Martin Amidu, don’t kill the spirit that gave you life

James Kofi Annan   James Kofi Annan

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 Source: James Kofi Annan

I am not sure if Ghana could have avoided the vetting element in the appointment of a Special Prosecutor.

In my minority view, the euphoria surrounding the vetting process is elevating the office to a political debate, which is not what the office needs. Such an office should be as sacred as we would love to preserve the constitution of Ghana.

The celebration, the pomp, and the contempt that has greeted the vetting process has set the office up either for the NPP or for the NDC, and this is diluting the intentions of what we have sought to do.

I have been an admirer of Martin Amidu, ever since he became Citizen Vigilante. His genuine quest for the protection of the resources of the country is on point. He has inspired me, to join the anti-corruption fraternity.

I have, in the last four years, felt the explosions in the voice of a man who stood alone, face-to-face, with his own government, and utilized the human will to retrieve colluded and looted money that belongs to our children. He did that with pride, passion, and with risks that could have spelt the end of his life – such is the man who is deservingly being appointed as Ghana’s first Special Prosecutor.

The news of Martin Amidu’s appointment reached me, first, on the radio. I was then driving from somewhere to somewhere. As the newsreader read the communication that had come from the Flagstaff House, I slowed the car and got myself to the shoulders of the road. I had begun to develop goose pimples, not because I knew the man personally, but because I celebrated Nana Akufo-Addo, for making such a choice, and making me feel proud that I voted for him.

Appointing Martin Amidu, an opposition NDC Cadre, who has been a Minister, and who has once served as a running mate to them, is not only a foolish risk to Nana Addo’s own reputation, but also a recipe for sabotage, both from his own appointees, and from the man he has appointed, who is clearly an opposition element.

But therein lies citizenship - Nana Akufo-Addo, a true son of the land – who understands the burden posterity puts on his shoulders, to yield to our ancestral expectations of posterity, in preserving our land, and the resources therein, for the benefit of those who must continue to see it as fertile as our grandfathers left for us.

The vetting itself went fairly well. I was not particularly convinced about his comments on not accepting awards. It seemed too self-serving and tended to shame people who have accepted credible awards for their achievements. The recognition that comes from awards are not necessarily for the sake of the award, but also for the sake of the very cause for which the award is given. So, for instance, the awards, if they are credible, bring visibility to the issue being pursued, and subsequently resources that are needed for the promotion of those objectives, for the sake of sustainability.

My high point, I believe, was in the following quote: “I cannot live in harmony with criminals”. This to me was the summary of all what Martin Amidu had to say to the many MPs who were vetting him. I don’t know whether this quotation is written anywhere, but I would put my weight behind any program instituted that will assist the Speaker of Parliament to learn how not to be able to live in harmony with criminals.

I understand the Speaker is a pastor. Professor Ocquaye was actually my Political Science lecturer during my first degree at the University of Ghana. He has a unique way of walking into the lecture halls, and I believe he brings the same majestic walking into the chamber of Parliament.

Sir, I will encourage you, that, when you are on your majestic walk through the middle of the aisles of Parliament, just look right, and look left, and look right again, then please look forward, try to get closer to some of the MPs, and observe their noses, and while sniffing their foreheads, ask yourself whether it is fair for you to live in harmony with all of them. If you cannot live with all of them, then go back to your office, and call them, one after the other, and ask them, how much of Ghana’s money is found in their private pockets.

The lowest point, I believe, is the offence Martin Amidu took on the armless comment from Haruna Iddrisu. Haruna Iddrisu had said Martin Amidu should settle a matter “the Builsa way", which means defeating an opponent comprehensively. The term obviously looks a common idiom linked to the Builsa people. It is similar to “Konongo Kaya”, and many others we know of.

Sir Martin, your tantrum was unnecessary, and it gave you out as emotionally unstable person. In the run-up to the 2016 elections, I had to jump to the defense of Nana Akufo-Addo, because of a similar reaction that had come from some elders of Winneba, because Nana Addo had used the term “Simpa Panyin” to make a point, in one of his campaign stops. I believe all such reactions are cheap, unproductive, and the carriers of such reactions are dormant recipients of cultures.

Haruna Iddrisu obviously meant the comment to be a joke. The former President, John Mahama, is reported to have used the term during the 2016 campaign, to inspire his followers to ensure that the NDC won the elections comprehensively.

I never knew about this refrain (doing something the Builsa way). Today because Haruna used it, I have learnt something about your culture, and your people, and I have researched about your tribe. What a better way to develop your people, than to allow people to know who you are, and the issues that make you who you are?

Your tantrums towards the lawmaker was needless, and presented you as an intolerant person, giving credence to the perception that you would be a difficult person to work with.

I will like to see you, all the way, to the end, fighting corruption until you die. I believe that you would go into history as the person who brought the biggest change in the fight against corruption. But you should not see the privilege of being appointed as the first Special Prosecutor, as a right, as though you deserve it better than all others, for there may be so many other people better able, out there, than your competent self. They have not had the exposure and the privileges you have had.

You were sacked from your position as a Minister. You courted public sympathy, and you took advantage of the public sympathy to launch your anti-corruption campaign, which has sustained your public image up till now. Until then, you were an ordinary Deputy Minister, you were an ordinary Minister who might have even stolen money before, and in fact, until then, you were not different from all the perceived corrupt politicians in this country.

You have to accept this position with humility and remind yourself of the burden of the responsibilities that clothes the position. The entire nation is looking up to your sacred aptitude. Posterity is waiting to know how you saved their environment. How you interpreted the privileges conferred on you.

You cannot carry your weight about, as though you are an intimidating village headmaster who bullies his students into cowardly, forcing them to confess even when they have not committed any crime. You cannot use your position to stifle business people from taking risks, and you cannot use your position to prevent genuine entrepreneurs and genuine public officials from making the needed mistakes that will enable them to explore what is possible. If you do that, you would not have been acting responsibly, and you would have killed the spirit that gave birth to you.

Columnist: James Kofi Annan