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Of a puzzling tale, and odd apology by ASEPA head

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

It sounds right, the mark of a progressive, democratic country, to have an organisation with the grand-sounding name, ‘Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability’ – with a catchy acronym, ASEPA, to boot.

On its website ASEPA touts its credentials as “one of the most vibrant Anti-Corruption Civil Societies in Ghana. Our key focus is centered around Public Accountability … Civil Advocacy, Human Rights … and Research.”

Furthermore, it proclaims: “What has been missing in most African Countries is a fearless Civil Society Organization ready to speak truth to power and go the extra mile to unearth corruption, human rights violations, social injustices and abuse of power.”

Understandably, governments need to be kept on their toes, because, as the Ghanaian proverb puts it, ‘the one constructing a path or road will not know that it’s crooked unless an observer points it out’.
So if by its aims and objectives ASEPA means to help Ghana shape a straight path, then one can only applaud its aspirations.

Nevertheless, the current controversy over a bewildering and extremely reckless allegation on Facebook by ASEPA Executive Director Mensah Thompson, essentially against President Nana Akufo-Addo, casts grave doubts on ASEPA’s stated objectives.

As widely reported, the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) has declared its intention to refer the Thompson “malicious publication” alleging an illegal use of the presidential aircraft, to the Inspector General of Police “for further investigations”.

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SUMMARY OF A DAILY GRAPHIC REPORT ON THE SAGA
The Mensah Thompson Facebook post of January 7, 2022:
“So between the 20th and 30th of December, 2021, the children of a close relative of the President took Ghana’s Presidential Jet, the Falcon

EX jet on a trip to the UK just for Christmas shopping. They didn’t go alone, they went with their friends and partied in the sky ….
“Ghana has spent close to half a billion dollars in the last two years renting private jets for our President, while his family members continue to lavish in our rejected aircraft at the expense of the poor taxpayer.

“The Ministry of National Security, the Ghana Airforce (sic) and the Civil Aviation Authority would have to provide answers to the good people of Ghana why a national security asset like the Presidential jet was left at the mercy of spoilt youngsters who went partying around the world playing in Ghana’s Presidential jet, creating an international diplomatic spectacle, embarrassing the country Ghana,” Mr Thompson wrote on Facebook.

The GAF response:
But the GAF, in a statement signed by GAF acting Director of Public Relations, Commander Andy La-Anyane, said: “We wish to state without any equivocation that the said publication is untrue, frivolous and without any basis.

“The said aircraft has not been to Europe for a very long time and this publication is, therefore, a figment of the author’s imagination. These allegations can easily be verified.”

Mr Thompson has, meanwhile, on Facebook, withdrawn his allegation and apologised to the GAF … “I withdraw the publication pending an official response from the GCAA (Ghana Civil Aviation Authority).
“I unreservedly apologise to the Ghana Armed Forces if their image was in anyway affected by my publication. We shall put out … the response to our request from the GCAA records of the Falcon 900-EX.”
Earlier this week, Mr Thompson told the Graphic that he had not (yet) received any invitation from the police.
Asked why he did not render an apology to the President, who was at the centre of the publication, he answered: “But the President has not said it is not true. It is the Ghana Armed Forces who have come out to complain.” (Graphic, January 10.)

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On learning about the bizarre Facebook allegation, some people might initially have dismissed it as one more of the Fake News items flooding the Internet.
But then came the Thompson unqualified apology to the GAF!

Meaning that he didn’t “go the extra mile to unearth” the facts before publishing his extremely vicious post? Meaning that he didn’t have “an official response from the GCAA” as proof?

Curiously, Mr Thompson has offered no apology to President Akufo-Addo for a publication that obviously sought to sow seeds of disaffection against the President.

The puzzle is, what exactly was the apology for? Because obviously it is the image of the President that his Facebook commentary sought to soil.

Following the apology and withdrawal, what then is the substance for which Mr Thompson is apparently expecting President Akufo-Addo to respond to?

Nevertheless, by the apology, one can only conclude that the Thompson allegation is just a tale.
On the other hand, if the Facebook post is true, then there was no need for an apology to the GAF. Mr Thompson should just have waited for the police to investigate the matter and prove him right.

Furthermore, the public, too, are entitled to know, the truth – for reasons of “Social Equity and Public Accountability”.
This is why I side with the following related comment, by an observer on another social media platform: “They know exactly what they’re doing. They write these articles, thousands of people share them on social media, then they come back and apologise. Objective achieved. And we do nothing about it.”

However, in this case, the observer suggests: “take one to court as a deterrent.”
Still, why would the head of an organisation preaching high moral values and accountability go to the extent of publishing such a tale?
Should one then conclude that there are no scandals in the Akufo-Addo Government which ASEPA has “unearthed”, and therefore it has to resort to inventions?

Mr Thompson’s audacious riposte, “but the President has not said it is not true” may appear witty, a retort clearly playing to the gallery. However, it could also turn out to be an ‘own goal’, nullifying whatever placatory intention had been behind the apology to the GAF.
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