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Friday, October 2, 2009

After Mabey & Johnson: So who is clean?

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Many Ghanaians have accumulated huge fortunes that way and been regarded pillars of society. But where is the line drawn and who draws it as it crosses into the realms of corruption?

The second term of the Kufuor Administration was bedeviled by accusations of corruption.

These were tried in the media, the several courts of public opinion and even the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).

President Kufuor and his Administration had to defend his son’s investment in a hotel business.

This was compounded by the sideshow of a woman named Gizelle Yadzi, who at one time seemed like she could bring down the government if she released some “info” she claimed she had on the president personally and the hotel in general.

It was lapped up and taken up as a cause célèbre by the then opposition NDC. Gizelle Yadzi was held up as a hero by activists of the NDC who planned to facilitate her passage to Ghana to reveal it all!

And then as if that was not enough, Dr. Richard Anane, Minister for Roads and Highways, one of the trusted lieutenants of President Kufuor was caught in a dalliance with an American female consultant who had come to Ghana to consult on matters dealing with HIV/AIDS.

Was there any conflict of interest there? Did he have a child with her or not? Where did he get the money to be remitting her for the child’s upkeep? Did the money come from official sources? As a doctor, shouldn’t he have known better and used a condom?

Debate raged as to whether he should resign or not. He never offered to and President Kufuor never asked him to. Later, he had to concede to CHRAJ findings and resign, but he went to court on a technicality regarding the constitutional competence of CHRAJ to “try” him. He won…

At the next opportunity, President Kufuor re-nominated him to become minister once again, at the same ministry. By the time these cases were over, sleaze, or corruption, had been smeared all over the government.

Though President Kufuor was absolved by CHRAJ and Dr. Richard Anane won a technical victory at the Supreme Court, the perception of corruption had stuck and to a large extent contributed to the party’s unimpressive showing at the December 2008 elections…

It was exploited ad infinitum, ad nauseam by NDC founder Jerry Rawlings who would at every turn of phrase describe the NPP and President Kufuor as corrupt. The most noxious of these accusations was when he stood on a political platform and called President Kufuor “Ataa Ayi” – an armed robber.

Though Presidential Candidate Professor John Evans Atta Mills was not as foul mouthed, he took up the refrain of corruption in his campaign and rode into the Ghanaian Presidency, after the 2008 elections had given him a narrow victory over his main rival Nana Akufo-Addo, on a blemish-free charger of probity and accountability, with the promise not to spare any corrupt official of the government he had taken over from or his own appointees and officials who would cross the line.

One of the first executive actions he took, therefore, on becoming president, was a house cleaning exercise: He set up a presidential commission to probe the Ghana @ 50 celebrations.

It is still ongoing…Other probes have sprung up with the promise of more to come. Seen variously as witch hunting or vendetta by those at the receiving end, the President has stood his ground, insisting that it is holding public servants accountable to the people and nothing else…

But barely ten months into his administration, and as if to mock him or test him, the tables have turned and he has to confront a major sleaze involving members of his government, with some holding top cabinet positions.

But in fairness to the president, the case predates his presidency, but engulfs a predecessor of his and party founder: Flt. Lt. J.J. Rawlings. The Mabey and Johnson case is now the talk of town and needs no embellishment here.

How to handle this case is the dilemma facing President Mills and the gripping drama, whose denouement Ghanaians eagerly await.

Party founder Jerry Rawlings has immediately jumped in, issuing statements, as though he is the supervising president of President Mills; statements, whose import is to absolve Rawlings, while at the same time putting pressure on President Mills, as though the sleaze happened on the watch of this president and not on the watch of Rawlings.

In his rush to stampede President Mills, Rawlings gives the game away, by playing the NDC/NPP political card and gives credence to the witch hunt and vendetta perception.

He said in his statement: “Since coming to power in 2009, we have failed to pursue and prosecute the criminal activities of the past NPP government who in connivance with foreign partners have stolen millions of dollars and accepted huge bribes…”

Harsh words, those, but in the face of the Mabey and Johnson scandal, make all Ghanaians culpable and pave the way for opening up the debate as to who is clean in Ghana, including past heads of state and how they got the resources to pursue their lifestyles in and out of office.

It would be an exercise in enlightenment and catharsis and since Rawlings and Kufuor are the two living past heads of state, perhaps, they can be used to start this process…Rawlings and Kufuor must step forward and be peer reviewed: No holds barred.

Accra Mail

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