John Dramani Mahama
Former President John Dramani Mahama has said being asked whether he has ever taken bribe by a journalist when he was in office was ‘discourteous’.
He said the western media and its journalists would not dare ask any of their leaders such a ‘discourteous’ question and appeared to say that journalists in the advanced countries in particular have the tendency to embarrass leaders from the developing countries, especially in Africa.
“You know, the thing about that interview was that question was a very ‘discourteous’ one,” he said.
He then explained “it was ‘discourteous’ because the western media has created an impression, of course, from some solid experiences – I mean the period of Mobutu Sese Seko and all that characterizes every African leader as corrupt – and so one won’t ask a western leader that kind of question because it is ‘discourteous’,” he said on Accra-based ‘Class FM’ yesterday.
On May 12, 2016, Mr. Mahama appeared to fumble with a straight forward question on whether or not he had taken bribe as posed to him by the BBC through Nigerian journalist Peter Okwoche during an anti-corruption summit in London, United Kingdom.
BBC: Mr. President, have you been offered a bribe before?
Mr. Mahama: You mean as President?
BBC: As John Dramani Mahama
Mr. Mahama: As a human being?
BBC: As a person
Mr. Mahama: Any human being in the world would have encountered corruption in one way or the other, either being offered a bribe or bribe being demanded from you. What you need to do is to put yourself in a position that… (the BBC cuts in)
BBC: Mr. President, did you take it?
Mr. Mahama: No, I haven’t taken a bribe, (he appeared to give a snide smile)
Mr. Mahama who was heavily defeated in 2016 and wants to recapture power, upon reflection about the interview, said yesterday that “I mean, if I was speaking to Tony Blair or you were interviewing Tony Blair, I am not going to ask him: ‘Are you corrupt?’ But it is that perception that African leaders are corrupt that made him ask that question and so, of course, he threw me off the cuff.”
He said “it was a question about: ‘Have you taken a bribe before?’ And it caught me off guard,” adding “I will tell you that, but I answered it.”
He said “I tried to clarify the question, but he kept persisting and I said: ‘No, I haven’t, but, of course, our people took advantage of it and made quite a lot of noise about it.”
According to him, the fight against corruption must be a continuous thing for governments during and after their regimes and has promised that he is going to pursue a policy he calls ‘Operation Sting’ to deal with the societal menace.
“The thing about corruption is that we must, one, improve awareness. Two, we must make the institutions work and insulate political leaders from a certain discretion in terms of how things are done and that is the only way we can fight corruption. Unfortunately, over the years, because of poor funding of the anti-corruption institutions and political interference in their work, they are not able to work as well as they should,” he said.
Mr. Mahama said during his time in office, “I said to the anti-corruption institutions: ‘You don’t need my fiat to prosecute or investigate anybody, and so if you come across any case of corruption, just go ahead with investigation and prosecute it’ and it did,” adding, “It landed one of my Members of Parliament in prison. As I speak today, he’s in prison. Dzifa (Attivor, former Transport Minister) resigned over the bus branding issue, the Smartys issue.”
He also said that “at National Service, we dismissed 110 officers because of the ghost names saga and we put 31 of them before court, and so it is not about post-regime fight against corruption.
“Corruption can take place as long as you are in government and then when you leave government you have to face the fearing fire of accountability.
“The fight against corruption must be an everyday thing…It must continue whether you are in government or not; that is why I keep telling the President: ‘Prosecute people who have been corrupt in your government.’ You don’t have to wait until a new government comes and then they begin to haul all of them before court.”
He refuted allegations that his administration had only an example of persons it prosecuted for corruption and said his government did more than just that.
“Smartys was investigated, the Attorney General went into it and gave her recommendation to the Chief of Staff. On the basis of that, a minister resigned, the company was pursued, the company refunded monies, there was also the case of the Youth Enterprise Programme, a company refunded GH¢50 million.”
He spoke on a wide range of issues including last week’s ultimatum by the people of Akyem for him to apologize and retract a comment they deemed offensive to the ethnic grouping where the sitting President belonged.
The chief had threaten that should Mr. Mahama and his NDC fail to apologize to them for the ‘Sakawa Boys’ comment, the traditional authorities were ready to ban the NDC from campaigning on any of their lands.
Mr. Mahama appears to call the bluff of the people of Akyem saying, “Nobody bans anyone from going anywhere…we shouldn’t go there, because if other people say they are banning other people, what kind of country are we going to have?”
He said “I have not said anything…I have not abused Akyem people. Like I said, there are many Akyem people in my party; why would I say anything insulting to them?”
By Ernest Kofi Adu