Opinions Thu, 6 Sep 2018

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Capital Bank Saga: Rejoinder: The trial of Doctor Mensa Otabil

I like Manssseh Azuri Awuni (MAA) a lot, although l have not met him in person. As someone who doesn’t live in Ghana, l must confess that l always look forward to reading your pieces on many important issues/topics and debates. MAA brings the matter home with a sense of purpose, effect and illumination. Over the years, MAA has carried out this important task with the sole mission of looking at an issue in an objective manner and employing the reasonable person perspective test and also as a concerned Ghanaian citizen. Oh! MAA’s writing style is flawless, sweet and his choice of words and the occasional interjection of anecdotes and humor make a reader just want to keep reading. They came with a sense of tenacity, elegance and a calculated effect, speed and alacrity. I read one of your pieces the other day and shared it with my wife. She said, “this guy is so good. He puts you deep into his pieces/write ups/stories”. l went to bed very late that night and as l burrowed my head into my pillow, the issues you wrote about were just fresh in my memory. It was like you left an action packed movie and after many hours you are still having the effects of the “blowman” still in action. And no matter the length of your pieces/write-ups, l always read all the way to the end on my cracked cell phone (same l am using to write now) which l use 99% of the time for purposes of social media.

So it was for the same reason when l stumbled on your recent write-up, titled, “The trial of Mensa Otabil (MO)” l quickly downloaded it. I have to read this, l told myself, reassuringly and expectantly. In your write up, you had stated that many people have been wondering why MAA has been uncharacteristically quiet on the issue.” On this matter, l had decided to keep my thoughts to myself”. You continued in a very frank manner, “I had a special relationship with the man standing trial”. “I was part of the team that ..”. “So l could say my duty was fulfilled”. Of course, l noticed the simple past/past participle-had.

To me, many things and references you made stood glaringly clear. So, l have decided to enumerate them, using the reasonable person perspective test and also as a concerned citizen:

1. Recuse- You stated that if you had been a judge and MO was brought to your court, you would have recused yourself. Why will you do that? Because MO was not only your role model and mentor but a father to you. One recuses himself or herself from any trial (be a judge/prosecutor etc.) if he or she knows that his/her sense of objectivity and independence may be impaired, especially in situations where one had prior dealings or associations with the person being prosecuted. The act of recusing acts as a bulwark against any potential impairment of objectivity and independence. The case of Donald Trump and AG Jeff Sessions.

I am so surprised that you invoked this. A distinguishing mark of a good journalist is to bring the matter to his audience without fear or favor, love or hate and bias. To liken this situation to a court scenario of recusing oneself is too simplistic and the fact that MO is your role model is also irrelevant, considering the amount of money involved. I have not met MO in person, but his reputation reverberates across Ghana, if not Africa as a whole. Our African custom instills into us the need to respect the aged and any act of insolence is severely abhorred. MO can be my father too but let me remind you; many poor children, unemployed, the dead on our roads, pregnant mothers who died in our ill-equipped hospitals and the many taxpayers also have fathers. Could you imagine what that enormous sum of money (610 million Gh) could have done to these people? I ask this question not that l am alleging any act of provable fraud (as of yet) and or malfeasance on the part of MO, but could you imagine if the government had not given taxpayers' money to Capital Bank, instead had channeled that money to hardworking taxpayers through the provision of good schools, hospitals, roads, etc.? Let me be specific. Could you imagine the amount of school tables and books that money could have bought for many school children in our country? There have been reports that pupils (in a particular town) cross rivers in their school uniforms every day to school. l am sure you have seen the annoying pictures. Could you imagine what $210m could do by reconstructing those bad roads that have actually turned into death traps and continue to take the lives of many in our country? Do you know how many hospital beds that money could have been used to procure? Could you imagine what that money could do to my cousin who is dying of breast cancer and was turned away from Korle-Bu because she could not afford those expensive tests and prescription drugs?

2.You also stated in your write-up “I shudder to say he was wrong. The balance sheet of posterity has a way of offsetting our good deeds against our bad deeds….” Why should you shudder? No human being is infallible. No human being walks through this life (Agbeko) to his or her inevitable end (Kumordzie) unblemished. You sounded like MO is God Almighty who doesn’t eat, drive or shower just like you and l and the many suffering Ghanaians. No wonder you adulated him with a lot of praises and accolades; one of the greatest preachers the nation had seen. Had employed over 1000 pastoral and administrative staff. Has a huge following without miracles being the center of their magnetic fields. In the same paragraph, you also referred to a Balance Sheet. l am an Accountant by profession, so l want to tell you what actually a Balance Sheet is, in its simplistic form, devoid of certain nomenclatures that may confuse you and my readers. A Balance Sheet doesn’t offset. Period. A Balance Sheet states the net of assets and liabilities. The Balance Sheet of posterity that you didactically referred to will not offset the allegations of greed and ineptitude that had caused the failure of these banks. Rather, it will state that these assets were depleted and mismanaged and net obligations (both current or long term) could not have been met. In this paragraph, l wished you had referred to the Profit/Loss statement of posterity and concluded that Expenses/Outflows outweighed income/inflows which led to the collapse of Capital Bank and its culminating negative effects on retained earnings on the Balance Sheet.

3.You know you had a long write up and someone who easily loses focus will get fed up in wanting to read more. But you are a prolific writer who keeps your readers engaged. So l kept turning the page, coupled with the fact that l am an avid fan of yours. You stated, “Pastor Mensa Otabil has disdain for mediocrity. And he had guts to question the status quo..”. I love people like that too and over the years, l have become so enamored with many of his thoughtful teachings and sermons. I have been following him when l was growing up in Agbozume. MO is a great man. No scintilla of doubt about that. You stated it, “He is loved, revered etc.” I have seen the many things he had done in Ghana. I have very good friends who even in these turbulent times are standing tall with him. As a matter of fact, l attended his church early this year when l was in Ghana. MO stands taller than many of these pastors we see today in our country using lies, deceits, guiles acting in the name of God. We know many are just a big charade. Come on now MAA. MO is not in their class. One thing l know and l hope you agree, in the act of disdaining mediocrity one must eschew intolerance, laziness, distortion of truth, misinformation etc., but rather extolls the virtues of transparency, probity and accountability at all times. The big question to you is- Why a man who disdains mediocrity could come and instruct his followers to just tell the many taxpayers “God is good” when asked about how our taxpayers' money was used? Will you agree that his statement was not leavened with humility?

4. But l love you for one thing you stated and you did not mince words. “Dr Mensa Otabil was the board chairman of one of the failed banks”. MAA, it is not belittling to say, although you are a good journalist, you don’t have the proficiency in certain areas relating to the crux of the matter under discussion. So, let me share some knowledge with you. MO said he was not involved in the management of the business. In a short piece l wrote, l stated clearly that there is a stark difference between a board chairman and CEO of any business. In that piece, l stated that among the many duties and responsibilities of a board member, each board member must exercise due care towards the company. I concluded that piece with the slam of the gavel by saying, “Extending a 610 Million GH Cedis ($210 million) loan to a failing bank is material and the use of that money to avert a possible collapse must come under the strategic direction and supervision of those board members, especially the chair”. MAA, will you agree with this last statement?- “A board chair, especially in this exigent circumstances (an imminent collapse of his bank), would want to know what that enormous ( material) amount of $210 million was used for and a mere plea of ‘not involved in the daily management’ is not a valid defense”. Probably, as you continue to read you are making certain assumptions and conclusions. This guy must dislike MO. This guy must be writing out of rancor. This guy must be a non- believer who doesn’t like the church. Or he has issue with the way churches continue to overstretch their beaks and tails, power and influence. MAA, l am a Christian who loves God so much and with all my heart. And God has blessed my household immeasurably. With money? No. But writing to you within traffic and sometimes in between meetings at this very minute ( against the backdrop of many things l have been through) shows that “tsoo God loves me paaa”. Just like you, many of our mates and peers have died. For you and l to be alive and in great health and be able to pen our thoughts on social media, shows that God has been good. MAA, God is good.

5. In your write up, you digressed a little. Allow me to also digress. Let me tell you a short story….….Earlier that afternoon, we parted ways in Tudu after our usual hug and kisses, love you, don't follow bad company and study hard oo. I was in upper six in Adisadel College,1995. As l maneuvered through throngs of people looking for the next car to Kaneshie, l asked for God's blessings and protection on her. Little did l know that a severe mishap, caused by an evil act by an individual, befell her when l was on my way to school. MAA, that incident had nearly teetered her already struggling business towards a precipice. She didn't go to her creditors and said, "God is good". In fact, they didn't even know what had happened to their wares they extended to her on credit. There was no one to bail her out. No husband. No relative. No big man at the top. No connection. No government.

Remember, that she was also in the business of making profit-Just like many of our market women who spend over ten hours everyday in the scorching sun looking for their daily bread. To save her reputation, she had to sell her little possessions and collateralize certain assets to pay off those creditors. I was mentally ravaged, distraught and helpless which nearly caused a devastating halt to my education. I was in my last month in Adisadel College. It was a day a trusted headporter “Kayayo” absconded with my mother’s merchandise in Makola market.

I tell you this story so that you can know my background. I know about business and especially about the singular profit motive of running a business. I know about the general activities of merchandising, where a trader strives to make a margin taking into consideration cost and expenses related to those merchandise. I know about businesses failing and you had to quickly diversify. No wonder until my last days in school, my mother sold charcoal for our sustenance, because her adinkra business became fitful. She needed to survive and be able to put food on the table for three strong boys and a girl.

6. MAA, let us get back on track. In your write-up, you stated, “The year was two thousand and eighteen. The court was a state called Ghana. The potential jury was about 30 million men, women and children. And one hapless man was helpless in the merciless court of public opinion”. I really pondered over this paragraph. These two words -hapless and helpless- could mean many things depending on the context in which they are used.

Fortunately, and like many readers, you and l know the magnitude of the matter at hand. In fact, to say l was so shocked and discombobulated on the choice of these adjectives is an understatement. MO is not hapless. Even if you take “unlucky” route, MO is not unlucky. Luck and blessings have always followed MO. What MO started as a local church has metamorphosed into a mega supra dupra million church with a lot of dividends i.e. bigger membership, offerings, tithes, pledges and investments at both home and abroad. He is also far from being unfortunate and ill-fated too. Also, he is not helpless. So let me re-write this paragraph for you-Tongues hotter than pepper, sharper than circumcision razors and more poisonous that the deadly venom of a viper came cutting like a sharp knife in a bony meat from the many hapless and helpless 30 million victims of exploitation who could not be quiet over the greedy acts of some individuals.

MAA, l have just received a “low battery signal” from my cell phone. I must confess that I have just begun. There are many things l would like to tell you about your write up. But bear with me….I will make this Part 1. I will be back. God willing because he is always good.

Columnist: Agbeko Kumordzie

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