General News of Thu, 5 Feb 200425
Scandal Rocks President's Office - Part III: Killing The Story
...Offers money and promises car
The Deputy Presidential Minister, Hon. Moctar Musah Bamba, known around the Presidency as the occupant of a silent political office, which ensures that hard-core party supporters land jobs, minor ‘de-silting contracts’ and recommendations to travel and enter the university, had reached his saturation point after an hour of vigorous questioning.
The venue is the Office of the President, and the mission was to interview the Minister for his side of the story in a case of fraud, abuse of office and corruption, which had occupied The Chronicle investigators for close to three months.
After having had enough of the questions, the Minister had come to one simple conclusion - killing the story.
First, he asked that all the three digital recorders should be switched off. v
Secondly, he insisted that his office door should be locked and thirdly, he lifted the handle of his office phone and hung it up and instructed his secretary, “no phone calls because this is more important to me, if this story gets out, I am finished.”
Last and most importantly, he offered money to the reporter, but it was politely rejected and he then said, “Okay if you won’t collect it then give me money.”
A day before this meeting, a phone call came from a brother of Hon. Bamba (name withheld) wishing this Chronicle reporter a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year, The voice faded with the words “Raymond, hmm! There is a problem because I understand you are doing a story on my brother, Hon. Bamba.”
A day after this phone call, the Minister’s brother met this reporter to confirm the date for the interview.
Driving in the Minister’s shimmering ash coloured car, the brother said the Minister had given him some money to be given to the reporter but it was politely rejected.
The minister’s brother pleaded with the reporter to forgive his brother because the story was going to damage his reputation and possibly end his political career.
Half way through the interview with Hon. Bamba, he ordered his brother, who was sitting through the interview, to excuse “me and Raymond for a brief moment.”
He began telling the story of how close he was to the President and many other reasons why such a story should not be allowed to be published.
The Deputy Presidential Minister added that even within the New Patriotic Party (NPP) there are many people who are jealous of his relationship with the President and would love to see his downfall.
He pleaded that The Chronicle should not publish the stories and when he was told that it was impossible he insisted that he had witnessed the killing of many stories involving ministers of state.
The Minister after his ‘man-to-man” meeting with the reporter invited his brother back into the interview room.
When the interview was over, the Minister made another offer saying, “ Oh get this money so that on New Year’s Day Raymond can buy petrol.” The reporter politely rejected it but the Minister said, “Oh! No, No, please get it, if you won’t collect it then give me money.”
“I can give you money if you want, Honorable I have done this job for only three years I have many awards which I am proud of. It is not just because of money,” the reporter said.
“Listen Raymond, my father once told me that anyone who does not appreciate the help of his fellow human being is not a human being. Look what has happened between me and you right now, I don’t know when I will ever forget of it,” Hon. Bamba insisted.
The Minister was being ever grateful to the reporter because after persistent pleading, the reporter told him that he would consider his plea and that the Minister should also go and plead with the cool but firm Editor of The Chronicle, Mr. Kojo Omaboe.
Hon. Bamba also told the story of how his father had died a day before the interview but he could not go because “I can’t be myself.”
The reporter and his editor were visibly touched by the Minister’s three weeks of persistent pleading but were at the same weighing their professional responsibilities and ethics.
After the interview was over, the Minister and his brother escorted The Chronicle reporter to the Castle car park, where he made more offers.
Upon reaching the car park, the Minister asked which of the numerous cars at the car park belonged to the reporter. He pointed to a nice Toyota Camry and asked whether that was the car the reporter was using.
The reporter replied that he could not afford such a car and that he was driving an old Opel Kadett, which the Minister teasingly described as “American car.” Opel cars are made in Germany.
The Minister looked straight into the face of the reporter in the presence of his brother and made yet another offer.
He said he could arrange a car for the reporter because he was the Chairman of the Auction Committee on confiscated vehicles. The reporter refused it and said he was okay with his car and that it does not give him problems.
“Raymond I am with you,” he added.
In his response to the Minister’s offer, the reporter told him that his office had officially asked him to apply for a purchase allocation to purchase one of those confiscated vehicles from the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) but he was not considered and that he was no longer interested in having a new car.
At this point, the Minister asked the reporter about the engine capacity of his Opel Kadett and when he was told he promised to get one for the reporter because he was expecting a $75,000 consignment of slightly used engines. Once again the reporter politely rejected it.
Hon. Bamba said that if the reporter had contacted him regarding the secondhand cars he would have arranged one for him easily.
The Minister left with a goodbye to the reporter and a promise to call him later.
The Chronicle reporter was left at the Castle car park, with the minister’s brother, who was holding a brown envelope loaded with cash.
The brother opened the passenger side of the car and attempted to dump the money in the car, but The Chronicle reporter refused it and told him that if his brother (the Minister) would be forgiven it would not be because of money and so he should go back and give the money to him.
“Oh, Raymond, if you don’t collect this money, the man will not feel fine, he will think that you are going to publish the story,” the brother said.
Two months before the interview with the Minister, The Chronicle sent a letter to the Minister, informing him that the paper had been investigating allegations of corruption, fraud and abuse of office and conspiracy to commit fraud against him.
The letter pleaded with the Minister that due to deadline pressures The Chronicle would be most grateful if he could make himself available for an interview within the earliest convenient time.
Before the reporter could reach his office, the Minister had called the office. A couple of days later the reporter returned his call and fixed an appointment for the interview.
To the surprise of The Chronicle the phone number, which was given to The Chronicle by the Minister, was switched off for two months. All attempts by the reporter to reach the Minister in his office failed.
The last December, the minister’s brother called this reporter, saying that he had heard that The Chronicle might carry the story in its first edition of the new year so he would make the Minister available for the interview.