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Opinions of Friday, 20 May 2011

Columnist: Kyei-Mensah-Osei, Kofi

The Sixty Million Dollar Campaign Budget Tape ....

, Ya Naa Tape, Giselle Yazji Tape and All the Other Tapes

When I heard President Mills’ hilarious laughter on a local radio station the other day, I thought it was about a trivial issue. I was gobsmacked to realise later that it was actually in response to an allegation by Herbert Mensah regarding a tape recording of the President’s campaign team in discussion about an amount of $60 million set aside for Prof Mills to contest the NDC’s primaries. A massive amount by all standards just for the NDC’s primaries! Even more worryingly, Herbert Mensah revealed that the alleged discussion took place at the castle; the current seat of government!! If this allegation is true, then it could be the grand papa of all “profligate spending”, certainly surpassing the so-called “profligate spending” the President himself has labelled the NPP with. “Coming events…” they say, “…cast their shadows” and so if the ostentatious show the President put up whilst picking his forms from the NDC’s office is anything to go by, then Herbert Mensah and the inner sanctum of Rawlings’ advisers have a genuine case. Did the President laugh the way he did because he thought the issue was so insignificant? Did the said meeting take place at the castle and did the President have any knowledge of it? And who was the mole at the castle who recorded the meeting right under the big noses of the ubiquitous state security apparatus? These and many others are serious questions which require urgent answers.

Personally, I was really surprised at the President’s nonchalance when presented with the opportunity to “set the records straight” (to borrow the phrase of Fifi Kwettey and co). This is a monstrous allegation and Prof Mills’ hoarse comical laughter was unwarranted. When he eventually decided to answer the question, the President denied knowledge of any such budget and went on to mention some projects he would have spent the money on if he had it. What the President failed to tell Ghanaians though was how much he has committed to his campaign. The flagrant display of opulence and wanton show of profligacy when he picked his form from the NDC’s office are clear evidence of the ostentatious spending that awaits Ghanaians come 2012. Needless to point out here that it is very worrying for the President not to even know the budget he has put in place for his own campaign. By his non-committal answer, I hope our President is not in anyway alluding to a bottomless pot of gold for his campaign team to dip their hands in. My view on this whole saga is that, either Herbert Mensah or the President is being “ecominical” with the truth. Ghanaians deserve better than that.

In the said radio interview, the President proceeded to inform Ghanaians after his long dry laughter that he has “instructed the BNI to investigate” the matter. The question therefore is: why did the President laugh his head off the way he did if he deemed the matter so seriously? True to the President’s words, the BNI picked up Mr Herbert Mensah at 0930am on Monday, 16.05.11 and kept him for 9 hours before being eventually released. No one knows whether Herbert is going to be invited for more ‘friendly’ chats with BNI in future. I will like to know what the BNI are looking for in their investigation. Does what is captured on the “tape” contain any information that compromises the security of Ghana? Or were the security apparatus commandeered to investigate the matter just to clear the President of any wrong doing and maintain his hyped up ‘sainthood’? Does the “Mr Clean” image of the President take precedent over everything else in the country? If the BNI has nothing to do, I will like to draw their attention to the “Daily Graphic” of Tuesday May 17 2011 which reported that the Ministry of Energy has conceded that Ghana may be “losing money at the Jubilee field because there is no reliable way of measuring the exact amount of oil and gas being extracted.” The report continued that, “……in the absence of a working export flow meter, both the Energy Ministry and Ghana National Petroleum Corporation have been using a ruler to manually determine the amount of Jubilee Crude meant for export.” Could it not be a deliberate ploy by someone to measure the Jubilee Crude and Gas with a ruler in this day and age just to milk the country dry of its oil revenue? Is this practice not causing “financial loss to the state” and therefore, more of an urgent matter for the BNI to investigate?

The truth of the matter is that, the President is desperate to keep his manufactured “clean” image and that’s why he set the BNI on poor Herbert Mensah. I say this without any fear of contradiction because there has been many other more important “tapes” of national importance without the President butting an eye at those who claim to have them. Former President Rawlings claims to have a “tape” of those involved in the murder of Ya Naa. While President Mills continually promises to find the killer/s of the late chief, yet he has dared not instruct the BNI to invite President Rawlings for a discussion on the “tapes” over a cup of tea. If the President Mills’ hysterical promises to find the Ya Naa’s killers were genuine and not pure political gimmickry, he would have long investigated the “tape” which President Rawlings has had for years. The same Rawlings also claims to have “tapes” of those involved in killing women in the late 1990s. Recently, the country has also seen Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ “tapes” being aired on various TV stations. What happened to those caught in the Anas cocoa smuggling tape? And what happened to those who were caught in the Anas tape in the children home? Anas’ “tapes” captured the nefarious activities of some Ghanaians against the state and some vulnerable children and yet the President appears mummified to act on them.

Then again, there was the hyped Gizelle Yazji “tape” which was also used by the NDC pre-election 2008. One would have thought that this tape would be investigated by the BNI when the President assumed the mantle of power to unearth the truth about the financial misappropriation charges levelled against former President Kuffour by Giselle Yazji; the NDC’s darling lady. These were some of the issues President ‘Mr Clean’ Mills campaigned on. Why has the President not involved the BNI in all these ‘Tapegates’? In the past few weeks, Ras Mubarak of the NDC accused Okudjeto Ablakwa of constructing a fish pond worth $20,000 in his stepfather’s house. Is this matter not worth investigating especially at a time that the President had ordered a freeze on salaries of political appointees? The same Ablakwa is alleged to have purchased a house worth $130, 000 in America. What about the 1.6 billion Cedis spent by Koku Anyidoho on hampers? To me, the President’s instruction to the BNI to investigate his campaign budget “tape” is just an exercise in self aggrandisement. President Mills is desperate to look cleaner than he actually is and that’s the reason for this knee-jerk reaction. Methinks he pays more attention to his public image than the welfare of the ordinary Ghanaian. Is Prof Mills’ image more important to him than the Ya Naa, Anas Aremeyaw, Giselle Yazji “tapes” et al? The President should stop shedding crocodile tears over the murder of the late chief if he hasn’t the balls to investigate President Rawlings and the “tape” he claims to have.

The swift swoop of BNI on Herbert Mensah over the $60 million “tape” is interesting indeed when one considers the stash of “tapes” Rawlings has. If the President pretends to see no evil and hear no evil about the other “tapes”, then Vice President Mahama should shake him up from his slumber, give him some more coffee and remind him that there are more important “tapes” in the country that the ordinary Ghanaian would like to see the BNI investigate. Ghanaians are sick and tired of this constant massaging of the President’s ego when there are more salient things to do in the country. The President is no saint and he knows it. Ghanaians await the day Prof Mills would show same sense of urgency in setting the BNI on former President Rawlings to provide the Ya Naa “tapes” to help arrest the late chief’s killers. On the other hand, if the President is not acting on other “tapes” because he thinks they are all not true, then he should have the decency and boldness to tell Ghanaians just that and apologise for lying his way to the castle. Ghana and the people of Dagbon need the truth and not a patronising President who operates with two sets of rules: one rule for “tape” about himself and another rule for “tapes” about everything else in the country. In the meantime, as the denouement unfolds, Ghana awaits the actual judgement day, come December 7th 2012.

Kofi Kyei-Mensah-Osei