Ten years to the day, May 9, 2011 Ghana witnessed one of its darkest moments as a nation. This was the results of the tragedy that occurred at the then Accra Sports Stadium where 126 football fans lost their lives with 325 others sustaining various degrees of injury during a football match between Hearts of Oak and Asante Kototo. The day should therefore be a period of serious introspection to ensure that such an avoidable incident never occurs. It should also have been a time for the bereaved families to show respect to the memory of those who passed away and for all those who blessedly escaped possible death to spend a respectful thankful moments with their God. Indeed coming on the heels of the recent tragedy at the La Pleasure Beach where over nine people died as a result of bad crowd control, the day should have afforded us an opportunity to work on our ability to control crowd movement during public functions.
Yours truly is very sad not just for what happened on the day but also for the shameless opportunism being shown by the Richard Quarshigah, Propaganda Secretary of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), peddling blatant lies and destroy his political opponents. The obvious politics of destruction of Quarshigah of Mr. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, the Chief of Staff to the President at the time of tragedy is clear. In a statement issued in the name of the ruling party ostensibly to mark the day, Richard Quarshigah in a radio interview claims that Mr. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, who is presently the Chairman of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), has not accounted for donations made to the victims. The seriousness of the accusations does not just stem from the impugning of wrongdoing by Richard Quarshigah in his personal capacity but as a spokesperson of the ruling NDC. Let it be reiterated that the statement was issued on behalf of the ruling NDC party. Dear reader, yours truly would like to crave your indulgence to quote some of the comments attributed to the NDC Propaganda Secretary. In a report sourced on www.myjoyonline.com today headlined “PROBE JAKE OVER STADIUM DISASTER MONEY – RICHARD QUARSHIGAH”, he is quoted as saying that:
“The National Democratic Congress (NDC) is also deeply worried that funds raised running into billions of cedis by the then NPP government from corporate institutions and individuals in different denominations ranging from Euros to Cedis intended for assuaging the economic plight of those orphaned by the disaster especially, have not to date been adequately accounted for.”
It must be noted at the outset that available records from the Auditor General's Department and Parliament House demonstrates that the donations made towards alleviating the suffering of the bereaved and injured have been properly accounted to date. Granted there is evidence of malfeasance on the part of Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey or any other persons, nothing stops Richard Quarshigah who is part of a ruling government from bringing the facts out and providing the appropriate state agencies to deal with anyone found complicit. It is a total lie that to date the donations have not been accounted for and that Richard Quarshigah and not the Auditor General can better provide the nation with better accounting of public funds.
The NDC Propaganda Secretary's accusation of Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey further states in his statement that:
“It is sad that Mr. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey the current NPP Chairman then Chief of Staff and Minister for Presidential Affairs who collected these monies without accounting for them is on a 'Deception Tour' with the NPP flag bearer Nana Akufo-Addo while the victims who lost their bread winners in the May 9, Stadium Disaster continue in pain,” the statement added.”
Richard Quarshigah from the above betrays his real purpose for the false accusation with the above. This brings to attention a comment attributed to President Ronald Reagan that
"Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”
This demonstrates the level to which some politicians would descend just to gain power or cling to it. Two issues stand out. Firstly, Richard Quarshigah is deliberately lying about Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey and more seriously riding on the emotions of bereaved families (roping in the death of the Overlord of Dagbon). It is very irresponsible on the part of the NDC Propaganda Secretary to rely on the raw emotions of people to cling on to power. Sadly, our politicians do not seem to learn from their own mistakes and that of others. After all these denigration Richard Quarshigah further stated that:
“One wonders with which credibility Mr. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey is out there selling the NPP to Ghanaians when his actions nine years ago may have compelled the spirits of the 126 lives lost in the stadium disaster to be crying for justice and accountability just as the spirit of the late king of Dagbon and forty others are crying for justice,”
From the foregoing an obvious pattern is established here. Our politicians think that they have a carte blanche to say anything that gets them elected, while feeling no obligation to tell us the truth. Yours truly has taken the liberties to reproduce these copious quotations to enable the reader make informed judgment based on the exact words of the accuser. This amply shows how cheap our politics has become and the level to which it has sunk. It is of no wonder many well-meaning individuals would not like to enter into politics for fear of their good names being literary run through the mud. The above shows that Richard Quarshigah has no respect for the dead and the bereaved, and indeed, for the citizenry of this country otherwise he would not bring in such a tragedy into cheap partisan politics. His statement is dripping of an opportunity to try to undermine the opposition party by his reference to a tour being undertaken by the NPP as “Tour of Deception”. From every indication, Richard Quarshigah is seeking to attack the NPP on whatever the opposition aims to achieve in the said tour, fair gain. This is a political season with the NPP having just completed their parliamentary primaries with the ruling NDC preparing for their presidential primaries. It is obvious that each party would employ campaigning strategies to promote their own party and its chosen candidates while detracting from their opponents. That must be seen as fair gain in politics and voters understand that parties would embellish the qualification and abilities of their candidates while belittling their opponents. But when a campaign distorts the truth and promotes outright falsehoods, it crosses the threshold into the politics of personal destruction.
For the sake of arguments let us commence from the premises that indeed Richard Quarshigah as a member of government has access to information confirming the complicity of Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey. One would have considered that the best avenue would have been passing on the incriminating information to the appropriate law enforcement agencies to deal with the transgressor. Not in this case. Rather Richard Quarshigah has chosen the media as a platform to make unsubstantiated allegations against somebody who has not just founded a company that continues to provide jobs for many individuals and families but has served the country at the highest level as a minister of state and is presently the Chairman of the major political party in the country. Sad to note that some individuals in the present administration in the persons of Kojo Twum-Boafo, Chief Executive of the Free Zones Board and Akyena Brantuo of the Office of the President have also in radio interviews accused Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey of complicity in accounting for the donations. None of these accusers have provided a shred of evidence to support their accusations and sadly attempts to play on the emotions of the populace but this is sad, deceptive and insulting to the intelligence of all Ghanaians and most unfair to the memory of the dead.
Indeed there is every indication that Richard Quarshigah and his friends in the NDC are deliberately putting out this palpable falsehood. It is sad that people in government who have access to information can put out such information maligning their political opponent is so bad and below any acceptable behavior in public engagement. According to the Ghana News Agency report of May 16, 2001, the then Greater Accra Regional Minister, Sheikh I.C. Quaye in the presence of the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Usman Nuhu Sharabutu made an initial payment of two and half million (old) Ghana cedis to each deceased family towards the burial of the victims. After an unsurpassed donation towards alleviating the plight of the victims of the disaster and their dependents, the government set up a committee to administer the fund. The committee has as its Chairman, Mr. J.S. Addo, former governor of the Bank of Ghana with members being Ms. Helena Cobbina of the Ghana Police Service, Mr. Kwesi Essel Koomson, Managing Directro of KEK Insurance Brokers and Mrs. Regina Apotsi, then Judicial Secretary. The committee was constituted into a board of trustees to invest and administer the funds for the benefit of the victims and their dependants.
The Daily Graphic of May 18, 2005 reports of an amount of ₵169.5 million having been paid to 103 out of 325 injured victims of the disaster. The same report quoted Mr. Addo, Chairman of the Board of Trustees as stating that the fund had then yielded ₵4,833,117,257.88 as of March 31, 2005 out of which ₵2,783,624,412.88 had been paid to families and other beneficiaries and ₵2,344,146,215.00 invested (all monies quoted in old Ghana cedis). This clearly indicates that Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey is no more accountable for the monies as yours truly or Richard Quarshigah. The NDC Propaganda Secretary has been most unfair to Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey, the victims of the disaster, to the decent members of his party and all Ghanaians. Yours truly does not have to reiterate here why Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey has been most unfairly treated. Richard Quarshigah has sunk to the lowest level of propaganda to use the misery of some sections of the society to score the cheapest possible political points against his political opponents. He has insulted decent members of his own party by subjecting them to public ridicule by his unacceptable behavior. To the Ghanaian who had expected better from the ruling party this can be no less than an insult to our intelligence.
The actions of the NDC Propaganda Secretary bring to fore the various calls by President Mills for politics devoid of insults and lies. One wonders after such acts whether the nation can take the president serious on such issues. It would be at the highest possible height of dishonesty for yours truly not to sympathize with countless number of politicians, including the president, who have been insulted just for offering themselves for public office. Indeed, some members of the NPP and other parties have also told lies and insulted other members of their own parties and their political opponent. It is noteworthy however that President Mills in recent times have even called on religious leaders to moderate on temperate language in political discourse. The standard bear should therefore be the President and his party people, the onus lies on them to set the stage for decency in our politics. If the President continually fails to rein in his party people and turns blind eye to their indecent behavior then it will be hypocritical to make those appeals since he himself has not demonstrated any willingness to lead by example. In recent weeks we have had ministers of state openly insulting the Nana Akufo-Addo, the presidential candidate of the NPP. Some clergy called on the president to crack the whip to serve as an example and nothing happened. Hopefully, members of the opposition will not behave likewise however we should now understand why politics is said to be dirry.
The general wisdom in political circles is that the first campaign to engage in negative attacks is usually compelled to do so because their internal numbers show that their candidate is getting no traction —ergo the need to go negative. If the President is sure of victory, not just in the NDC primaries but also election 2012, let him set the tone by reigning in his attack dogs. Whoever wins the next elections we should live in a country where personal dignity is respected and politicians are not considered equal to members of the oldest profession.
God bless Ghana
Gbawe – Accra