A little over a month into the Mills presidency, the most talked-about issue in the country still relates to how former government officials took away cars which do not belong to them away. I don’t know about you but it’s still a very exciting subject for me.
It started with government seizing cars from the wrong people only to be forced to return them with a profuse rendering of apologies. Meanwhile, those who had actually taken the cars away were still keeping the automobiles, hoping that government will relent in its bid to retrieve the vehicles which had either been stolen (taken home without approval) or sold at knock-down prices.
But, for some reason (I think spite has something to do with it; it’s not all about making sure that the right thing is done) government has been quite resolute and intent on getting the vehicles back into the national fleet. So after the embarrassing mistakes of the early days, the government issued a list of more than 40 former government officials who are supposed to return vehicles which do not belong to them.
Even so, that list had some errors for which the government has been forced to apologise to former deputy information minister, Frank Agyekum and former fisheries minister, Gladys Asmah, who had threatened to sue government for wrongfully adding her name to the list of ‘thieving’ ministers, wondering if the government felt she was keeping a car in her “deep freezer”.
The ultimatum for the vehicles to be returned by the weekend just gone by seemed to have sent some shivers down the spines of some of the ex-government officials. Some of them – including former presidential spokesman, Andy Awuni – have returned the vehicles. Others, according to deputy information minister, Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, have contacted government to either negotiate an extension of the deadline or to ask about how much “top up” they need to pay to enable them keep the cars.
Others have not been so responsive. Former deputy local government minister, Maxwell Kofi Jumah, has offered to teach President Mills a few lessons in “basic law” and Yaw Buabeng-Asamoah, a former special assistant to ex-vice president Aliu Mahama, has warned that he will shoot anyone who tries to take his car away.
Isn’t all of that exciting?
This week, we should see whether government will bite after barking so loudly last week for the ex-ministers to return their vehicles. If (and when) the state moves to retrieve the vehicles, the saga of the cars will reach a dramatic climax and I am anxiously looking forward to that.
I am hoping, however, that this vehicle melodrama (starring shameless NPP politicians and their vindictive counterparts in the NDC) will not turn out to be like ‘Kyeiwaa’ – that quintessential Ghanaian movie which was released in fourteen parts, each lasting more than an hour. Much as I am enjoying this thrilling saga of the stolen cars, the sooner it ends the better.
It has been such an unnecessary distraction for an administration which has so much to do. Some people are starting to think that the government is deliberately pursuing these cars because it has no clue about how to confront and resolve the numerous challenges that confront this country. It is in the government’s interest to bring this to an end so that it can focus on the bigger issues. It will also serve the opposition NPP well if its leaders impress on the ex-government ministers to stop the grandstanding and return the cars. It will be a small but quite significant step towards fixing the party’s image, which has suffered quite some serious dents after the numerous revelations about how officials of the Kufuor administration seem to have gone to great lengths to milk this nation dry.
As the saga of the stolen (and under-priced) government cars comes to an end, we should expect that in the closing credits, government will make it clear that there will be no sequels – unlike ‘Kyeiwaa’. And there should be no remakes. Four or eight years down the road (and I do expect the NDC to be in power for a maximum of eight years), we should not be in a situation where the new administration will make retrieving state vehicles one of its major preoccupations. For us not to suffer such distractions in the future, the Mills administration should scrap the so-called “convention” which stipulates that exiting government appointees can buy their official cars at ‘donkomised’ prices. Our state does not run an auto-dealership and those who want to buy cars should not expect to get them from the government. They should go and get their cars from Mechanical Lloyd or Toyoto Ghana or even from the wayside second-hand car dealers. If they do not have enough money to buy cars at market rates, they should find other ways of moving around.
Unlike, Andrew Awuni, who stupidly thinks that Ghanaians won’t be happy to see former political office holders using public transport, I don’t see anything wrong with our so-called big men taking taxis and ‘trotros’ – like most of us do. If Awuni feels public transport is bad for politicians, then he should realise that it’s bad for most Ghanaians as well. And the politicians ought to fix it. We vote politicians into power to make things (like public transport) better for us all – not to enrich themselves and steal from us to set themselves up as special breed of humanity.