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Opinions Mon, 8 Aug 2011

The Five Embraer 190 Jets, an Ominous Sign

The Five Embraer 190 Jets, an Ominous Sign of the NDC’s Obsession with the Security Agencies

I made a conscious decision to shy away from the NDC’s decision to purchase 5 embraer 190 jets for the Air Force but the more I hear the likes of Okudjeto Ablakwa and Baba Jamal talk about this shoddy deal, the more I get worried about certain inconsistencies I have observed in the whole saga. I shall address my concerns anon. Deputy Information Minister Baba Jamal, had the opportunity to explain the purchase of the aircrafts to Ghanaians on “Peace Fm” radio station in Accra on Tuesday, 26th July and all he could shamelessly and incoherently say was that the NPP as a party are opposed to the purchase of the aircrafts because “….they don’t like the military….” Baba continued his treacherous submission that the Progress Party, the NPP’s antecedent led by Dr KA Busia had sought to “disband the army in order to create a police state.” To say Baba Jamal’s argument made me sick to the stomach is an understatement. Baba’s was a desperate and a deliberate attempt to sow seed of discord between the security apparatus and the NPP and that, I think doesn’t bode well for our democracy. Such malicious statement intended to cause suspicion and sow a seed of discord between the military and NPP is also dangerous for the country as a whole. To ‘jihadist’ Baba Jamal, our dishonourable Deputy Information Minister who specialises in rouble-rousing thought, it was wise to place the state security against the NPP for political expedience. Since the embraer deal was presented to parliament though, the NPP has consistently and unambiguously stated its position that it supports the purchase of the aircrafts for the Air Force if that is what the latter needed. However, they have vehemently queried the near doubling of the price and has asked the government to do due diligence in making sure that the poor Ghanaian tax payer’s money is wisely spent. Whilst sane minds are probing for answers for the huge difference between the price the NDC presented to parliament and the one presented by the manufacturers of the embraer on their website for the year 2011, the likes of Baba Jamal, Okudjeto Ablakwa and Allotey Jacobs are also sitting on the fence, scratching their balls and making expensive jokes with the destiny of our country.

When Baba Jamal, the shallow minded Deputy Information Minister makes serious comments like the above with such nonchalance it makes you wonder if he really has the interest of the nation at heart or just stuffing his pockets with his fat salary. The infantile arguments of the likes of him, Okudjeto Ablakwa, Allotey Jacobs et al makes the already suspicious deal even more worrying. That there are a lot of unanswered questions about the proposed purchase is undeniable. Why the “indecent haste” to get executive approval and then push it through to parliament on same day? The manufacturers’ price for an embraer 190 for the year 2011 still remain $32 million so how come the NDC presented it as $58 million even if it includes customised specifications? What even baffles Ghanaians is the $1 million added-on for “flight entertainment” and yet some people who think they know it all still want the Minority in parliament and Ghanaians to keep quiet and accept it! If these aircrafts are meant for the Air Force and intended to protect Ghana’s territorial integrity and our oilrigs; why the need for the ostentatiously named “flight entertainment”? No serious Air Force worth its name would be having “flight entertainment” whilst airborne. This is no rocket science. It is called common sense but it appears a lot of our “brothers and sisters” in the NDC are blinded by sycophancy and party allegiance. Readers could check the NATO aircrafts being used in Afghanistan, Iraq and other such places during news bulletins to see if the troops in those aircrafts appear to be having anything like “flight entertainment” whilst on board. Something is certainly not right and Ghanaians need better explanation rather than this hocus-pocus being pushed down our throats. Any military surveillance exercise whether on the sea or land is a serious business and anything which could distract is needless. The NDC might as well include “flight ladies” as part of the “flight entertainment” just to make the whole package even more complete.

The argument that it was the Air Force which requested for the 5 aircrafts does not wash either because the NDC has already politicised the purchase of the aircrafts with their political statements on the matter. In the face of the perennial floods in Accra which has now extended to parts of the Eastern Region this year and the perennial Bagre Dam flooding in the northern part of the country, one would have thought that choppers would been what the Air Force would request for to use for surveillance and rescue missions but commercial aircrafts with “flight entertainment” on board? God help us! Even if we shift the argument from the domain of NPP/NDC, someone has to ask the Air Force why they keep asking for commercial aircrafts rather than choppers which would better serve the purpose they keep putting out. Readers should bear in mind that the same Air Force requested for two aircrafts during Kuffour’s tenure. Couldn’t our Air Force have requested for helicopters or is it case of misplaced priorities? The latter part of the preceding statement appears to be the case in this embraer business: so murky, so unholy and even has a touch of evil on it. NDC has turned its propaganda outfit into the PR machinery for the Air Force and that’s why well-meaning Ghanaians smell a rat in this business. There’s too much haste in this deal which leaves a bitter taste in our mouths.

Another deal to rush through Parliament by the NDC? Have we not been here before? Readers should remember how quickly the NDC rushed through the STX deal even at a time when the Minority in Parliament have staged a walk out in protest for lack of due diligence in that deal. The NDC Majority approved that deal around midnight. A year later, the allocated piece of land has not even been cleared for commencement of work. Alban Bagbin now tells Ghanaians that construction has not started “due to technicalities….” The question which arises then is; if construction of the buildings were not going to start immediately as we were made to believe; why was the unholy haste to push the deal through the way it was? Hasn’t the Minority’s stance been vindicated then with this “….technicalities…..” theory Bagbin is propounding? Why should parliament again be in haste to rush this spurious embraer deal through just like the STX? Why this fiendish obsession with state security agencies? Were are told that the STX housing project is aimed at first taking care of the police before every other homeless Ghanaian. Now the Air Force are asking for 5 commercial aircrafts with “flight entertainment on board” when Accra, our national capital and other parts of the country are flooding without a single helicopter to evacuate Ghanaians stranded on hills and other high grounds. Only God knows what other state security agency the NDC would be spreading their largesse on next. The President and the NDC are subtly luring our state security into our politics as it pertains in Egypt and Turkey where the military have become the king-makers of those countries. We don’t need this in Ghana. Neither do we want to become a military state like Cuba or DPRK where their armies are the ruling class. With our army buying factories to “revive them” in Kumasi, I can foresee this happening. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the 5 embraer deal and the NDC should come clean. Better still they should get the Air Force Communication Directorate to explain to Ghanaians what this whole messy business is about. The NDC’s obsession with our security agencies is getting some of us twitchy.

Kofi Kyei-Mensah-Osei

Columnist: Kyei-Mensah-Osei, Kofi