of the ex-minister whether a vehicle of such description and with the registration number has been seen in the vicinity before? These are some of the searching questions any investigative panel worth its sauce would ask before coming to a just conclusion.

Can we know the exact reason why the Principal Accountant was transferred from the Youth and Sports Ministry? Let us also analyze the memo/letter announcing the transfer. When was the transfer effected? We all are agreed on one thing. And that is the Principal Accountant and the ex Minister for Youth and Sports did not agree on certain things. But what were those things? Could it not be that the Principal Accountant did not like the way the ex-Minister was pestering him to approve certain monetary incentives for him, against the laid down principles? I am just being curious. And if I may ask, how long had both the Principal Accountant and the Chief Director been at the Youth and Sports Ministry before they were swept away by the tsunami? We need an answer to this question to remove any iota of doubt that these two personalities and a few others had constituted themselves into a mafia group at the Ministry. I don’t have much to say on the entire NDC Executives of Asawasi resigning their positions en-masse. But my concern is the introduction of ethnic dimension the demonstration is taking. The information put out by Government is that Muntaka has ‘resigned’. He has also accepted some of the liabilities which resulted in his alleged ‘resignation’. Are the people of Asawasi telling is that the panel which exonerated Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak of all ‘criminal charges’ was a kangaroo one? And are the people demonstrating because the son of the soil is involved? Is Government does not stop such a thing then we will have a trend whereby the moment you haul somebody before the law courts, all the indigenes of that town or area will converge at the court’s premises to demand that their son or daughter has committed no crime and should therefore be set free. This is something we should all avoid.

Old habits, we learn, die hard. One therefore should not be surprised to hear that what has befallen our beleagued ex-minister for sports stems from a carefully and worked/thought out plan, conceived long before the NDC assumed the reigns of power the second time. What we are not sure of is whether he did so in concert with other top members of the government.

But there is one very important thing we all are very sure of. It is that democracy died the very day the Mills National Democratic Congress Government gave a clean bill of health to the embattled ex-Minister for Youth and Sports, Alhaji Muhammad Muntaka Mubarak.

Daniel Danquah Damptey 0243715297