A politics of ‘SORRY’

May 18, 2017
Source: Esther A. Armah l thebftonline.com l Ghana
A politics of ‘SORRY’

Sorry and politics. They are not a match made in anybody’s idea of heaven. But, over the last two weeks from the Minister of Finance to the Gender Minister to the Northern Regional Chairman, sorry seems to be the hardest word, the necessary word and the word with a caveat.

Let’s take a closer look.

Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta, the Minister for Finance is the latest in the line of politicians issuing apologies for actions taken, words spoken and mistakes made. Mr. Ofori-Atta articulated clear condemnation of public sector waste, issued a call to curb the ghost names that plague payroll and bleed the public sector’s economic coffers.

‘I’m sorry’, ran the headline on the front page of one paper. A similar refrain appeared across other newspapers on 16th May. The Finance Minister said sorry after his declaration that 26,000 names on the public sector payroll were in fact ‘ghost names’. Except it turned out they were not all ghost names. Some turned out to be legitimate individuals. His apology was swiftly followed by union threats of a trip to court as those accused had delayed salaries – but were in fact innocent of wrong doing.

Mr. Ofori-Atta acknowledged his wrong doing but invited us to consider that bloated payrolls were sucking the public sector dry, bleeding economic coffers and needed to be effectively tackled, and the bleeding stopped.

From the Minister of Finance to the Minister of Gender and the Northern Regional Chairman of the NPP Party.

Gender Minister Otiko Djaba held a meeting in the Northern region, claimed the Northern Regional Chairman Mr. Daniel Bugri Naabu, for which he did not give permission. That one incident quickly escalated into a war of words.

The Gender Minister accused the Northern Regional Chairman of receiving bribes in exchange for government jobs. Goats, cows and other livestock were apparently on this particular bribery menu. When the Mr. Naabu escalated his war of words, the Gender Minister retaliated claiming he was bullying her due to gender. She told him – and the world – she would not apologize. She went further saying the President would have to sack her.

The volley of words exchanged between the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection and the Northern Regional Chairman of the party played out on radio shows and then in print. The issue took up column inches, morning radio airtime and revealed that those with big titles and national responsibilities are not above public petty politicking.

Indeed, there was a combination of pettiness and vitriol in the exchanges.

What began as anger over a meeting and turned into accusations of bribery via allegations of jobs for goats, cows and sheep quickly escalated into a serious accusation involving murder.  The allegations and accusations became criminal. They were no longer petty, nor personal. 

The Northern Regional Chairman accused the Minister for Gender Otiko Afisa Djaba and the Upper East Regional Minister Mr. Rockson Bukari of being involved in the murder of Mr Adams Mahama,  the late Upper East Regional Chairman who died after acid was poured all over him.

I thought about Mr. Mahama’s family listening as their loved one’s name entered this fray. I thought about them as 15th May is the United Nations International Day of Families. They are a family minus a parent. His life was lost under violent and criminal circumstances. There is a man in custody, who will face trial after he was accused of killing Mr. Mahama. Into this criminal space, the Northern Regional Chairman contributed two names – that of the Eastern Regional Minister and the Minister for Gender.  The Eastern Regional Minister dispatched lawyers to demand proof, an immediate apology and retraction  - or face the law. The Northern Regional Chairman retracted.

Mr. Naabu said he ‘misspoke’ as regards his allegations that the Eastern Regional Minister was involved in Mr. Adams Mahama murder. This is a ludicrous claim. How is an accusation of involvement in murder an act of ‘misspeaking’?

 He neither retracted, nor did he apologize to the Minister for Gender.

This is much more than a sorry state of affairs.

What Mr. Naabu’s words do is create a cloud of suspicion around the Minister for Gender over a matter of murder. What surprises me is the government’s lack of focus and response on this specific issue. The party bigwigs closeted in Alisa Hotel for a meeting President Akufo-Addo attended to chastise both individuals. The morning after, the Minister for Gender issued her apology – to Ghanaians for bringing the title ‘Minister’ into disrepute - rather than an actual apology to Mr Daniel Naabu.

He refused to do even that.

That is far less of an issue than the very serious allegation Mr. Naabu has yet to retract.

There are questions to be addressed.

Did the police speak with and question the Northern Regional Minister regarding the basis of such serious allegations? Was the Minister for Gender questioned by the Inspector General of Police?

It is a sorry politics indeed that drags the name of the dead into a volley of vitriol, accusation and counter accusation. It is an even more sorry reality that such serious allegations are yet to be addressed by this government and formal steps taken by the police for a full investigation.

This year the International Day of Families focuses on the role of families and family-oriented policies in promoting education and overall well-being of their members. In particular, the Day is to raise awareness of the role of families in promoting early childhood education and lifelong learning opportunities for children and youth.

Mr. Adams Mahama is no longer. His family matter. His life mattered. He deserves better than to be used in a vitriolic exchange by a Minister. Sorry is not an apology in this case. Sorry is the state of affairs that these two Ministers created by their exchange.

A cloud hangs over this case, an allegation remains, and a crime is yet to be resolved.