Opinions Wed, 23 Aug 2006

Stay above the fray, Mr. President.

President John Kufuor's decision to wade into the current cocaine controversy with a blistering attack on a political opponent wasn't, to say the least, prudent.

Not only have his remarks in a speech on Saturday ignited a firestorm of protests and snide comments, they have reinforced widely held notions that the NPP is complicit in the illicit trade in hard drugs.

President Kufuor who spoke before a cheering crowd of NPP diehards uncharacteristically fingered Robert Joseph Mettle Nunoo, also known as Rojo, a former campaign manager for Professor Atta Mills, as the individual who aided the entry into Ghana of a Venezuelan, Gerald Vasques. Mr. Vasques is said to be a big time cocaine kingpin.

“Now, we know the people who brought the cocaine into this nation,” the president said. "It is not the NPP. It is somebody who was the campaign manager of a presidential candidate of a major party in this country who has admitted that he had partners from South America."

It won't be out of place to state emphatically that the President's handlers are not serving him well; instead, they are providing aid and comfort to his foes. How else do they explain Saturday's speech?

Whoever was responsible for tasking the president with this odious speech should be put out to pasture with no questions asked. Somebody at the Castle ought to have known that any presidential utterance regarding the tantalizing cocaine saga will be viewed negatively and seized by opponents to drive home the point that the NPP isn't keen on addressing Ghana's cocaine problem.

Reaction to the speech was swift and ugly. Rojo publicly rebuked the president and threatened to drag Kufuor before the Georgina Wood Committee “Kufuor should bow his head in shame over his outrageous statement," Rojo thundered.

This public flogging of the president by Rojo, deplorable and unfortunate as it is, is permitted under the constitution. The presidency does not inoculate its occupant from excoriation.

All told, one important lesson emerges from the public feud and it is this: our nation and its elected representatives are becoming overly consumed with this drug. Both major parties have traded barbs over who is the "biggest cocaine party."

The very public feud between President Kufuor and Rojo shows how bad the situation has become. It does not bode well for our democracy.

Hard as it is to digest, it is undeniable that our country is awash in "hard" drugs...cocaine and heroin. Its main gateway to the outside world...Kotoka International Airport... in the last decade, has become a conduit for drugs smuggled to London and New York.

That cocaine has suddenly morphed into a national obsession is not hard to understand. Mention it and eyes pop up wild with dreams and images of a grandeur lifestyle, sprinkled with palatial mansions, incalculable wealth, pretty women, and fleets of assorted luxury vehicles.

It is indeed a quick path out of poverty, but a sure way to years of confinement or death, as in death sentences handed out to drug smugglers snared in Singapore.

Despite the inherent dangers, Ghanaians of all economic stripes are scrambling for a piece of the cake. Even legislators are getting into the act. A former Ghanaian lawmaker is still cooling his heels in a New York City penitentiary on charges of smuggling cocaine into the United States.

The Castle should maintain a dignified silence until the committee appointed to look into the latest cocaine case wraps up its assignment. It will be a good thing if the president stays above the fray and only dispense his wisdom at the appropriate time. But for the president to step into the controversy as it winds its way through the legal system is meddlesome and tawdry.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Yahaya, Moses Kofi