President John Agyekum Kufuor has finally dragged Victor Emmanuel Smith, Managing Editor of the Weekly Standard to court, as he directs his solicitor to take legal proceedings against the one-time Special Aide to former President Jerry John Rawlings.
The action being undertaken by the President's solicitor, J.K. Agyeman, former president of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), is to clear his “good name against allegations of impropriety leveled against him by the Weekly Standard newspaper”.
The action of the President could be a test case of the legal waters, being the first by a sitting head of state through his personal attorney and not the state's, as is the norm.
The President's action was informed by the refusal of the newspaper to retract the offensive article which put the President in a bad light after the expiration of an ultimatum given to the operators.
According to Andrew Awuni, Press Secretary to the President, in a release, “President John Agyekum Kufuor has instructed his solicitor, J.K. Agyeman, former President of the Ghana Bar Association to take the appropriate steps to clear his good name against allegations of impropriety leveled against him by the Weekly Standard newspaper.”
Victor Smith carried a story which he authored in his newspaper alleging that President Kufuor was indebted to some Kuwaiti oil suppliers to the tune of over $5 billion.
The story added that the personal properties of the President were being appropriated to defray the cost.
Mr. Smith further alleged that President Kufuor was being dragged to The Hague and that a certain unidentified Dutch Queen was intervening on his behalf.
The allegation, at the time it was made, was trumpeted by partisan elements in the National Democratic Congress (NDC) as they hopped from one radio station to another savouring it.
Press Secretary to the President, at the time, described the allegations as blatant lies deliberately hatched as part of the NDC smear campaign against President Kufuor and his government in the run-up to the elections.
The publication informed the holding of a press conference by the Press Secretary to the President, during which Victor Smith was given an ultimatum of two weeks by President Kufuor to substantiate or retract the story and apologise.
The two-week ultimatum has elapsed and none of the conditions has been met by the editor.
“President Kufuor has described the story, published about a month ago as false, aimed only to tarnish his hard won reputation.
“He gave the paper a two-week ultimatum, which has since expired to either substantiate or retract and aplogise. The Weekly Standard failed to respond. The President's latest move is aimed at clearing the air and to establish his innocence,” Mr Awuni said.
Mr. Victor Smith as Special Aide to the former President Rawlings was noted for his acerbic tongue when responding to attacks on his former boss.
He was dismissed via an sms text message by Mr. Rawlings after falling out with his former boss when he showed open support for the running mate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) against the preferred choice of the former president and founder of the party.
Since he added his newspaper, with no fixed frequency, to the publications in the NDC stable, he has engaged himself in maligning political office holders.
His last of such stories is the one which is about to land him in court.
At the time that the news was making the rounds, a deceptive document about a so-called list of government officials, account numbers and some huge cash had been let loose in town.
Calculations showed that the sum total exceeded all the monies in Ghanaian banks put together.
Mr. Awuni, it would be recalled, stated: “That is how disingenuous the originators of the documents are and yet they are moving from chopbar to chopbar, lorry station to lorry station spreading these lies.”
He added that the international community was better equipped to find out the truth about President Kufuor than an 8-page paper published in the dark alleys of nowhere.
With authors managing to get away with such stories, it appears the President is intent on clearing his name before handing over the baton of leadership on January 7, 2008.
By A.R. Gomda