Former President John Mahama’s insistence on keeping his official bungalow after he was ousted from office in elections last month is attracting stern opposition from the public.
Sentiments being expressed on Facebook and Twitter about the ex-President’s refusal to pack out from the bungalow suggest severe discontent, with some saying the move by the former leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government is fueled by greed.
Although the Transition Act 2016 directs that every President and his Vice President should vacate their official residences before a new government takes office, former President Mahama has instead requested to keep Bungalow No.3 located at Prestige Link, Cantonments in Accra and its adjoining facilities.
Mr Mahama is entitled to a monthly rent allowance of at least GH¢ 8,800 but he prefers to keep the bungalow he has been occupying since his days as vice president as ex gratia, a move that has been described by many legal experts as a breach of the law.
Ghanaians on social media have been speaking their mind on the matter — fiercely and freely.
Some comments have sought to appeal to the conscience of the former President, others have been harsh.
A journalist, Mabel Aku Baneseh, writes on Facebook:
“I am going to break my convention not to comment on emoluments for ex-Presidents because it is only a fool who does not change his mind.
“JM [John Mahama], kindly pack out of the government bungalow. The state will give what is due you but please pack out.
“There is a new dawn here in Ghana. I’ve observed the youth, both in NPP and NDC are agitated over your decision to keep the bungalow. This means they are more interested in the future of this country than their political parties. Kudos to this new group. There is indeed hope for Ghana’s future.
“Some of us have not forgotten the Jake bungalow saga.
“It is only a house. Your legacy is more important than a mere house. Thank you.”
Others suggest that the request to keep a state facility casts a slight on the ex President’s integrity.
CEO of Ghana Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors, Senyo Hosi, thinks a house is a basic necessity that anyone who has worked his way up to the highest office of the land must be able to provide for himself.
“For god’s sake, what business has a man got to do with being President if he cannot provide for himself and family, the basic necessity of a home? The State literally funds every expense directly and indirectly of a President and his family, even taxes are waived.
“If you could not build a house before seeking to be president, why on earth did you not use your earnings to build or acquire one? Presidency is service, not asset acquisition. If for nothing at all, wasn’t there anything to learn from the modesty of H.E. Atta-Mills? His wife continues to live in their old home. If you have an old home too, please move into it.”
Others think the attempt to hold on to the bungalow confirms a deep-seated character of the former President.
“The one thing he’s extremely competent at – grab, grab, grab, grab, grab and grab even more!”, writes Ato Kwamena Dadzie.
A renowned Lawyer, Ace Ankomah, says the issue about the bungalow must be expanded since, in his view, the issue at hand is bigger than a request by a former President to keep his official residence.
“Our Presidents are paid, not a whole lot of money, but tax-free. Then we take care of every need while in office, yes, food, clothing, housing, transport, flights, holidays, hotels, shopping, soaps, perfume, toothbrush, everything – including boxers/drawers. I wanted to add Thongs, Brazilian and No-VPLs, but that might upset some people …So literally they may not even touch their income while in office.
“But then there is one downside to all of this: Our constitution imposes a lifetime ban from holding any office for profit when they leave office. The quid pro quo for that bar is that we agree to look after them for the rest of your lives. We then say that the “Looking After” package recommended by the Article 71 Committee and approved by Parliament cannot be varied to the retiring/retired Presidents’ disadvantage during their lives. Thus the package may only be improved, but never reduced/diminished.
“The question is “what goes into that ‘Looking After?'” We cannot reduce a man/woman to penury and straw when that person leaves office as President, and then we bar him/her from working for money. That would disgrace all of us. But can we afford the same or a similar level of ostentation as when they were in power?
“What is reasonable and acceptable?”
The opposition on Twitter have also been short and succinct.
Former Attorney General, Nii Ayikoi Otoo, has also joined the mounting opposition.
He recalls a court action initiated by the NDC to prevent a former Minister in John Kufuor’s government, the late Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, from buying his official residence. He wonders what has changed.
“Did they [NDC] go to the Supreme Court over Jake’s purchase of his bungalow? What was their beef then abuse of office? So what has changed? Is the property ex-president Mahama wants to settle in situated in Bole or in Accra? Did the NDC incite my people to demonstrate against the house given to ex-President Kufuor to use as offices situate in Accra over Ga lands? Did those who went to the Supreme Court include a Dr Omane-Boamah the same person pushing for Mahama to continue to reside in his official residence after losing elections instead of vacating? Was it not a campaign message that Ga lands are being “stolen” by government officials including former officials especially of the NPP? …Folks something doesn’t add up for me What about you?
A Ghanaian law professor based in the United States says the continued occupation of the bungalow is unlawful.
“A President’s official residence is the residence at which he officially resides. In the case of ex-President Mahama, that will be Bungalow No. 3, Prestige Link, Cantonments, Accra and its adjoining facilities.
“It is my opinion that the ex-President is currently occupying that official residence unlawfully. That is, he is using force or has adversely possessed the residence. Under the Presidential Transition (Amendment) Act 2016, the outgoing President is required to vacate his official bungalow one day before swearing-in of the new President. If he fails to do so, the Administrator General is empowered to forcefully evict him.”
It remains to be seen how the new government led by Nana Akufo-Addo will handle the matter in the face of mounting opposition against his predecessor’s desire to keep the house. It will be a test of his promise to stamp out corruption and abuse of public office.