Opinion

Ghana: Challenges for the Opposition.

8 December 2005 at 08:14 | 518 views

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong reasons that with the Ghanaian opposition unable to say how they will do things differently, they can’t capitalize on the ruling National Patriotic Party’s alleged kickbacks meltdown

By Kofi Akosa-Sarpong

The Ghanaian opposition parties via ex-President J.J. Rawlings say “I told you so.” And if their unwavering criticisms of the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) is anything to go by then it was long time coming. But even though it took the NPP’s second term for its chair, Harona Esseku, to make it down the chimney, it was worth waiting. Esseku’s allegation that the Castle, the seat of Ghanaian governments, is the centre of NPP alleged kickbacks and dark deals to finance the ruling party, as he told the Accra-based “The Enquirer,” once again raises the damning issue of corruption in not only national stability but also the development process.

In a week that saw the Kufour Castle under intense scrutiny over “The Enquirer’s" “Castle Hijacks Kickbacks” and a Member of Parliament of the ruling NPP, Eric Amoateng, arrest in New York, USA for alleged drug trafficking, the opposition political parties led by the main National Democratic Party (NDC) and smaller ones like the Convention People’s Party (CPP) were gorging themselves on a festival of corruption, criminality and incompetence prepared and served by the NPP. The extent to which these events have exposed the Kufour administration’s incompetence in handling the issue of corruption in the Ghanaian development process should be welcomed in the larger development of Ghana’s democracy. But allegations coming from no less than the chair of the NPP and the fact that MP Amoateng is quoted by his lawyer, Dr Kwaku Darko Busia, that “he didn’t do this job alone and that there are people inside the government who knew about it...” should not be mistaken as political victories for the opposition parties, which are yet to convince Ghanaians that it represent a meaningful alternative in dealing with corruption and incompetence.

In the build up to the Kufour Castle kickbacks and the fact that the “Enquirer” is publishing the full tape containing Esseku’s conversation with the “Enquirer” on Monday, there is the perception that “there is a line between what we know to be true and what we can show to be undeniable.” Whether it is the main opposition NDC saying “Esseku’s utterances confirm corruption at the Presidency” or “Motion to probe Haruna Esseku’s secret tapes affair,” only with incontrovertible evidence does an assertion shift from a debating point, as the Esseku alleged graft interview demonstrates, to a reference point. The Enquirer’s alleged Kufour Castle graft is, once again, opening the debate between corruption and the development process, laying out in detail debate for some of the central criticisms the opposition has asserted about the past five-and-half years.

Despite the NPP enacting anti-corruption legislations, floating “zero tolerance” against corruption, touting anti-corruption institutions, and opening up the field of freedom of expression, when it comes to what Esseku, an insider is alleged to have said, it is not seen as the Kufour Castle being a victim of anti-NPP intelligence. It is seen as a “reasonable and probable,” as NDC’s chair Dr. Obed Asamoah phrases it, of an insider revealing alleged corrupt schemes by an administration which appears helpless in the face of public perception that corruption is on the increase. Though results may be indicative and may not reflect public opinion, an opinion pull conducted by www.ghanaweb.com shows that as December 3, of the 3318 Ghanaians who voted on whether “zero tolerance in corruption” has increased or decreased or nothing has changed or have no opinion, 62.2 % said corruption has increased, 20.9 % said nothing has changed, 13.2 % said corruption has decreased, and 3.6 % said they have no opinion about zero tolerance in corruption.
Esseku’s attempts at discrediting the “Enquirer’s” story are dwindling as more light is thrown on the newspaper’s story. His wanting of portions of conversation on tape containing the kickback story edited (He cannot dictate to a newspaper how it should handle its stories) and the Information Minister, Dan Botwe, who knows Esseku pretty well, saying that Esseku’s alleged Kufour Castle kickback “could be a case of sour grapes,” simultaneously raises the credibility of the “Enquirer’s” story and discredit Esseku’s painful attempts to trash the “Enquirer’s” story. Despite the opposition being in festive mood and the minority in parliament indicating “its intent to get the Speaker of Parliament to institute an official enquiry into allegations attributed to Mr. Harona Esseku, chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) that ‘kick-backs’ are paid to the Presidency,” the NPP appears to be doing what the NDC did when it was in power.

The Accra-based the ‘Vanguard’ says its investigations have revealed that the
NDC when in power “raked the equivalent of over US$12million annually from three selected state organisations when it was in power. This represents part of compulsory donations managements of these organisations were compelled to divert into NDC’s secret funds, which was not made accountable to the Ghanaian taxpayer.” The opposition parties, in the wake of the Esseku allegations, have not informed Ghanaians how they will creatively deal with corruption or whether they have better anti-corruption policies than the NPP. Still, the Esseku-Enquirer Kufour Castle kickbacks have revealed the supine character of Ghana’s mainstream media. Despite some observers saying the Ghanaian media is obsessed with corruption issues compared to other more pressing issues such as tribalism and poverty, the “Enquirer’s” expose` shows that corruption is a very serious development problem, impacting on almost every Ghanaian development process, making the editor of the Enquirer, Raymond Archer, revealing that “he deemed it an important national exercise.”

In a profession that has enormous burden to carry in terms of Ghana’s development process, neither the “Enquirer” in particular nor Ghanaian journalism in general should be judged by the standards of one newspaper in its anti-corruption crusades. Aside from the “Enquirer,” the “Vanguard’s” on-going investigations into corrupt practices during the 20-year rule of the (P)NDC is equally shocking and demonstrates that the NDC really lack the moral standing to offer alternate anti-corruption measures to cure Ghana’s chronic corruption problems if elected to power in 2008. The wounds the NPP has suffered in recent weeks because of the “Enquirer’s” kickback expose` have all been self-inflicted - the result of a mixture of lack of clear-headedness, hubris, malice, greed and ineptitude. There is no doubt that they have damaged Kufour politically. As indicated above, a www.ghanaweb.com poll reveals that most Ghanaians think corruption is on the increase more than ever demonstrated by the dramatic high lifestyles of the “Big Men” of the ruling NPP, which before their elections to power, were not living like that - a feed to the perception that corruption is on the increase.

But the main opposition NDC “Big Men,” who are leading the campaigns to probe the Kufour Castle alleged kickbacks, are no better and are ill-paced to take advantage of the NPP’s current troubles. This is because the opposition parties are either unable or unwilling to present a clear agenda of how they would tackle corruption differently. Aside from the on-going the “Vanguard” investigations into the corrupt deals of the NDC era, Ghanaians think most of NDCers who came to power poor are now living big, with most not only having property at home and abroad but also having their children attending top schools abroad. Up till now, despite his constant acidic criticisms of NPP as being the most corrupt regime Ghana has seen, former President J.J. Rawlings, who ruled Ghana for almost 20 years, has not been able to tell Ghanaians how he pays for his high life, his children’s school fees and their general welfare in Britain.

With the opposition parties on weak moral grounds in the wake of the Kufour Castle alleged kickbacks, popular disenchantment with the Kufour administration is descending into cynicism. And in such a climate, the only group the public can count on is the Ghanaian journalism. Unless the opposition parties develop a clear agenda to challenge the NPP’s anti-corruption “zero tolerance” agenda, the Ghanaian mass media are set to shape both the agenda and the politics of Ghana for the long haul.

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