By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
April 23, 2010
The news report that former President John Agyekum Kufuor is “boiling with anger” over the findings of the Ghana @50 Commission of Enquiry and the trial of two of his closest allies (Dr. Wereko Brobby and Kwadwo Mpiani) is sickening. For all that he might deceive himself into believing, Kufuor needs to know that he has exposed himself to public acrimony over this matter and will not be spared.
What does he have to fear if, indeed, he believes in the due process of law? The dissipation of billions of Cedis under worrisome circumstances is indefensible. That is the Commission of Enquiry’s position, which the government accepted and the Police investigated to frame charges against the culprits. What concerns me most, however, is the shameless and brazen manner in which Kufuor has commented on a matter that is now before court. Indeed, every reasonable person knows that when a matter is “sub-judice” (as this one involving Mpiani and Wereko-Brobbey is), it shouldn’t be commented on at all in public. The fear is that any wanton public comment is likely to prejudice the trial. By coming out this way and by affirming the INNOCENCE of the accused persons even before the courts begin seriously looking into the matter, Kufuor has overstepped bounds and created serious problems whose legal and political import shouldn’t be lost on anybody.
I vehemently condemn this nauseating move by Kufuor to create needless tension in the society. I am no admirer of his and will quickly rise up to lambast him if he sticks his neck out this way. He is a nuisance, especially in this matter. What is there about the charges against Mpiani and Wereko-Brobbey that was missing in what sent former NDC functionaries to jail under his own watch? Is the law on “causing financial loss to the state” not clear on the ingredients of a crime so qualified under the ambit of that very law?
Kufuor’s anger is not only misplaced but it is also a sad reflection of his insensitivity to the plight of the ordinary Ghanaian who would have benefited from that money if it had been judiciously spent on projects to serve the people’s needs.
The truth is that it is the ordinary Ghanaian who must have every reason to be angry, not Kufuor (or any office holder under him who glutted himself/herself with the national cake). To that ordinary Ghanaian who still bears the brunt of the harsh consequences of maladministration by our political leaders, the going is still tough. The problems of bare existence are still daunting and there is little hope that living conditions will improve in the near future. Many Ghanaians are still deprived and children still attend classes under trees in many parts of the country. Yet, it is these very poor ordinary Ghanaians who produce the country’s wealth, which these unconscionable politicians steal. The fears and cares of this life have conspired to reduce the ordinary Ghanaian into a hopeless suffering sojourner on this earth while political office holders swim in ill-gotten wealth. The people see the looting that goes on every day. They feel the pain and don’t need any prompting from anybody to conclude that they are helpless in fighting against malfeasance in public life. That is why they expect the laws of the land to not only bark but also bite deep when those who “cause financial loss to the state” are investigated and hauled to court. Against this background, Kufuor has no moral justification to rub salt into their wounds by defending people who caused billions of Cedis to be wasted on celebrating a flag and national anthem independence without opening themselves up for accountability.
Kufuor has no conscience. Otherwise, he would be the last person to make utterances that have the potential to put our legal system into disrepute and erode public confidence and morale. Kufuor is unrepentant. Otherwise, he would have known the negative impact of his wanderlust on the country’s coffers. He would have realized that all the dissipation of public funds that went on under his watch is still a source of anger to many people and shouldn’t be defended. His vitriolic but misplaced protest against the due process of law is a matter of public concern.
I remember the words of Ghana’s former Director of Public Prosecutions (Gyeke-Darko) that “The law is no respecter of persons.” The sad reality is that in Ghana, Kufuor and others like him want the law to respect persons. At least, that’s the impression some of us have gathered over the years. Since the beginning of our Fourth Republic, especially within the context of the NDC and NPP administrations, several happenings have left me in no doubt that the law is not only an ass but that it is a respecter of persons, depending on whose side it takes in the political whirlwind. If the ordinary Ghanaian who can’t bear the pressure steps out of his way to steal a bunch of plantains, he is quickly hauled before the courts and jailed several years. How many times haven’t our courts punished the ordinary Ghanaian for pilfering ordinary food items just to make a living? Does the law not take its full course in the prosecution of such petty thieves? Why shouldn’t the same law be enforced when it comes to political office holders? Is it because they are more important than other Ghanaians and, therefore, must be respected by the law? Otherwise, what justification will Rawlings and Kufuor have to protest openly and vigorously against the trial of public officials whose conduct in office has been duly investigated and established as criminal? What moral right will these former Presidents (and their supporters) have to question the criminal acts (especially the one involving causing financial loss to the state) for which such public office holders are being tried?
I want to tell Kufuor and Rawlings that but for the immunity that the 1992 Constitution provides for them, they would have long been hauled before court to account for their own stewardship. That immunity against any legal action being taken against them is anachronistic and must be looked into.
In other countries, the President (whether sitting or former) is not so heavily protected by such constitutional provisions. Take the case of Frederick Chiluba, former President of Zambia, for instance. Nothing prevented him from being subjected to the rigours of the law. He was tried for whatever he did (or didn’t do while in office) that the laws of the land frowned on. Ghana must do same. I daresay that the constant ranting and threats that Rawlings issues and which Kufuor is now shamelessly replicating too couldn’t have come forth if there were no immunity protecting them against prosecution. It is inadmissible in a democratic dispensation for some people to be shielded by the laws of the land. Why should government functionaries be liable to prosecution but not the appointing authority who blesses their acts of omission or commission in office? In Kufuor’s utterances, I see an admission of complicity. I urge the Constitutional review Commission to take up this aspect of the Constitution on immunity for the President(s) for repeal so that every Ghanaian will be accountable for his acts of omission or commission in public office. Not until this preferential treatment is eliminated, our country will continue to be a victim of ill-thought-of circumstance. Rawlings and Kufuor will continue to be emboldened by such an immunity to make irritating utterances that endanger our democracy in many respects.
Far from being rashly condemned as a politically motivated trial (or witch-hunting, as Kufuor will have us believe), the prosecution of Mpiani and Wereko-Brobbey is a direct reflection on the failures of Kufuor himself. He was wimpy enough to allow a free-for-all situation to occasion his rule. What about the spate of moral depravity (wife-snatching by Thomas Broni, adulterous conduct by Richard Anane and Harona Esseku, and kickback-grabbing by Kufuor himself)? What did his Office of Public Accountability do but provide security cover for the perpetrators of vice in his administration?
This prosecution of Mpiani and Wereko-Brobbey reflects on Kufuor’s inability to govern with integrity. If he had done so, he would have plugged all loopholes and prevented criminal activities for which his appointees are now being tried. Yet, he comes, blowing useless hot air. Indeed, if Kufuor had been conscionable enough to do some introspection, he would have realized that the huge expenditure on the Ghana@50 celebration (and many others such as the disgusting self-gratification in the form of national awards) was in bad taste. He would have realized that the huge sums of money that he caused to be wasted on such Don Quixotic ventures could have been redirected to serve better national interests. Yet, because he lacked the moral courage, he looked on sheepishly while those power brokers in the NPP cabal blew away public funds. These are the people he wants the law to respect. I am tempted to believe that the overarching rationale behind that Ghana@50 extravaganza was an agenda for grand theft, larceny, and wanton pillage. The celebration was just a smokescreen behind which Kufuor and those he is now defending operated to the disadvantage of the country.
This recklessness on Kufuor’s part raises serious issues. Can our country’s democracy endure with this kind of treachery? Indeed, we have a serious problem on hand because the very people who are to help us grow our democracy are working against our efforts. How can we level the playing field for all citizens to enjoy equality before the law if our national leaders work against the grain to make the law a respecter of persons?
Rawlings made similar comments when his former appointees were being prosecuted. Indeed, he also failed to control those appointees in his administration and they were tried and punished for their malfeasance despite his insistence that they were “men of integrity.” The inadequacies of the Rawlings government were glaringly reflected through such “men of integrity,” some of whom found their way into the Mills administration until the Mabey and Johnson scandal jolted them out of complacency.
Within this context, it is important for President Mills to be alert enough to rule with all the force at his disposal to ensure that none in his administration oversteps his/her bounds as far as public funds are concerned. If he doesn’t, the same scenario will be repeated when his government leaves office. He or the NDC cannot rule Ghana forever. No condition is permanent. Unfortunately, indications are that the vicious circle of reckless handling of public funds and property is running its full course just 16 months into his administration. We have already been alerted to corrupt practices and allegations of impropriety involving several government appointees. Of all, the Carl Wilson case stands tall for attention. It is worrisome because despite all the clamour for action against him and all those being mentioned as indulging in malpractices, President Mills hasn’t done anything to straighten the line. A mere dismissal from office isn’t enough.
Thus, if such characters are allowed to do things anyhow just because it is their political party that is ruling, they will surely be hauled to court when the tide changes. The time to stop this madness from repeating itself is now. Those who commit crimes while their government is in power must be dealt with before that government leaves office. It is only then that Ghanaians will be assured that their democracy is growing. Let Kufuor boil with anger till he explodes. Ghana needs leaders with a clean conscience.