General News Mon, 30 Apr 2001

Malam Isa Apologizes, But....

...denies taking the money
The former Minister of Youth and Sports, Mallam Ali Yusuf Isa, who will soon be prosecuted over his role in the loss of 46,000 US dollars belonging to the State, has apologized to the Presidency and all Ghanaians. He however denied taking the money and disputed most of the findings of the Committee, which investigated the loss.
The money, which was intended as winning bonuses due the National Senior Soccer team, the Black Stars, for a World Cup qualifying match against Sudan, mysteriously disappeared prior to the former Minister's departure from Accra to Sudan, where the match was played.
Appearing on a GTV Talk-show program, Kweku one-on-one, a confident looking Mallam Isa, said "to the President and the Vice President, (whom I have great respect for), whatever embarrassment I might I have caused them, I say I am sorry. To Ghanaians and to my supporters on the whole, I say sorry and I apologize unreservedly for whatever embarrassment I might have caused them over this issue.”
Committee of Enquiry
The former Minister, who is on record as the shortest serving Minister of state in Ghanaian political history, added that while it is natural that he should be held responsible for the loss of the money, which was entrusted in his care, he was not happy about the way the Police Committee of Enquiry, tasked to trace circumstances leading to the loss of the money, went about its duties.
"From day one, the Committee had taken sides on the issue and that is why it appeared that there were so many inconsistencies in their report which were attributed to me. I knew that the Committee's findings were going to be against me because of the way they handled Worlanyo Agrah, the GFA general-secretary and Alex Asante, the protocol officer. When we went for questioning, they kept me waiting for the whole day while Agrah and Asante were given preferential treatment and allowed to leave after a short while," the former Minister added.
Forty-one year old Mallam Isa also confirmed his doubts about the authenticity of the commission of enquiry especially on the way it handled the issue concerning the Auditor's report on the Ministry of Youth and Sports, which was reported to have been found in his house and the contradictory reports over the money given him by his wife before he left for Sudan. " I kept the original report in my house, which the committee already knew, while I traveled with a copy of the original report, which later got missing from my suitcase. However, later the information came out as if I had hidden the report in my house and rather reported it missing," he explained.
Did he take the money?
Mallam vehemently denied ever taking the money and added that the last time he saw the money was in his office when he placed it in his bag and gave the bag to Mr. Agrah to pass it through the checking procedures at the airport. He added that he was a victim of a clique within the Ministry, which wanted him out at all costs because he wanted to cleanse the rot within the Ministry. "At one point in time, I even communicated to the President that the Ministry is rotten and that I planned to have an in-house cleansing. So I am still convinced that because of my open intentions and desires to get rid of the people there, they rather decided to finds ways and means of ditching me," he added.
He gave credits to the media, which he claimed really assisted him in exposing the rot within the ministry with their frequent reports about financial malfeasance within the Ministry.
When asked whether he really took the money as is currently being speculated, the Mallam said, "Will I hate myself so much to the extent of grabbing this money and thereby tarnishing my image? Even though I might not have been caught, I had the golden opportunity to have sat on the issue. One thing that I am realizing is that, some Ghanaians do not like to listen to the truth. I was trying to tell the whole nation the truth. If I knew this thing would turn against me, I would have told Ben Epson, the Reporter who broke the story, that it was not true. My Principal Accountant, for example came to the office and told me not to let anyone know about the missing money and that at the appropriate time we will find a way of replacing the money."
He however added that he has no regrets about the way events have turned since he knows that his conscience is clear and his hands are clean, "As Nigerians say, clear conscience fears no accusation and I believe my conscience is clear."
Talking on a wide range of issues, Mallam traced talked about his entry into politics during his days as Freight forwarder in Nigeria. "I engaged myself in the local politics within the freight forwarding industry, which is a big business which oversees the activities of 13 sea ports and 12 airports. The elections for executive members for the association are very competitive and the campaigns for these positions are held with such intensity that you would feel we were campaigning for parliamentary seats. I won and chaired the Apapa Sea Port, largest Sea Port in Nigeria for nine good years; first as a vice Chairman, then as a Chairman and finally, as the Secretary general," he added.
He explained that he managed to get to the top of the freight-forwarding politics first because in Nigeria, he had a godfather, Alhaji Awudu, who looked after him and took him as his son. "So they saw me as one of them despite the fact that I was a Ghanaian. As a result, I got the opportunity to contest the elections but then, there were certain criteria that one had to satisfy." You must own property, have a bona fide license, be registered with the Association of freight-forwarders for five years and must have settled all your dues. I was not found lacking in any of these.
I am still National PNC vice-chairman
According to Mallam, the politics of the freight forwarding industry prepared me for mainstream politics. He said his interest in politics was kindled when as far back as his school days when was in school. My Father was the Organizer for Dr. Limann's PNP in Bawku and in my youthful exuberance, I was the organizer for the Party at Gindangi, here we stay in Bawku. So even when I left for Nigeria, I used to send money to finance the PNP. When it was restructured as PNC again for the 1992 elections, I was contributing financially to the party. Even when Dr Mahama assumed leadership of the party, I continued to send in my quota as usual. So when I was preparing come back home after a sixteen-year sourjorn in Nigeria, Dr. Mahama invited me to come and help with the Party. Coincidentally the second national vice Chairmanship of the Party was vacant at that time and the PNC Congress had mandated Dr. Mahama to find someone for the Standing Committee to endorse for that position. So subsequently I was endorsed as the second national vice chairman of the party.
So contrary to press reports that I was relived from my post, I am still the second national vice president of the Party. Nobody sacked me from my post or asked me to resign and there was no basis for Dr Mahama to come on air because it agreed on principle that I act as national Chairman solely for the 2000 elections since the Professor Edwin had resigned and Colonel Zanrilegu, the first national vice chairman, was old. So between Party Flagbearer, Dr. Edward Mahama, the National Organizer, Dr. Bawa and Reverend Anokye, a Party Sympathizer, I was invited to act as such and since I was youthful and energetic. So after the 2000 elections I ceased to be the acting National Chairman of the Party.
Appointment in NPP administration
I never in any point in time did I decide to join the NPP administration on my own as is currently being speculated. When the appointment came, it was tabled in the National Executive Committee Meeting of the PNC. Fifty-five people attended the meeting and out of that number fourty five were in favor of my appointment which would afford the party a favorable footing within the new administration to lobby, if possible, for the PNC to get about 10 DCE posts and a couple of Ambassadorial and Deputy Ministerial positions within the new administration. That meeting lasted till ten in the night but I must admit that Dr. Mahama was one of the ten who objected to my appointment as Minister of Youth and Sports in the new administration.
After President Kufuor assumed office, the PNC running mate formed committee was constituted to go and negotiate with the NPP group on the issue. I called the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Jake Obetsibi-Lamptey, who said the NPP operates an open door policy and asked me to go straight President's Office with the issue. We were about five people who went to the president's office where we met Mr.. Kufuor himself, the vice president, and the Chairman of the NPP, Samuel Odoi Sykes,
Relationship with the President
I never knew President Kufuor before the elections although he was one of my admirers. However along the line, we met on political platforms, During the second round, that was when I became closer to him in Bolgatanga where I campaigned for him. Even in the Offinso South constituency where my Parents live and where I have a house and also in Energy Minister Albert Kan-Dapaah constituency, I campaigned within the rank and file of my party for the NPP.
Widespread opposition
Certainly I knew that there was widespread opposition against my appointment to the Sports Ministry. I knew people were saying that I was virtually unknown and questioned what I could do for the job. I was not shocked since people do not know me in the Football fraternity. To me it was about administration and since I see myself as a good administrator, I believe I was capable to handle the Ministry.
Some people may say I am wrong in limiting the Ministry to Football but let us face the facts. All over the years the Ministry has only been concerned about Football and to me it was the Ministry of Football and not the Ministry of Youth and Sports. With my appointment, I intended for the Ministry to regain its past glory and a real Ministry of Youth and Sports and it is rather unfortunate just as I was about to transform the Ministry, this mess came up. "I was more that confident in myself that, in spite of the doubts concerning my appointment, I would have transformed the Ministry to the surprise of all Ghanaians. And anytime I get the opportunity to perform in a public office, Inshallah, I would surprise Ghanaians again," he added.
Possibility of being jailed
Mallam Isa said he had no regrets of entering politics and added that he is not frightened about the possibility of being jailed for his role in the missing 46,000 US Dollars. He said, "even if I go to jail, as long as I know what has happened and my conscience is clear, I will go to jail and come out. Even people go to jail and become Presidents. I am not wishing this for myself. But once my conscience is clear that I have not done this to myself and that whatever happens, Inshallah, the truth will come out."


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