Corruption and Mahama’s gift: lessons to consider as a nation
by Kwabena Opong
Joy FM Journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni’s brilliant investigation into the gift of a Ford Expedition car offered President John Mahama by Burkinabe contractor and businessman Djibril Kanazoe generates a number of concerns that every Ghanaian must be ashamed of. It is not something that should merely be subjected to radio and television talk shows where everything is trivialized into politics. Instead of the president assigning it to his propagandist machinery and campaign platforms, the people of Ghana are waiting to hear his side of the case. If on the other hand he resorts to the political platform, he would go down as one of the most corrupt leaders this country ever had and Ghana would go down as one of the most corrupt nations on earth. Already, the presidency is considered the second most corrupt institution in the country.
When such serious accusations as corruption are leveled against presidents they immediately come to the media to clear themselves. Not in Ghana. In civilized society, they would hire public relations experts to deflate the impact of the issue. All this goes on while the detractors continue vigorously to indict the leader as happened in Brazil. Bill Clinton had to endure an impeachment at Congress that he fortunately won. John Dramani Mahama seems to be lucky. He does not need to hire any paid lip. His party has the propaganda machinery to do the hatchet job. In its characteristic manner, the party has justified the act as a nonissue. The vehicle, a Ford Expedition SUV, is said to have been added to the presidential pool even though it was cleared at the Customs & Excise Div. of the Ghana Revenue Authority in the name of John Mahama. As all of this goes on the constitutional provision on corruption in high places has been ignored as indicting the president in allowing himself to be influenced.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has conveniently politicized the issue to the extent that anyone who finds Mahama culpable is only playing to the gallery of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and fanning flames of hate of the president. The NDC has been successful in throwing the issue into the political playpen and Ghanaians are the apathetic spectators. Who cares when utility bills are unbearable; when food prices are jumping out of the hoof; and when politicians and opinion leaders dread the idea of leading the crusade against the first gentleman of the nation. Instead, Hon. Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, MP for Assin Central has become the convenient conduit away from one of the most serious issues to confront our very fragile democracy.
It is not strange that Ghanaians are considered to be apathetic to corruption by the UN Commission against Corruption (UNCAC). Kennedy Agyapong has suddenly become the cynosure of the church, clergy, women groups and a multitude of self serving individuals and organizations clamoring for his head. All because of what he said against Electoral Commissioner Charlotte Osei. In his reaction to his mother’s marriage to his uncle, Hamlet shakes his head in despair and proclaims, “frailty, thy name is woman.” Paradoxically “hypocrisy, thy name is Ghana.” Never a day passes by without a case of corruption reported in the media. The Parliamentary Accounts Committee keeps unearthing cases of corruption and embezzlement of public funds but the reaction is the same: apathy. What is even more amazing is that the same people who vehemently defend John Mahama are the same people dragged John Kufuor to CHRAJ for being a party to his son’s purchase of a hotel. Gaddafi offers a car to the people of Ghana from the people of Libya and they do not stop comparing it to Mahama’s gift that influenced further contracts. John Kufuor was trumpeted by the NDC as the most corrupt leader ever. Matter of fact, late President John Atta Mills ensured that Mr. Kufuor would not win the Moe Ibrahim award as the best leader in Africa in his time. He sent out his minions to contact the awards board to convince them not to honor Mr. Kufuor. Again, nobody, not even the revered clergy or our honored chiefs made a comment against what Mills did. And Kufuor lost the award. That year, 2008, nobody was awarded. A member of the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) is reported to have made representations to CHRAJ and the Commission has assured Ghanaians that it would execute its mandate as the law demands.
It seems, however, that such a serious case of corruption against the president of the Republic must have been immediately put before the Parliament for investigation. Other opinions posit that there must be an independent investigator selected by the Parliament. The course of events in the Parliament does not make it the most appropriate forum for an investigation against the president. The government party has the numbers to vote out such suggestion even before anything happens. Already the ruling party does not see anything untoward in the whole episode. Predictably, the issue is dying a natural death, and if that happens we as a people might have condoned an act of corruption that sent a few judges who were lured to obtain gifts much more insignificant than a US$100,000 Ford Expedition SUV. If that happens Ghana and Ghanaians would have been scarred forever as a very corrupt leader. The Akan proverb says fish begins to rot from its head. Corruption is a moral issue that should not be politicized. For the avoidance of interference, Bill Clinton allowed his attorney general to appoint a special investigator in his affair with Monica Lewinsky. It went the full length of the process until he emerged victorious from an impeachment. Ghanaians are still waiting to hear something significant from President Mahama on the issue but it seems he, like other Ghanaians are wishing away the issue on the quiet. Kwabena Opong is the editor-inChief and Publisher of Amandla.