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23.12.2005 Feature Article

Is Kufuor A Victim Of The Second Term Curse?

Is Kufuor A Victim Of The Second Term Curse?
23.12.2005 LISTEN

The first term of every presidency opens with great prospects but a different story unravels come the second term.

It is every second term President's recurring nightmare. This trend is particularly characteristic of American presidents who manage to stay at the top of their game during their first term in office only to falter - very badly in the second term.

President Nixon's Watergate scandal, Reagan's secret dealings with the Iranians during the hostage situation in the Persian country, Clinton's sex tryst with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and George W. Bush's credibility issues with regards to the Iraqi war are stories that have lent credence to this phenomenon. Unfortunately what did these presidents in was not the actual act of indiscretion they committed but the grandiose attempts to cover up. As the second Ghanaian President in recent history to have won a second term in office, President John Agyekum Kufuor's credibility has come under serious scrutiny over certain acts of ignominy that have allegedly been tied to the Castle. Not that issues bordering on the alleged culpability of the President in certain corrupt practices did not pop up during the first term of the NPP government.

They came fast and furious but vaporised without trace because they were only allegations that were not backed up by the facts. However President Kufuor's name has been all over the map since the commencement of the second term.

The Gizelle Yajzi story that led to the exposure of the “Hotel Kufuor” story as well as her alleged indiscriminate relationship with the President and all the brouhaha it generated caused considerable damage to the image of the President. Even before the dust had settled on that story, another potential scandal has slipped through the radar, threatening some semblance of 'kukrudu' in the biggest political party in Ghana today.

WHODUNIT?

Accounts of two taped conversations between a journalist of a fledgling newspaper and the party chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) on one hand and another detailing candid comments of the latter during a meeting with party delegates have dominated the media landscape for close to a fortnight.

At issue is whether the chairman of the NPP, Harona Esseku, specifically accused the President of the Republic of receiving kickbacks from contractors (which is first a criminal act and secondly morally reprehensible), and then keeping same at the seat of government. The tapes in issue did not offer anything to corroborate or substantiate the allegations carried ad nauseum by several media houses. What the tapes actually captured was Esseku using the word “contributions” in place of “kickbacks”. Semantics or not, the lines cannot be that blurred between these two words - the difference are not few and far in between.

Transcripts gleaned from the tapes failed to corroborate the allegations of the journalists but rather strengthened Mr. Esseku's case. While the perception out there is that less damage has been done to the image of the NPP, party insiders are scrambling forces to stave off public angst against the party and the presidency in the lead up to Saturday's delegates conference to elect national party officials.

For politicians though, any form of suspicion be it little, marginal or big that arises in the mind of the public about their job performance creates and engenders some form of distrust, which if not dealt with quickly and with precision would erase all the goodwill of the past. Several careers have been destroyed because perceptions (alone and not necessarily facts) were allowed to rankle without the application of reasonable political wisdom.

It must be noted that most, if not all, of the anti-corruption reports are based on indices, which are piggybacked on perceptions and not necessarily established facts of corruption. In the event where incidents of these nature are allowed to fester without any practical effort on the part of the government to provide a succinct and clear response, these perceptions linger in the minds of the public and with time evolve into a bona fide truth. As to whether the presidency is corrupt or not has not been proven by anyone. However the perception that the presidency is corrupt is very pronounced and appears credible (oxymoron) especially among a large section of the public. I make it a duty to use public transport as much as I can because I believe it provides a very credible platform to check the pulse of the capital. Both in my interaction with fellow passengers in a tro-tro or listening in on conversation in taxi-cabs it appears, majority of the public are disillusioned about the performances of the two biggest political parties, the NDC and the NPP. They complain about promises that are not being met and the general state of hardship in the country. When asked to pick a party they would vote for in the 2008 election, a majority appear undecided, even leaning towards a potential boycott of the polls.

These appeared to be the sentiments Harona Esseku was expressing and was to some extent blaming the Presidency for not releasing funds it has received on behalf of the party to aid in stemming the tide of public discontent against the party.

This is a hazarded guess. I am not in a position to know the mind of Esseku when he was making those blatant and audacious claims.

RESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM

As journalists we are obliged to go after the facts and to present the facts as they are without any injection of opinion, informed or not because the core of our business does not allow that. Period. One of the basic tenets of our trade and a time-honoured tradition at that is a social obligation on our part to be truthful, candid and professional in the way we carry out our responsibilities. This includes being very honest and above board in our dealings with people we interact with in the course of our work.

Human as we are, our honesty threshold could be big or small depending on the ethos of the individual but where the rubber meets the road our commitment to the ethics of the profession should trump all other considerations. It is only in Ghana where a journalist can record a potential source without their knowledge and openly brag about the matter in the papers and on air without any comment raising concerns about the issue or a reprimand by the professional body he belongs to.

That is very unfortunate.

If we want to be taken seriously by the people who patronise our product we must not only do what is right but must be seen doing what is right. Doing the right thing must begin with checking some of our practices and the modus operandi we apply in the commission of our work. A journalist is as good as their last by-line. Woe betides you if that last by-line is a rushed job that does not meet the high standards of the profession. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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