Opinions Thu, 13 Jan 2011
The Unresolved issue of the so-called NDC financier, Prosper Tao Tsikata,the NDC Party, and the Presidency
It was 7am and I was still in bed, but awake and pondering over the previous day’s presentation. My phone rang for the second time and I stretched my hand to pick it up from the coffee table near my bed. It was Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, the then deputy secretary of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). There was something unusual about his voice. There was some urgency and some harshness. “Why do you go about swindling people?” he asked. Momentarily, I was completely stunned and speechless. It took me a few seconds to inquire from him who my victims were that time round. I thought he was up to some wit. Then he concluded that the fact that I was still able to speak on the phone implied I was not confined, otherwise the police would have impounded my phone.
It took a while before he narrated the whole story to me. It must have been a front page story of the Daily Graphic, Ghana’s most circulated newspaper. The photograph of the alleged criminal, Prosper Tao Tsikata, was printed with the story. Those who listened to that morning’s newspaper review on the radio and, in some cases, TV were not certain about what they were hearing. But acquaintances who had access to that morning’s daily recognized I wasn’t the one. Interestingly, our names, save the T and Y at the beginning of our middle names, are the same.
By 9am that same morning, I must have received over 50 calls from friends and relatives wishing to know if I was truly the one. I finally decided to shut my phone off. I went to town to get the newspaper to read for myself and, indeed, the story was true!
After reading the story and getting some important leads from the story, I decided to locate this chap to know who he really was. I placed calls to a few friends who could help uncover the true identity of this man. After going round the city of Accra –apparently in a manhunt –and making a few more calls here and there, we were able to locate his hideout after two week’s hunt. I bushwhacked this man and watched him from a distance. It was all I needed to know at the time. I have mostly been right, following my gut feelings.
Then came what was to be my nightmare and made me to question the judgment of some individuals I had expected to know better. When Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, the former CEO of the Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC) and an uncle, was sentenced to prison in June 2008, it divided the nation, as usual, on political lines. While NPP sympathizers thought he deserved to rot in jail, those on the NDC side, including me, thought that was politically motivated. There was the usual political hubbub hanging over the case, overshadowing the substance of the case.
Beyond the courtroom drama, it became a show of muscle in terms of political mobilization - you must be able to send a strong signal to the ruling government that you will not let sleeping dogs lie. After all the president had already done what was unthinkable by interfering in the process by empanelling two extra judges to overturn an initial ruling that went against it.
I had received myriad phone calls from party sympathizers and individuals who thought the judicial process was been unfairly manipulated against the alleged culprit and, therefore, the need to mobilize to storm the court in solidarity with Tsatsu Tsikata. I placed a call to the national deputy secretary of the then opposition NDC, Mr. Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, now Deputy Minister of Local Government, to discuss this issue. He immediately pledged to support financially in renting 6 buses to offer transportation to individuals from Keta and its surroundings, about 150 kilometers South-East of Accra, the capital, a place considered to be the stronghold of the NDC.
With this assurance, I contacted some bus drivers to arrange with them to offer this service on Monday’s court appearance, when the alleged culprit would be brought to court. Our conversations started on Friday. Throughout Saturday, we communicated as we tried to iron out all the details for Monday’s court appearance. Surprisingly, on Sunday after church service, all attempts to reach Elvis Afriyie Ankrah were unsuccessful. He wouldn’t pick up my calls nor call back. I tried persistently until midnight when he finally called to inform me it wouldn’t be possible to go by the program we had initiated, so I should call the bus drivers and individuals who wanted to make the trip to cancel the program.
The implication was that bus drivers who had already planned their trips and cancelled their customary routines must be compensated for such a late cancellation. It was a difficult situation.
Interestingly, when we arrived in court on Monday, the man I had tracked earlier, Mr. Prosper Tao Tsikata, the man whose fraudulent activities were reported in the national dailies a year earlier, was introduced to me as the man who was supposed to fund the transportation project by the same Elvis Afriyie Ankrah who called me one morning a year earlier to inform me that my name was being discussed on the radio for swindling some business interest. I was shocked! This is a young party functionary I had expected to know better, but from all indications simple logic was missing in his actions, I thought.
The expected bankroller came to the court in a convoy of about five or six Ford Explorers, with about 10 uniform private security operatives around him. I thought that was quite unusual for a fraudster and a con maestro as reported in the media. But I waited patiently to see what he was up to. The moment the incarcerated man, Tsatsu Tsikata, arrived in court, the so-called Prosper Tao Tsikata quickly rushed to the jeep that brought Tsatsu Tsikata and jumped to the front and was leading the party of lawyers and prison officers, and the incarcerated man towards the court premises. I instantly recognized his tactics as a ploy to prove to the unsuspecting public his association with the Tsikata and probably the NDC top echelon for the advancement of his underworld dealings.
Although his dirty maneuvers did not surprise me a bit, I only wondered why Tsatsu Tsikata would allow such a man around himself. It was three days later that I even found out from a very high profile source that the so-called Prosper Tao Tsikata had paid for the complete renovation of the NDC party headquarters in Accra. He also funded the replacement of the set of furniture in the office of the then candidate Atta-Mills at his campaign office, Kuku Hill.
I began not only to doubt the judgment of some of the so-called astute politicians who were in the known of some of these dealings. One had the guts to even ask me sometime in 2008 if I knew any other Prosper Tsikata to which I responded in the affirmative but decided to keep the proverbial lid on all I knew. I honestly thought some of these guys were dumb, especially when a mere 30 seconds google search could have revealed so much about this “generous party financier,” especially to those who may claim they knew nothing about his past activities.
It was exactly three weeks later, again in the court premises when this man appeared. I watched him from where I was sitting. He walked briskly and sat beside Captain Kojo Tsikata (rtd), a onetime security advisor to the government, and started exchanging pleasantries with him and another family member. At this juncture, unbeknownst to me, he was spotted by another uncle who had tried arresting him earlier on. When their eyes met, he knew he was in for trouble. But he was so smart. By the time that uncle could beckon the police to apprehend him, he had escaped from the court premises.
The media again picked this latest information and relayed it all over the place. It wasn’t too long, I would say about two or three weeks after that court incident, when I left for the US to begin my studies. So much had happened in the 10 months following my departure. The NDC had won the election in Ghana, Tsatsu Tsikata was pardoned by the outgoing president, and Atta-Mills had become a president.
Clearly, life as a president is lock, stock, and barrel different from life as a leader of an opposition party. It comes with its spoils, the arrogance of power, the blind-side of the presidency to simple things that once mattered.
It was on the 23rd of July 2009, seven months after the Atta-Mills administration was sworn into office, when I was preparing to leave Canada to Ghana when I received an email from my cousin indicating two gentlemen were seeking me in her office for a deal that had gone wrong. They said I had swindled them of two Toyota Landcruisers, which were added to the then presidential candidate’s, John Evans Atta-Mills’s, fleet of cars to boost his convoy which they perceived to have been too lean. So I promised her I was on my way to Ghana and would answer those concerns once I arrive in Ghana.
Three or so days after my arrival in Ghana, the gentlemen called me and I arranged a meeting with me. We met and they narrated their story. Interestingly, I know one of them, not the one who entered this injudicious deal with my silhouette image bearer though. The one who did the transaction also recognized that I wasn’t the one. He only pleaded with me to be able to talk to my uncles, Korku Anyidoho the man who facilitated the acquisition of the cars, and those I know within the party hierarchy to assist them retrieve their cars and the accumulated expenses.
I tried my best within my three weeks stay to assist them, but those were the days when even people who were friends when the party was in opposition would not even pick calls for fear you might make some demands on them. I visited the seat of the presidency and in discussing other businesses, I mentioned the issue with a senior official of the government. But it did not receive the attention I expected it to have received.
The point is that I am constantly embarrassed by some of the activities of this man. I remember how it was rumored on campus, unbeknownst to me, that I was going about duping the unsuspecting public that I was a legal practitioner. I only discovered this many months after the damage had already been done.
Indeed, all I wanted was some form of honesty from a leader who is acclaimed to be the cleanest Ghana has ever had and the best thing to have happened to my beloved Ghana. Obviously, candidate Atta-Mills couldn’t disassociate himself from the benefits that accrue to him personally from the cars, the furnishing of his office, and there is no way he could claim he was unaware of the source of funds in replacing the furnishing in HIS OFFICE. To further bolster the point that he was in the known, when Tsatsu was incarcerated, Atta-Mills paid a visit to Tsatsu’s mother to console her. During that visit, he was made aware of the activities of this gentleman and urged to act by a family member, but he turned death ears to his counsel.
All I wanted from the Atta-Mills administration was to pay off all it received from this man and call a press conference to renounce or disassociate itself from him. It is simple! Call a press conference to inform the public that you received this and that from this man without knowing his background too well when you were in opposition. But you later discovered his sources of funds are questionable, you therefore wanted the public to beware that you have nothing to do with him.
Instead of this simple measure which would have made you to go to sleep knowing you did what is right before God and man, the secret intelligence service (the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) was sent after the so-called Prosper Tao Tsikata. Indeed, despite his unscrupulous activities, he was generous enough to support you when you most needed it. He did not do that because he was a philanthropist who did not know what to do with his hard “scammed money.” He did that with the expectation that when you return to power, he may (might) also derive some benefits (a Ghanaian political culture). But in place of the benefits, the security services were dispatched after him to arrest and brutalize him.
Unfortunately, he engaged the wrong media to tell his story. The Ghanaian Journal, another scam of journalism and a splotch on the profession was engaged by this man to tell his story, definitely with financial enticements. With a screaming headline, “CASTLE HARASSES NDC FINANCIER,” the paper wrote on its front page
(http://www.theghanaianjournal.com/2009/12/24/castle-harasses-ndc-financier/). The news writer sought to impute the unthinkable of a man who had imported very sophisticated or what he termed “solid state-of-the-art security materials and structures” into Ghana which surpasses the most up-to-date security accoutrement of the national security apparatus of Ghana, and he became an envy for the establishment he once financed. What a preposterous line of argument for a journalist and his editor?
With a clear departure from the tenets of the profession, the editor who endorsed the story for publication had failed to ask basic and common sense questions any individual in his right senses, especially anyone who would ascribe to himself or herself the title of being a member of the ink fraternity - a journalist - would ask.
1. Why someone who financed an opposition party would now become its nightmare when that party is now at the helm of affairs in a country he also calls his?
2. What was his source of income when he financed a party that was in dire need of a financial lifeline?
3. Would it not be of public interest to expose those who received those generous donations from this financier?
4. Who are those harassing this “innocent man” now?
5. Would the president, the vice president, the party chairman and all those mentioned as beneficiaries of his generosity say they know nothing about the source of the financial resources that renovated their premises?
6. What do the electoral laws of Ghana say about financial resources to political parties from questionable sources?
7. What does the president know about this Tsikata man, when did he know it, and what has he done about it?
These and many more questions, which are supposed to be the routine of the “gatekeeper,” would have raised the red flag that there is a missing tooth of the jigsaw—it must definitely be too good to be true! But financial considerations of the paper outweighed truth and the need to blackmail those in power became paramount.
Since the birth of the internet and its incorporation into our daily lives (multimedia era), journalists are admonished to do a search as expansive as the reach of the internet when in doubt. A simple google search (http://www.modernghana.com/news/143981/1/fake-lawyer-arrested.html) would have revealed so much about the activities of this so-called financier of the NDC. Stories carried about him in November 2007 edition of the Daily Graphic are still alive on Albert salia’s blogosphere. But lack of ingenuity and the desire to make some pittance from publishing a damaging story blinds those who are supposed to be the moral touchstone of society.
In recent times, a high-profile member of the NPP, to the chagrin of his party men, touted Atta-Mills as the cleanest Ghana has ever had. While his party men combated him for making such a blanket statement, others believed he said what was an impeccable truth. But as the Akan maxim goes “the true length of a frog can only be determined when it is dead.” I thought, as I juggle through my mind privately, that was premature and a preposterous statement to have come from an elderly statement, a fallible human with all his faults to another fallible mortal. It is even more so considering the corruption-ridden African political environment. I foresee the moral high priests of the so-called moral society coming to the defense of this fallible man. There are others who would think “oh, this is disrespectful to the presidency.” I honestly believe these are the things that are keeping our continent where it is. If a President commits a blunder or is associated with a crime, we are forbidden to talk about it because it shows disrespect to the presidency. If this is the case, why would they not always act with impudence because they are unanswerable to no one? I hope we are not saying the end justifies the means. If we do, we must be saying anything that can get the results is ok, whether our methods are cruel or kind, fair or unfair, legal or illegal, that may be irrelevant to the outcome!
Finally, let me state emphatically that my middle name carries Y and not T. Despite both our first names and last names are the same, we are two different individuals.
Thanks for your attention.
Prosper Yao Tsikata
Columnist: Tsikata, Prosper Yao