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Opinions Thu, 7 Jul 2016

Manasseh’s Folder: Omane Boamah may be lying unless…

The accusations have started. It is getting very nasty. It tells us what to expect in 2016 elections. And it does not portend well for us.

The Minister of Communication, Dr. Edward Omane Boamah, is accusing the New Patriotic Party (NPP) of plotting to rig tomorrow’s parliamentary by-election in Talensi Constituency in the Upper East Region.

He said on Joy FM that a text message meant for one of the parties in the plot was mistakenly sent to the Upper East Regional Minister James Zugah Tiigah. The said recipient is also called James, according to the Minister.

He said the person first called the Upper East Regional Minister mistakenly, and after telling him everything, followed up with a text message.

The supposed text message, he said, came from this phone number: 233248497192. Dr Omane Boamah read the message as follows:

“James, please, once again Chairman Wontumi and Hon. Blay say I should tell you to tell your men not to use the black cream on Tuesday and that they should get rid of the ones in their possession. Please, just keep your distance for now.”

According to the Minister, another text was subsequently sent, saying: “Sorry, sir, yesterday, I called you sir, it was a wrong number, my brother is also called James and I have your number in my contact book with the same name, sorry sir.”

The Upper East Regional Chairman of the Electoral Commission is called James so the message seems to corroborate the allegations by the NDC that he is an NPP sympathizer who wants to conspire with the NPP to rig tomorrow’s election.

Listening to the tape and the text messages read by Dr. Omane Boamah, it sounds like something cooked up by the government. That’s how it sounds. That’s my opinion. You are entitled to yours.

In investigative journalism, there is a principle called inherent improbability. Every investigative journalist often receives many leads to investigate. Most of the callers are what former BNI boss, Kofi Bentum Quantson, will refer to as “bogus informants.”

In order not spend all your time chasing after the wind, the investigative journalist works with the inherent improbability principle in order to dismiss false stories. This is how the principle operates:

If an informant tells you that every evening President Mahama meets all his ministers at Afrikiko to take his share of the kickbacks, you can tell without any evidence that it is probably not true. The President will not be so dumb to take bribes in a public meeting place even if he was corrupt.

A number of reasons make the Communication Minister’s allegation appear like palpable lies.

A plot like that being speculated by the Communication Minister is not often discussed on phone. If it does, it will be as discreet as possible. The party will not give it to a dumb person who will call the wrong person and start speaking without ascertaining who actually received the call.

The caller should also have known that the man responding to the conversation is not the intended James. They would have dealt with him and known his voice.

Such high level plots would not mention names in both voice calls and in text messages, unless the plotters are patients of a psychiatric hospital.

At what point did the regional minister start recording the message? It seems the recording started from the very beginning of the conversation. The Upper East Regional Minister is a fairly old man and does not look like someone who has the presence of mind to start recording people as soon as they call him unless of course his phone automatically records anyone who calls him.

Besides, how possible is the execution of the plot. If the James in the allegation is the Regional EC boss as they want us to believe, how are he and his men supposed to spoil the ballots with the supposed ink? Will they taint the ballot papers before voting? If yes, then how do they know these tainted ballots will be used by NDC voters?

If it is after the voting, the sorting and counting are often done in the presence of all party representatives. How will they spoil ballots of NDC voters without the party representatives knowing?

To be able to tell whether this is true or not, there are a few things to look out for:

Will the National Security ever arrest the caller and sender of these messages? If they are able to produce this person, some level of credibility will be attached to this story.

But I don’t think anyone will be arrested. After the results are declared tomorrow, we won’t hear anything about it again. That is how such fabrications often end.

Will the Upper East Regional Minister, who is said to have received the call and text messages, ever grant any media interview on the matter? Any intelligent journalist who interviews him will expose him IF ONLY it is a fabrication. I don’t think he will ever speak on the subject. Joy FM tried to speak to him but failed.

For me, this sounds like tactics in kindergarten politics. If the Dr. Edward Omane Boamah wants us to take him seriously, then he should get to the bottom of this and tell us something more than what he has said. Until then, I think he is lying.

These allegations sound more acceptable to the ears when they come from the mouth of a serial caller, and not a minister of state.

Columnist: Manasseh Azure Awuni