Three ministers in the Mills administration are running for cover, following a flurry of hostile public reactions over contemptuous remarks attributed to them in the past few days.
While a Deputy Information Minister, James Agyenim-Boateng, is under public fire, especially from taxi drivers, over his description of former President Kufuor’s ministers as cabbies, and seeks to douse the emanating fire, a Minister of State at the Presidency, Joseph Nii Laryea Afotey Agbo, is crying foul over a statement he claimed was erroneously attributed to him and therefore demanding an apology from myjoyonline.
He flatly denied slamming President Mills over the dropping of former Minister for Tourism, Zita Sabah Okaikoi in Tuesday’s cabinet shake-up. In what is gradually becoming a comedy of blunders, another Minister, Akua Sena Dansua, who was affected by the ‘musical chairs’ reshuffle, on Wednesday asked the media to leave her alone.
Even before clearing her desk at the Youth and Sports Ministry, en route to the Tourism Ministry, she tongue-lashed un-named journalists for taking bribes from her detractors in a bid to destroy her.
For his part, the Deputy Information Minister claims his remarks, which a cross-section of Ghanaians, especially taxi drivers, found derogatory, is being taken out of context.
His bid to distance himself from the remarks followed an extensive coverage by a cross-section of radio stations yesterday morning, with a number of them allowing cabbies to call in and express their opinions, all of which were contemptuous remarks against the young minister.
Obviously in an effort to douse the fire stoked by the said remarks, he issued a statement yesterday, stating that he did not insult taxi drivers, as being suggested.
“For the records, I did not insult nor make any derogatory remark about taxi drivers,” he said, claiming that he only made comments in response to attacks on some top government officials by a member of the opposition. This response, he went on, “was misconstrued and deliberately taken out of context”.
The said interview, according to Agyenim-Boateng, is available and that Joy FM, an Accra-based radio station, where he made the comments, could replay it for a better appreciation by members of the public.
Following the intervention of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Chairman, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey after the announcement of a cabinet mini-reshuffle by President Mills, the Deputy Minister, in an incensed rebuttal, said some former ministers appointed by President Kufuor were taxi drivers.
The repercussions of the remarks, which are anything but decent, are what the deputy minister is fighting tooth and nail to reverse. It is doubtful though how far he can go in this attempt, given the clarity of meaning of the remarks.
Taxi drivers felt insulted by the remarks, as they think they are not respected. A cross-section of taxi drivers that reacted to the remark noted that they were responsible persons in society, taking care of families. They therefore demanded an apology from the minister.
Such an apology would not come anyway because the deputy minister claims no malice was intended in the remarks- a stance which could trigger more outrages from the cabbies who constitute a whole constituency on the political turf.
In their reaction, the NPP parried the remarks, explaining that taxi drivers were a respected community in Ghana, adding that many citizens drove taxis abroad to enable them to pursue their educational programmes.
Fearing the backlash of being seen as warning President Mills, Minister of State Afotey Agbo, popularly called ‘Lion’, has also issued a rejoinder over a statement attributed to him, crying that mischief had been played on him by myjoyonline.
According to him, his advice that it was not prudent to drop Zita Okaikoi after the experience she had garnered on the job as Minister, did not constitute a warning to President Mills or the NDC.
He stated in a press statement dated January 5, 2011 that “contrary to the Joy FM website story, I never cautioned the President, nor the NDC party against leaving Mrs. Okaikoi out of office.” Joy FM, Afotey Agbo claimed, twisted the story and explained further, “I noted that President Mills will be doing his government and the NDC party a great disservice if he throws out Zita Okaikoi”, virtually confirming what the online media published.
Mr. Afotey Agbo’s impression of Zita is a reversal of what he posted earlier when he described her as incompetent and called for her removal from the list of ministers.
Soon after his ‘Fatwa’ on Zita, he was appointed minister of state at the presidency, evidently to placate him.
In yet another vein, out-going Sports Minister, Akua Sena Dansua is taking issue with the media for being a thorn in her flesh as it were and accusing some of them of taking bribes to run her down.
On Wednesday, just as the announcements of her transfer and the petroleum price hike were being digested by Ghanaians, she took some media persons to the cleaners, stopping short of being specific though.
She accused these unnamed journalists of collecting bribes to tarnish the reputation of some politicians including her, even though the call for her removal was from within NDC.
The closest she got to disclosing the identity of the persons she was accusing was when she pointed her finger at Citi FM, a radio station allegedly harbouring the faceless bribe-takers. “Some of them are in Citi FM. Let me go in peace,” she screamed at her perceived foes when she fielded questions from the same radio station on Wednesday.
Dangling the history of her journalism school days, she asked where ‘these small boys’ using the advantage of the microphone to destroy others were when “we were in journalism school.” When pushed to name the bribe-takers, she said, “I would not mention names. I am not a small girl.”
She claimed to have intended to run an open-door policy when she assumed the office of Sports Minister but the media slanted her disclosures. Some of the media persons who are disturbing her, she claimed, could not do the work she was doing as minister. “These small boys running around the radio station, they collect money to destroy us.”
The Sports Minister came under intense media flak following her management of her portfolio when Ghana partook in the world soccer tournament in South Africa last year.
Her name was one of those mentioned as likely to be dropped when President Mills finally let go the hammer on non-performing ministers.