Letter of apology to Sports Minister Mahama Ayariga

Mahama Ayariga - Sports Minister
Mahama Ayariga – Sports Minister

Dear Hon. Mahama Ayariga, I have heard and seen how our journalists are pursuing you for accountability on the taxpayers’ money spent on the recent African Cup of Nations.

I have also read about how ‘provocative’ some of the journalists have been by daring to ask you very punchy questions in the name of demanding accountability. You are right in describing those questions on accountability as “useless questions.”

That is why I am writing to you to apologise profusely on behalf of the journalists who are harassing you for accountability. In fact, they really don’t know who you are or perhaps they are underrating you.

I will let them know you are a Harvard-trained lawyer, expert Emeritus of public administration and a respected member of our law-making Chamber. But I wonder why you should be angry and surprised about the conduct of some, or even all our journalists.

First of all, you should have known by now that many of our journalists are fearless and wouldn’t mind asking you, a whole Minster in charge of the entire Youth of Ghana and our Sports, very hard questions

Honourable, I thought you would have also known by now that unlike you, almost all these journalists haven’t been to Harvard before. So quite clearly, they don’t have the Harvard capacity and can’t ask the ‘useful questions’ that you the Harvard people are used to. In fact, the problem is not just about they not having been to Harvard before. It is also because, unlike you, they have never had the benefit of enjoying a free car, free fuel, free driver, free accommodation, fat salary and allowances, a cook, security detail and other such goodies as a Minister, at the expense of the taxpayer.

Besides, unlike you, many of our journalists can’t even afford a generator. So when they get home in the evening and the ‘Dumsor’ is on, they can’t even have lights to read about the issues they want to discuss the next day. They end up sleeping in darkness with no fans (no, they don’t use air conditioners like you do). In the process, they don’t sleep well and in fact, in the morning they wake up frustrated sometimes. Out of all the frustrations our journalists go through – from lack of preparation due to ‘Dumsor’, bad sleep due to heat, to wearing of crumpled dresses because of lack of power for ironing – they get up in the morning, get into their studios and think they can and should demand accountability from people in leadership like you whose failure is causing them all the frustrations.

But I agree with you, Honourable. Accountability for where? Tweaaa. No way. You did well by directing them to the Auditor-General. Yes, if they need accountability on how you spent the taxpayers’ money shuttling between Ghana and Equatorial Guinea during the tournament; how public funds were used for the needless venture of flying predominantly party supporters to Equatorial Guinea, they should go to the Auditor-General.

In fact, if the journalists persist in demanding accountability, hold on to your strategy, which has been very effective so far. That is, continue to give them bulk figures, no breakdowns. If they want breakdowns direct them to the Government Statistician. If they want to know how many planes were chartered, direct them to your colleague, Dzifa Ativor, the Transport Minister. You see, they demanded the same level of accountability and succeeded in letting Ghanaians know that their tax money was squandered during the world cup. Through that, your predecessor was removed from that lucrative ministry. Elsewhere, he would have lost his job and all the goodies that come with it.

But luckily, over here, our kind President decided to keep him as a minister of state. The President has been good. At least he hasn’t forgotten all the shouts that Hon. Elvis Afriyie Ankrah had to do as his Campaign Manager in the 2012 elections.

Now they want to do what they did to Elvis to you, ‘la lai’, no way. You have to fiercely resist. The problem now is that when these folks called journalists know there is basis to hold you accountable to the people (and unfortunately for you, there is a lot of basis for them to do so), they no longer hear nor understand the word, ‘stop’. As you know, our supreme constitution has granted them that power to make sure that as a Minister, they hold you accountable to the people. So as it is, they are going to continue to ask you the questions you regard as “useless” until you render proper accounts to the people.

For me, the problem is not that they are going to continue pursuing you to account. It is the type of questions they will be asking. I agree with you that they should not be asking you “useless questions.” But I think even as they ask “useless” questions, they have also met one requirement you have prescribed for them. That is your request that “they should be asking questions that will help the development of the Ministry”. They are doing that to perfection. That is because there is nothing more important for the development of your ministry than accountability. So on that I think you also need to applaud the journalists. Can I hear you clap!!!

So may be what we have to do is to appeal to the journalists to get them to ask less “useless” questions, and to do so the Harvard way. Hmm, the problem is that having our journalists to refine their questioning skills may take a long time because it has to do with their linguistic knowledge and journalistic capacity. And as you know, they are not Harvard-trained like you. I think it will be great for you to offer them some few days training on the topic: Formulation of Useful Questions fit for Honourable ministers. I hope you will consider.

But talking about the capacity of our journalists, do you remember the GH¢1million Media Development Fund (MDF), Honourable? I hope you do, because it’s not been too long since you successfully messed it up when you were the Minister of Information and Media Relations. You remember that at the time, I expressed disappointment and anger over the way you messed up that fund as the minister in charge. It was not because I had an agenda against you or the government. It was all because, I believed the money could have been used in a way that can help increase the usefulness of the questions that our journalists will be asking. If you had spent that money prudently, our journalists would have been asking you more “useful” questions.

So Honourable, sorry for all the pressure on you to account for the people’s money. While I apologise to you for the “useless” questions, I cannot but encourage the journalists to even put more pressure on you to account. It is the people’s money and you must account for it properly. Sorry, but you have to.

By Sulemana Braimah

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