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Opinions of Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Columnist: Enimil Ashon

What did Haruna tell the President?

Haruna Iddrisu, Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu, Minority Leader

Would the President grant audience to the Minority Leader without the presence of his minister of parliamentary affairs? So, was Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu at this week’s meeting between Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Mr Haruna Iddrisu, the Minority Leader in Parliament.

If he was, should we believe the frog when he emerges from the pond to announce that the crocodile is dead? Should we believe the Majority Leader when he reported that the Minority Leader went and begged the President for his intervention in the “Double Salary” saga?

Would a Minority Leader as articulate, fearless and bold as Haruna Iddrisu need to “take his matter” (as the Akans would put it) to the President? Why didn’t he try the time-honoured parliamentary procedure of an exclusive, in-camera eyeball-to-eyeball reasoning between the leadership, brokered by Mr Speaker?

At any rate, why would a Minority Leader “see” the President over an issue which is before the police? Does he smell or fear danger to the reputations of the MPs involved?

Until Haruna’s move, and until the Majority Leader’s revelation that some MPs gave out double bank accounts and double bank names to the Accountant General, I was one of those Ghanaians who had dismissed the case by the police CID as much ado about nothing. Indeed, I was going to plead with our constitutionally mandated state investigative bodies against the practice of wolf crying because the day of the wolf could be the day nobody believes their cry.

At any rate, how did we all arrive at this junction?

What is so special about Article 71 officeholders that it has to take the setting up of special Presidential committees to determine MPs’ emoluments? Apart from the fact that they make laws, what is so special about the work of MPs? O, I know that they make laws but why should that be more important than that of a doctor or a nurse who must bring a dying patient back to life or an engineer whose chemistry or civil engineering calculations ensure that everybody gets good water?

I submit that it doesn’t make sense that MPs and Ministers of State should wait four years to know what their salaries are. Have we run out of salary administrators in this country? Couldn’t a pre-determined system of salary adjustment that predicts possible inflationary hikes solve this problem – if, indeed, it is a problem? And we have been doing this for 26 years!

Word is that some of the accused honourables took salaries as MPs and as ministers. Is it probable that the MP-Ministers signed for and received two salaries without knowing - even if, as had been explained, the Parliamentary Service pays the MPs and the Accountant General pays ministers and their deputies?

Did it have to take us 26 years to anticipate that the system was subject to abuse? Or we thought MPs were angels – angels, some of whom dabble in visa fraud and cocaine export?

As a country, since the birth of the Fourth Republic, we have specialised in chaos. If gold rusts, what will iron do? Any wonder that our streets, lorry parks and our markets are so chaotic!

Limiting myself to life in Ghana since January 2017, it was first the Boakye Agyarko alleged bribery case. Then came the Ken Ofori-Atta matter over the bond issue. The BOST contaminated fuel brouhaha followed; itself followed by Cash for Seats circus.... and now Double Salary for MP-Ministers. We are like the man in Akan proverbs who is in so much haste to broadcast the latest scandal about his enemy that he forgets to pick up his cloth, the disgrace of his own nakedness notwithstanding.

We have become used to living in the midst of alarms; otherwise, why could this case not have been handled between the police CID, the Accountant General and the Parliamentary Service Board? Information to the media is key but need the police CID boss have opened her mouth at the time she did? Isn’t it an indictment on the efficiency of this institution that initially, 25 NDC MPs were said to have been invited by the CID, but the invitation to 18 of them was stayed – in a matter of a few days?

Methinks the CID acted in indecent haste in going to press. My fear is for the credibility of state investigation bodies. We should avoid a future where the word of the CID or EOCO or CHRAJ does not put the fear of God in the citizenry.

In all of the confusion and trepidation, it was the reaction of Mr Alban Bagbin that surprised me. Furious that he had been cited among the initial 25 invited by the police, he turned his suspicion on some members of his own party whom he accused of leaking the names of the affected NDC MPs to the CID.

On his twitter handle on Wednesday, April 11 after the minority’s press conference, Mr Bagbin alleged that some selfish individuals wanting to lead the party might have leaked the names to the CID. His tweet reads:

“If anybody thinks that leaking our names to the police CID thwarts our chances and advances their selfish claim to leadership in our party, then my brother, think again because when we go down, we go down together. A word to the wise....”

Perhaps, he knows what he knows.­