Before he became Speaker of Parliament, Ebenezer B. Sakyi-Hughes had quite a successful law practice in Takoradi. Everyone considered him a ‘made’ man and one of the wealthiest in the city. His plush house in the Beach Road suburb has acres of evergreen lawn and a lot of maids who work around the clock to keep it manicured. So he became Speaker, ostensibly, to offer public service in his twilight years. At least, that is the impression I got.
Mr. Sakyi-Hughes’ four-year tenure in parliament was pretty uneventful. It seems he knew that very few will remember him for his parliamentary work. So in his last few days in office, he did something very few will be in a hurry to forget. He literally stripped his official residence bare of all furnishings.
He took everything he could get away with – cutlery, napkins, curtains, bed sheets, cooking pots, washing machines, flower pots and even soap dishes. The scale of his loot was so monumental that you’d think that if he had an electrician at hand, he would have removed the electrical cables in the house as well. It’s also surprises me that he didn’t uproot the grass which makes up the lawn in the house to replant in his house in Takoradi.
Since his looting spree became public, Mr. Sakyi-Hughes has not spoken publicly. But people close to him say he has defended his action with the spurious explanation that he felt he was entitled to all the “soft furnishing” in the house. Those who have been speaking to him say that he claims to have been under the impression that a proposal before the Parliamentary Service Board (of which he was chairperson) about the speaker’s retirement package had been approved and so in his mind everything in the official residence became his when his tenure came to an end.
It’s almost the same script as John Kufuor and his personal advisor sitting together to draw up the president’s retirement package. Sakyi-Hughes sat down with his committee (the Parliamentary Service Board) to decide what he could take home.
Perhaps, as a testimony to his own “slowness”, Sakyi-Hughes failed to get the matter concluded in good time – unlike Kufuor who managed to get his package approved just in the nick of time. It seems that when he realised his grave omission, Sakyi-Hughes became desperate and decided to take some desperate measures – call in his looting brigade to strip the house bare, making away with everything he could lay his hands on, including soap dishes that had been screwed to the wall. The Sakyi-Hughes loot is as incredible as it is incomprehensible.
Let’s just assume for a moment that the proposal allowing ‘Befakor’ Sakyi-Hughes to take “soft furnishings” away had been approved. Would that have justified his decision to take everything away simply because he’s entitled to them? For Christ’s sake, this is a man of immense wealth. What does he need napkins and forks for? Should a man take state property he doesn’t need because he feels entitled to them? And in such a despicable manner?
After getting ‘caught’, Mr. Sakyi-Hughes is reportedly offering to pay for all the items he took away. That’s a lot of money he’s offering to pay – about $300,000. He’s such a rich guy and that’s what makes this all the more baffling. With all his money, he could just have walked into any store in the world to buy all the designer pillow cases and crockery he wanted. Instead, he decided to go on a looting spree.
From what I hear about his plush dwellings in Takoradi, Mr. Sakyi-Hughes does not even need the items he took away. So why did he take the items away? It’s simple. He’s a greedy old man – probably greedier than his friend, John Kufuor. He might also have done it to make sure that we keep him in our memories for a long time. If stripping the speaker’s official residence bare was his way of making sure Ghanaians don’t forget him soon, he succeeded. Most Ghanaians will remember Ebenezer ‘Befakor’ Sakyi-Hughes as the thieving, greedy former speaker of parliament who shamelessly took away every item in his official residence even though he knew very well that he wouldn’t really need any of them.
Mr. Sakyi-Hughes has earned himself a great deal of scorn for stripping the speaker’s house bare. He deserves all the opprobrium being heaped on him. His shameful conduct should prompt us to start thinking about how to stop our political leaders from looting the national coffers dry with this silly idea that they can go away with everything they meet. If we don’t stop it, we will have a lot of people like ‘Befakor’ Sakyi-Hughes in the future and they may have no qualms about going away with roofing sheets and door hinges.
Whoever mooted the idea that retiring public office holders can convert official property into personal belongings needs to have the insides of his skull seriously scrubbed with ‘Vim’. It just doesn’t make sense. Outgoing MPs are allowed to buy their official houses for a pittance, only for new ones to go around town searching for places to lay their heads. Before long, the state is spending a great deal of money to accommodate them in hotels.
If MPs are allowed to buy their houses for cheap and the speaker is asked to move out with the promise that he can take away all the “soft” furnishings what do you expect? He’d go away with everything he can get – including chamber pots and all the ‘bentoa’ in the house.