Ghanaian Chronicle

GARGANTUAN QUESTIONS

Date published: February 9, 2012

The Author, Arthur Kobina Kennedy, UCC

Wayomegate—the cancer on the Mills presidency continues to grow! In Ghana when a scandal generates popular lyrics, it has gotten gargantuan!

EOCO has produced an interim report and then suspended its own investigations.

Our government is in civil court, to vacate the judgment for the payment to Mr. Woyome and also in criminal court—trying to convict Mr. Woyome and others of crimes connected to the same payment.

It is conceivable that in the government’s nearly belated eagerness to make up for lost time, the governments cases will begin tripping themselves up.

Scandals are interesting to study. And they are universal. Some indeed become global. Like the Watergate scandal that led to President Nixon’s resignation in the United States or the more recent Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to the failed impeachment of President Clinton. Interestingly, governments all over the world respond in similar fashion to scandal—by trying to cover up. Unfortunately, the cover-up rarely works. Indeed most of the time, the cover-up gets people into more trouble than the original sin. During the Watergate scandal for instance, more people went to jail for their roles in the cover-up than for the original break-in.

Obviously, since Woyomigate is in front of the courts on multiple counts, one needs to be careful in comments.

It is my humble opinion that this scandal has two dimensions—legal and political. It would appear that after being asleep at the steering wheel for some time, the driver of the “Yutong bus” is trying to make up for lost time in the legal arena. Unfortunately, the actions in the political field have been a bit counterproductive and if I may state so—a little comical.

Take EOCO for instance. Despite the fact that the President had three chances to address this scandal and never brought it up, EOCO found that the President directed twice that Mr. Woyome should not be paid but his directives were ignored. Yesterday, the government’s spinmeister, Koku Anyidoho, on Joy fm, differed with EOCO a bit. While accepting that the President had directed twice that the money not be paid, he asserted that in fact, the President’s directives had been followed!! Really Koku? Indeed, the President’s Communication Director went on to claim that as a result of this scandal and how the President had handled it, his standing had improved. He claimed that the President had shown decisive leadership that had earned the trust of Ghanaians. Listening to him, I almost felt the Presidency would welcome another such scandal! The normally eloquent Koku could not explain why the letters between the Attorney General and the Finance Minister never referred to the President’s directive or why the President’s staff, including Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Segbefia were defending the payments when the  President was against the payments.

On a more serious note, it was obvious from EOCO’s work and report that it lacked the independence and credibility to lay the concerns of Ghanaians to rest. Why did EOCO not question Mr. Dufuor, Mrs. Mold-Iddrisu, Mr. Martin Amidu and the President? Why are there conclusions that do not appear to be supportable by the facts?

While receiving the report, President Mills attempted to shore up the credibility of EOCO by criticizing those—mainly in the NPP who had declined to appear before the committee. Said the President “Many of us talk about democracy and respect for rights and I believe therefore that our actions should show that we are interested in democracy and also the search for truth.” Exactly, Mr. President. Unfortunately, the President saw no error in the failure of some key members of his government, including him to appear before EOCO. The truth is that no inquiry will be considered complete unless Mr. Dufuor, Mrs. Mold-Iddrisu and the President are witnesses. While Osafo Maafo and a few others may make a hearing more interesting, they will be minor witnesses. The key witnesses are the President and his key functionaries. This will be a great opportunity to practice “Dzi wofie asem”.

Regardless of what happens in the legal arena, here are the political questions.

First, was this whole scandal an NDC 2012 Campaign fundraising scheme gone wrong?

Second, can our civil servants, Ministers and even the President be trusted to protect the public purse and the public interest?

Third, is Parliament adequately performing its executive oversight functions and watching the public interest?

Fourth, are the glaring examples of lack of co-ordination between key ministries and the presidency the rule or the exception?

Some of these questions are obviously controversial but they must be addressed.

On the first, before this scandal, there was the trip to the World cup paid for by Mr. Woyome, the NDC headquarters that nobody wanted to take ownership of, the NDC Presidential primary with charges of money sloshing all around and all these victorious NDC primary candidates, high-fiving Mr. Woyome after their victories despite the taint of scandal. While none of these on their own define this scandal, they are part of the drip-drip that has given this scandal life and urgency.

On the second, Ghanaians have difficulty accepting that one person, in the face of so much poverty and so much that needs to be done, can obtain from our common resources, so much money for so little effort. They need a process that will reassure them that indeed our public officials are more interested in the public interest than private gain.

On the third, so far, the only good thing that has happened to Parliament is that Hon. Kennedy Agyapong blew the whistle on this scandal. Keep it up, Honourable and let more of your colleagues join you. A parliamentary inquiry will be like fish taking to water.

On the fourth, time will tell. Hopefully, the image of our government that emerges in this scandal is an aberration. Every Ghanaian wants our government to be better than this.

It is obvious that we are at a signal moment in our democracy, our fight for accountability and the survival of this NDC government.

Therefore, we must all act responsibly.

First, we must find the truth behind this scandal. It is obvious that this scandal has gotten to where people accountable only to the President cannot investigate it credibly. It is time for a credible public inquiry, to question all those involved under oath, in public. Amongst other things, it should determine if our government was corrupted by bribes and whether key officials acted in the public interest.

Second, we must be mindful of due process. Those accused must have time and space to mount their defense and the presumption of innocence. It is unfortunate that those accused are being picked up over week-ends so they can be detained longer and being denied bail. Regardless of how we feel about them and particularly because of how we feel, we must bend over backwards to ensure that their rights are respected in the determination of their innocence or guilt. Let us, in the words of ex-President Kufuor, “pipe-down” and allow the facts to evolve. While the press has been helpful in developing this scandal, it is time to minimize sensational reporting. Let us remember that some of those being accused may be innocent. As a former Reagan Administration official once asked after a lengthy investigation that found him innocent but ruined his reputation, “Now that I have been found innocent, where do I go to get my reputation back?”

Let us not scream—like Betty Mould did “We will jail them!” There is no them and us. They are us—our relatives, party members and friends. Let us do justice by them—firmly but with compassion in our hearts.

Third, there must be a genuine moment when for once, we can see wrong-doing untainted by party affiliation. To this end, it is encouraging that some in the NDC have started condemning those involved in this scandal while others of the same party march in their defense. If ever there was a party destined to be against Woyomegate, it is the NDC. Its founder dedicated his life to accountability. It was founded on the bedrock principle of accountability. Let the NDC and all of us live up to the ideals of accountability.

As for the President, this scandal will define not just his presidency but his character for all time. Is he—as Pratt and former President Rawlings claim “a man of integrity” or as his detractors claim “a hypocrite”? “Woyomegate” will give answers.

Together, we must show the world and a skeptical public that in this republic, laws work and that people will live by their honest labours, not by trickery or connections or corruption. That nobody is above our laws.

Let us move forward—together in accountability and truth. Let us pray for God’s mercy and forgiveness for those involved when they meet their maker even as we do rigorous Justice—here on earth.

Arthur Kobina Kennedy

 

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