The Government and the Ministry of Defence have gone into overdrive these past few days trying to explain the purchase of a number of aircraft for the Ghana Air Force. This totally justified addition to the country's defence capabilities has as usual, assumed a life of its own in the Ghanaian media and is putting the government on the defensive.
Government supporters, though generally supportive of the transaction are also beginning to express unease due to the “timing”.
At the beginning of the week, the President's Press Secretary, Mr. Andrew Awuni issued a statement allaying public anxiety about the deal. He gave the assurance that “the presidency wishes to state that it has NOT ordered any Presidential Jet for itself as being alluded in the current debate.”
The statement did however concede that “What the government has simply done regarding the matter is to put before parliament an elaborate and comprehensive request from the Ghana Air Force for re-equipping its communications squadron.” It mentioned some of the equipment to include two Y121 military planes, twoMA60 passenger planes, one Airbus Jet 319 and one Falcon 900.
Obviously still feeling the heat, yesterday, Minister of Defence, Albert Kan Dapaah took to the airwaves on another charm offensive. He elaborated on the Presidential Press Secretary's statement.
When ADM put the issue to a number of people, the responses were surprising and almost unanimous. A businessman with strong NPP connection told ADM that “though we can justify the decision, but the timing is all wrong”. He said “in an election year, you must know that your opponents would grab on anything you do to make you look bad.”
His sentiments were echoed by others who similarly told the ADM that the timing of such a transaction, in an election year was bound to create problems. They said they were not against the transaction in principle but the time it is being brought up. Another NPP supporter, with much shaking of head kept repeating, “it's the timing, it's the timing.”
A lady working for an NGO told the ADM that “with Accra suffering an acute water shortage and parts of the city starting to undergo electricity blackouts, the timing was just unfortunate though the government is justified.”
An editor, who has constantly supported the purchase of a transport plane for government use said “if we, as a nation, had been bold to place the order some two to three years ago, all this noise would have long receded.”
A government source told ADM that “this was a deal we discussed with all the relevant bodies, including the Air Force, Ministry of Finance, parliamentarians from all sides on the Defence Committee and we were all unanimous that it would be in the best interest of the country.” He said he was therefore very disappointed that “some people have decided to go public as though there was no prior consultation.”
But the last word can perhaps be given to an unemployed young man in the locality of ADM offices, who put it this way: “Yes, we need the planes, but not now.” The obvious question after that is: Then when?