The military, as a security apparatus, has refrained from issues bordering on the media, since the return to Constitutional rule in January 1993, I can affirm. One of the casualties of the so-called revolution when Jerry John Rawlings, aided by those who claim to believe in him, sat at the Castle and visited mayhem on this nation, in the name of a revolution, was the media.
In those days, when to criticise those who had taken advantage of the brutal nature of the regime to visit harm on innocent citizens was interpreted as treason, media personnel who dared to point out the ills in society were hunted down and destroyed.
The sad case of Mr. John Kugblenu, Editor of the Free Press, who died on release from a long detention period at various prisons in Ghana, his publisher Tommy Thompson, who also visited his ancestors in virtually the same manner as his editor, Apostle Gabriel Akrong, also known as Apostle Barnabas of the Believer newspaper, who was sent to his early grave for daring to criticise the oligarchy, and many others, all bore the scars of the conscience of this nation.
In those days of jungle justice, many seasoned journalists had to flee this country into exile. The PNDC, as a policy, was very hostile to criticism. When the great architect of the anarchy that reigned in this country in the name of a revolution coined the phrase ‘culture of silence’ to describe the failure of the citizenry to react to the draconian policies of the time, the picture was complete.
I dare state without equivocation that it is this historical background that influenced the framers of the 1992 Constitution to create a liberal atmosphere for the media to thrive, and thus help revive the spirit of participatory democracy in Ghana. Even with the promulgation of the 1992 Constitution, with its obligation on newsmen to call governments and leaders of society to order, the Rawlings version of the civilian regime was still antagonistic to the critical media.
Mr. George Naykene of the Christian Chronicle was jailed for criminal libel. He died not long after his release. In one of the worst forms of the abuse of office, truck loads of human excreta were poured in front the offices of The Free Press, The Chronicle and the Daily Guide. To tell everything about the callousness of the regime, a minister of state justified the reckless action as the people’s rejoinder to articles carried by newspapers from the stable of those media houses.
In spite of all manner of persecutions, the media has performed reasonably well so far. But like the problem with any lease of freedom, a few misguided elements have taken the liberty for a ride, and continue to spew lies, mischief and character assassinations, especially with the 2016 vote in the offing. Even then, everybody knows the political colour of those media houses courting the worst problems.
When some radio stations and a number of newspapers churn out daily garbage of lies and character assignations aimed at running down the leadership of a particular political persuasion, it is only natural that society speaks against the practice. Unfortunately, the generalisation of the complaint is not helping anybody. We must identify those bastardising the profession and deal with them. Even then, I submit that it is good, occasionally to remind everybody in the media to play according to the rules, which is why the warning by the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Vice Marshall Sampson Oje, is welcome.
It is not every day, that the head of the military in this country encounters the media. On Friday, Air Vice Marshall Sampson Oje and his counterpart in the Police Service, Inspector General of Police, Mr. John Kudalor, met with the media in Accra. The two top security capos delivered their own version of security warnings to media practitioners to be wary of what they put out there.
The Chief of Defence Staff charged the media to work with the security forces to ensure that the 2016 elections were peaceful. “This is our country, we have nowhere else to go,” he stressed. “Let me assure you that the Ghana Armed Forces and other security services are ready to hold the country together at all cost. That is what we are paid to do.”
I do not believe there is any Ghanaian, let alone newsman or woman, who would want to mess up with the military. All the same, the top military man in this country never spared the rod. “Anyone,” he warned, “who seeks to use the upcoming elections to undermine the peace, stability, and integrity of the country, will have the security services to content with.”
I agree with the Chief of Defence Staff to a point. No one should mess up with the security of this nation. My worry is that the security capo missed his target completely. I would like to submit that those undermining the security of the state are not the media.
In my point of view, it is the administrators of this nation, creating all manner of scenarios to apportion state resources to themselves, who are sowing the seeds of conflict. When $250 million of state funds are given to a private bank, which in turn buys treasury bills from the state and make huge profits against the tenets of the laws governing foreign exchange in Ghana, I bet this is more of a threat to state security than the worst garbage any media operator would put out there.
What this kind of transaction does is that it undermines the operations of banks belonging to the State of Ghana, as well as financial institutions owned by Ghanaians. It is as simple as ABC that the foreign bank that has received this windfall might want to show its gratitude to those state officials who aided the transaction.
I hope nobody is going to tell me the crap that those who aided this transaction are angels, and that they would not accept any gratitude from the benefiting bank. The decision to by-pass state-owned banks is itself a source of conflict. I bet state banking institutions like the GCB Bank, formerly Ghana Commercial Bank, the National Investment Bank, Agriculture Development Bank etc, might be green with envy.
I am not a lawyer, but it is my submission that such a transaction could never have taken place if those who aided it were not inspired by a common desire. I will like to submit too that that the desire to aid the foreign bank did not include ensuring that the laws of the land were obeyed. Under Section 53 of Bank of Ghana Act, all monies in foreign currencies belonging to the state SHALL be lodged with the Central Bank.
I do not want to believe that the Minister of Finance, Seth Terkper, Mr. Ato Ahwoi, Board Chairman of the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund, and other authorities who aided the transaction to move the gargantuan money of US$250 million of state money borrowed from the Eurobond were not aware of this law.
I believe they are well aware of this law. The fact that they defied the basic law of the land is itself problematic. Then, again, is the fact that the minister and his collaborators ignored the campaign by President Mahama, urging Ghanaians to patronise things Ghanaian. It is on record that the United Bank of Africa is a Nigerian registered bank.
For me, this scandal is worse than Woyome’s GH¢51.8 million loot, and that it is these kinds of corrupt practices that could lead citizens to disrespect the laws of the land and create problems, especially when there is a concerted effort on the part of those looting state funds to perpetuate their stay at Government House.
I shall return!