Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, I am compelled once again to write about my party chairman's kickback fiasco. They have finally played back the secretly recorded interview and the whole nation is still talking about the contents of the tape. But nothing has changed. The nation is still talking about whether he actually said it or not. “He didn't mention the word 'kickback'”, I've heard many people say on radio discussions.
Yeah, he didn't mention the word “kickback” but he had no need to. Perhaps, he didn't even know there was a word like that. He would have used it. If you ask me, Ekessu said everything the newspapers say he said. It's true he didn't say the word. But that's why we learnt about logical inference in school. It's not a matter of semantics. Ekessu meets party people and says that people win contracts and pay some monies to me at the Castle. And we say that he needs to mention “kickbacks” before we get the full import of what he meant? I know there are dumb people in this country but, hey, we cannot be that dumb, are we? My party members are desperate to protect our image – that's understandable. But aren't we fighting a lost battle? Let's give up. Let's stop the futile attempt to redeem ourselves by playing on words like “contributions” to explain away what Ekessu said or meant to say. If I tell you that I killed a man, won't you call me a 'murderer'? Do I need to explicitly say that I am a murderer before you call me as such? If I say that I don't eat animal products, wouldn't you readily describe me as a vegetarian? In the same vein if I say contractors are not being given contracts and those who have received the contracts were asked why they've not been paying and they say that they have been told where the monies should be sent, do you need to be told that I am talking about “kickbacks”?
Let's face it. Ekessu was clearly talking about 'kickbacks' (or 'contributions'). Choose your pick. But whatever word you choose to use, you have to realize that Ekessu has made very serious allegations that contractors make illegal payments to individuals and political parties in appreciation for being offered various contracts.
Enlightened citizens of Sikaman can read between the lines. They know what's going on and they will not be swayed in anyway by party (or government) spin. So let's stop beating about the bush and arguing over semantics. Let's look at the wider issues this kickback fiasco raises. We need to ask questions about the party chairman's allegations – which, don't forget, were made at interactions with party members as well as in interviews with journalists he thought were “friends of the party”. He was speaking sincerely to people who he thought shared his ideology and therefore he poured out his heart to tell them the truth as he knew it. Am not happy that he seems to have spilled the beans on us. That's bad news for our party. Ekessu's outburst might not serve the interest of our party because it will stop (or discourage) people from paying “contributions” into our party's coffers. That's why we need to get rid of him for betraying us. What he has done has caused irreparable damage to our party and it could affect our electoral fortunes in the future. But let's look at the bright side – for our country, of course. We have to remember that it is our responsibility to put country before party. So let's be thankful that this whole scandal has been brought to light. Some good can come out of it. First, contracts are going to be more closely scrutinized. It's a fact that governments accept kickbacks. Mine is not the first to be mired in such a scandal. The “10% concept” was instituted by the (P)NDC regime or one of those corrupt regimes before it – I don't know. We didn't intend to perpetuate it. Initially we had very holy intentions that why, according to Ekessu, the ministers were scared that “zero tolerance” was going to be implemented. Now, we have to help the ministers overcome their fears. We need to let them realize that they should not be scared of “zero tolerance”. It is not being implemented anyway. But they should behave as if “zero tolerance” wasn't a mere slogan. For starters, contracts should now be scrutinized in such a manner that cost are not inflated in anyway. This whole fiasco can help put a stop to the practice of awarding contracts to unqualified, under-qualified and fake contractors simply because they are party people who are more likely to pay their “contributions”. I know of a man who was unemployed before 2001. Just after our party came into office he started calling himself a contractor. He hasn't got even a single wheelbarrow. Yet, he's been awarded several contracts to construct drainage systems in his hometown. And you should see the type of work he has been doing. All this will change if we allow this scandal to prompt us to scrutinize contracts more carefully and award them to only qualified people irrespective of whether they will pay their contributions or not.
Secondly, the Ekessu kickback scandal confirms that “zero tolerance” for corruption has not achieved much – in fact, it has failed. It has failed because our government has measured its successes against the failures of the previous administration. So whenever concern is raised about pervasive corruption, our response has always been: “the NDC did worse”. I have failed but I will be glad to get people to help me to pick p the pieces to show my successor that “zero tolerance” can work if it is allowed to. I am gladdened to learn from my party chairmen that the ministers were initially afraid that “zero tolerance” was going to be implemented. That shows that if I had backed my words with real action a lot could have been achieved.
So there is much to be gained from this scandal, especially if we decide to put the national interest first. Ekessu should stop the carnival of denials and tell the whole nation that he meant what he said and he said what he meant. At the end of the day, he becomes a villain to the party but a hero of the nation.
J. A. Fukuor [email protected]