Challenge for the Opposition

Published on 6th December 2005

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 (NPP) alleged kickbacks meltdown.

\"I told you so,” the Ghanaian opposition parties via ex-President J.J. Rawlings say. If their unwavering criticisms of the ruling NPP is anything to go by then it was long time coming. 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’s 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 national stability and the development process.

In a week that saw the Kufour Castle under intense scrutiny over \"The Enquirer\'s\" \"Castle Hijacks Kickbacks\" and an NPP Member of Parliament, Eric Amoateng, arrested in New York 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 Kufour administration\'s incompetence in handling corruption Ghana should be welcome in the larger development of Ghana\'s democracy though allegations coming from the chair of the NPP and the fact that Amoateng is quoted by his lawyer, Dr Kwaku Darko Busia, that \"he didn\'t do this job alone. There are people inside the government who knew about it,\" should not be mistaken as political victory for the opposition parties, which are yet to convince Ghanaians that they represent a meaningful alternative in dealing with corruption and incompetence.

In the build up to the Kufour Castle kickbacks, 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 to a reference point. The 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, it is not seen as the Kufour Castle being a victim of anti-NPP intelligence but a  \"reasonable and probable act 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,” as NDC\'s chair Dr. Obed Asamoah phrases it. Though results may be indicative and may not reflect public opinion, an opinion pull conducted by  www.ghanaweb.com shows that as of December 3, of the 3,318 Ghanaians who voted on whether \"zero tolerance in corruption\" had increased or decreased or nothing had changed or had no opinion, 62.2 % said corruption had increased, 20.9 % said nothing had changed, 13.2 % said corruption had decreased while 3.6 % said they had 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  \"raked the equivalent of over US$12million annually from three selected state organizations when it was in power. This represents part of compulsory donations that they were compelled to divert into NDC\'s secret funds without the knowledge of 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.

Neither the \"Enquirer\" in particular nor Ghanaian journalism in general should be judged by the standards of one newspaper in its anti-corruption crusades. 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 lacks the moral standing to offer alternate anti-corruption measures to cure Ghana\'s chronic corruption if elected to power in 2008. The wounds suffered by NPP 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 already indicated most Ghanaians think corruption is on the increase more than ever before as demonstrated by the dramatic high lifestyles of the \"Big Men\" of the ruling NPP, unlike their state before election.

The main opposition NDC \"Big Men,\" who are leading the campaigns to probe the Kufour Castle alleged kickbacks, are no better placed to take advantage of the NPP\'s current troubles. This is because they are either unable or unwilling to present a clear agenda of how they would tackle corruption differently. Apart from the on-going 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. Despite his constant acidic criticisms of NPP as the most corrupt regime Ghana has seen, former President J.J. Rawlings, who ruled Ghana for almost 20 years, as not being 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 a weak moral ground 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 is set to shape both the agenda and the politics of Ghana for the long haul.

 


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