Ghanaian Chronicle

An Exercise In Charting A Ghana First Agenda

Date published: May 7, 2013

Ebo Quansah in Accra

BA MensahI have been away for a while. I took part of my annual leave and did report back to the Captain’s Bridge on Tuesday, April 23. I then went under the weather. As I write, I am struggling to recover. But, when duty calls, one ought to oblige, which is why I decided to take the half-fit body to the office yesterday.

Looking at events as they have unfolded, it looks like I have been away for a very long time. I was on duty when Justice Francis Kpegah went to the Fast Track High Court seeking a declaration that Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is not a lawyer, and that the former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice was impersonating one W.A.D. Akufo-Addo.

Mr. Justice Kpegah also sought a declaration from the court ordering the closure of the law firm Akufo-Addo, Prempeh and Associates. He joined former President John Agyekum Kufuor to the suit, on the basis that the former head of state had flouted the Constitution by appointing someone who was not a lawyer to head the Attorney-General’s Department, contrary to the spirit and letter of the Constitution.

Even before the formal writ was issued, the former Supreme Court Judge, who once acted as Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana, was on the airwaves bragging about the facts at his disposal. Last week, the Fast Track High Court dismissed the suit on the basis that it had no merit.

I must be honest. I am seriously disappointed in the Fast Track High Court. I was expecting Justice Kpegah to be put in the witness box and asked to produce the said Mr. W.A.D. Akufo-Addo, who, according to the suit, was being impersonated by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

Like a number of disappointed Ghanaians, I was expecting the court to slap a hefty fine on Justice Kpegah to serve as a deterrent to others, who might think of using our courts to take similar sentimental journeys. I am not a lawyer. I might, therefore, not have a full appreciation of the mitigating factors that aided the determination of this suit without cost.

On a more serious note, I thought the attempt to ridicule Nana Akufo-Addo could not have been accidental. I do not believe the retired Supreme Court Judge acted in isolation, even though the case itself was a huge joke. The court case reminds me of issues of the immediate past, when a head of state of this Republic publicly called on Ghanaians not to patronise goods and services provided by Mr. Akenten Appiah Menkah, Mr. Addison of intravenous and Panbros fame, as well as poultry products of Rev. Kwabena Darko of Akoko Darko fame.

It also brought images of the circumstances under which some top businessmen were harassed to the grave, during which time their businesses, put together under sweat and toil over the years, collapsed at a time the nation was busily promoting made in Ghana products, in the era of the Provisional National Defence Council.

As you read this piece, the world of Ghana business awaits the final funeral rites of Mr. B.A. Mensah of International Tobacco fame, who died last month. Mr. Mensah had his businesses, including the tobacco manufacturing firm, seized by the state.

He himself spent a number of times in and out of prisons without any formal charge. In those days, when to be successful was tantamount to being an enemy of the state, Mr. Mensah, a native of Kumawu in the Ashanti Region of Ghana, was persecuted over and over again for being a successful Ghanaian businessman.

There is the story too of Mr. John. K. Siaw, a private Ghanaian businessman who set up the biggest brewery in West Africa. Over a charge of hoarding sugar, Siaw’s factory at Achimota was seized. It has been sold and sold again. At the moment, Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited is churning out millions of Ghana cedis in profits at the site at Achimota in Accra.

Mr. Siaw himself died in penury in Monrovia, Liberia. Nearly 30 years after a revolution that only succeeded in making many of the participants, the rich of society, many of those who genuinely struggled to set up businesses to provide made-in-Ghana goods to Ghanaians, have still not been compensated for the way they were robbed of their hard-earned businesses.

I was among the mourners at the East Legon residence of Mr. Kwaku Ofori-Yeboah, proprietor of the first authentic Ghanaian electronics company, Ofori Sounds, on August 23, 2012, when his mortal remains were dispatched to his hometown to be interred.

Mr. Ofori-Yeboah died in Accra on May 14, 2012, after nearly three decades of penury existence, following the seizure of his famed Ofori Electronics, manufacturers of Ofori Sounds. For the uninitiated, Ofori sounds comprised of locally-assembled television sets, hi-fis, radio and other electronic gadgets.

The story is told that the Military High Command, at the time, commissioned Ofori Sounds to assemble television sets and other amplifiers for use by some military officers returning from peace-keeping duties. At a point in time, it emerged that the local electronics company fell short on its duties. When the Rawlings regime seized power, Mr. Ofori-Yeboah was thrown into jail without a charge.

He went in and out of jail for the entire duration of the Provisional National Defence Council. When he was formally released, he was unable to withstand the humiliation and loss of his company. When he finally kicked the bucket, Mr. Ofori-Yeboah was a broken person.

In my quiet moments, I reflect on the raw deal meted out to Mr. Osei Yaw Akoto, the deceased Managing Director of Biney Atomic, an Accra construction firm which went into liquidation, following the arrest and incarceration of its proprietor.

I got to know Mr. Akoto through sports. He was a fanatical follower of Kumasi Asante Kotoko. In the late 1970s and early 80s, Mr. Akoto used to lift some of us to Kumasi to watch football games involving Kotoko and the Black Stars.

Mr. Akoto was among the first batch of businessmen arrested by the PNDC. After facing the Citizens Vetting Committee, he was fined ¢4 million, which was a huge money in those times. I remember Mr. Akoto coming to the press box at the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium in Accra during a football match, and announcing to the media that he had paid an amount of money to the state, which could pay the wages of all of us in the press box for, at least, one year.

As a former press photographer, he was used to coming into the press box at the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium and crack jokes. On the day he came to announce his ¢4 million payment he had spent more than two months in detention without charge.

No one seems to remember what happened again. But, Mr. Akotko was arrested again and again. When he was last released, Mr. Akoto had lost it. His mental faculties seemed to have failed, and never really recovered until he was found dead one early morning.

It is interesting to note how huge state resources are now being put into entirely private ventures by the political leadership, drawing its strength and political direction from the events of the December 31 coup d’état.

The other day, when the GH¢15 million guinea fowl issue popped up, it emerged that the state of Ghana had sunk that amount of money as a 40 percent share through the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority, in a public/private partnership initiated by Mr. Roland Agambire.

As you read this piece, no one has been able to account for the birds nor their eggs. All the same, we have sunk an extra GH¢33 million of public money, through the same SADA, in an afforestation project under a scheme involving the same person.  We are told that virtually all the trees have withered. So far, everything is cool at the centre of the earth.

We seem to be doing brisk business with Mr. Agambire. The elaborate scheme to provide a laptop to every child in Ghana centers around the same businessman. A person aided by the state to get rich should not be a bad idea. My only problem is, would Agambire have been that lucky if he happened to have a name identified with another ethnic group? It is a food for thought for all of us who believe in Ghana First as a concept.


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