By Manasseh Azure Awuni
Before prejudice clouds your mind, let me issue this disclaimer. The only relationship between the Awuni in the headline and the Awuni in the by-line of this article is that they come from the same region. It is not the case of a son rising to the defence of a father. Awuni is a “common noun” in the Upper East Region.
If you still think the purpose of this piece is to defend a fellow “countryman,” then disabuse your mind that misconception. He who commits an offence is not as guilty as he who justifies the offence. It is for this reason that I will not support COP Rose Bio Atinga, the Director Administration of the Ghana Police Service, for issuing that unfortunate, if not thoughtless, disclaimer concerning Superintendent Kwesi Ofori’s ransom.
The Tafo Pankrono District police commander had promised a financial reward of GH?2000 for anyone who gave information leading to the arrest of a suspect said to be behind the chaos in the biometric registration exercise in the district. But a press statement signed by Rose Bio Atinga said the police administration was disassociating itself from the Mr Kwesi Ofori’s ransom.
“It must be noted that the police has its own ways of investigating cases of this nature and arresting such suspects,” the statement said. “If the officer indeed put a ransom on the head of the suspect, he did so on his own accord without seeking authorization from the police administration.”
Any director of administration worth his or her title would realise that this is an internal matter that must not be brought to the public domain. Mr Kwesi Ofori could have been queried for taking the action without consulting his superiors. Then for the purpose deterring other officers, a circular could have been sent round, reminding them of what to do in such cases.
Running to the media to disown a district commander doing the best he can to ensure peace, especially at a time when some members of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) are calling for his removal, is unfortunate. It speaks of a police administration that is too willing to throw professionalism to the dogs in order to please a political authority. What message are they sending to potential offenders?
So it will be equally thoughtless on my part or anybody’s part to defend COP Rose Bio Atinga though she also comes from the Upper East Region.
In the case of ACP Angwubutoge Awuni, however, one does not need to have any association with him to recognise his good deeds. The exploits of the National Commander of the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit of the Ghana Police Service are well-documented in every position that he has served.
Three weeks ago I witnessed a very enlightening public lecture at the British Council on the need for responsible spokes persons. The lecture was organised by the Institute of Public Relations-Ghana as part of activities marking its 40th anniversary, and the speaker was Dr Joyce Aryee. The discussion that came in the wake of her delivery weighed heavily against spokespersons whose unprofessional conducts had given bad name to the profession of public relations.
Of all the public relations officers, communication directors and spokesperson in the country, it was the name of ACP Awuni that was mentioned when the master of ceremony (MC) moderating the discussion said there were exceptions.
ACP Angwubutoge Awuni’s bluntness-with-the-truth and no-nonsense disposition has not endeared him to many people in authority. It has given many politicians who will always want to bend the rules in their favour trouble, in much the same way his first name has often troubled broadcast journalists.
But the police officer is living that name. Like many names of minority ethnic groups, the name Angwubutoge has nothing in common with real name when spelt and pronounced properly. Anmibitoge, which is should have been the spelling of ACP Awuni’s first name, in Gurune (Frafra), loosely means “damn the consequences and speak [the truth].”
However, in our society, where speaking the truth is mostly due a slip of tongue and not a deliberate effort, such persons are seen as deviants. It is for this reason that the Greater Accra NDC are calling for the immediate transfer of ACP Awuni from the region. The regional NDC chairman has accused ACP Awuni of unprofessional conduct after he ordered the arrest of NDC member of parliament for Klottey Korle Constituency and immediate past Greater Accra Regional minister, Mr Nii Armah Ashietey.
“He can be moved anywhere but not in Greater Accra,” Mr Ade Coker told Joy FM. “We in Greater Accra cannot work with a policeman like him [Awuni].
The question is: if the Greater Accra Region cannot work with ACP Awuni, which region should be able to work with him?
But did the MTTU commander err in in ordering the arrest of the former regional minister?
The Electoral Commission has stated that it is illegal to physically stop someone from registering. According to the EC, the aggrieved party agents or individuals should fill the complaint form if they have doubts about the eligibility of prospective voters.
So in the first place, it was illegal for Mr Ashietey to have gone to the registration centre to physically stop people from registering, alleging that they did not belong to his constituency. That registration centre is on the premises of the National MTTU Headquarters. In fact, it is situated just behind ACP Awuni’s window, so he would have been irresponsible as a police officer to sit down and allow bloodshed to take place because of a wayward MP.
According to sources, which Mr Ashietey has not denied, ACP Awuni approached him and politely pleaded with him to leave the scene since some aggrieved members of the opposition party were grouping to challenge his action. But all attempts to persuade the former regional minister, MP and parliamentary candidate proved futile hence ACP Awuni’s order for his arrest. So where did the MTTU boss err?
Mr Ashietey is alleging that the police manhandled him, but that is what someone of his nature deserves. The appeal for him to leave the scene was due to the respect the police had for him. If he were any ordinary person, such an obstruction would have faced arrest straight away. It is an illegality and no one would have appealed to him to leave in the first place. But when he made rank nonsense of all the courtesies extended to him, and was prepared to be physical, the police only had to apply force in order to get him out.
“I have been a minister…for 3-years and three months…and I don’t think I deserve this kind of treatment,” Mr Ashietey told Joy FM. But does being a minister lift one above the laws of the state?
ACP Awuni has admitted exchanging unpleasant words with the former minister when he threatened to have him dismissed from the police service. His admission and apology, though he was provoked, seem not to have gone down with some members of the NDC hence the call for his removal from the region.
The interior minister, Mr Kobby Acheampong, over the weekend condemned ACP Awuni and DSP Kwesi Ofori on Multi TV’s Newsfile programme. He also blamed the NPP parliamentary aspirant for Ablekuma South, Ms Ursula Owusu, saying she had no business in the Odododiodoo constituency, where she and others were alleged to have been beaten by NDC thugs.
For those who know Kobby Acheampong and his unguarded utterances, this does not come as a surprise. In any serious nation, he would have been stripped of his position right after the programme. Is the deputy interior minister (who is supposed to preside over the entire police service and other security agencies in the absence of the substantive minister) saying that anybody can be beaten if they go beyond their own constituencies? Is it then strange that the brutalities meted out to innocent citizens at the Odododiodoo Constituency have gone without the arrests of perpetrators who carry out those barbaric acts in broad daylight?
As a journalist, I’m not oblivious of the fact that some of the reports are overblown to score political points. The Daily Guide’s front page of Friday April 13, 2012 carried the picture of a man wearing a white shirt soaked with blood. He was said to have been brutalised by NDC thugs and bleeding all over. His facial expression, however, depicted someone who had just won a lottery.
If reports of the NPP’s plot in 2008 to litter the Volta Region with corpses from the mortuary to discredit the NDC are anything to go by, then one will not be surprised to see such publications
This does not, however, belie the fact that there is violence in Odododiodoo and nothing seems to be done about it. That same Daily Guide carried pictures of young men with all manner of weapons with their faces shown? Who has arrested them? What have the police there done? It is such district police commanders that should be queried, not those that are dealing with wayward people who hold or have held political positions.
The current trend means any idiot can just walk up to you, beat you up and go scot-free if his government is in power. We all stand to suffer if this is not addressed.
The IGP and senior police officers should emulate the boldness of ACP Awuni and call the bluff politicians. In the heat of the NPP primaries, a renowned economist and founding member of the NPP, Mr Kwame Pianim, said any idiot could become a flag bearer. Indeed, one does not need any qualification to become a politician.
But to be able to rise to become a top police official is not something that should be sold for a morsel of bread. Until police officials learn to be firm and respect themselves, no one will respect them. We need more of ACP Awunis in the Ghana Police Service.
If Ade Coker, Kobby Acheampong and their cohorts think they cannot work with any forthright police officer, they can go ahead and set the sea ablaze!
Savannah View is a weekly column published in the Tuesday edition of The Finder newspaper. Writer’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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