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Opinions of Thursday, 19 June 2008

Columnist: Dery, Francis

RE: Ambrose Dery Holds The Key To Unlocking The North For The NPP

It started as a cacophonous din of charlatans masquerading as the “Youth”; then morphed into “Friends of Ambrose Dery”, span as the “Upper-West NPP Youth”. The current attempt of June 11, 2008, captioned “Ambrose Dery Holds the Key to Unlocking the North for the NPP”, by a Mr. Hippolyt A. S. Pul, is yet one unpersuasive attempt at elevating Mr. Dery’s stature to that of the lone qualified candidate for Vice President of the Republic of Ghana on the NPP presidential ticket, as if the that puerile whine has swelled into a significant chorus of discerning voices. My guess is this – there is One Puppet Master and a handful of pliable and pliant puppets, deployed to create the illusion of multitudes; perhaps there is even just a lone puppet, one akin to a certain “Alan Green” who, since Mr. Pul’s faux pas of an article, has posted 21 comments (about 25.61% of total comments posted), in a vain attempt to shift the debate in favour of Mr. Dery’s record. Clearly, either “Alan Green” does not have a job or he truly, indeed is blindly devoted to Mr. Dery and he is about the only one as devoted as that – well, except Mr. Pul. Even in a politically pluralistic and ethnically diverse Ghana, the name “Alan Green” is questionable, for the bearer’s slanted depth of knowledge about the North in general and about Mr. Dery in particular. Paradoxically, as Mr. Pul’s article is inherently biased because of his close association with Mr. Dery, Mr. “Alan Green’s” comments lack credibility due to the apparent remoteness of his identity; “Alan Green” is also a miserable choice for a pseudonym, if it was so intended.

In a sense therefore, credibility is a central part of the critique of Mr. Pul’s assertions about Mr. Dery’s record. My interest in this particular matter therefore is threefold: (1) Whether indeed, in politics or in anything else, a prior record of performance is irrelevant; (2) Whether Mr. Ambrose Dery is indeed a viable candidate for Nana Akuffo Addo’s running-mate; and (3) Whether Mr. Ambrose Dery, according to Mr. Pul, indeed holds the key that unlocks the North for the NPP. The sum focus of this effort then is to challenge the premise on which Mr. Pul wrote his article.

I. IS PRIOR RECORD OF PERFORMANCE RELEVANT? Anyone who has ever embarked on a simple job search knows that some prior record of performance is important, captured in a document known as Curriculum Vitae (or a Résumé). Technically, this document highlights a candidate’s basic qualifications and record of prior performance in similar or other relevant capacity. This allows decision-makers to include a merit-based evaluative process in concluding whether or not the candidate is suitable for and capable of the job sought. The notion of prior record is not exclusive to the educated alone. A Dagara adage captures this notion succinctly thus: “the stranger’s face determines the quality of soup prepared”. Similar traditional admonitions exist across Ghana’s many ethnicities, and indeed around the world. In proper context, we have history and statistics to guide us and help us make a reasonable judgment of what to expect, based on what has been. The suggestion therefore by Mr. Pul that “…in the game of politics, prior record of winning elections is irrelevant…” is counter-intuitive and contradictory to the very fundamentals of life – learning from past lessons. Indeed, the first two paragraphs of Mr. Pul’s own article infer a reliance of some prior record. For example, the fact that none of the candidates is an incumbent, the first election in which both leading parties have equal scores of tenure, the notion of a viable third force, the debate on regional balance, the perception that the NPP is a decidedly southern party and finally the improvement in the NPP’s own performace in the 2004 elections over the 2000 one, by 20 percentage points. All of these statements issue from specific prior records of performance which allow Mr. Pul to capture and highlight them as key themes in his article and yet he argues they are irrelevant? What nonsensical effusion!!!

In Mr. Pul’s view, Mr. Dery does not have to demonstrate in any way, shape or form of his ability to fill and function in the high office of Vice President of Ghana; we simply have to take Mr. Hippolyt Pul’s word for it, without critically examining his past record of success or failure? Give me a break! Comments on the article on www.ghanaweb.com attest to the fact that Mr. Dery is virtually an unknown entity country-wide, which is the more reason why we must examine Mr. Pul’s assertions for evidence of overstatement, obfuscation and/or conflation. Further, I must point out that nowhere is there evidence that voters actually vote for a party because of the running-mate. Essentially, voters vote for the candidate. The NPP came to this conclusion after the last election, realizing that the results would not have been materially different with or without Aliu Mahama – a view which was made known and partly explains the shabby treatment given to Aliu Mahama in recent times. In 1992 and 1996 Jerry Rawlings would still have won the elections with or without Vice Presidents Arkaah and Atta-Mills respectively, so-called “stolen verdict” notwithstanding; neither of these two was from the North. The notion therefore that selection of a running-mate from a region other than the candidate’s region creates some form of regional stake other than the existing national one is a figment of imagination.

II. IS MR. DERY A VIABLE AND CREDIBLE CANDIDATE FOR VICE PRESIDENT? There are even more pressing reasons to examine Mr. Pul’s assertions and conflations much more closely. First, the coronation of Mr. Dery by Mr. Pul as the heir apparent to Chiefs S.D. Dombo and Abeyifaa Karbo, and Jato Kaleo, erstwhile political stalwarts of the UP-NPP tradition in the North, is patently fraudulent and quixotic. The records do show that Mr. Dery was originally a PNC man, retroactively therefore of the PNP-CPP tradition. These two (NPP and PNC) are fundamentally politically opposed traditions. In other words, die-hards of the two traditions seldom defect to the other; if they do, they are ultimately perceived to be political prostitutes. This is the context in which Mr. Dery’s viability and credibility as an NPP candidate for Vice President must be viewed. Is he being selfishly opportunistic or is he a committed NPP man? Simply, Mr. Dery’s pedigree makes his commitment to the NPP highly suspect. Politics is about public service, which means that the interests of the nation are supreme to any parochial individual ambitions. Clearly, Mr. Dery is unqualified both as a party and national patriot for the position of Vice President. As a member of the NPP I find it presumptuous of both Dery and Pul, and indeed, an insult to our party leadership, that this “Johnny-just-come” is attempting a queue-jumping stunt ahead of seasoned and more qualified party stalwarts.

Second, the selection of a running-mate is perhaps the most important decision a presidential candidate will ever make because, if elected, the running-mate who becomes the Vice President must be ready to step into the shoes of the President when necessary. In fact, Article 60(6) of the Constitution of Ghana (1992) specifically provides that in the event of a force majeure, such as the death, resignation or removal from office of the President, the Vice President shall immediately assume office as President for the remainder of the President’s term. Mr. Pul’s putsch must therefore be viewed in a broader context of the presidency itself. If so, does Mr. Dery have the party and national credentials to potentially act as President of the Republic of Ghana? As already demonstrated above, his commitment party-wise is suspect. To be perfectly clear, like any Ghanaian, satisfying the basic requirements of the Constitution, Mr. Dery has a right to ASPIRE to that office. However, we the PEOPLE equally have an obligation to question whether or not such an aspiration serves the best interests of the people and the country as a whole. To do this properly, we must critically examine among others, Mr. Dery’s prior record, as completely as time and space would allow; this response is by no means a comprehensive one. It is to part of that record I now turn:

1. ATTORNEY-AT-LAW: PRIVATE PRACTICE

Mr. Dery holds a degree in law. In proper professional practice however, he is a virtual neophyte, who rather than honing the professional and technical skills we have routinely extended to great lawyers, chose to specialize in another type of practice – the betrayal of the very clients he swore to defend in court. Mr. Dery has an excellent reputation for devising out-of-court-settlements, which leave his clients on the losing side or in jail. A recent case in point is Mallam Yussif Issah, the ex-Minister of Sports who earned the unique position as the first incumbent government casualty of the “causing-financial-loss-to-the-state” law who wound up in jail. Initially, Mallam Issah had retained his own lawyer but allegedly was impressed upon by Mr. Dery, who signaled government support of his actions, to engage a new lawyer. Even before Mallam Issah could consider the proposal, it was announced over the airwaves that Mallam Issah had fired his lawyer and was retaining Mr. Ambrose Dery in his place. From that point on, Mallam “Insha Allah” Issah’s fate was doomed. In another instance, Mr. Dery willfully misrepresenting himself not in his capacity as Regional Minister but as an honest broker of the chieftaincy dispute in Nandom, crafted a false MOU proclaiming the settlement of the dispute under some bogus gate system. In this latter scheme, Mr. Dery bestrode the principle of non-interference as a politician and government minister on the one-hand and a malicious, conniving, scheming, disruptive and divisive individual on the other, in an attempt to benefit from the best of both worlds. These are but a few examples of Mr. Dery’s practice of the law. Wondering whether he ever won a case in court on the merits of his legal arguments? Same here.

2. DEPUTY MINISTER OF JUSTICE AND ATTORNEY-GENERAL

Mr. Dery first served as Deputy Minister of Justice and Attorney-General when the NPP assumed office. It is also the period when Nana Akuffo-Addo ran affairs at the Ministry of Justice; the period is also famous for the confirmation of Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata’s mastery of the law, in particular, in his defeat of the Government’s case against him. That defeat rightly reflected not only the weakness of the Government’s case but also the competence or lack thereof of the Government’s lawyers, including Mr. Dery. Clearly, when it mattered most to represent the people of Ghana, through its Government, in a case against an individual, with all of the nation’s resources at their disposal, the Ministry of Justice, of which Mr. Dery was a prominent part, failed Ghanaians. How can such a man defend us and our country against our enemies, both domestic and foreign?

3. PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE – LAWRA-NANDOM CONSTITUENCY: 2004

Having failed in his first assignment as a government functionary, Mr. Dery equally failed to bring the lessons of that failure to bear on his next set of political actions. In contesting the 2004 parliamentary elections for the Lawra-Nandom constituency, Mr. Dery, again commanding national resources such as the Ghana Police, and by dint of his position, unleashed terror on the humble constituents of Lawra-Nandom, in a bid to coerce them into voting for him. For the re-education of Mr. Dery, the process of democratic government is executed through laws formulated by representatives of the people. These laws define our relationships, our rights and privileges and our responsibilities as citizens. These laws also guarantee to the people, several freedoms, not the least among which is the freedom of [political] association. The three arms of government (the legislature, judiciary and executive) have a collective obligation to protect these laws. As a deputy minister then who was as well interested in a place in parliament, Mr. Dery’s respect and adherence to these laws had an important duality to them. Yet he respected neither. Instead, like his practice of the law, he brutalized the very people he sought to represent and disregarded the laws he was sworn to uphold. As Vice President, Mr. Dery could potentially be President if the NPP wins. Is this the man Ghanaians want for a possible Commander-in-Chief, who, despite swearing an important oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of Ghana and it’s citizens, could, going by his record of past performance, unleash the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Police on his own people?

4. UPPER-WEST REGIONAL MINISTER

Many allege and it is widely believed, that Mr. Dery’s appointment as Upper-West Regional Minister was largely a consolation prize, arranged by Vice President Aliu Mahama, for Mr. Dery’s sound defeat in the 2004 parliamentary elections, a loss which reportedly sent him to hospital. It appears then that no consideration was given to his competence or suitability for the job. This is the Ambrose Dery brand – record of prior performance and evidence of ability to perform are irrelevant. Mr. Dery has thus become accustomed to getting what he wants without merit. A number of irregular appointments made during his tenure in the Upper-West followed the exact same method. In fact, commentaries on Mr. Pul’s article reflect this fact: the appointment of Mr. Pul’s own wife; the appointment of a Dr. J.B. Naab’s wife to a UNICEF position in the region. This time around, he expects through his minions, that the Ambi-magic will again work in his favour. Thus criticisms by the Babile youth, of Mr. Dery’s cronyistic administration of the region in general, are in fact truer of Mr. Dery. Ironically, it would be Mr. Dery who would cause several false publications to be made, extolling his non-existent virtues while casting the youth as sore losers.

The Region also became more polarized and unstable under Mr. Dery’s management, with a characteristically violent trademark. Notable among these were the upsurge in chieftaincy disputes, accompanied by violence, police brutalities and a general level of disorder in various parts of the region, controlled only by further official brutality. Yet Mr. Pul would have us believe that solely because of his assertion of Mr. Dery’s personal sense of discipline, residents quickly became time-conscious? No; the truth is that brutal fear rather than exemplary leadership, dictated residents’ conformity. Besides, no civil servant wanted to find out the next day that another less qualified or unqualified functionary had replaced them on their job simply because they did not run to the Regional Minister’s useless meetings.

As part of the nouveau riche, Mr. Dery and Mr. Pul have an inane contempt for poor people – the latter’s current situation not being too different from those of Messrs. Dery and Pul a few years back. This superciliousness is reflected in Mr. Pul’s claim that time is “…the only resource that defines the poor from the rich.” Does Mr. Dery’s so-called time-consciousness make him rich, or is poverty caused by a lack of punctuality? The World Bank would be excited if that were the case. Obviously, poverty is more complicated than that, so what is the intent of this definition? Is Mr. Pul suggesting that the rich have a better concept of time than the poor? Or is he confusing education with poverty? This reveals a throwback to the notion of blaming every ill on the so-called “dregs of society”. This attitude reflects the continuing sentencing of petty thieves, who steal a few chickens, to severe jail terms, while the so-called “rich” get away with stealing billions of Ghanaian taxpayer funds. In fact, persons occupying public positions such as Mr. Dery does are implicitly expected to work towards a better quality of life for the very poor people he disdains. Need I remind him also that in the majority are the poor, who incidentally are also the “…keys to unlocking the North for…” any political party in terms of sheer votes.

5. MINISTER OF STATE

If his appointment as Regional Minister was a consolation prize, Mr. Dery’s subsequent removal from that office was part punishment and part retrenchment. While as Regional Minister Mr. Dery’s notoriety eventually preceded him – the irregular award of local contracts and appointments while grandstanding a reputation of objective toughness; the cronyism; the divisiveness and the relentless interference in local chieftaincy disputes were all finally casting the NPP Administration in a bad light, in particular, given alleged Government role in the Dagbon case. The NPP quickly came to the conclusion that not only was its reputation more important than Mr. Dery’s but that repairing whatever damage he had caused would require his immediate and unconditional removal. In a swift but closely guarded cabinet re-shuffle, Mr. Dery was initially sacked as Regional Minister, then his dismissal was commuted to his current unspecified ministerial position. In political circles, this is called “Siberia”, a term used generally to draw analogies between Eastern Siberia’s reputation as an extremely cold place (average temp. -70 degrees celsius) and the minister-without-portfolio concept. Such appointees have no defined role although governments often attempt a somewhat face-saving job description. It is often then not surprising to find such appointees junketing the world, squandering taxpayer funds on useless, menial assignments. For all intents and purposes, the Kaiser Aluminum Company’s interests in Ghana were long dead before Mr. Dery’s political provenance. The truth is that Mr. Dery has not been part of any significant number of government delegations in any meaningful capacity. So the attempt by Mr. Pul to refurbish Mr. Dery’s reputation into an important government minister with “…international exposure and experience…” is simply hogwash. The man (Mr. Dery) is cooling his heels in “Siberia”. It is only in Ghana that individuals can lay claim to fictitious achievements, with the benefit of knowing that such claims stand virtually no chance of independent verification. Elsewhere, the filing of a simple Freedom of Information request will turn Mr. Pul’s claims downside up. Ghana will get there soon.

III. IS MR. DERY INDEED THE ONLY ONE WHO HOLDS THE KEYS TO UNLOCKING THE NORTH FOR THE NPP? Well, the jury is out and the verdict is in on Mr. Pul’s revisionist attempt on renovating Mr. Dery’s record based on false claims. As of June 16, 2008, 5 days after his publication, there were a total of 82 commentaries on his article. Of this number adjusted for repeat commentators, 14% were supportive of the article, 11.6% were neutral while 9.3% were unrelated; a whopping 65.1% were against the article. This is not only an emphatic rejection of Mr. Pul’s article, but a strong repudiation of Mr. Dery’s pretensions for running-mate status, despite serial commentary by Mr. Dery’s “Alan Green”. Yes, it is not a representative sample, but then wasn’t Mr. Pul’s publication precisely intended to gauge sentiment on the matter? To a larger context however, it shows that Ghanaians are a deeply perceptive people who cannot be bamboozled by NGO stylistics. The 2004 election results did reflect an improvement over the NPP’s own performance in 2000. Yet it is a huge stretch to attribute such improvement solely to Mr. Dery, whose base year of election performance is 2004 and who could not even win in his own backyard. Similar false claims for credit are characteristic of Mr. Dery (See the collapsed Radio Freed and Nkoranza bye-elections). The emphasis here is the pattern of deception remotely managed by Mr. Dery through a network of gutless cronies. Mr. Pul’s claims are thus an example of the unmeritorious claims typical of Mr. Dery and his minions. A person who is quick to take credit falsely, but lacks the courage to acknowledge his own glaring missteps lacks presidential candor and is unfit to be vice president of anything.

The assertion by Mr. Pul that Ambrose Dery is the ONLY PERSON with keys to the NPP’s election fortunes in the North in 2008 must be hyperbolic otherwise the evidence point to the contrary. For instance in elections for the only political office Mr. Dery ever contested, the Lawra-Nandom Parliamentary seat, Dr. Ben Kuubuor soundly defeated Mr. Dery 62% to 33% of the valid votes cast – representing almost twice the number of people who supported Mr. Dery’s bid. This election margin, adjusted for votes cast for Mr. Dery based on bribery or coercion could reveal an even wider gap. The point being made is that by every possible criterion, the good people of Lawra-Nandom, without access to the opportunities available to Mr. Dery and his kind, were able to see through the hogwash that Mr. Dery’s bid was and returned an unequivocal message. Many who were doubtful of the decision of voters then have only now realized how astute politically the Lawra-Nandom constituents were in that vote. The prognosis then is that the rejection of Mr. Dery, his politics and all that he symbolizes have intensified over time. If the man cannot win in his own backyard, how can he command election magnetism nation-wide? Mr. Dery can therefore not claim, nor can any of his surrogates including Mr. Pul claim that he is a “…crowd puller….” Well, may be… I take that back…. He is a crowd-puller, yes the Hypolite-Pul-ler or the Hypolite-crowd-puller – make your pick.

Finally, Mr. Dery is remarkable in his choice of minions, ensuring that they are in no position to compete against him. A few years ago, I, among others, had the pleasure of following the evisceration online, of another minion, one Chrisanthus DamboleNaa, on the Nandom chieftaincy dispute by a Mr. Chris Tierkaa. The tragedy of Mr. Pul’s article is not that he foisted Mr. Dery’s candidacy on the NPP and Ghanaians; it is that like many Northerners, I am disappointed and offended by Mr. Pul’s lowering of Northern standards, credentials and capabilities; and insinuating that Mr. Dery is the best the North has to offer as a running-mate to the NPP. By his own admission that Mr. Dery is the best the North has to offer as vice presidential material, Mr. Pul has an inferiority complex where Mr. Dery is concerned. It is then to be expected that Mr. Pul’s article is vested with the adulation and obfuscation reminiscent of Orwellian minions. The NPP, if it honestly believes a Northern running-mate is a winning strategy, may by all means pick a Northerner. A cursory initial evaluation will reveal a host of more qualified, credible and competent Northerners, who pack the necessary nationwide appeal, intelligence and election magnetism. As for Mr. Ambrose Dery, he is a political leper in the North and a big loss awaits those who associate with him.

Dery, Francis

Canberra, Australia

Email: francisdery@yahoo.com