Brethren in the Lord, let us open our Bible to the book of Matthew. We are reading from the twentieth verse of the eighth chapter. For a better understanding, the Presbyterians should open the Akwapem version. Pastor Mensa Otabil’s ICGC worshipers should open the New International Version, but I will join Archbishop Duncan-Williams’ Action Chapel to read the King James Version:
“And Jesus saith unto him, the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”
That son of man in Matthew is Jesus Christ of Nazareth. But there is another son of man in the Republic of Ghana who does not seem to have a place to lay his head. He is John Mahama of Bole Bamboi.
He is the man our former Minister of Communication, Dr. Edward Omane Boamah, is speaking for. He is speaking on Joy 99.7 FM. He is defending a request made by former President John Dramani Mahama to keep the official bungalow of Ghana’s Vice-Presidents as his retirement house. He is referring to Bungalow No.3 on the Prestige Link in Cantonments, near the US Embassy in Accra. He wants that house and “its adjoining facilities as his retirement home.”
The former president also wants to have Bungalow No.6 on the 3rd Avenue, Ridge, as his office.
Dr. Omane Boamah is arguing that there has been a gentleman’s agreement between the outgoing and incoming governments that the outgoing president should keep the two state properties. He adds that parliament cemented the deal in a last-minute sitting.
Kojo Oppong Nkrumah of the new government, however, says no such agreement has been reached. You have just sent us a request. And it is our decision to either agree to that request or not.
So are you granting the request or you are denying him the houses? We will decide and let Ghanaians know. In the evening, Mr. Yaw Osafo Maafo is on radio asking the former president’s team to produce any evidence to show that the house has been given to the former President.
We go to bed without any information. But when our eyes open, we are confronted with a letter on social media, purporting to have come from the Office of the President. That letter says the request has been rejected. Because of our notoriety in forging letters and writing in the names of others, I call somebody in government for a confirmation before broadcasting the content of the letter.
“That letter is fake,” a voice that does not want to be quoted tells me. “Disregard it. It is fake, but its content is authentic. We are not giving the house to him. That will be communicated later in the day.”
Meanwhile, on social media, tempers are rising. Citizens ask, if all former Presidents had kept the presidential or vice-presidential bungalows where would Mahama have lived? The usual staunch defenders of the president are not very vociferous on this matter. Some of them appear embarrassed by the request.
The sun is setting. It’s Tuesday, January 10, 2017. We again go to bed without any information. Then on Wednesday, January 11, 2017, news breaks on social media. A letter with the signature of the former President is spreading faster than wildfire in the harmattan. Perhaps, that is the first letter written on the official letterhead of the office of the youngest former president of the Republic of Ghana.
What does this letter say? Mr. Mahama has withdrawn his request. I no longer want the houses I requested, he says in a different way. Keep them, but remember that you owe me a house. Whenever you feel like giving it to me, you can do that.
So what has happened? Nobody knows. And nobody will say it. But that letter is copied to the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II. Off the record information from sources close the president indicates that the agreement to give the houses to the former President was reached in the presence of the Asantehene. There must have been-behind-the-scene calls and compromises when public opinion weighed heavily against the deal.
“Mr. President! So this house, you den your people no want take give me e?”
“You see, the way Ghanaians make wild, we for change wana minds o!”
“So you dey go talk them say you no go give me the house?”
“The elections embarrass you already so I no wan add more. Make you comot come talk say you no dey like um again.”
So the request was withdrawn. Case closed? Well, we will be on it until something greater happens. This is Ghana!
But Dr. Edward Omane Boamah is still on the telephone line speaking to Nhyira Addo on the Super Morning Show on Joy 99.7FM. He is making a very revealing closing remark.
Dr. Omane Boamah has up to three months to vacate his official bungalow. But he is already out of that property. His boss, President John Mahama, should have vacated his residence before the swearing-in of the new president. Dr. Omane Boamah has the opportunity to buy the Toyota Camry he used while in office, of course at a cheap price, but he has decided to let go. Why did he do that? Didn’t he need it? I think he did. But as a matter of principle, he had to let go.
This is what the former President should have done. But he did not. You know we are a nation of greedy people. And we don’t choose our leaders from Switzerland. It is morally wrong to live in an official residence and request to keep it for life. That’s a definition of greed. The decision to build a new residence for the incoming Vice President does not make sense. This property is still good enough and can be used by many more presidents of our republic.
President Mahama was a member of parliament for 12 years. This means he has taken ex-gratia three times. He has been a Vice President of our Republic for three and a half years and served as our President of the Republic for four and a half years.
The son of man who was born of the virgin Mary does not have a place to live because he was not paid for the work he did. But even if our retiring presidents were not given the fat retirement benefits they get from the country their bad leadership often impoverishes, no Ghanaian will believe that former President Mahama has not accumulated enough money to build any house (if not houses) of his choice.
If Dr. Edward Omane Boamah has a place to live and has rejected the offer to go home with his official vehicle at a much-subsidized price, then we don’t expect the President to be in need. If the end of service benefits we give to our retiring presidents are not enough to satisfy their needs, then nothing under the sun can satisfy their greed.
The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a journalist with Joy 99.7 FM. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are his personal opinions and do not reflect, in any form or shape, those of The Multimedia Group, where he works.