FORMER PRESIDENT John Agyekum Kufuor, in a rare public interview, has robustly defended some of the controversial decisions taken during his eight-year administration, particularly the sale of Ghana Telecom (GT).
The sale of then state owned GT generated massive furore from the then opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and other anti-government elements at the time.
He put up the defence during an interview he granted on Joy News’ Personality Profile programme on Multi TV, pointing out that the decision was informed by the company’s insolvency occasioned by a $400 million overwhelming debt.
He said if given the opportunity to take such a decision again, ‘I will do it a hundred times for the betterment of Ghana.’
Mr. Kufuor said GT was a drain on the economy because ‘it wasn’t efficient and it wasn’t competitive, considering that there were other companies like Spacefon which were beating Ghana Telecom in competition.’
His acquiescence led to the sale in 2006 of government’s 70% shares in the telecommunications company to Vodafone International Holdings B.V., the barrage of attacks his government came under notwithstanding.
Both opposition elements and their supporters pointed at financial malfeasance in the transaction and asked that it be aborted.
‘We got $900 million ‘neat’ dollars [from Vodafone] for 70% shares paid up front,’ the former President stated.
Many of the workers on the payroll of the company were regarded as redundant and therefore adding to the cost of running the company, the former President underscored.
He told his host that the transaction was not for him but for the country, pointing out that before the sale the Malaysians who had 30% shares in it (GT) ran it for five years without accountability.
One of the opponents of the transaction, the Kwesi Pratt-led Socialists Forum, attacked the transaction as ‘done through a secretive and fraudulent process, superintended by the Ministry of Finance.’
The interview dealt with a broad-spectrum of subjects including the Dagbon debacle, about which he said it was one thing which shook him when it occurred.
He regretted the fact that he was unable to find a permanent solution to the crisis which engulfed the northern part of the country; and prayed that this feat would be achieved so permanent peace could be restored.
‘There was one event that I have had the occasion to tell the world and I pray to God that it wouldn’t ever happen again – the Dagbon crisis. It shook me to my foundations and I pray that it doesn’t happen again. And I pray that there will be a permanent solution so that that traditional part of our country will find itself restored to harmony.’
In the early days of his assumption of power, the Overlord of Dagbon, Ya Na Yakubu Andani II, was murdered, sparking a chain of reactions and counterattacks.
Speaking about his life after retirement from the presidency, Mr. Kufuor said his house is now a Mecca for visitors, receiving ‘an average of 30 guests a day.’
He continued, ‘In my retirement, I thought I was going to have perhaps a free and lesser burden period but I’m in a way exposed.
All the many friends I made around the country and even from beyond Ghana come in on the basis of goodwill and truly my nature is such that I cannot stop them from coming.
‘And I find that my house has become like a town hall. Every day from morning to night I get visitors, many of them just drop in. They don’t come by appointment or anything, they just come. Averagely, every day, not less than 30 to 40 people come from all over.’
By A.R. Gomda
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