President John Evans Atta Mills has marked his two years in office
successfully without any scandal in his presidency or false coup d’état reports which characterized the first two years of his predecessor, John Agyekum Kufuor, leading to the sacking of some ministers and the deportation of a foreigner, Albert Odinga Odinga, a Belize national and personal friend of ex-President Jerry John Rawlings.
This time in 2003 saw a massive hullabaloo about the renovation of the Osu Castle, repair works at ex-President Kufuor’s private Airport residence by a certain farmer Marfo, and the purchase of Peugeot cars from Nigeria for the Police Service, all under very questionable circumstances.
Whiles Mallam Issa had been sacked and subsequently jailed for embezzling US$45,000 meant as bonuses for the Black Stars, President Kufuor reluctantly sacked Muktar Bamba, his deputy chief of staff, for using the presidential letterhead to source for loans, Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, his Chief of Staff, had also compromised his office in the Mormons church affair.
All these came, and badly dented the Kufuor regime which had promised “zero tolerance” for corruption. But after two years in office, Mills is yet to be cited in any corruption scandal which he last week Friday marked, with a question- and- answer encounter with selected Ghanaian and international journalists at the Castle.
Unlike the case of Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka in 2009, there was no specific act of corruption involving any of his appointees for him to respond to. At the end of the two-and-a-half hour encounter, President Mills emerged as a physically fit person and mentally sharp as he was in total control of the issues within his government.
He did not look sick and frail, delusional or blind as claimed by certain personalities. His only problem was that he sounded nasal, but explained that he had problem with his nose, and this has affected his speech. President Mills who lazed some of his responses with humour most often supported his answers with figures, never implored any of his ministers or appointees to help him answer the questions thrown to him by the media men.
He also did not use pen and paper to note down the questions before
answering them. The president expressed his regret for having to take a painful decision to increase fuel prices. He said it is not an easy decision to increase fuel prices but had to do that in the interest of the people. He said Government had a choice to continue subsidizing the price of fuel to the neglect of other social intervention, but it choose the increment so as to safeguard the economy and also be able to meet other developmental commitments.
The recent fuel price hike has received criticism mostly from the opposition parties, some political organizations as well as a cross-section of Ghanaians. The argument has been made that President Mills promised to reduce fuel prices drastically but has acted contrary.
But in a quick response to a question by one of the journalists at the
programme, President Mills mentioned that his statement at the time was in context, and that given the world crude oil price at the time, he would reduce the price of fuel if he was the President. “I have been called upon to apologize to the people of Ghana by the NPP.
They need to apologize to the people of Ghana for leaving us with GH¢1.5 billion TOR debt”, he said “I made the point that, given the world crude oil price at the time and comparing it with the fuel prices, I said…if I had my way, I would reduce the prices.
The records must also show that not long after I had made this promise, the Kufour administration reduced fuel prices. They reduced fuel prices which I thought was a vindication of the stand that we had taken,” the president added.
President Mills said that at the beginning of 2009 when he assumed office, he met a crippling Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) debt of GH¢1.488 billion. He explained that even when prices of world crude kept rising, the government refused to increase prices while spending huge sums of money to subsidize the product. The President said that the recent price hikes were necessitated by calls from people who needed better livelihoods and social amenities to make their lives a lot easier.
He added that there is no money in government coffers because they were paying the TOR debt and subsidizing the fuel prices. Government could, therefore, not carry out developmental projects. “Increasing fuel prices is not an easy decision to take, but at some stage,
I had to take a decision… A choice between fuel subsidies and using the money for social interventions to cushion the impact of the hard and parlous state of the economy for, especially, the underprivileged people, I thought that I should take this decision,” he admitted.
“It is even a miracle that at this stage we can even supply fuel to
Ghanaians, so I want my brothers and sisters to bear with me. It is not that we are not caring. We had to make a choice, and I want to promise you that whatever it is that we can save, we will put it to some productive use,” he pledged. On the issue of Ivory Coast, President Mills said categorically his government was unable to contribute soldiers to any ECOWAS mission to oust incumbent president of that country, Laurent Gbagbo, should the regional body make do with its threat.
He said the country’s military was overstretched, engaged in many
peacekeeping assignments around the world, and that he was not about to risk Ghana’s internal peace to remove Mr. Gbagbo since opposition leader Alhassane Ouattara won the elections, since “It is not for Ghana to choose a leader for Cote d’Ivoire.”
“As Commander in Chief,” he said, “I consulted with my Military High Command and they advised that they could not release troops to join contingent to take military action in Cote d’’Ivoire.” President Mills said Ghana was monitoring the situation very carefully, and
“will continue to pursue initiatives which will ensure there is peace in Cote d’Ivoire.”
“Ghana is not taking sides,” in the delicate political standoff, but “Ghana should support any measures to implement the democratic ideals that we all cherish, “he said, and flatly denied accusations that some airplanes loaded with weapons were in Ghana to jump to the aid of President Gbagbo. He said: “It is not true that we are helping to import arms to Cote d’Ivoire. It is certainly not true, we cannot do this!” The president said he had been communicating with both Mr. Ouattara and Mr. Laurent Gbagbo, but stressed: “It is not every detail that I can put in the public domain. Some of us believe in quiet diplomacy, and that is exactly what we are doing.”
President Mills, who was exceptionally humurous on this occasion but blunt in a lot of his responses, said: “As a person, I do not think that this military operation is going to bring peace to Cote d’Ivoire.” For him, it would be better for Ghana to ‘mind your own business’ in the crisis. On the seeming crisis in the Ministry of Youth and Sports which has seen four ministers in a spate of two years, the President said “the reason is that every minister is sent there to execute a particular programme. When the person finishes, I know who to send there for that particular programme.”
The President addressed issues about his association with the 31st December 1981 coup which gave birth to the formation of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) which consequently founded the National Democratic Congress which he leads. President Mills stated: “Let nobody forget that NDC has December 31st as one
of its founding days. I cannot change it…
Other political parties may have founders days that they are not even
disclosing, and they may be associated with something else. Yes! But what I am saying is that, I belong to NDC; this is the party’s founding day, and if people decide to celebrate it, I will encourage them to do so. Pure and Simple.”
Source: Larry-Alans Dogbey
President John Evans Atta Mills has marked his two years in office