Ebo Quansah in Accra
I dedicate this column to the courage of Madam Otiko Afisah Djabah, the President’s nominee to head the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Protection. She made my day on Monday, when she appeared before the Parliamentary Appointments Committee in Accra and rode through the intimidating tactics of Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu and his National Democratic Congress caucus on the committee.
That the Minister-in-waiting refused to be cowed down by the intimidating tactics employed by a group of ‘political greyhounds’ smelling blood, after ambushing her, is the mark of courage, which, unfortunately, is in very short supply in our socio-political evolution of late.
I admire her for sticking to her beliefs and principles. In a world where the reward of office has tempted many dare devils to sacrifice their principles, Ms. Djaba demonstrated that in this tempestuous world, there is still room for people to stand up and be counted.
Nearly eight years ago, Mr. Victor Smith and Ms. Ama Benyiwa-Doe, two celebrated NDC gurus, came before the same Appointment Committee with the reputation of a hard man and woman of the party Jerry Rawlings founded. They had made themselves heroes in the NDC by making several unsubstantiated allegations on the campaign trail against former President John Agyekum Kufuor, presidential candidate Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and the New Patriotic Party.
Mr. Victor Smith claimed in a series of publications that Mr. Kufuor, while sitting at the Castle as Constitutional Head of State of this Republic, had gained illegal payments totaling US$5m from oil deals with an oil magnate in the Middle East.
From the way the story was packaged, giving very little away in terms of how the deal evolved and operated, it was as clear as today is Wednesday that the allegation could not stand the test of time. Somehow, officials of the party in opposition bought into it as a major propaganda tool.
When Mr. Smith had his day at the Vetting Committee, where he had appeared for clearance to be dispatched to Koforidua as Minister for the Eastern Region, he sat sheepishly before its members and confessed that all that he had put in the public domain about the former head of state and oil dealings, were the figment of his own imagination. In effect, he lied through his teeth.
The tragedy of that era was that Mr. Smith was not the only public officer nominated by then President John Evans Atta Mills to head a region, who failed the truth test. Ama Benyiwa-Doe, whose reputation of a hardened political activist had earned her the nickname Ama Chavez, was another big casualty. Apparently, truth had never been one of her greatest assets.
The NDC Women’s Organiser had made it her brief of going on campaign platforms around the country, accusing then presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party, and the NPP generally, of dealing in narcotics. The NPP was interpreted as the National Narcotics Party by Benyiwa-Doe, party bosses and foot soldiers.
When Ama Chavez was asked to substantiate her allegations at the Vetting Committee, she sat sheepishly before its members and told Ghanaians that all those allegations were ‘political talk.’ In effect, she manufactured those wicked lies to run down her political opponents.
I wrote several articles on the two confessions, and asked the late President Mills to withdraw their appointments to serve as a huge learning curve in our political evolution. Unfortunately, the deceased President ignored my sentiments. Parliament, buoyed by the then NDC in the majority, promptly approved the two controversial nominations.
Mr. Victor Smith was dispatched to Koforidua as Eastern Regional Minister, and later moved to London as Ghana’s High Commissioner to the Court of St. James. Ms. Benyiwa-Doe was sent to Cape Coast to head my beloved region.
The jury is still out on the effectiveness of the leadership of the two persons in the two regions. For some of us though, the negative legacy of the two appointees tells something about the NDC as a political concept.
If you ask me my honest opinion about the party in opposition, I would not hesitate to respond that integrity, probity and accountability, the three words thrown about with careless abandon by the founder of the party, have no influence on how the NDC functions. The three principles of honest leadership, do not appear to matter much to the political party founded with the butt of the gun.
That is one reason I am not moved by the ugly noises emanating from mainly members and sympathisers of the political party founded by Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, about the performance of the Minister-nominee for Women, Children and Social Protection during vetting on Monday.
Let it be known that the accusations flying about that Ms. Djaba failed to accord due respect to former President John Dramani Mahama, when she refused to apologise to the former head of state for describing him as “a violent man”, “an embarrassment to the people of the north,” and other descriptions which could not be termed complimentary, are based on the President’s performance as far as Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) is concerned.
I do not believe there are many Ghanaians alive, who are happy with the way SADA was used to bleed Ghana dry under the care of former President Mahama. As a Ghanaian, I agonise so much over how state resources were blown over SADA, without any official being sanctioned for wrongful use of state resources.
At a point in time, it looked like officials at SADA had no respect for the Ghanaian intellect. For me, the explanation that guinea fowls reared by the Azontaba Cottage Industry, for instance, migrated to Burkina Faso, was an outright insult to all Ghanaians. Strangely, the Head of State took no action. That was not the only reason why Mr. Mahama did not help his own cause.
After over GH¢33 million of hard earned state money had been wasted on an afforestation project that bore no fruit, the good people of Ghana were told that the trees planted withered away, because they were planted in the dry season. I think these two explanations especially, were downright insults.
That apart, the fact that state resources lined people’s pockets without any official accounting for those resources, told everything about the negative effect of ‘PROJECT MAHAMA.’
If Ghanaian politicians could defend their actions as Ms. Djaba boldly did at the Appointments Committee on Monday, this country would be on the mend.
By the way, what is it that I am hearing? Did any member of the committee really question the Minister-designate for Women, Children and Social Protection on what former President Jerry John Rawlings fondly referred to as “Babies With Sharp Teeth?” I do not believe Ms. Djaba has the copyright for that description.
Every child in Ghana knows that it was the founder of the NDC who coined the phrase to describe some members in his own party. Why should Ms. Djaba be held accountable for borrowing a phrase that has come to stay in our political lexicon?
If the Minority Leader and his NDC caucus in the House have problems with the usage of the phrase, the right place to appeal to is Boom Junction. The NPP Women Organiser cannot answer for the actions of the founder of their own party. That is why Otiko should be left alone.
The person in question is not a man. But I dare say that Ms. Otiko Afisa Djaba has balls. I cannot wait to see her perform her functions at the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Protection. Ride on Otiko, you have made my day. When a woman has done her very best, the rest of Ghana has to stand and applaud her bravery.
I shall return!