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Opinions of Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Columnist: Damptey, Daniel Danquah

Where are the arsonists, Muritalla Mohammed?

In the early eighties, during the Triumvirate of Generals Muhamadu Buhari, Tunde Idiagbon and Sanni Abacha, a decree was enacted making it a serious crime punishable by death if anybody was arrested for trafficking in drugs. The Decree took retrospective effect.
Three Nigerian youth became sacrificial lambs as a result of that draconian drug. They were executed for an offence which was not a crime at the time it was committed. Not long after their execution, one lady Gloria Okon was arrested for attempting to smuggle drugs outside the country. She was sentenced to death by a tribunal set up for that purpose. A few weeks after her sentencing, the entire country woke up to hear the chilling news that Miss Gloria Okon had died in prison.
The story had it that a renowned journalist, Dele Giwa had encountered the “dead” and “resurrected” Gloria Okon in London, where she granted a lengthy interview to the ace journalist, Dele Giwa. The interview was put on tape. On his return to Nigeria, he went to the then Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, the evil genius with a duplicate of the tape. Rumours had it that it was IBB who, while he was Chief of Army Staff, made Gloria Okon his “official” courier.
When Gloria was incarcerated, Babaginda’s wife, Maryam connived with officialdom to smuggle the former out of custody to the UK. There was an official declaration that Gloria Okon had died in prison. With the tape as his trump card, Dele Giwa attempted to blackmail Babangida who had then become Head of State. Initially, IBB played along and paid the money. But a blackmailer doesn’t know when to quit and so tapes after tapes went to the late Military Head of State, until he decided that enough was enough. But the only way he could do so was to bomb the blackmailer out of existence. The Security did the job and the blackmail stopped.
I have gone this length to narrate how the powers that be in Nigeria were able to hoodwink the Nigerian public into believing that the imprisoned Gloria Okon had died in prison, whereas the true story was that the lady had been smuggled out of the country. This is similar to Muritalla Mohamed assertion that some arsonists had been arrested while planning to go and burn some markets.
Again, I have gone this length to enlighten the reading public about the antics of President John Mahama and his acolytes in connection with the recent burning of markets, buildings and other public places.
The President described the occurrences as arson. By doing so, the President jumped the gun. Why did he not allow the relevant security agencies to complete their investigations before coming out with his personal opinion which he would wants to portray as the official statement on the issue?
I will agree with the President on only one aspect. If he says it was deliberate, I will say, “Yes”, that of Kantamanto Market could be classified as such. Every available information points to the fact that the burning of the market had the connivance of some security operatives and officials of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly.
Please, do not get me wrong. Be patient and listen to me. Other markets had been engulfed by fire, prior to that of Kantamanto. But the operatives did not move in as swiftly as they did at Kantamanto. A day or two after the incident, the authorities moved in the bulldozers and other implements to demolish every standing structure at the market. Why?
Why did they not do that to markets at Mallam Atta, Kaneshie, Agbogbloshie, the Residence of the Rawlingses, Passport Office, Foreign Affairs Ministry, and the Makola Market, the first time and that of last week? Why Kantamanto? If they want to conduct any investigation, from where do they begin?
Against the background of the fact that owners of stalls at Kantamanto Market had alleged that on the evening of the fire outbreak, a helicopter had flown very low over the market and that they believed the helicopter was used to spray some inflammable substance on the market to make it easier for the fire to run its full course.
Again, there were rumours to the effect that months before the market got burnt, some people had threatened to burn down the market. How far have the relevant agencies gone about to ascertain the truth in such rumours?
When markets get burnt, the authorities give respite to owners of stalls who have lost their wares. But in the case of Kantamanto Market, the Security Agencies prevented the owners from salvaging their wares from the ruins. Why? But immediately, the market got burnt, a fatwa was issued to the owners including the Traders Association to desist from rebuilding their stalls. Why did it have to happen to Kantamanto Market only?
All these go a long way to give credence to the fact that officialdom was involved in the burning down of the market. And for President Mahama to come to the conclusion that the market was deliberately burnt down to make his administration unpopular without conducting any investigation makes one suspect that the public and emphatic declaration by the President was to shift attention from the hardships Ghanaians were facing by painting members of the opposition party black. This would have afforded the security agencies the opportunity they have been looking for to arrest some of its members. But that plan was aborted midstream because the administration realized Ghanaians would not fall for that bait.
I would digress a little to give you an insight of the point I am advancing here. Let us turn our attention to Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria. This incident happened in the 2000. I cannot recollect the exact year, but it happened in either 2004 or early 2005. I am talking about the bomb scare in Lagos. It started at about 12.30pm one Sunday, after Church Service. Initially, we heard a loud booming noise intermittently at about 30 minute’s interval. By three o’clock it had reached a crescendo. This time, the noise was followed by a bolt of lightning on the sky. It was so frightening that most residents escaped from their residence to seek refuge somewhere. But where to?
I left my residence at Oshodi and run through Isolo to Mushin and finally to Ojuolegba. But the most dangerous aspect of the whole show was that we did not know what we were running away from and where we were to take refuge, but there was every compelling reason to leave one’s abode to any other place but home. When the incident occurred, NEPA did not know what was happening and so plunged most parts of the city into total darkness. And that was how a whole bunch of fleeing “refugees” (numbering over 200) perished in a canal at Ejigbo.
It was when I reached Ojuolegba after 6.30pm that the Military High Command came to announce that some bombs had been detonated from where it was being kept at Ikeja Cantonments, but who detonated those bombs we were not told.
The truth of the matter was that some High ranking Military Officers at it logistic office were gaven the task of purchasing some bombs for the use of its ECOMOG contingent in Sierra Leone and Liberia during the civil wars in both country. The greed in them did not make them purchase the required number of bombs. They bought some and pocketed the rest of the money. Now the day of accountability came and the audit team was about to swoop on them. What other way could they avert detection than to detonate some of the bombs so that it would be impossible to find out the actual number of bombs which had “gone off” on its own. So those corrupt and self seeking officers had to put the entire city of Lagos into flight! Frankly, I did not close my doors before I joined the rest in flight. If you were in my shoes, you would have done just that. I wasn’t the only person to have done that. The loud booming sound and the lightning which accompanied it was enough to put the fear of death into even hardened armed robbers. We went back to our homes the next day with everything intact.
Lest I forget, one of the most frightening aspects of the whole thing was that, the more you ran, the nearer the thunder and lightning got closer. And so you continued to run and run.
Would you believe that in Nigeria during its ECOMOG operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone, these same greedy military officers bought helmets which were used by Okada riders for its troops instead of military helmets? And that was why the casualty rate amongst the Nigerian soldiers was very high when compared with other ECOMOG countries. You see how wicked, selfish, Godless the human race could degenerate into when the issue of money is involved.
I hope you now see the point I am trying to make here. Like the Nigerian case, could it be that NADMO, Government Agency responsible for donating relief materials to affected victims had like the Nigerian Military Officials got its fingers enmeshed in some illegal deals and would like to use the burnt markets to cover its trail. I am not saying that is exactly what has been happening, but we cannot rule out that possibility. The burnt Kantamanto Market had every ingredient of official connivance in the whole episode.
Isn’t it time a public probe was ordered into the activities of Kofi Portuphy’s NADMO to find out if it had really lived up to the tenets for which it was established?
Now, let us go back to Mr. President’s unpresidential statement. His acolyte, Muritalla Mohamed took a cue and announced with all glee that some arsonists had been arrested for attempting to burn down some markets.
Muritalla claims to be a devout Muslim. Can he in all sincerity stand before the judgment throne of Allah to repeat that statement against his unseen enemies? It is more than six months since that statement was made. Can the President and his “image destroyer” Muritalla Mohammed be sincere enough to answer these posers? How did those “arsonists” gain access to markets which were also put under lock and key? Is there no security presence in those markets?
But I am not surprised at all. If “thieves” can carry out their nefarious activities by stealing some babies from Okomfo Anokye Hospital in Kumasi, then anything can happen in any of our public places or institutions.
Now to the most hollow argument. Proponents of the arson theory like President Mahama, Accra Mayor, Okoe Vanderpuye, Muritalla Mohamed and Felix Ofosu Kwakye are suggesting that the burning follow certain sequence. According to them, the “burning” always started between the hours of 2 and 3 am. But the recent burning of Makola Market did not follow that trend. Again, if they knew that that was the modus operandi of the so called “arsonists” what security precautions did they put in place to nip such crimes in the bud? And if in spite of all their paa paa, they have done nothing to ensure that no further arson took place, do Ghanaians feel safe in the country of their birth? Doesn’t this speak a lot about security lapses on the part of President Mahama and his government?
The Mahama Government “imported” some experts from the United States to help in their investigations into the rampant spate of fire outbreaks in many public places. We are yet to hear about the report of their investigations. Does their report tally with that of Mr. President and his acolytes? Ghanaians deserve to know. And did Mr. President not cause financial loss to the State with his “importation” of the so-called experts whose final report is yet to be made public?
What makes matters worse is the fact that in spite of their “know it all” mentality, the spate of fire outbreak has not stopped. Less than a week after the Kantamanto fire outbreak, another one razed down the Agege Market behind the CMB Building! And a few days ago, another fire engulfed the Makola Market. If in spite of the entire government machinery’s insults, threat, and intimidation, they could not nip the burning down of state properties in the bud, then they should bow down their heads in shame. They don’t deserve to remain in office a day longer.
Again, I ask Muritalla Mohammed, “where are the arsonists”?
The answer is not farfetched. These were events which were prophesized many months ago. Odiyifo Tawia did, Reverend Owusu Bempah and many others made similar revelations, but like the Pharaohs of Egypt and their people, the Mahama’s Government never gave it any serious thought. The Government rather vilified them. The result is what we are reaping today.
Do not forget that about three decades ago, fire engulfed most of our forests and farmland. Till date, nobody could state exactly what caused those fires. But for the President to ascribe them to arson is tantamount to hitting the ordinary Ghanaian below the belt.
The only conclusion that can be drawn from this catastrophe is that our Security Apparatus has failed, the Cabinet has failed, the Government has failed and our tumbling and wobbling President has failed.
This is the people’s verdict. God has endorsed it. But Muritalla Mohammed should tell Ghanaians where those arsonists are and why they have not been prosecuted.
Daniel Danquah Damptey ( 0243715297.