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Opinions of Monday, 8 August 2005

Columnist: Adofo, Rockson

Why Are Ghanaians Mystified By "Hotel Kufuor?"

"For lack of knowledge, my people perish". It is quite true that when a long rope falls into an "unwitty" hand, it does not take long for a noose to be made to hang up himself. This is exactly how the newfound democratic way of governance in Ghana is being pursued, distorted, to suit the shrouded egoistic and cunning agendas of some warped minds, to the detriment of many. It is sad that illiteracy which is often sarcastically said to be a disease has been allowed to eat into the very tissue fabric of the brains of many, to rather do us more harm than good.
In any sane democratic society, an alleged perpetrator of a crime is held innocent until proven guilty. But what is being experienced now in Ghana regarding the purchase of a hotel by one Chief Kufuor, the son of the sitting President, His Excellency J.A. Kufuor? From all indications, the hues and cries, the President himself, but not his son, is guilty of some malfeasance about the purchase and ownership of the said hotel, many people call it various names to trigger giggles in them, laying bare their very ignorance in the very principle of rule of law they purport to cherish. Offer the Blackman a square inch of freedom and he would take a square mile, so goes the teasing adage that flies directly in our face.
I have never lent, and shall never lend my weight to any corrupt individuals or corrupt and non performing politicians, but let us be realistic for a moment, and consider analytically, the following argument to be better placed to apportion blames and or exonerations.
To start with, I am citing a parable from the Holy Bible to buttress my contention. It is told, once a father woke up early in the morning to ask his elder son to go and work on his farm. The son said to the father, "I will not go". The father went to his younger son and requested of him same service. The younger said, "I will go". According to the parable, the elder son rescinded his decision, and then went to work on the farm. The younger son though promised to go, never went. Who then did the wish of the father? You the reader is of age to tell the correct answer.
Analogically, assuming that the President did actually request the services of the Iraqi-American, Ms Giselle Yajzi, to negotiate a better deal for him in the purchase of the hotel but finally declined to buy it, or better still, asked her to help his son buy it, what is his sin committed here as being drummed worldwide? So far, from the Prudential Bank and others, the little truth trickling out according to the media frenzy, and those with interest in politicising trivial issues just to catapult themselves into the limelight for cheap political scores, it is rather the son of the President that has bought the hotel. Why then is the father being incessantly linked up with the ownership of the hotel? The lady can possess all documents relating to the initial request by the President to buy the hotel, unless it is stated or recorded among them somewhere that the President had said for some reasons repugnant to his office protocol, he would buy it in the name of his son to conceal some sort of impropriety, no crime is whatsoever committed. If any, what sort of crime is it? The original owner of the hotel has said he sold the hotel to Chief Kufuor but not President Kufuor, and not under any official coercion but out of his own volition as a business man maximising profit on the sale of his property to the highest bidder. Why then these political stupidity and wrangling about the sale of the hotel, trying to pull the brakes on the wheels of the government vehicle to a halt?
It baffles the feeble minds that Chief Kufuor without enough money could buy this magnificent hotel at the quoted price running into millions of American dollars. To me and what I know from my interactions with certain successful people in life, he can even buy a second hotel of same size and magnificence. Be it known to you that it takes ideas and smartness for one to be successful or to become rich, but not hard work as I am sadly identified with. This does not require one to steal or resort to illegal means as is always fond of Ghanaians and black politicians. Chief Kufuor has just been smart, legally sought loans from banks, awarding them shares as partners in his venture. What then is our problem? Has anyone complained of their missing money of which Chief Kufuor or his father is the prime suspect or liable for? Has there been any embezzlement of State funds by the Kuffour family so that I can personally lambaste them? If no one can say yes, but just simply speculate, then I beg to opt out of this folly that has come to engulf Ghana on the instigations of some political morons who would not the sleeping dogs lie.
To expound on the point just made, we had an American work colleague who before joining our company, had proceeded to the UK on a non paying voluntary work mission for a year. After the completion of his one year voluntary service, and was planning to head home, he was secured a paying job as a dish washer in a restaurant by a Nigerian suggesting to him to enter into the Estate property business, where he was likely to make more money without any capital investment of his own, than to go back to the US. Barely had they teamed up when they secured a bank loan to purchase a house, converted it into a hostel-like sort of accommodation to house South African workers, who sleep in fours and fives in a single room each paying ?50 a week with charges inclusive. In less than a year, they had secured enough loans to buy three houses on buy to let basis. The long and short of this success story is that, when this American guy joined our better company for less than a year, he was able to purchase two more houses. He once arranged for a loan over the phone to his bankers in my presence to buy a four bedroom house he had found and within three days he returned to tell me that it had gone through.
He told me, "Rockson, I should rather be doing my own job laughing at people working for others than to see me working for others. I have to become a millionaire concentrating on my Estate property business" Within two months of this utterance, he left the job. As at writing, I can't just figure out how many properties he has with his colleague but your guess may be as right as mine. Before he left, I asked him how he could secure all those loans and he said,"Rockson, I must be honest with you, the banks are looking for people to give them loans. It suffices to approach them". I cannot dispute the truth in what he said as in the UK, the banks almost always pester their clients with loan offers of which I bear witness myself.
I have gone this length to narrate a personal encounter to prove wrong those who jump into hasty conclusions saying if the Kufuors had that money, the President would not have travelled the length and breadth of the world soliciting funds when campaigning to wrestle power from the NDC. They had not that money and they still have not. It is a bank loan that Chief Kufuor has secured even in partnership though; he might be the largest share holder. Having raised that sum in partnership loans to buy the hotel neither makes him rich in a short space of four years that his father is President hence raising eyebrows of embezzlement nor a criminal. If any impropriety is committed, then the consortium of banks or stakeholders that came up with the money must be held responsible and then dealt with.
It is not my style to justify crime by citing another crime. To me, there is no lesser crime. Much as a chain is as strong as its weakest link, every crime is equally a crime irrespective of their magnitude. I will never defend the President and his family if they are found to have committed a crime but until now in this hotel saga, I have not seen any yet. There is a nice and popular Akan saying, "The true length of the toad will be seen on its death", literally translated as, whatever is hidden will be revealed in due course with the passage of time. As long as the hotel is in Ghana but not in any foreign land, if it happens to be illegally acquired, it can easily be confiscated once the President leaves power and the NPP loses their majority. What then is our problem?
Unlike those who embezzle public funds, hide them in foreign banks to profit the recipient countries economies, part of which money is later lent to African countries at exorbitant interest rates saddling our economies with poverty that of Chief Kufuor is invested in Ghana. I am not by this purporting to encourage theft in the country. It is just for argument sake to draw a line between crimes though, all of which are crimes as already stated.
I do not love inferring from our past evils to justify present acts of evils. But since I am yet to see evil committed if any, in this hotel issue, I should like to remind the entire world that one Air Marshall Yaw Boakye was killed by Rawlings' AFRC regime for having genuinely taken a Bank loan of fifty thousand Cedis which he was paying up, in 1979.However, Rawlings who hated rich people or industrious people for its sake, accused the Air Marshall for abusing his position in the acquisition of the loan. What nonsense that is? Rawlings' mother took a hefty loan, used it to buy fishing outboard motors, engaged in immense fishing industry. When Rawlings was questioned as having used his position to secure his mother that loan, tantamount to abuse of power, his response was, "he never authorised any bank to offer her that loan. The bank might have done so seeing her as the mother of the Head of State". This could be true. If so, the bank or banks have themselves to blame and be held accountable but not the recipient of the loan.
Finally, the NDC's nonsensical avowed attitude to pay back the NPP in their own coin by taking to the streets and politicising any least thing that can help bring the party and the government down should be seen as at work in this hotel saga. Kwamena Ato Ahowi, one of the NDC gurus and the confidant of Rawlings made this clear a few days ago. Is he not the same man who took loans totalling billions of Cedis but never intended to pay up and is now being dragged to Court by the donors?
I do not support corruption in all its forms and manifestations so if the Kufuors have fallen prey to this societal ailment, they should be dealt with. But so far from all that has been gathered from rumours and the media as against my personal convictions and sound argument as told above, except things are done differently in Ghana, I cannot see any crime committed meriting the nonsense on the lips of the devil incarnates. Let them therefore find some better things to occupy their miserable lives than to spearhead and propagate "pull him down" syndrome as being envisaged in the country now.

Rockson (London)

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