All hail shadow Veep

BY: Arku Jasmine

Mr Martin Amidu, the former Attorney General who was allegedly dismissed for insubordination, has now become the toast of all public-spirited Ghanaians, especially those who think that corruption must be uprooted from our country.  Indeed, former President Jerry John Rawlings and the New Patriotic Party Caucus in Parliament have lauded him for his stance in pursuing the matter of the wrongful payment of judgement debt to Waterville at the Supreme Court. Mr Amidu has been known to be disciplined and strongly against corruption and corruptible influences, by those who have had the opportunity to work with him.  He attracted national attention in 2001, when instead of despair after the National Democratic Congress lost the election, he turned the misfortune into laughter when he stated that he was the shadow vice-president.

And at the time that Mr Amidu was dismissed as Attorney General by President John Evans Atta Mills, the media uncritically disowned him and got hoodwinked by the deception of government spokespersons.  Thus, rather than supporting him in his crusade to have the money illegally paid as judgement debt retrieved and as a whistle blower, he was projected in the media as an arrogant, disrespectful and self-centred individual and he was therefore persecuted and presented as a villain and traitor.

The media continued in the mould of being misused for narrow political interests and as observed by the National Reconciliation Commission, the media were indicted.  In the words of the NRC indictment, although the media have helped in strengthening democracy, sometimes they have been misused to undermine fundamental human rights.

The report of the NRC on the media stated among others that “considering that the media are expected to be facilitators of the process of truth and reconciliation, it is important that journalists collectively and individually examine some of their past actions, in order to better understand the role the media have wittingly and unwittingly played in the country’s noble and ignoble history.”

“There is a need to recognise and acknowledge their role in promoting the culture of respect for human rights and dignity.  This is what would enable the media to spearhead the process of their own institutional re-invention, improve their capacity to champion the cause of human rights and thereby prevent future governments from using them to legitimize their actions. The pledge never again is one to which current practitioners should commit themselves.”

Now that it has become clear that the differences between Mr Amidu and President Mills were not about insubordination and lack of respect, but the need for accountability and fight against corruption, how would the media assess the part they played in ridiculing Mr Amidu, when he should have been protected and defended?

But the ruling on Waterville and Isofoton by the Supreme Court must serve as a lesson to both government and international companies that they have to be transparent in all their dealings and follow through the legal process, otherwise they would be exposed.  

Governments must ensure that they give recognition to Parliament.  MPs must equally be conscious of their obligations to the state no matter how subservient they want to be to attract executive patronage of appointment as minister of state or board member.

If the due processes of Parliament have been followed, the government would not have been enmeshed in these dubious judgement debts, for which one justice is reported to have described as a deliberate and conscious act by miscreants to loot the state.

The government has an obligation to ensure that all those wrongful judgement debts that were paid unjustifiably and to undeserved groups or individuals are retrieved.  The money must be refunded with appropriate interest and paid to the state.

More importantly, the dysfunctional attitude of the government, in the mould of the lizard that has no problem with its murderer but with the one who commends the marksmanship of its killer, that the primary concern is not those who authorised the illegal payments, but those who caused the debts, must change.  It is untenable and unsupported by the decision of the Supreme Court.

There was no cause for the payments, only that some greedy and corruptible individuals saw some loopholes and exploited these for their private gain. 

The government gullibly fell into their schemes and got baited.  Therefore, whether the Attorney General’s Department directly or indirectly supported Mr Amidu, or otherwise, the necessary steps must be taken to get the Supreme Court decision enforced for the money to be refunded.

Beyond that, all those who played roles in those dubious judgement debt payments or negotiations must be unmasked and dealt with in accordance with the due process of the law for causing financial loss to the state.

On the part of Parliament, whether as a collective unit or through the groupings, majority or minority, if it is convinced that the money must be refunded and is ready to support or compel the government to retrieve the money, then it must demand investigations into those payments, uncover the lawyers recommended to be sanctioned by the General Legal Council and what has to be done to save Ghanaians.

That also includes looking at the position of the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Ebo Barton-Odro, who in all sincerity and fairness cannot be said to be outside the web for publicly endorsing the payments and rubbishing the state as having no defence.  If government did not appoint him minister of state for fear that his vetting could be embarrassing, then Parliament must purge itself to prove that it has integrity.

Now that the precedent has been set, whether a review is called or not, both governments and international companies must realise that they cannot cheat Ghanaians or take us for a ride.  They do so at their own peril.

But in all sincerity, there must be all hail to Mr Martin A. B. K. Amidu, alias Shadow Vice-President, for his commitment to protect and safeguard the national interest.

By Yaw Boadu Ayeboafo/Ghana