The Agyarko-Ameri Affairs - Did the President have an option?
This week, the unexpected happened. The President dismissed his Energy Minister over the controversial Ameri deal. Not many expected to see this day. I say unexpected because he was one of the most experienced appointees of the President
remember writing a piece congratulating him on his vetting. I must confess. I was one of those who was dazed by the depth of his understanding of the finance side of the energy economy. He was in my view one of the ministers to watch.
He was in the news shortly after his vetting but went under the radar. His name popped up every now and then in the media but he was not one of those under the spotlight. Until the Ameri deal resurfaced.
The Ameri deal has an interesting history. The current government whiles in opposition generated a lot of support their criticisms of the Ameri deal. And they also created a lot of disaffection for the NDC. The deal was trumpeted as the worst deal in Ghana’s energy history. The NPP in opposition naturally talked of how they could get Ghanaians a better deal and also how the NDC in government was ripping off Ghanaians and mismanaging their taxes. Immediately the NPP won the 2016 elections, there was one thing on the minds of many – the government was going to review and if possible abrogate a number of contracts entered into by the old regime. One of these contracts was the Ameri deal. Before that could happen, there was news making the rounds that the Attorney General did not think that there was anything wrong with the Ameri deal. And then there was also news that the government had entered into an enhanced agreement with the Ameri team – this deal was described as far better deal than the earlier. But it seems the assurance was not enough. Organisation after organisation condemned the agreement as being worse than the one negotiated by the NDC. Many also thought that the agreement failed a value for money test. Then there were rumours that the agreement had caused some disaffection among prominent persons in the government who did not want to have anything to do with it. And then it emerged that the President was misled into endorsing the agreement. And it further emerged that the Energy Minister was dismissed. As I have already pointed out, not many thought that we will get to this point.
Whiles some have praised the President for being bold in asking the Energy Minister to step aside, in truth he had no option. The damage for not doing otherwise would have been serious. Someone had to take responsibility. It is either the President or the Energy Minister. And the energy minister was forced to.
Let us not forget that this is the Ameri deal. If it were some other contract, it would have simply been a case of the government not being careful and tactical. But I dare say once again, this is the Ameri deal.
The details of this particular agreement known to many. The deal had been the subject of so many heated social and political discussions. There had been a lot of name calling over this particular deal. In fact, the current opposition, then in government, the object of ridicule and extreme criticism. I remember a Norwegian news organisation did some investigative piece accusing Kwabena Donkor of wrongdoing.
It would, therefore, have taken a lot for the President to simply look the other way. The NDC had its own agenda. It was bent on making as much out of this deal as the NPP did when they were in opposition. They have held news conferences to state their position. They have granted interviews stating how this is a grand scheme which the President knew about and was complicit in.
It must be borne in mind that the President came into office with a reputation for being a no-nonsense person. But two years into his administration, not many think of him highly when it comes to the fight against corruption.
Many have criticised him for his tokenist approach in fighting corruption especially for the manner in which he had handled previous complaints of corruptions under his administration.
It is hard to tell how things will turn out in the coming days. The dismissed minister has indicated that he will tell his side of the story when the dust settles.
It remains to be seen when exactly the dust will settle. But heads or tail, the government has definitely haemorrhaged from this Ameri saga and it will be in its own interest to ensure that it does not tread on similar paths again.
The Ameri roller-coaster will definitely count as one of the low moments for this particular government.