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Opinions of Monday, 2 May 2016

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Was Dzifa Attivor’s racist rallying call Gbeshie-inspired?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK April 29, 2016

This week two prominent Ghanaian women (a politician and a public servant) have been in the news for wrong reasons. I am referring to the racist utterance by the former Transport Minister, Dzifa Attivor and the dismissive and arrogant posture of Mrs Charlotte Osei on the new Electoral Commission’s logo. This article is a contribution to the debate on the racist statement by Dzifa Attivor.

Dzifa Attivor called on the people of Volta Region to vote NDC in the November general elections because if they don’t, she will go jail (see, “If you don’t for NDC I will go to jail – Dzifa Attivor”, Ghanaweb, April 26, 2016). According to her, if NPP forms the next government, she will be jailed because she is Ewe and tried to justify her racist view with some historical figures that NPP under Kufuor jailed some Ewe politicians. What a tragedy of deception and selective delusion?

No doubt, the report on Ghanaweb received one of the highest negative comments from readers (over 500). Her call is not only racist but also divisive, dangerous, a threat to peace and security of Ghana and should be condemned by all Ghanaians. It is sad though not surprising that some leading members of NDC including the General Secretary have supported such racist and divisive call to action. The politics of divide and rule of “we and “them” is the beginning of a sloppy slip into ethnocentrism and ethnic conflict.

What is also shocking is the deafening silence of President Mahama, the father of the nation and leader of the NDC over Dzifa Attivor’s racist call. Silence is either contempt or acquiescence. As president and party leader, I do not expect President Mahama to comment on everything and anything said by leading members of his party. However, this is of such importance to national unity that one expected the president to have shown leadership and reprimanded Dzifa Attivor, asked or ordered her to apologise and withdraw the statement. Does the president not see anything wrong with what the former minister said?

What really is the motivating factor for Dzifa Attivor’s racist call? There is no secret that she is haunted by skeletons in her closet or the ghost in her immediate past. It is obvious why she resigned her ministerial post over the re-branding of transit buses contract. I respected for resigning but I no longer do. In fact, she was probably pushed and did not jump.

Dzifa Attivor knows very well that she breached the Public Procurement Act, 2002 (Act 633) in the award of the contract. Moreover, she also inflated the contract price and in so doing, caused financial loss to the state. As a result, she is having bad dreams and sleepless nights over the risk of being prosecuted by a future NPP government and incarcerated because she has no defence. Her only defence and security is the continued rule of President Mahama and NDC for the next four years when hopefully the statute of limitation would have expired so she could avoid prosecution for her crimes.

Is this how the fights against corruption in Ghana has been reduced to? If so what is this noise by President Mahama that he is fighting corruption? Do Ghanaians have wait for change of government and party before corrupt politicians could be held accountable and is that not self-defeating? And if so, would that be politics of witch haunting as Dzifa Attivor sought to portray?

This is clearly evidence of systemic failure in the fight against corruption in Ghana. There is ample evidence to conclude that under President Mahama, corrupt politicians, public servants and non-politicians have not been held accountable for purely political expediency. All those involved in the Woyomegate, SAADA, GYEEDA, World Cup, Buses re-branding and others who should have been prosecuted for breaching the Public Procurement Act 2003 and causing financial loss to the state have got away with murder because of either their close association with NDC or prosecution would have exposed government complicity or embarrass the NDC.

Corruption will continue to thrive if the fight against political corruption is only activated on change of government and party. Ghana needs governments that are not only capable of prosecuting corrupt officials but also its own appointees, party members, supporters and sympathizers without fear or favour and without regards to ethnicity, social, political religious affiliation; age, sex, nationality or any other factor because such people are not above the law. This will require the appointment of an independent prosecuting authority devoid of party politics.

Personally, I wished the Mahama government had the courage to have prosecuted Betty Mould Iddrisu, Batron Oduro, Samuel Neequaye-Tetteh and Paul Asimeni for their complicity in the Wayomegate; Clement Kofi Humado for GYEEDA, Dzifa Attivor for the Buses re-branding, etc. However, I know that would not happen as long as Mahama and the NDC are in power. Ghanaians should therefore urge any future NPP government to prosecute them. That would not be political witch haunting provided whilst in office the new government also prosecute its own members for similar corrupt acts. That is the only way the fight against corruption could see some measure of success. The current system of political patronage is tantamount to abdication of duty and the oath sworn by President Mahama.

Dzifa Attivor can make her racist rallying call for votes to protect her from future prosecution but she should bear in mind that whether six years or more, it would be in the public interest to prosecute her and her ilk for corruption by any future government even after the expiration of the statute of limitation. She can run but there will be no cover for her when NDC is no longer in power which would certainly come one day, no matter how long it takes.

The learned lawyer and former Attorney General, Ayikoi Otto when defending the former NPP General Scertary, Sir John at the Supreme Court for contempt of court said, “when politicians get to the platform mood, they momentarily forget themselves and personally as a politician, I have found myself on the platform singing, “Woyome! Woyome! Gargantuaaaaan wonkye di”. When asked by SC Justice Jones Dotse if he had sought any explanation from his client what might have entered him in the studio that day when he uttered those words, his response was “My Lord Mrs Akoto Bamfo understands this better when she was sitting as a trial judge. We always in pleading say something entered him as your Lordship rightfully said. ‘Gbesie’ some power for which we don’t have any control over. We call it ‘gbesie’, because my Lords what other explanation do you have. When those things enter you and you begin to fly away, you even sometimes forget you are a lawyer (see, “Bad spirits caused Sir John to commit contempt – Ayikoi Otoo” Ghanaweb, August 14, 2013).

Initially, when I saw the headline news, I assumed she was also under gbeshie but after reading the report, I realised it was a deliberate calculation to play the racist or ethnic card for her self-seeking interest. This has nothing to do with Ewes or NPP but everything to do with her corrupt acts and I hope that the people of Volta Region will see beyond ethnicity and disregard her divisive and racist call. If she cannot serve the term she should not have committed the crime in the first place. Such racist and divisive politics should have no room in the body politics of contemporary Ghana. Dzifa Attivor is a disgrace to Ghanaian women because women in general are unifiers and nation builders as Dr Aggrey said, “if you educate a man, you educate an individual but if you educate a woman, you educate a community”. Instead, Dzifa Attivor sought to divide and destroy Ghana with her racist politics. Shame unto her supporters and sympathisers in the NDC, including President Mahama over his silence on such a matter of national importance.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK