Former President John Agyekum Kufuor yesterday averted what could have been a showdown between his office and the Presidency by asking the government to take back three luxury BMW cars which the National Security Coordinator and Mr. Victor Smith had harangued about.
Yesterday was the deadline given by President John Evans Atta Mills to his immediate predecessor former President John Agyekum Kufuor to release three luxury BMW cars to the state.
The directive was characterized by an abrasive exchange of explanations and interpretations from both sides.
The shadows of what could have been a showdown were cast by Mr. Victor Smith, Head of Protocol at the Presidency, who emphasized to a radio station that “he cannot continue to use those vehicles and they are going to be retrieved”.
Whereas former President Kufuor considered the replacement of the cars with Chryslers as unconstitutional and so unacceptable, President Atta Mills set his officers out to retrieve the vehicles which had earlier been left in the custody and for the use of the out-gone President.
However, Mr. Victor Smith, seeming adamant on the issue, appeared to be ready to take the fight to another level considering his position on the subject.
Mr. Frank Agyekum, Spokesperson for former President Kufuor, considered the action unconstitutional because according to him, it amounted to varying the terms of conditions as spelt out in chapter 8, article 68 of the 1992 Constitution.
A government directive to the office of the former President asked that the three cars be returned to the Office of the National Security by the end of yesterday.
The cars, a correspondence to the office of the former President indicated, are part of the VVIP protection fleet under the direction of the National Security.
In view of the foregone therefore, the correspondence added that former President Kufuor cannot continue to keep the cars.
Hitting back, Mr. Agyekum maintained that the said cars were part of his boss' fleet while in office and so changing them at this time will be detrimental to his comfort and at variance with the tenets of the Constitution.
The Chryslers, which government seeks to replace the luxury BMWs with, according to Mr. Frank Agyekum, are of a lesser value than the German-made cars.
Mr. Victor Smith who has never been a fan of the former President's, found this the appropriate time to hit back and therefore said Mr. Frank Agyekum's position on the subject was not tenable.
While some thought he could act untowardly on the issue, others expected he would tread cautiously because of the repercussions of any wrong step.
Victor Smith's earlier involvement in the seizure of state vehicles soon after the assumption of office of the Mills government, earned him a certain notoriety in a section of the political terrain.
Speaking on the subject, he said the former President's spokesperson does not have the facts about the custody of the said cars.
The wrong information, according to him, stems from what the head of security of the former President fed his boss about the custody of the cars.
The incumbent National Security Coordinator, Lt. Col Gbevlo-Lartey (rtd), he said, told him (Victor Smith) that former President Kufuor could not keep the cars because they were specifically imported for the protection of the President.
Sounding belligerent in a chat with Joy FM yesterday, Mr. Victor Smith stated, “These particular vehicles we are talking about are specifically brought in for the President's security so he cannot continue to use those vehicles and they are going to be retrieved.”
The Chinery-Hesse report which could have clarified issues such as these is not being implemented, as President Mills has placed an embargo on it.
The dispossession of cars from former government officials made the headlines in the early days of the Mills Administration, attracting mixed reactions from Ghanaians.
By A.R. Gomda