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05.03.2009 Feature Article

In times like these

In times like these

There can be no patriotism without liberty; no liberty without virtue; no virtue without citizens; create citizens and you will have everything you need; without them; you will have nothing but debased slaves; from the rulers of the state downwards. Rousseau.

In Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare points out one human foible, the difficulty of reconciling action with words. Shakespeare submits that, "If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor men's cottages princes palaces. It is good divine that follows his own instructions. I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching."

All told, it is easier said than done; that is why the Akans maintain that "se wode w'ano do enwere a enwo wo" to wit, if you use your mouth to clear thistles, they do not prick you.

Yes, someone has noted that "in times like these, it is always important to remember that there have always been times like these". We are not reinventing the wheel or starting from a tabula rasa. We are building upon something.

Therefore, if in 2001, John Agyekum Kufuor had to apologise to Ghanaians for "ignorantly" accusing the National Democratic Congress (NDC) of the excessively large size of the government, it would not do any harm if Prof. John Evans Atta Mills justifies the leanness of his government with the 75 nominees, which does not include the Majority Leader (Minister of Parliamentary Affairs) and the Chief of Staff with two deputies (Minister of Presidential Affairs) which swelled the NPP government to 88 ministers.

Again, if today, President Mills's maiden Sessional Address has been described as "empty, shallow and hollow" it does not make any difference from what the Majority Leader, A. S. K. Bagbin, said in 2001 when he described the maiden Sessional Address of former President Kufuor as "a complete emptiness and a collection of many words meaning nothing."

There you go again, if today the New Patriotic Party is crying wolf about a car "snatching syndicate" out there to embarrass its members, we must not forget that in 2001, when security operatives went to the construction yard of Baba Kamara, Deputy National Treasurer of the NDC, the party issued a stem warning stating "we wish to serve notice that our supporters are ready any day, any time to defend its members under the Constitution against any form of persecution, harassment, or misuse of power by the NPP government" and insisted that the country must be governed under the rule of law and not the arbitrary use of power.

When the late Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, as Minister designate for Local Government and Rural Development, directed District Chief Executives to hand over power at the time that he had not been approved by Parliament, the NDC described the action as unconstitutional and stressed that it was only the President who could do that.

The NPP rebuffed it. But when in 2009 a representative of the President, not even a Minister designate, signed an Instrument the NDC did not see anything wrong while the NPP cried out against what was described as an unconstitutional act.

More important, in 2001, the NDC organised a press conference at which it showed to the world the atrocities meted out against some of its members, including a woman who came all the way from Takoradi. Other victims came from Kete Krachi and Kumasi. So; if now some NPP supporters are crying for being harassed by NDC activists, who say we have not seen it before.

It only means that we have not learnt anything about the beauty of democracy, the rule of law and due process. We do not have to subject ourselves to inhuman treatment. For, if we thought it not to be right when our ox was gored, then it does not make sense to gore other people's oxen.

What I want to say is that there must be principles which we need to maintain and protect at all times. There must be what the social psychologists describe as "congruence" between our beliefs and actions, we must push away the saying that "etua wo yonko ho a, etua dua mu" or "se yenka nni wakyi a, wose agoro no yede".

If nothing at all, we must reflect the story in the Bible about Solomon and the two rivals, who came to him to decide which one of them was the mother of the living baby. In the end; he gave the child to the woman who wanted the boy to live even if under the custody of the rival.

So, it should not matter which political party we belong to, we must admit that what is wrong is wrong and not denounce it if perpetrated against us, but applaud it when we do it against others.

That then brings one to the question of Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni, a personality I have admired for years, first when I worked in TamaJe as a journalist and later when he entered full-time politics. Even after I had written about his vetting rituals, he had time to engage me in an amiable discourse.

Having myself nearly suffered from a forensic audit report, after my service at the National Media Commission, an exercise contrived to smear me in a process which refused to accept my voluntary offer to respond to queries, except that the then Chairman, Mr Nutifafa Kuenyehia, acted to avert the injustice, I am wary of audit reports.

But, in the name of fairness and transparency, it would be good if Ghanaians, particularly activists of the NDC, who were in the front line in demanding the resignation of Dr Richard Anane, after the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) ruled against him, do not resile from the principle, but encourage Alhaji Mumuni to resign until the legal process is carried out to redeem his tarnished image, which he maintains is without basis.

Indeed, when the CHRAJ ruled on Dr Anane, although some of us argued that it was ultra vires, we nevertheless supported the calls for his resignation. When finally the court ruled, we had nothing against him, yet there were others on the Appointment Committee of Parliament who still considered him unsuitable for the position of Minister of State.

You see, in the case between Shylock and Antonio as to whether Shylock could take his pound of flesh or otherwise in Merchant of Venice, Portia maintained that "of a strange nature is the suit you follow, yet in such rule that the Venetian law cannot impugn you as you do proceed" and stressed that "there is no power in Venice can alter a decree established. 'T'will be recorded for a precedent, And many an error by the same example, Will rush into the, it cannot be”. The point is that the Fast Track Court which dismissed the application for libel against the Daily Guide, equally dismissed the application seeking a declaration that the audit was illegal. The crucial point is that Mr Justice Acquaye, a justice of the Court of Appeal, who sat as an additional High Court judge, held that "the auditors were justified in making their findings against Alhaji Mumuni and described the findings against the plaintiff as serious".

The judge is reported in the Daily Graphic to have explained that the plaintiff failed to seek parliamentary approval for the GH¢2 million (¢20 billion) he requested from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and also fai1ed to attach a proper budget for the release of the money.

The findings in the interim audit report are said to have been confirmed by the final report of the auditors in 2007, Thus for those arguing why the NPP did not initiate prosecution, they are jumping the gun. The Auditor-General's report for 2007 has not been debated in Parliament. It is only Parliament which can direct the nature of the action to be pursued in the matter.

The 1992 Constitution provides under Article 187 (7) what the powers and authority of the Auditor-General are, including disallowing any expenditure or surcharging the amount against whoever expended the money and also that those who are "aggrieved by a disallowance or surcharge made by the Auditor-General may appeal to the High Court" and the courts are enjoined to make rules for the purposes of giving meaning to addressing the concerns of aggrieved parties.

What it means therefore is either for Alhaji Mumuni to resign and challenge the audit report, especially where he submits that the due process of natural justice was not followed, as happened to me, or keep the position until the Auditor-General's report for 2007 is laid before Parliament and is discussed openly in the sitting of the Public Accounts Committee. But we must apply the same yardsticks as was done with Dr Anane.

As someone has postulated, "it is the unique glory of man that although he hopes and works for abundant life, that he is prepared to die in order to prove that he is human".

My plea to journalists who would have opportunity to comment about the issue is "to realise that we have to exercise our tasks with ethical consciousness to help create conditions for bringing about greater transparency and accountability, increased participation of different population segments in societal decision-making and reinforce peace", for as John Hohenberg has noted, "it is precisely because journalists have a passionate regard for their integrity that their impact on public opinion remains one of the most vital factors in shaping our society".

If we want to remain relevant to the pluralistic society that we are building, then we must act with principle otherwise we would lose the trust and confidence of our people.

Creit: Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh, Daily Graphic

Daily Graphic
Daily Graphic, © 2009

This author has authored 236 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: DailyGraphic

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