Former President Jerry John Rawlings appears to be on a collision course with Foreign Minister Hannah Serwaa Tetteh, after the NDC founder branded her ‘disrespectful’ for walking out on Vice President Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur.
The incident reportedly occurred at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) during the opening of the 4th World Summit of Mayors of African Descent on Monday, hosted by Accra Metropolitan Chief Executive, Alfred Oko Vanderpuije.
Reports monitored on Joy FM, an Accra-based private radio station, indicated that the Foreign Minister walked out of the conference because she was asked to hand over her opening speech to Vice President Amissah-Arthur, a situation which did not go down well with Mr Rawlings.
Addressing the closing ceremony yesterday, Rawlings descended heavily on Ms Tetteh saying that she disrespected the audience when she walked out.
Matters came to a head when the ex-President insisted that it was appropriate that the Vice President and not the Foreign Affairs Minister deliver the speech, if President John Mahama was not readily available.
Mr Rawlings reportedly tasked the Mayor of Accra, Oko Vanderpuije, who was the main host of the conference, to relay to President Mahama that if he the President could not make it to the programme, Mr Amissah-Arthur should be made to read his speech.
Ms Tetteh, who had then arrived, however instructed the Mayor to commence proceedings to enable her deliver the speech on behalf of the President as scheduled, but he refused and the audience was kept waiting for about an hour.
Mr Amissah-Arthur arrived later to take the speech from the Foreign Minister and reports said an obviously unhappy Hannah Tetteh then walked out of the conference venue and returned to her office.
President Rawlings reportedly told the gathering of city administrators later that Ghana’s President was a humble man but ‘some characters around the President are the problem.’
The behind-the-scenes ‘altercations’ made the programme, scheduled to start at 10am, rather kick off at 11:00am on Monday.
Explaining yesterday, Rawlings said what transpired at the opening ceremony was a mark of arrogance on the part of the minister.
‘I think I must have asked him (Mayor) ‘how soon is the President coming?’, when he said ‘no the President was not coming’ and that he had delegated the Foreign Minister to come and represent him. So I said to my brother that he cannot do that, we cannot do that. The protocol is such that if they cannot do it he has to send his Vice President to come and open the conference not his Foreign Minister.
‘I tried to call the President and his aides and he called back and I told him ‘Mr President, we have the Vice President. You have to send the Vice President’. He probably was not told that the Vice President was on the ground when he said the Vice President was going to come.’
‘I am known for talking of embarrassing situations because I don’t want repetitions. When we were there the Foreign Minister turns up and says hello to everybody and tells the Mayor that we should start the conference.
‘Then the Mayor said, ‘sorry but the President says you should give your speech to the Vice President’ and then she goes on ‘I have a paper to deliver, let’s start the conference’. I was holding my phone and looking at it and I was listening to the Mayor. Fortunately and thankfully, the Mayor stuck to his guns and made sure that we waited for the Vice President.
‘Listen carefully, humility is very important when you hold office. It is not everything that the President does that I agree with, but you cannot take away from him his humble way of doing things, the likeable nature.’
Characters around the President
‘I’m afraid some of the characters around him have a problem. You send your Vice President, once you order the thing must be done and so we have to wait for the Vice President and she doesn’t even have the patience to wait and sit to join the meeting; and you say you have a paper to deliver and you pack up and go because you cannot open it (the conference)?’
Ms Tetteh has also given a detailed account of what transpired, asking, ‘Now how is that disrespectful?’
She said on Monday the main item on her agenda was an emergency Cabinet Meeting at 10:00am, but she received a call from Secretary to the President at 9:45 asking her to stand in for the President at the conference.
She said the conference was supposed to start at 10:30am but her officers made frantic calls to her that the time had been brought forward to 10:00am same day but because there was no response from the Mayor that the Vice President was coming, she was asked to ‘hurry up’ to the venue.
‘I rushed to the conference centre to be told by the Mayor that he had spoken to the President and the Vice President was coming.
‘My response was that if that was the case then there was no need for me to be there. I decided to sit and wait to see if the Vice President would come because my understanding was that I was to stand in and give the President’s speech and I thought it wasn’t a good idea to leave and be called back. I was sitting on the other side of the room from JJ.
‘As soon as the Vice President arrived he went to JJ (ex-President) to greet him and other dignitaries (who I had also greeted when I got there). They were all chatting so I slipped out of the other door and left to go to Cabinet.
‘Admittedly, I didn’t tell all the people I had previously greeted that I was leaving, but I felt it wasn’t really necessary to announce my departure and explaining to everyone the reason why, as the programme was already running very late and I was sure the focus would be on getting started. Now how is that disrespectful?’ she asked.
Recently, the same minister was accused by a section of the public of disrespecting certain media houses when she told Joy FM arrogantly that she was not going to grant them an interview in the wake of xenophobic attacks in South Africa in April.
She reportedly told Joy FM, which had sought to verify reports of the deaths of some Ghanaians in the senseless attacks in South Africa, that she would only speak to Radio Gold, a pro-NDC station, and that if Joy FM wished, it should listen to that station for government’s position on the attacks.
By William Yaw Owusu
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