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IF THY RIGHT HAND OFFENDS THEE…. By CAMERON DUODU

The most disappointing aspect of the new ‘Ameri’ brouhaha is the sheer indiscretion that brought it about.

Really, does a Minister exist in the Government who actually believes that he could have got such a rotten deal past both his Cabinet colleagues and the President’s office, as well as Parliament and informed Ghanaian public opinion?

Alas, the answer is yes!

A second question is: how does the system of running a Ministry operate these days?

In the Kwame Nkrumah days (when our administrative precedents for running the country were first set) no Minister would dare present a paper to the Osagyefo without proper preparation. The paper would, as a matter of form, be routinely drafted by a scheduled officer or officers in the Ministry, who had thoroughly done their homework because they knew others more qualified and/or experienced by them, would pore over their draft.

Then, the Principal Secretary and his sector-directors would go through it with a fine tooth’s comb. Finally, the paper would be sent to the Minister.

A really good Minister would perhaps run it through the office of the Secretary to the Cabinet to elicit an informal reaction, and amend the paper in line with advice received from those high quarters, before allowing his Minister to put it forward as an official paper to the Cabinet.

Secretaries to the Cabinet of the calibre of A L Adu, or Enoch Okoh
took their job seriously and they knew that if they accepted a paper and presented it to Flagstaff House, President Nkrumah would definitely pass it through the eagle eyes of his majordomo, Michael Dei-Annang (for instance). The “Publicity Secretariat” might also be asked, discreetly, to comment on how the public might react to the proposals in the paper.

Now get this – if a contract was involved, Eric Otoo and E C E Asiamah of the security department of Flagstaff House would get their agents to snoop around, to try and catch the whiff of any wind of corruption or other misdeed that might be blowing around the deal. No-one – but no-one, was allowed to pull a fast one on the Osagyefo. That’s why when he took Krobo Edusei, K A Gbedemah and Kojo Botsio on in the aftermath of the “Dawn Broadcast” the information in his possession was unassailable.

A Minister called F Y Asare was the one who got the worst end of the Nkrumah eagle-eye syndrome. He was caught when he tried to evade the presidential scrutiny mechanism by securing a deal whereby he would inflate the cost of cocoa-spraying machines, ordered for Ghanaian cocoa farmers from Germany. Somehow, the “integrity mechanism” set up by Nkrumah caught Asare in its webs, and he and his collaborator, Henry K Djaba, were prosecuted and found guilty. They served time.

There must be countless other cases of a similar nature, which I do not readily recall. But this one comes to mind: the District Commissioner for Akim Oda, Kwame Kwakye, was put behind bars when he tried to defraud a Nigerian who was resident in his district of a sum the Nigerian had won in the national lottery.

Now, both F Y Asare and Kwame Kwakye were leading and probably useful members of the CPP. But Nkrumah did not tell himself, “I shall antagonise Volta Region party members if I allow F Y Asare to be jailed.” Similarly, Kwame Kwakye was a popular party man in the Oda district. But when he stole the lottery winnings of the Nigerian, Nkrumah did not interfere in the trial that got him jailed. In other words, no subjective factors were allowed to operate to protect persons whose actions had compromised the national interest and disgraced Osagyefo and his Party.

Politics is “the art of the possible”. So, to have imagined – as the Energy Minister did – that a Ghanaian public that had been tutored by the NPP itself, when in opposition, to suspect and detect inconsistencies in the original ‘Ameri’ deal; a populace that had looked on with bemusement as a committee set up to examine the deal had found it fit and proper to go and dine and wine with the contractors (at the contractor’s expense in the contractors’ domicile!) would also shrug off the cursory presentation of a “rebottled and relabelled” new agreement – was simply not exhibiting common sense.

Well, in this matter, President Akufo-Addo would do well to remember the admonition given by Jesus in Matthew 5.30: “If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell”.

In modern politics too, that translates into the “principle of the expendable”. Someone whose naivety, or lack of discretion, brings his Boss and his Government into disrepute, cannot remain, lest the Boss himself be made to appear weak or even tainted. The offender should be the first to understand that, and should, in fact, offer his resignation and not wait to be sacked.

I mean, look at what’s been happening at the Ministry of Energy: the Ministry has been distracting the attention of the public away from whether it really thought the terms of the agreement it sent to Parliament were acceptable and whether it fully briefed the presidency on it. On the contrary, the Ministry now wants to cast doubt on whether or not ‘Ameri’ had written a letter on the issue to claim that ‘Ameri’ had not engaged in any new negotiations with the Ministry. And it’s conducting an undignified argument with the local representative of ‘Ameri’!

But who cares? An “agreement” of sorts was sent to Parliament, wasn’t it?

The core issues Ghanaians are concerned with are (1) did the Ministry of Energy agree to terms in the new agreement that are palpably worse than the original one (which the Addison committee was charged to examine and improve) and (2) did the Ministry engage in a sleight of hand in presenting the new agreement to Parliament? In particular, did the Ministry pretend that the agreement could go to parliament without the written opinion of the Attorney-General and the Minister of Finance? How did the Ministry obtain the tacit presidential “approval” it presented to Parliament?

It is childish – to say the least – to be carrying out a dispute about murder weapons when you have not dealt with the crucial question of whether you have committed murder or not. Or is it not?

NB: This article, published in The Ghanaian Times of 07 August 2018, was written before the Energy Minister lost his job.

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