I didn’t attend Ekwow Spio-Garbrah’s press conference but I was lucky enough to get the full text of this speech. It makes very interesting reading and I thought I should share. >>>
Let me begin by thanking so many of you from the media for finding time to join us today. I also wish to thank many "Friends of Spio" who have travelled from far and wide on their own volition, to witness this engagement with the media and to offer morale support to my cause. I believe many who are here also wish to encourage a strengthening of the NDC and to spur the NDC government on to achieve quickly the various programmes contained in the 2008 manifesto with which we won the last elections.
I have invited you in the media here today to hear my responses to various accusations that have been levelled against me by some colleagues in the NDC. The abuse I received followed an article I wrote that was serialized in the 18th and 23rd September, 2009, editions of the Daily Graphic under my name, entitled: “Honouring Nkrumah’s Centenary: A Challenge to the NDC.” The timing of that article, as all reasonable Ghanaians can appreciate, was intended to honour the memory of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, our illustrious first President. It was also to identify any key lessons that all of us as Ghanaians, especially the government, can learn from Nkrumah’s achievements.
My effort to contribute to the country’s memorial to Nkrumah was consistent with the decision by H.E. the President of Ghana, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, that a whole year be set aside to celebrate and honour the memory of our first President. In that article, copies of which will be made available to the media here, I sought to identify what I consider to be the defining character of Dr. Nkrumah and his government which I hoped that the current government of the NDC could emulate. That defining characteristic, in my modest opinion, was that of an unusual sense of URGENCY.
Indeed, as the Daily Graphic will confirm, and copies we have here of the original article will attest, the title that I proposed for the article was “Nkrumah’s Legacy of Urgency: A Challenge to the NDC”. It was however, the editorial decision of the Daily Graphic to modify this proposed title and to substitute their own. In the process, it may seem that the central purpose of my article – the issue of urgency – may have been somewhat de-emphasized, making it possible for many readers to misunderstand the true purpose of the article, to impugn my motives for writing that article, or to consciously draw wrong conclusions from it.
When exams in English Comprehension or in literary criticism are set and 100 students are asked to interpret or analyze a given passage in English, there is often a wide range of interpretations, and a good percentage of students sometimes get the answers wrong. I must confess that because my first full time job in 1973, at the age of 19, was as a National Service teacher of English at Adisadel College, I fully empathize with those who sometimes have difficulty in understanding the core message of a written piece of prose.
I wish to state, at the outset of this press conference, that I have not responded to my critics since they rained various abusive words on me in the days and weeks following the Graphic article. This is partly because my article was not addressed specifically to those who chose to attack me. But, it also out of respect for the NDC leadership and for its chairman who issued a statement to halt the invectives. I arrived in Ghana two weeks ago after reading a press statement issued under the signature of the Chairman of the NDC asking those involved in attacking me to stop their attacks and to seek a meeting at which whatever differences there are could be resolved. Without hesitation and in a desire to iron out any differences for the good of the NDC party, I took leave from my employer in London, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO), and took the first available plane to Ghana at my own cost.
The following day after my arrival, on Tuesday 13th October, at about 2.00pm, I sped to the Party head office to present myself to officials there and to make myself available for any necessary discussions. In the absence of the National Chairman and the General Secretary, I was received by two National Vice Chairpersons, Madam Hilda Bolco and Nana Osei Bonsu; the national treasurer, Mrs. Margaret Clarke-Kwesie, who is also Ambassador designate to Korea; and some members of the party’s fund-raising committee who had just concluded a meeting. After informing them of the purpose of my visit to the headquarters, they welcomed my initiative and looked forward to whatever measures the party would put in place to address the issues. I left at the Party headquarters a copy of a statement I issued to the media in which I announced that I would not be granting any media interviews for some time, to enable the Party hierarchy to undertake its conflict resolution work. I regret to say here today that after two weeks of staying in Ghana and waiting for an invitation to attend any meeting at which any concerns could be addressed, I have received no such invitation. Indeed, to be very accurate, no one has as yet even invited me to visit Ghana. I have no doubt that there may be good reasons for this situation, but since I came here to speak the truth, I am telling it as it is.
As I prepare to leave Ghana at the end of this week to return to my work in London, it is reasonable that I clear the air of several unfortunate statements that if left uncorrected will sully my hard-earned global reputation and obscure the purpose of my Graphic article, which was intended to strengthen the NDC, improve upon the government’s performance, and not to create any divisions within the party or the government.
Soon after my article was published in the Daily Graphic, a leading member of the NDC attacked my personality in an open letter ostensibly addressed to me through the media. Any fair reader of my article will agree that my article was not addressed to any particular individual or to that specific person. Nevertheless, this NDC member chose to use his response and subsequent radio interviews not to address the issues raised in my article or to disprove anything I wrote as false, but rather to cast aspersions on my character, to call me various names, and also to speculate about the motives I may have had for writing the article. Indeed, according to this senior NDC member, the main motive for my article was to intimidate the President into appointing me as a Cabinet Minister. A second motive presented by the same personality in a subsequent interview in the Graphic was that the article was the beginning of a Presidential campaign I was launching. Both statements are very false.
Subsequent to this attack, various media commentators on the issue suggested that I was motivated by sour grapes, bitterness and disappointment in not having been appointed a Cabinet Minister in the Atta Mills government. I shall show shortly at this press conference that these allegations are unfounded, false and mean-spirited.
I was also accused, without any evidence presented, that I am not a team player, and that as far as this particular personality was concerned, I would never become a Cabinet Minister in President’s Mill’s government. The NDC member called me “vain, arrogant, conceited, egotistical and supercilious” and accused me of being the source of rumours or stories regarding the health of then Presidential Candidate Prof. Mills. Again, these statements are without any basis and in fact very untrue.
Subsequent to these initial attacks on my personality, which were conducted through various print and radio interviews and carried widely across Ghanaian media, translated into various languages, and also transmitted across the globe on the Internet, a staff member in the office of the President also took up the assignment of denigrating me further. According to this officer from the Presidency, I did not competently manage my task as Chairman of the Social Sector Committee in the Transition Team, I walk around with a fake doctorate degree from a cheap University I did not earn, and I did not deserve any position in the government because he and others had quit their jobs to follow Prof Mills around during the campaign. He made other unsavoury remarks that I shall not dignify with an answer, as numerous Ghanaians I do not know have responded adequately to him on his general comportment and the embarrassment he causes the Presidency by some of his unprofessional remarks and conduct. Other so-called social commentators and serial callers added salt to the injury on my character and professional achievements.
I shall attempt to address the main issues raised by these two NDC members and respond to some other ancillary matters. Then I am sure the media here have a lot of questions to ask, and I shall be ready to answer as many as can be answered within an hour.
Seeking a cabinet position?
It may disappoint my detractors and surprise many Ghanaians to learn today that in the 14 or so years that I have collaborated politically with Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, I have NEVER once asked him for ANY Cabinet appointment. If so, it would be interesting to learn where and when I may have made such a request and what portfolio I asked for. In 1996, I was invited by former President Rawlings to come down from the USA where I was Ambassador to assist the NDC in its election efforts.
After Prof. Mills was selected as Vice Presidential running mate to President Rawlings, I was asked to Chair the Publicity Committee of the NDC. In that position, I worked quite closely with both President Rawlings and then Vice Presidential running mate Prof. Mills. The Committee worked very hard and contributed to the electoral victory of 1996. Not during that campaign or after the electoral victory did I approach either President Rawlings or newly sworn-in Vice President Mills for a Cabinet appointment!
In the year 2000, then Vice President Mills appointed me as Director of Communications in his campaign team for that year’s Presidential elections. I did not take advantage of my close proximity and friendship with President Mills to ask him for any appointment should he win that year’s elections. In the year 2004 elections, I was based in London at the CTO, and although I supported then Prof Mills and the NDC in various ways, I did not ask Prof Mills for any appointment whatsoever should he, by the Grace of God, win that election. On the other hand, at a reception at Kuku Hill in July 2003, to coincide with his birthday and also my impending departure to assume the office of Chief Executive Officer of the CTO (being the first African to hold that position in over 100 years of that organization’s history), President Mills himself announced voluntarily to the more than the 100 guests at that function: “When we win the 2004 elections, Ekwow Spio-Garbrah is the first person I shall appoint as a Minister in my government”.
I did not ask Prof Mills to make that statement, and to this day I have never asked him why he made it. I am aware that some of my current detractors were unhappy with that statement. On that occasion, Prof. Mills’ statement made it clear to all that he had a high regard for my integrity, competence and capability and as someone he could work with. He could not have made such a statement so publicly if he considered me as someone who was not a team player, or who was vain, arrogant, etc and with whom he could not work. Nor could then Prof. Mills have said this if he believed that I have been spreading scurrilous rumours about him since 1993, as my senior colleague would make Ghanaians believe.
Towards the 2008 elections, I campaigned with Prof. Mills on several occasions and had numerous opportunities to ask him for a Cabinet appointment if that was my singular objective in life—as someone would have Ghanaians believe. However, again, I never took advantage of my easy access to him during the last electoral campaign to ask for a Cabinet appointment, or to seek through others to lobby for such a post. Since the NDC won the elections of 2008, I have again NEVER asked President Mills for a Cabinet appointment to this very day. The statement, therefore that the main purpose of my article in the Daily Graphic was to seek a Cabinet appointment, and that I am peeved by not getting such an appointment, is a bald lie. The notion also that the article was part of the start of any Presidential campaign is also totally false.
The NDC government under Prof Mills is less than one year old and many of us here all helped it to come into existence. All NDC members, including myself, need to assist this government to succeed. If President Mills succeeds as a President, all Ghanaians—including myself—will share in that success. If the Mills-Mahama government succeeds in improving the school system, the health system or the road infrastructure of Ghana, all Ghanaians—irrespective of political affiliation – will benefit. There is no reason therefore not to wish this government all success. Indeed, my article was intended to help the government to become even more successful than it has been to date, by urging the spirit of urgency.
Team B players
In order that we deal properly with this particular charge, we need to refer to the specific language of my article, as published in the Daily Graphic. I wrote in the relevant section that… “large segments of the public have been asking on radio stations why the government may have chosen to field SOME players from its Team B when many Team A players are available and ready to play.” So first of all, I was quoting a comment I heard made by some people on radio discussion programmes. Second, I did not write that ALL the President’s appointees were Team B players. Most of the current Cabinet Ministers and their deputies are my friends and collaborators, and so I could not have made any such wholesale judgment. Indeed, I did write specifically in my article that…"many appointees are mature, capable and well-meaning…"
Furthermore, the difference between scoring an A in an exam and a B is not that wide a margin. The difference between players in a First Division League and a Second Division League is not that great. In any case, a Minister who is not part of a Cabinet, or any deputy Minister in any administration who has not been selected as a full Minister for the time being is playing in a Team B capacity, anyway. So in all administrations around the world, not just in the Mills-Mahama government in Ghana, there are Team A and Team B players. Therefore, being in Team B is NOT an insult as some commentators have tried to imply.
My concern in this matter was simply to address the central issue of how urgently government can act or not. In any case, someone like myself, who is neither in Team A or Team B and has been told will never be a Cabinet Minister in a Mills government, could as well be in Team C or D. And that does not bother me. Nevertheless, if as a result of the misrepresentation of this allusion by NPP or NDC commentators, some of my colleagues in the government are aggrieved, then I apologise to them for any hurt they may feel.
According to the Constitution of Ghana, the question of team selection for the government is a matter solely for the President prerogative, to decide which of the various players he wishes to field in a particular position at a specific time. However, each Ghanaian, including myself, has a right to express a view as to whether a particular minister selected by the President is a Team A player or not. I see no insult involved in expressing such opinions, just as many football fans are known to comment on any coach’s selection of players, without intending to insult either the coach or the players. After all, don’t our elders say a person cutting a path through the bush may not know how straight or curved that path is, and it takes those standing behind the person to advice on how straight it is?
The biggest untruth of all the various propaganda pieces circulating about me is the oft-repeated falsehood that I am the source of information regarding the health status of then candidate Prof. Atta Mills. We have a copy of a news clipping here from the Daily Graphic to show that on June 1st 2006, the Prof. Mills campaign team, controlled by the very persons who are charging me with the offence they themselves committed, issued a news release to the whole world that Prof. John Evans Atta Mills was ill and had travelled abroad for treatment. Like millions of other Ghanaians who may have read the story in the Daily Graphic and in other media, that is how I myself learnt for the first time that Prof. Mills was ill and had flown to China and South Africa for treatment. Upon hearing this news, I decided to travel to South Africa to visit Prof. Mills, who is a long-time friend I have known for nearly 40 years, who is a senior brother and also a political colleague. How many of the so-called new friends of President Mills bothered to visit him when he was sick? Did my esteemed NDC colleague who is now claiming to be virtually in charge of all appointments in the Mills-Mahama government undertake such a journey?
The Daily Graphic is the largest circulation daily in Ghana. It is difficult to believe that any single Ghanaian, even if they so wish could be more efficient than the Daily Graphic in spreading any kind of news. So I wonder how I could be accused of being the source of information on the President’s ill health, when the President himself in 2006, after his return from South Africa, also chose to engage in an interview with Kwame Sefa Kayi on Peace FM during which he spoke openly about his illness.
If NDC members wish to know who in their Party cares for their leaders when they are not well, they should find out which senior Party or government officials have bothered to visit the Regional Chairman of the Party from Brong Ahafo, who has been on admission for 4 months at Korle Bu hospital, right here in Accra, and who has had one of his legs amputated. Many of those who did not go to South Africa to visit Prof Mills (if that was considered to be too far away) have not visited their colleague at nearby Korle Bu either.
Not Team Player?
This particular charge rings very hollow, as no evidence was adduced by my detractors to substantiate this. Fortunately, I have had a lot of opportunities to study and work with a large number of Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians in various fields, both in Ghana and overseas—in the teaching, advertising and marketing, banking, diplomacy, government and international organizations occupations. At the World Bank Group, for example, I was able to work effectively with the nationals from more than 100 countries. Similarly, there are nationals from more than 70 countries at the African Development Bank. I do not think I could have achieved what I have attained, even at the CTO in London, if I had any difficulty working with people, either as a subordinate, a colleague, a manager or as a leader.
However, the problem is that some people assume that when they work with you, and even though they are not your bosses, you must remain in a supine and subservient position in your dealings with them. So, if you insist on your basic human equality and your God-given and constitutional right to freely express your opinion, then you are described as vain, arrogant, conceited or ambitious. That is a problem in many offices in Ghana, which is hindering the progress of this country, and we must root out this claptrap. The situation in many parts of Ghana is worse if you happen to have a lot of ideas and are genuinely interested in the development of an association, company, organisation or the nation and are not as motivated by money as others, and therefore insist on the right thing being done.
This may be why some people mistake my vision for ambition, and my candour for arrogance. Maybe, if enough Ghanaians who work at the National Fire Service had complained sufficiently (and even publicly) about the inadequate facilities available to them, our whole Foreign Affairs building would not have burned down to ashes. Would it not have been better for a few people at the Fire Service to have been "too known" if that could have saved the nation a major edifice and all the valuable documents and furnishings that have been lost in the fire?
I have never pretended at anytime that I have acquired a doctorate degree based on any programme of study. The honorary doctorate awarded me by the Middlebury-College in the U.S.A. in June 2001 was published in the Daily Graphic in July 2001. Mind you, I received this honorary degree when NDC was out of power and I was simply an ordinary Ghanaian citizen. So such false allegations that I lobbied for such a title or even bought it are simply ridiculous. There has been no secrecy about this doctorate being an honorary one. My CV and all references to me make it abundantly clear that this degree is Honoris causa … meaning that it was given for honourable deeds.
As to why I use it, again this was not a choice I made but rather a decision of the panel of the CTO Council which interviewed me in May 2003 for my current position in London, and who thought that the honorific title (which by academic norm, I had the right to use anyway), would be good for the CTO. They therefore arranged to print my first business cards that way.
It must be noted that Ghana is a member of the CTO, and at no time has any member government, represented by their ministers and other high officials, queried my use of this honorific title. Everyone who knows me is aware that I prefer to be called simply “Ekwow”, although some people may refer to me as Honourable or H.E. (for His Excellency), due to my previous work as an Ambassador and Minister). As to whether I could have acquired a PhD or not through academic study, it is best to refer that to my classmates at Achimota School, where I graduated at the top of my class at 16 years old from Upper Six. Those interested in this matter can do their research on my performance at the University of Ghana or Ohio University, where I earned my academic degrees, or at Temple University and Syracuse University in the USA where I was offered full scholarships in 1979 to read for academic PhDs, but I declined the offers.
Performance on the transition team
One of the allegations made against me by the staff member of the President’s office is that I did not perform well as Chairman of the Social Sector Committee of the Transition Team, and I abandoned my work and returned to London. Ghanaians may remember that when the Transition Team was announced earlier this year, a number of Committees were established and I was named as Chairman of the Social Sector Committee. Unlike other Committees, such as Legal or Energy, which had to deal with the affairs of just one Ministry each, the Social Sector Committee had to deal with the affairs of some ten Ministries. After establishing the work programme of the Committee and chairing its meetings from January 4-9th, I sought permission from H.E. the President to return to the UK to attend to my primary responsibility as CEO of the CTO. It is worth noting that I was not consulted prior to being placed in charge of the Social Sector Committee, nor was my time availability sought.
Nevertheless, by appointing a Vice Chairman and alternate Vice Chairman of the Social Sector Committee and agreeing with the Committee members that we shall work mostly online, I was able to fully supervise the work programme and output of the Committee and to oversee the completion of the Committee’s work and its handover to the Chairman of the Transition Team, Mr. P. V. Obeng. At no time was I advised by Mr. Obeng, the President or any other person in authority that they were dissatisfied with the work of the Committee. I can understand if some people who lack the necessary international exposure are not aware that in this ICT era there are numerous global committees that do almost all their work online, with very few face-to-face meetings. It is incorrect and ludicrous for anyone to suggest that I failed to perform the task of a Committee Chairman, as delegation and online oversight are very acceptable contemporary aspects of effective management.
In addition to the above specific untruths, a number of other statements have been made by various commentators and paid serial callers which need to be rebutted.
It is untrue, for example, that I nominated myself as Chairman of the Transitional Committee. Anybody with evidence of this should produce this or else stop lying.
It is untrue that the President offered me several ministerial appointments and I rejected all of them, or insisted that I wanted only the Foreign Ministry.
It is untrue that I told the President that I needed three months to unwind my affairs in the UK if I were given an appointment and that is why an offer of a ministerial appointment was withdrawn.
It is most untrue that I have been sending or organizing the sending of various text messages about the President’s health in recent months or even during the 2006 NDC leadership contest.
It is not true that I have been speaking ill or negatively about Prof Mills since 1993, as alleged by one of my detractors. In fact, in 1993, I was a management official of the African Development Bank in Abidjan, I was not involved in Ghanaian politics and Prof. Mills was Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.
It is a total fabrication that I have wished for the death of President Mills, when indeed I was one of very few NDC members, Ghanaians or his own family members who went to South Africa to visit him when he was ill.
It is also untrue that the reason why I have not been given a ministerial appointment by President Mills is because of the allegation that I have been spreading false stories about him. Prof. Mills has told me on two occasions, once in the presence of other officials, his reason for not appointing me at this time as a Cabinet minister (even though as indicated earlier I have not asked him for such an appointment).
The reason he has given to me has nothing to do with anything I am alleged to have done against him. Those associates of the President who have stated in public that the President will not appoint a capable man or woman to a job if that person is alleged or believed to have said anything unfavourable about the President, are painting the President to both Ghanaians and the international community as a very vindictive person, and they should be advised to stop that line of commentary.
Ladies and Gentlemen, what pleases me about these various allegations is that I have not been called a thief, a dishonest man, money-drunk, power-drunk, a liar or an unpatriotic citizen.
Strengthening the NDC
My sole objectives in the Graphic article I wrote that was published in the 18th and 23rd September issues of the Daily Graphic were to honour the memory of Nkrumah and to encourage the NDC government to act faster to address the needs of Ghanaians—using Nkrumah’s example of Self-Government Now—so that the Government and the party will continue to be popular with the electorate and win the 2012 elections. Of course, reasonable men and women can quibble about what choice of words anyone who is speaking or writing should choose. Each of us has his/her own thoughts, opin