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20.12.2002 General News

Kofi "Chronicle" Coomson Wishes NDC Well

By Chronicle
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THE MAN credited with being the exponent of investigative journalism in the country has spoken candidly for the first time about his ordeal with the top hierarchy of the NDC administration, which tried to nail him throughout the last five years of the regime.

Hit with more than 35 legal cases mostly from Government officials, Kofi Coomson made a number of startling revelations in a long distance telephone interview yesterday. Mr. Coomson said he thought it was important for him to speak out now so that the people of Ghana, particularly the main opposition party, can make informed choices as to the kind of leadership that should emerge in the NDC.

He said he wished the NDC well because he recognized that it was important that the nation has a strong viable opposition, along with a vigilant truly independent press free to check what he called the incipient arrogance of some NPP leading lights and hold government accountable to the people.

He said he was amazed that the National Media Commission had even conceived such 'a diabolical' plan to criminalise journalism practice in Ghana when they had fought even armed commandos under Rawlings to push the frontiers of freedom, and said he was reserving his thoughts about them.

Asked about the withering editorial he wrote in 2000 in which he considered it important that the NDC was liquidated politically, Mr. Coomson made a probably contentious about-turn, saying, "that was then this is now the auguries are different, the circumstances have changed and we must be honest enough to admit that.

The NDC of yesterday was a one man and his wife choir. No one can make an objective case that NDC is still the private property of Mr. and Mrs. Rawlings, thanks to strong minds like Obed Asamoah".

He said the party's force de resistance had succeeded in shattering the status quo and that democracy has now taken hold in the NDC. He said although the NPP may have long and tested historical antecedents in democratic practice, the NDC is catching up and they must be encouraged and acknowledged.

He spoke about Professor Atta Mills and his frontline lieutenants including Spio Garbrah. Obed's candidate, Kwesi Botchwey, and Hon. Mike Gizo and the events leading to his most trying moments under the NDC.

Continuing, Kofi said he cannot get over the iniquities of Dr. Obed Asamoah and what he thought was the shocking betrayal of his boss, ex-President Jerry Rawlings, during his meetings with him co-ordinated by the politically gifted 'politician' Madam Faustina Nelson in whose house they first met when he refused to go to Obed's house at the first approach.

He said the plea for his intervention was made at the Teshie meeting because Obed believed his career had been jeopardised by Chronicle stories (cash under the bed affair).

He said that at the outset of his trial initiated by he the Attorney-General, he went with one of his most trusted friends whose name he said he had not obtained permission to disclose.

'I coached him on exactly what to say, and even proceeded to write a statement for him urging him to apologise to the press when he had earlier adopted his usual arrogant bullying posture," Kofi added.

Kofi said it was an unconditional plea of which he obliged and did not make it conditional on the Attorney-General dropping the charges against him because he (Kofi) reckoned that Obed could not do that without consulting Rawlings and the cabinet. "Arresting me and hauling me to court cannot be carried out by just one minister. it would need a Presidential approval and a cabinet decision because it is a national security matter," he added.

Kofi said there has been so many things that have gone on in his short career and God had always come to his rescue at the nick of time, and he had prospered him.

He said it took a series of events for him to see that Obed had plans to grab power himself and did not mind betraying Rawlings because there were things that he should have told Rawlings which he deliberately withheld.

He said he went to Obed's house at MacCarthy Hill one night to tell him that it was NOT in the Ghana national interest that the government continues with the prosecution of him, the late Tommy Thompson and Eben Quarcoo because he had information that, that would hurt the nation internationally if he made it publicly in a court of law.

To prove what he was saying, Kofi revealed that he showed a hand-written signed document to the then Director of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) through a journalist friend knowing that it would get to Obed for him to advise the President.

He said that it is only now that he understands why Obed did nothing about it but rather pushed for his full prosecution even after the Teshie meeting when he saved his skin. He did not tell Rawlings or hint him about it because it was not his skin that was going to burn, it was Rawlings who was likely to come under heat in the event of he (Kofi) turning the heat in court.

The former editor of the Ghanaian Chronicle deduced that Obed had always wanted to take over the NDC and anything to put Rawlings in a tight corner was welcome. He said the meeting with him and the revelation he made was not even communicated to Mr. Ato Ahwoi and Mr. Totobi Quakyi, security and cabinet members and the recent anti-Botchwey/Obed remarks by Ahwoi, whom he described as a principled man who may have regretted his serious sins of the past. "

I cannot believe that if Kwadwo Mpiani learns of something that could be injurious to Kufuor, he would just ignore it, and encourage it. That was the scenario and I hope Rawlings who had no reason to see me ever, would know this now Obed betrayed him and his government, and I have reason to believe that this matter of allegations of dealings in drugs is not dead as long as the former President of Surinam, Colonel Bourtese, is about."

He said that had them face the prospect of 10 years in jail but that would have come back to haunt Rawlings and some members of his government. "

Talk to me again about this drugs story we published in 1996 and how God led Frank Benneh to me. I have a lot to say," he further stated.

Asked what makes him so sure, Mr. Coomson said he intends to write a book some day and does not want to say too much in the papers now.

Nevertheless he gave an instance of a top-secret meeting originated by Mr. Jojo Bruce Quansah, editor of The Palaver to buttress his point.

"Mr. Quansah had become the President of the Private Newspaper Publishers Association of Ghana (PRINPAG) then and I still don't know what motivated him to come to my office one day and tell me that he wanted to broker an out of court settlement on our case with the government.

I doubted him because that very day, his paper had done the usual insulting story about me on the front page. I think it was a story of me having a multi-million cedi house in Accra.

They even took the wrong picture of my house. Incidentally, they did me a lot of discredit because that is not my only house. God has made me a very resourceful person, and when I built a hotel, I told Spio Garbrah who I shall address presently because he is a gratuitous tale bearer and Hon Mike Gizo, the gentleman, because he was the Minister of Tourism.

Right under their noses I was making money and investing," Mr. Kofi Coomson supplemented. He said the tax people pursued him, but as always they dropped hints of where the pressure was coming from. He still thinks it was Atta Mills who put them to him, but he (Kofi) came out unscathed.

Elaborating on the meeting, he said it was attended by Mr. G.B.K Owusu, then editor of the Christian Messenger who is his friend and a colleague and took place at the office of Mr. Kwamena Ahwoi. He said he was surprised that Mr. Ato Dadzie suddenly joined.

He said Ahwoi pushed him to plead guilty in court on the charge of seditious libel after which he would arrange for a pardon, after my conviction.

"I found that ludicrous and a dim suggestion to make. He did not know what I knew and was deluded in thinking that it was an open and shut case. At the meeting, Mr. Ahwoi insisted on taping the session-they never trusted me, those NDC people and suspected that I was wearing wires all over my body" Mr. Coomson said. The secretary of PRINPAG was also present at the meeting.

The Publisher of the Chronicle Group of Newspapers said that the meeting was adjourned after about an hour, and it was after they sent the tapes to the castle that they noticed that he had jammed their own tapes and that nothing was recorded when they sent it back to the Castle for replay. He suspected Rawlings was in on it too.

He said the second meeting saw many more tape recorders by those present. Ato announced that he could not understand why the recording failed, so if Kofi could go over the statement He made so that his masters would believe that He had indeed spoken to them.

Mr. Coomson recollected Vincent Assiseh was brought in, to his discomfort because he had earlier leaked the information to a lady journalist he had a lurid eye for. "Fortunately, the editor of the paper "The Guide", under Kweku Baako was the only one apart from my friend and editor the Public Agenda from Ekumfi Ekrawfo, Ebo Quansah, who knew about the meeting," Mr. Coomson reiterated.

Commenting further, he noted that Mrs. Gifty Affenyi Dadzie was later drafted into the meeting, but she also opposed the Ato Ahwoi suggestion that I plead guilty.

The meeting adjourned indefinitely because Mr. Coomson insisted that it was important that Mr. Tommy Thompson who was then out in the US visiting his daughter, should return so that they both take a decision.

The trial resumed in earnest and he recalls that he gave his consent to his lawyers to pursue an out of court settlement. He said he was so sure of his facts that he did not join the application for an appeal when Tommy and Eben Quarcoo went back to the Supreme Court after Her Lordship Ms. Sophia Akuffo surprisingly veered her argument and ruled with two other judges, Mr. Wiredu (The CJ) dissenting, that speech be criminalised.

Kofi Coomson alleged it later turned out that Obed had kicked against the out-of-court settlement and ordered that they pin him down. He said that was when the whole security system was mobilised against him with Prof. Mills' running mate, the deputy Attorney General, Martin Amidu, leading the charge.

"Obed is a ruthless, calculating ungrateful man who is up to no good; he objected to the out of court settlement weeks after I had saved his skin. He never told his colleagues that he had cut a deal on the side with me. He said they should go for me," Mr. Coomson revealed.

Mr. Coomson ended this telephone interview by saying that, "It is a pity that he is in the same camp with the man who could threaten the NPP. Kwesi Botchwey should watch it, else he would be drinking from his poisoned chalice".

(Next, Kofi talks about Mills, then Kufuor Its explosive book your copies. See a vendor near you because you will regret it if you don't get your own copy.

Excerpt: " I don't think a characterisation of Mills as a lovely, loveable poodle is insulting in political communication, and Spio is smart enough to know that, and good enough to slip it past people and score a solid propaganda point. I don't begrudge the Statesman editor standing down the so-called 'ethics committee' too led by Frances Ademola.)

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