Manasseh with President John Mahama when he received the National Youth Achievers' Award for Media Excellence in 2012
I stand accused. I stand accused of hating the President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E. John Dramani Mahama. I stand accused of hating the National Democratic Congress (NDC). And others accuse me of hating the government. This is because of the work I do. I'm an investigative journalist. And a writer.
“We know you're doing your work, but you also have to consider the fact that you are making your own brother unpopular,” those from my part of the country would say. “Don't let people use you against one of your own. That was what they did to Limann. You are young so you won't understand these things…”
“It is as if you have something personal against the President or you hate the NDC,” that's how others put it. “You just hate the man. Where were you when Kufuor was President? We didn't see any investigation from you.”
Well, I was in the junior high school when John Agyekum Kufuor won the Presidential election in 2000. And when he left in 2008, I was still in journalism school. But as to whether I hate President Mahama, the NDC or the government, here is my honest confession:
Do I hate president Mahama?
The answer is no. Do I have anything personal against him? The answer is no. I don't hate President Mahama. And I can't hate him. I have no reason to hate him. He has not mounted my wife. He has not stolen from my barn. He has not walked through my farm with destructive amulets around his feet. So the boy from Bongo does not hate the man from Bole.
It's difficult to hate that man if you have ever encountered him in person. I don't know how to describe him, but he has a bewitchingly likable personality. I will not say he is charismatic, but he has that charming personality that can turn a foe into a friend without a word. Call him Mr. Nice and you're not an inch away from the truth. Perhaps, that niceness is what makes him a weak leader. A leader ought to be tough, be willing to step on toes and should not dread losing friends.
I started writing opinion pieces when I entered the Ghana Institute of Journalism in 2006. I started with GBC Radio News Commentary until 2009, when I started writing in the Daily Graphic and publishing on news websites. President Mahama became a vice President in 2008 and in July 2012, he became President. It was only in 2014 that I published anything that can be considered negative about his presidency, not his person. This was after my GYEEDA investigation in 2013.
If I have any issues with him at all, it is not about his person, but his presidency, his leadership style. President Mahama was one of my most favorite politicians until he became president. He is still the nicest politician I know in Ghana. So it is not true that I hate the President or I have something personal against him.
Do I hate the NDC?
The answer here is no. And the God I serve knows this. I grew up in abject poverty. I grew up in one of the most deprived parts of the country so I like social democratic ideals. I don't hate the NDC. I don't hate any political party. About 80% of my friends who are politicians are in the NDC. And I have a better personal relationship with the NDC's candidate, President Mahama, than all the presidential candidates contesting in the 2016 elections. So that accusation is false!
Do I hate the government?
The answer is yes. “Hate” may be too strong a word, but the bottom-line is that I don't like this government. And in case you don't get it, the President is different from the political party, which is also different from the government. Let me use my all-time favorite music, borborbor to explain.
Every borborbor ensemble consists of drummers, singers, trumpeters, other instrumentalists as well as the leader of the group. The drums and instruments can be likened to the political party; they give the music its identity. If I see the real agbadza drums, I do not need to see the performers or hear the sounds of the drums to identify the music. The leader of the borborbor group can be likened to the leader of the political party or the President of the governing party. The singers, drummers, dancers, the leader and all the other instrumentalists constitute the government.
For this reason, an Akufo-Addo NPP government might be different from J.A. Kufuor's NPP government. Rawlings' NDC government was definitely different from Atta-Mills' NDC government, which was certainly different from John Mahama's NDC government.
In Rawlings' NDC government, for instance, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas was a deputy Minister of State at the time the government left office in 2000. In John Mahama's government, John Oti Bless is also a deputy minister of state. So it is possible to hate the NDC, but love Rawlings' government, or love Mahama and dislike his government.
Why I dislike the government
I am an anti-corruption investigative journalist. The government is the greatest purveyor and facilitator of corruption in Ghana, as in many countries. So as an anti-corruption journalist, the government is my natural enemy. My position as an opponent of the government would have been different if the government had been committed to the fight against corruption. That brings me to the second reason I dislike the government.
I am convinced that this is the most corruption-friendly (if not the most corrupt) government in Ghana's Fourth Republic. I consider corruption the biggest threat to our development and our democracy. One month after President Mahama was sworn into office after the 2012 election, I started publishing my investigation into the GYEEDA scandal. The prosecution and the retrieval of the monies have not been adequate, but that is not my main problem.
The Zoomlion contract, for instance, which allows the company to take GHc500 and pay the workers GHc100 at the end of the month, was the most outrageous contract I discovered in the GYEEDA scandal. Zoomlion claims it has 45,000 people on that contract. This means that the company is entitled to GH18 million cedis every month as management fees while the miserable workers, in whose name GYEEDA was set up, go home with practically nothing.
The government's committee, which was set up after my investigations, found many irregularities with the Zoomlion contract and recommended its discontinuation. The government failed to act even though Zoomlion's contract had expired. As I write this, the government is about to pay about GHc450 million cedis to Zoomlion for not discontinuing the contract.
The main culprits in the GYEEDA, SUBAH, SADA, Smartty's and other corruption scandals have been shielded by the government. We also know that government officials connived to pay GHc51.2 million to Alfred Agbesi Woyome and not even one of them has been prosecuted. An anti-corruption reporter cannot befriend such a corrupt government.
I cannot befriend the government because I love my country. And the more I love my country, the more I hate my government. The government risked the safety of this country by accepting two toxic parcels from Guantanamo Bay. If the Americans who stirred the beehive would not tolerate the bees on their land, why should we?
We have hundreds of Chinese illegal miners who have destroyed and continue to destroy water bodies, cocoa farms and farmlands. When the government made a move to stop them, it chickened out without any reason. We later heard that the government didn't want to hurt its friendship with Beijing. But we are hurting. Today, hundreds of communities have had their sources of water and livelihood threatened.
I cannot love my government because I hate injustice. As I have stated, my fellow citizens are being exploited in many ways, such as in the Zoomlion contract, but my government pays no attention to their plight. That is a state-sponsored injustice. People who die avoidable deaths as a result of government's negligence get no justice.
In November 2015, Romania's Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, resigned after protests over a nightclub fire disaster in which 32 people died and many others were injured.
“I must admit that there is a legitimate anger in our society and also a legitimate urge to take bigger responsibility than the owners of that nightclub. People want more than that and, for me, it would be a big error to ignore it,” Ponta told reporters.
“I think it is not fair to throw this responsibility on emergency teams or on mayors, state secretaries or ministers. I, myself, am ready to do this gesture demanded by a large part of our society,” he said. “Starting from today, I depose my mandate as prime minister and the mandate of Romania's government.”
In Ghana, more than 150 people died in an avoidable flood and fire disaster and the Mayor of Accra refused to apologise. He was not fired, and he is on his way to parliament. The only person who was held for questioning was the man who was suspected to have smoked a cigar and thrown the tub in floodwater. I cannot love the government that oversees all this madness.
If you are a patriotic citizen and your government is indescribably heartless, incurably corrupt and irredeemably insensitive to the suffering of its people, it is very difficult to love that government. So that's my position. I cannot pretend to be neutral. I have taken a stand against corruption and injustice, hence my dislike for the government.
The 1992 Constitution of Ghana enjoins me to hold my government accountable and responsible to the people of Ghana. If an opposition party is pouring acid on its members and threatening the security of the nation, I will write about it. If the opposition parties are making baseless noise about an impossible new voters' register, I will write about it. But my main duty is to hold the government, which controls our taxes accountable.
The opposition NPP is only happy with my work because it tends to help their cause. When some members of this government used to praise my writeups in the evening of Kufuor's government and the morning of Prof. Mills' government, I was doing what I am doing today.
My first personal encounter with President Mahama was at the National Youth Achievers Award in October 25, 2012 when I asked him for an autograph of his book.
I don't hate the president. I don't hate the NDC. I dislike the government. And since the president is the head of the messy government, he cannot escape the scathing attacks I launch on the government. That is my work. It is something I do with conviction. And that will not end with this government.