By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Sometimes, I find it difficult to believe the utterances made by some public officials, particularly when such statements are good only as a demonstration of frustration or uselessness. I have all along been tempted to disregard statements coming from government functionaries, especially those that shift blame for their own inadequacies.
Most of such useless statements facilitate the buck passing that has dominated our national affairs over the years—and they annoy us! We have had too much buck passing under all governments, especially in this 4th Republic, beginning with the Kufuor government’s blaming the Rawlings one for leaving behind intractable problems. Then, when President Mills took over, the blame game continued. It has been so until now, and will definitely continue ad infinitum.
The Deputy Minister of Information, Samuel Okudjeto Ablakwa has just given me cause to believe that the blame game won’t cease any soon. Of all public utterances accentuating that blame game, none has infuriated me as much as what Okudjeto Ablakwa made today:
“… that government has not been able to take certain key decisions since it came into office, because vital documents needed to pursue sensitive issues were taken away by officials under Kufuor’s government” (Myjoyonline, February 25, 2012).
Speaking on Joy FM’s news analysis programme Newsfile hosted by Matilda Asante-Asiedu on Saturday, Okudjeto Ablakwa cited, for instance, the Chief of Staff’s office where all important documents were carted off from that office, without any to rely on.
Is anybody to believe this story, almost four years into President Mills’ administration? How was the handing over done as we transitioned from the Kufuor era to the Mills one for the government’s spokesman to be complaining about documents being stolen from the seat of government? Or is Okudjeto Ablakwa saying that even though those documents were not handed over, the Mills government didn’t do anything to retrieve them or to ensure that none went where it shouldn’t? What is this nonsense we are being told at this time? Or is Okudjeto Ablakwa just interested in some diversionary tactics? What for?
Every Ghanaian should be alarmed at this claim, not because official documents can’t be misplaced, stolen, or given to the wrong hands (What for but sabotage or espionage, anyway?). For how long has the Mills government detected the loss of these documents but kept mute over it, and what has it done to retrieve them or to punish those responsible for the theft/loss?
The overarching question is: What will those former government officials do with those files? Or how would they hope to use the information therein? Would they be taking away those documents just to sabotage the Mills government or to hide any wrongdoing perpetrated under Kufuor?
There are very serious issues behind Okudjeto Ablakwa’s claims and we will not rest assured until they are brought into the open and the perpetrators dealt with accordingly.
Official government documents are not individual functionaries’ personal property to be toyed with. They belong to the state and must be protected against espionage. In turbulent political times, it is not far-fetched to guess that foreign interests could look for ways to access official documents as a means to probe into our state secrets.
Economic intelligence, for instance, is vital and can be found in such documents. Do we remember what happened in the early 1980s when our country’s cocoa industry suffered a devastation from which it hasn’t recovered so far, and why our country lost its first slot to the Ivory Coast as the world’s leading cocoa producer?
No matter what any government official might want to do with official documents, the truth stands that information contained in those documents qualify mostly as classified and shouldn’t be disclosed to undesirables. If the principle of the “Need-to-know” is still relevant to national security, then, these official documents must be traced.
By this revelation, Okudjeto Ablakwa leaves room for more questions than any answer that he might be using his office to seek to help government solve its credibility problems. He has, in one way or the other, added more worries to what is currently buffeting the government. He comes across to me as a nuisance and must be dealt with as such. I wonder what makes him feel so secure in his position as to take liberties anyhow.
I am one of those who strongly believe that Ghana doesn’t need a Ministry of Information, which I made clear in one of my articles in early 2009 when advising President Mills on how to set up his administration to help him perform better than his predecessors. He didn’t heed that advice and must by now have seen the repercussions, following the reshuffles that he has done at that Ministry without anything concrete being done to help “market” his administration.
In a system where governments are better at misplacing priorities than doing what will solve the country’s problems, I don’t doubt why it has been difficult for the Ministry of Information to be abolished. It is not serving anybody’s purposes to warrant being supported in any way by the sweat, toil, and blood of the tax-payer.
But as it still exists, we can’t do otherwise but brace up for the daily haranguing that it subjects us to with the badly done propaganda or shoddy public relations work for the government. That’s why we’ll give Okudzeto Ablakwa the benefit of the doubt. After all, he is only a ventriloquist for the appointing authority.
His latest accusations are, nonetheless, very serious and mustn’t be overlooked. As would be expected, the NPP’s Communication Director (Nana Akomea) quickly rebuffed Okudjeto Ablakwa’s claims; but it is clear that the matter can’t just be dismissed as one of those things from a frustrated government functionary.
Okudjeto Ablakwa’s boast that specifics would be given in the next few days seems hollow to me. We want to know immediately who the thieves of the official documents are so that action can be taken to retrieve those documents and stiff punishment meted out to them.
As we recently focused attention on the Wikileaks report, trying very hard to find fault, apportion blame, or use the contents of the report to deepen the political divide between the NDC and the NPP, we might have failed to recognize the overarching negative impact of the report on the country.
In most cases, those who made those contacts with the US Embassy to make those revelations or comments would have been questioned thoroughly to ascertain the extent to which they exposed the country’s interests to harm. But nothing of the sort was done.
Recent reports that Liberia’s former President Charles Taylor was acting for the United States’ CIA while in office make me cringe at what is happening in our own case.
We know the seriousness of “loose talk” by those walking the corridors of power and are wary of how much at all was revealed, which the Wikileaks report didn’t disclose. Again, we don’t know how our foreign missions are conducting affairs; but we are already worried that much water might have passed under the bridge.
The responsibility for protecting our national interests rests with us all. If we can’t do so and rush to reveal our frustrations, speculations, and hunches to foreign embassy staff, we shouldn’t be surprised when the information leaked to them is processed and later used against us.
Although some have rushed to dismiss the cables as mere gossip or figments of people’s imagination circulating as rumours that the US Embassy picked up, we must not fail to question the implications or to ponder the attitude of those whose names cropped up as the informants.
All the personalities whose names have been mentioned in the US Embassy’s diplomatic cables in one way or the other contributed to a major problem that will for long cast our country in a bad light.
These revelations aside, what we are being told by Okudjeto Ablakwa indicate strongly that all is not well in official government business. If those entrusted with protecting official documents are now being presented as thieves of those very documents, where should we go for protection? Aren’t we in deep trouble?
I urge the government to come clean on this issue and not deceive itself that Ghanaians will brush it aside as a sensational piece of information to douse the fire lit by the Woyome scandal. This claim in and by itself is serious enough to overshadow the Woyome scandal. It highlights several concerns that must be addressed. Otherwise, Okudjeto Ablakwa’s wild utterances will add more to push the government further into the quagmire.
Assuming that Okudjeto Ablakwa seeks to take the heat off the government and discredit the NPP/Kufuor government in the process, couldn’t he have gone for anything else but this alarming claim? We all saw the mad rush for state property by functionaries of the Rawlings and Kufuor governments, but we hardly suspected that they might be tucking official documents under their armpits to bolt away with. Where are we heading as a country? I pause for answers from the authorities.
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