I’m a journalist, but Ghanaians hold me to higher standards than the President

President Akufo-Addo

Fellow Ghanaians,

I have come to this point of writing this letter to you because, am convinced that if I don’t speak up for myself, no one would.

Besides, most of you don’t even know that while you have little to no responsibility towards me in so far as the execution of my constitutionally mandated duties are concerned as a journalist, you demand full accountability from me and hold me to higher ethical and legal standards than you hold the president of the country.

Why do I say so? There are many incidents of hard evidence beyond any reasonable shadow of doubt to prove this. It is incontestable fact that President Akufo-Addo, for instance easily gets away with acts of omission and commission, including blatant acts of impunity, than I could ever get away with, despite the clearly established constitutional obligations and checks to his exercise of legal power. I will attempt to expatiate with examples in the following paragraphs.

When Akufo-Addo was sworn into office for both the first and second terms, he swore by these words:

“I Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, having been elected to the high office of President of the Republic of Ghana do in the name of the Almighty God swear that I will be faithful and true to the Republic of Ghana; I will at all times preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana; and that I dedicate myself to the service and well-being of the people of the Republic of Ghana and to do right to all manner of persons.

“I further solemnly swear that should I at any time break this oath of office I shall submit myself to the laws of the Republic of Ghana and suffer the penalty for it. So, help me God.”

In the words of this oath lie the binding principles for how the president should conduct both his private and public lives. These carefully crafted words should prick the conscience of the president and wake him up to his sacred duties – to be true to the Republic and serve towards the well-being of all Ghanaians anytime he is confronted with hard choices between his personal interests and what serves the larger interest of the citizens. It is for citizens he lives and serves. But has he?

The president has frequently shown a lack consistency on matters of great interest to the people of this country.

During his election campaigns, he promised to find the killers of Ahmed Hussein-Suale, and he has been president for more than five years, but there is deafening silence over progress of work on how far the finders of Hussein-Suale’s killers are. For as long as the killers remain at large, fear would continue to hang like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of journalists pursuing the fulfilment of their commitment to serve the public interest and to hold the powerful to account. That also goes to show that the State is incapable of finding and punishing murderers with a devastating effect of emboldening others who would see the weakness of the State as opportunity to commit evil.

While he promised to ‘protect the public purse’, he has opened it wide, and allowed all manner of persons to dip their hands and help themselves to the public money. This country since Akufo-Addo’s presidency has been saddled with a larger than normal public expenditure in the payment of salaries and emoluments than in our recent past. So many unnecessary positions have been created in public institutions and enterprises for persons connected to the president and his ruling party. Some institutions have more deputy CEOs than necessary, with some redundant positions created, just to give jobs to the boys and girls. The recently released Auditor-General’s Report shows how public money is being plundered without regard or cause. It is obvious who are beneficiaries of the plunder which has effectively ballooned government expenditure, further worsening the country’s fiscal situation.

In the face of all these, the president has faithfully denied culpability or knowledge. He  blames the John Mahama Administration, the Russia-Ukraine war and the COVID-19 pandemic. Well, it is on record that he and his delegation to Europe were responsible for bringing into the country ‘Patient zero’ at the outbreak of COVID-19.

In all instances, the president has never taken responsibility publicly; it’s not known if he has in private. It’s either he is not sure or it is someone or some other factor that caused an unacceptable situation.

His comments on the Chinese woman, known widely as Aisha Huang, who has a record of blatantly abusing our immigration laws and going beyond to desecrate our lands by engaging in illegal mining is telling. That is not to say his Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Maafo hasn’t openly said the government has no interest in prosecuting her, because that brings no benefits to the country. That goes without saying that , in the meantime, this same Administration is using every resource it can marshal to persecute social activist, Oliver Barker-Vormawor over his Facebook posts.  Juxtaposed against the government’s public position on Huang as clearly espoused by Osafo-Maafo, it is hard to see what the country would benefit from the persecution of Barker-Vormawor.

The president’s recent remarks about Aisha Huang is even more disturbing, considering the fact that he as president has access to all the people he has appointed to mind the matters around the cases of the nature involving Huang. He has a Minister of National Security, a National Security Coordinator and Minister of Interior with all the powers vested in them and the resources like the intelligence service, the police and immigration services. But he is unsure of any facts as to whether she was deported or not.

But while at it, Ghanaians appear to be aloof. They are simply watching on the sidelines, even as the government’s poor economic decisions have led to high inflation, a very high public debt, more than 80 per cent,  poor delivery of justice, lack of trust of the police, indiscipline within the rank and file of the military, high cost of living and abuse of power and office by elected and appointed officials.

Ghanaians, most often would make jokes of the infractions of the president and his clueless, incompetent lieutenants, who have on countless times failed to live up to the clearly established code of conduct for their offices.

The country’s Parliament hasn’t lived up to expectation either. As a check on the excesses of the Executive, and in other matters, Parliament itself has been found wanting. In its quest to push forward an unpopular tax – the E-Levy, the Majority brought an imposter into the chamber to try and get the votes. The matter didn’t go far. It’s not clear if it has been investigated. But there is no debate that there was an imposter in Parliament to try and get the numbers to pass the vote.

In all these instances, Ghanaians didn’t hold the government to the standards of accountability prescribed  in our laws.

But as a journalist, whose services Ghanaians do not support, and my news service is accessed for free, even though there are costs associated to producing the news, except a few citizens who find my work meaningful and give occasional support, I am easily held to some high standards. I dare not make grammatical errors, or spelling mistakes. It is worse if I get my facts wrong. I would be publicly flayed and pilloried; I would be made an example of, should I fall foul of the law.  My own colleagues would be in the forefront to ‘finish’ me without mercy.

But the president is getting away.

I hope you would reflect over these words, till next time.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Email: [email protected]

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