Simpa Panyin: Stephen Opuni’s trial and matters arising

Stephen Opuni Sldks Former Cocobod CEO, Stephen Opuni is facing for causing financial loss to the state

Thu, 5 Apr 2018 Source: James Kofi Annan

Some years ago I caught a thief on my cassava farm, in Winneba. Simpa Panyin had cultivated this farm, prior to leaving for the University of Ghana, and my senior brother, Tutu (Enoch Kojo Annan), had struggled with what to do with the regular stealing of the cassava while I was away. One day (while on holiday), at about 2 am, Tutu and I had laid ambush near the farm, in anticipation of any thief that might come around.

Two hours into our ambush, Kwesi Atta (not his real name), entered the farm, from an unsuspecting route, and began to uproot the cassava, carefully selecting the most matured ones, including the ones which could have been sold for some good money.

We watched him fill the first sack. Just when he was about to fill the other sack, Tutu lifted a stone, to hit Kwesi’s left heel, hard, sending him sprawling as he let out loud screams. I followed up immediately, pouncing on him with a left-right-left-right determined blow, to his cheeks, face, and groins, in a never-ending excitement of having finally caught the thief who had been raiding my farm.

Just about the time, Kow Tawiah emerged from the bush, to plead with us to let Kwesi go. Kow Tawiah, a much older person, and a known fufu pounder in the village attempted to bully Tutu and I, but when he realized we were tough customers, he began to plead, for us to settle the matter on the farm. We insisted that we were going to report the case to the village elders for the appropriate punishment. Kow Tawiah became more anxious, and agitated, vowing to help Kwesi take, from us, any deserving punishment, instead of reporting to the village elders for a mass disgrace.

Tutu and I insisted that we wanted the village elders to be the ones to settle the matter, to ensure that the thievery on my farm was never repeated. On hearing this, Kow burst out in tears, crying profusely, kneeling, sprawling on our feet, and promising to do anything we asked of him, if we could free Kwesi.

All this while Kwesi Atta, the person we had caught, was, rather, only nursing his wounds, and hardly crying, or pleading, and hardly looking our way – so why was Kow Tawiah rather the person doing all the pleadings, and crying, and throwing himself on the ground in search of mercy?

Last week Dr. Stephen Opuni, the former COCOBOD Chief Executive Officer, was hauled before the High Court, to face charges of causing financial loss to the state, and other related corruption practices. This has been long anticipated, as it appears he was one of the first officials of the former NDC government whose appointment was terminated almost immediately after the NPP government assumed office.

The incumbent trial is witnessing some massive attendance of NDC sympathizers, including some leading members of the party, to solidarize with him, in court. Leading the charge of solidarity is the National Organizer of the party, Kofi Adams, and some who appears to have unclear interest in the outcome of the Opuni’s trial.

Before the trial began, I had heard the NDC indicating they were going to mass up at the courts, in support of Opuni. And true to their promise, there were several hundreds of supporters at the High Court, during the first hearing of the case. I heard Kofi Adams on television indicating that the supporters, who had come to the courts, were ordinary people who had come, all the way, from cocoa growing areas, ordinary people who had benefitted from Opuni’s good cocoa leadership, and had come all the way from those cocoa growing areas, to support him, to demonstrate how much they love him.

There were clearly some of the busses that contained fake supporters. Fortunately there were some good Journalists around who interviewed some of those so-called Opuni supporters. Most of those who had come from the so-called cocoa growing areas spoke fluent Chorkor Ga, James Town Ga, and Teshie Ga, all of them seemed to have been deceived into massing up at the court.

Somebody is clearly interested in mobilizing the NDC supporters to pile pressure on the judges, to cow them into giving relaxed judgment. I have no doubt in my mind, that, Kofi Adams is one of those who are mobilizing those supporters.

This is not the first time we are seeing these kinds of pressures in our courts. In 2002 when Dan Agbodakpui, Victor Salome, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, and a number of other NDC supporters were hauled before the courts, charged with corruption and causing financial loss to the state, similar mass mobilization things happened, and I saw the likes of Jerry John Rawlings and many others going to the courts to express solidarity with those standing trial.

Currently there are a couple of NDC government appointees, including the former Chief Executive Officer of the National Communications Authority, William Tevie, George Baffoe-Bonnie (the former Board Chair), standing trial. I don’t see the same solidarity building up in support of them. What is it that is motivating some members of the NDC, especially Kofi Adams, and the likes, to mobilizing in such a manner in support of Stephen Opuni?

This immediately reminded me of my cassava story. It turned out that it was Kow Tawiah who actually forced Kwesi Atta to go and steal my cassava, and that each time he had stolen cassava, the two of them shared, with Kow Tawiah taking the greater portion, and selling them to the chop bar operators he worked with. So the over-crying, and the unexplained pleadings on Kwesi’s behalf, were all done to ensure that his (Kow’s) involvement is not uncovered.

So in the last few days I have wondered whether Kofi Adams ever knew those who stole my cassava, back in the days? Kow Tawiah and Kwesi Atta, obviously engaged my farm for what has now become known as create, loot and share. In such a situation, Kwesi Atta, the main thief, is the one at the frontlines. Those who shared in the loot (Kow Tawiah) are very powerful people who are behind the scenes dictating how the stealing and the sharing should be done, taking greater portions of the loot, and leaving only the crumps for the frontline looter, but when the judgment day beckons, it is Kwesi Atta who is arrested, because it is him whose face is recognized.

Kow Tawiah knew the consequences of my brother and I sending a report to the village elders. They would have carried out investigations (through the invocation of the village deity), and he would have had nowhere to hide any longer. So in the immediate, he had to do everything possible, including engaging in propaganda crying, to let go Kwesi Atta, so that his cover would not be blown.

Otherwise why should there be a mobilization of supporters to the courts, when the accused is properly being processed? And assuming that the individual is not properly before the court, would it not be the duty of the courts to dismiss the case, to free the accused? Who would your mass mobilization do for an accused who is already standing trial? And if the accused has indeed committed the crime for which he has been charged, why must he need your solidarity?

Probably the intelligent agencies must go further than just investigating and prosecuting only Kwesi Atta. In my modern way of thinking, I would have investigated Kow Tawiah as well, for it may well be that he participated in the loot. Otherwise I don’t see any reason why Opuni must enjoy such a mass party leadership solidarity, to the exclusion of William Tevie.

Columnist: James Kofi Annan