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Opinions of Friday, 16 February 2018

Columnist: Graphic.com.gh

We are being manipulated: From SONA to Amidu

In spite of everything that has transpired during the week, I must begin this column today with an obituary.

I am bereaved. Akenten Appiah-Menkah of Apino Soap is reported dead. I have known him since 1980 when I was a student at Legon. He was a lawyer, politician and industrialist who belonged to either the second or third generation of Ghanaian movers and shakers of industry. He considered us his younger brothers because it was my father who had baptised him as a Methodist in the 1940s in Aboabogya village, now a suburb of Kumasi. This was a significant milestone in his life as it enabled the family to abandon the shackles of idolatrous tradition, get Western education, and become the person he became in adult life.

For the general historian of his strand in our politics, it is only necessary to record that he was a strong supporter of the unsuccessful Victor Owusu-attempt to be President of this country in 1979 with his Popular Front Party in the Third Republic. He shifted to supporting Professor Albert Adu Boahen in 1992 in the current Fourth Republic, and naturally drifted to supporting our current President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in his successful quest to be the leader of this country. President Akufo-Addo supported Professor Adu-Boahen in 1992. He had been a Member of Parliament in the Second Republic and a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, and the Deputy Attorney- General in the Busia government in 1969. Apino, rest in peace.

It is very possible that by the time you get around to reading this, Mr Martin Amidu would have been sworn in as this country’s first Special Prosecutor by the President. He duly appeared before Parliament for a rigorous vetting last Tuesday and said enough to convince me that the fight against corruption is a phony, quixotic and capricious fight, tilting at the windmills of perception and harming reputations for the sake of power.

Mr Amidu is clearly a product of our revolutionary past, and talks as if the law is a convenient tool for a certain discredited view of national development. It is surprising the champions of the rule of law find in him the perfect tool for doing the sorts of things which they would have opposed with all their political and intellectual might at another time. What has changed?

Woyome

Anybody who has read me faithfully over the years will know that not once have I considered the actions or inactions of Alfred Woyome commendable, yet he has never been convicted or imprisoned for any offence in our criminal code by our courts which have heard the facts surrounding his judgement debt matter. Not even Mr Amidu sought Woyome’s incarceration. Is it all perception?

What happened at the vetting reminded me forcefully of the hilarious account of the zealous member of the Communist Party cell meetings attended by the noted African-American author, Richard Wright, and which he wrote about as his contribution to Richard Crossman’s The God that Failed, published in 1949. I will urge my readers to google and read it. President Akufo-Addo has grabbed enthusiastically with both hands the nettle called Martin Amidu in the name of the fight against corruption. What intrigues me is that investigating, prosecuting, convicting and jailing politicians you don’t like for corruption has no political dividend in this country. Being zealous about anything is not the same as being effective and engaged about it.

Dishonesty and hypocrisy

Ghanaians now believe implicitly that holding a political office in itself is a corrupt act. Certainly, I am not convinced that corruption is the biggest problem in this country. That honour belongs to dishonesty and hypocrisy and they were in evidence in spades at the vetting. Why distance oneself from articles whose existence are the enduring source of one’s reputation? I don’t understand this strategy. Or liberally damn (NDC) party elders Professor Kofi Awoonor, Alhaji Iddrisu Mahama, Captain Kojo Tsikata and Dr Obed Asamoah, then turn around to claim that with Northerners, elders are always right?

An excellent example of why the fight against corruption is a phony and capricious fight is what happened hours after President Akufo-Addo had given his State of the Nation address to Parliament last week Thursday. Ebony-Reigns, a young cheerful and fast-rising music star, was killed in an accident on the Sunyani-Kumasi highway, caused by a heap of sand by the side of the uncompleted road. Hours earlier, our President was happily telling Parliament about suspended and cancelled road contracts because of the necessity to investigate any corruption-related allegations surrounding such contracts. This is the classic definition of cutting one’s nose to spite the face.

Manipultion of news

The manipulation of news for crass political advantage had begun earlier last week with the return of Vice- President Mahamudu Bawumia from ‘medical leave’ in Britain, according to official, formal and government sources. What does ‘medical leave’ mean? Of course, I agree that the whole circus was provoked by the handling of the sickness of the late President Mills, but that is precisely the reason that critics of his handling should perform better when they get the chance. We vote for change to better our circumstances, not to worsen them. We are thankful that our Vice-President survived this needless scaremongering initiated, orchestrated and manipulated by his handlers.

Now some are busy preaching ad nauseam in our ears that opposing the appointment of Martin Amidu and related matters is because the opponents fear exposure, and prosecution for corrupt acts. This is ridiculous. It is the fear of misgovernment by a particular party or group which provides the impetus for necessary electoral change. Fear therefore is a form of enlightened patriotism. But fear has another positive aspect to recommend it for our respect. Tsatsu Tsikata was arrested, charged, prosecuted, convicted and jailed, then pardoned by the government which initiated the whole cruel charade. All this was done in a blaze of publicity for the government of President John Agyekum Kufuor, as part of its phony fight against corruption. Years later, he was completely discharged and acquitted by our courts. If it was the fear of unjustified jail sentences which actuated his fight to clear his name and gain his freedom, then fear itself may be a positive part of the fight for justice in this republic.