My very dear friend, Stan Dogbe, wrote a rejoinder to my article on the need for President Mills to move into the presidential palace. I’ve known Stan for almost 15 years, worked together and shared an apartment. There is very little about me that he doesn’t know and I consider him a beloved brother. We’ve shared some good times and some bad ones. We’ve had our disagreements and this is one of them. My responses to the points he raised are in line and in blue. >>> 

Good morning Ato,

I must say that I have read many of your articles and felt like writing to express my views as well, but hold back. This morning however, I am unable to hold back that urge.

Let me sum up my disappointment thus- that I think I expected that you’ll be the last person to put out deliberate falsehood or to put it better, present non-factual information to make a case for your articles. On more than one occasion I have had cause to pause and convince myself that you are the one writing, especially when I note the volume of insults you heap on people.

I am very glad you’ve written this time around.

As my friend and colleague, you know we’ve spoken about this a couple of times in the past and it had nothing to do with whether the personalities you are insulting or describing in derogatory terms is NPP, NDC, Ashanti, Ga or Ewe.

I do not remember us EVER talking about whether I insulted people and your suggestions for dealing with this issue. Perhaps, you could refresh my mind…?

I believe I am not the only personal friend who is about to caution you against such use of insulting, derogatory words and many times what will appear to be deliberate packaging of non-factual information in your pieces.

…In any case, my writing style today is no different from last year’s. Non-factual information? I don’t know about that.

Despite the potential for people to label your piece and my reaction a possible Spio-Ahwoi ‘pissing-in battle’ I guess it is all good as we attempt to deepen discourse on matters.

Don’t worry about “pissing in” and how people react. I believe that a contest of ideas and opinions is a healthy sign of a growing democracy.

President Mills has become one of your play toys and you’ve on several occasions insulted and subjected him to public ridicule. I therefore do not find your labelling of his address to the UN General Assembly as drab surprising. It will appear that you have become obsessed with the use of derogatory-ism to sell your pieces but I believe that if you had found time to read or listen carefully to the president’s address you would not have described the speech in that term.

You read a lot of my articles from the past – particularly about Kufuor. Once again, the issue comes up: are you saying that the words I use now are different from the words I used under Kufuor? Mills has some nincompoops in his team, Kufuor led a looting brigade.

Even his fierce critics have applauded that speech, and that is because the issues raised were very important matters to the continent of Ghana and Africa. On your network, JoyFM, I heard a leading opposition figure who was speaking purely as an ‘expert’ on International Relations applaud the president and indicating that the timing of the issues raised were very appropriate. You and I are not that educated, at least to the standards that some will expect, but a good use of the platform of the Internet can help us in grasping some understanding of international relations and matters so that we can put things in proper perspective especially since we’ve chosen the option to share our views with people.

Why should I care about Mills “fierce critics” and what they think of his speech? If they applauded him for delivering a drab speech of no consequence, it’s their cup of tea. GTV shouldn’t be pushed into a position to broadcast any speech, simply because it’s the president who is delivering it. The political stranglehold is one of the reasons why the corporation is failing.

Again, I think it is important to point out that I did not hear ay minister express shock at GTV’s failure to broadcast the president’s address. In any case, even though they did not telecast it live, they showed the recorded version and many Ghanaians watched and heard the president speak. I believe that many also enjoyed that presentation and applauded their president for the important issues he raised there.

You didn’t “hear” any minister express shock at GTV’s failure to broadcast the president’s drab address to the UN. But I am sure you are very aware of the statement in which the deputy information minister, James Agyenim-Boateng, expressed government’s displeasure especially with the station’s failure to telecast live, President John Atta Mills’ address to the on-going UN General Assembly after it had extensively promoted it.” That statement also mentioned the fact that management of the GBC had been invited to a meeting where there would be “another opportunity to demand answers for the Corporation’s increasing failures”?

You indeed deserve a right to state your preference as to whether GTV should have broadcast the speech live or not, but respectfully my brother, the matter for which our friends in the Ministry of Information and indeed the generality of Ghanaians were concerned about was the increasing spate of ‘promise and fail’. And if it is the press statement we all read and if you and I heard the same follow-up interviews on your network, a number of other blunders were cited in addition to the UN address, which were all promoted and viewers told were going to be showed.

GBC has been inefficient for decades. The poor coverage of Obama’s speech – telecast around the world on major international networks – should have given the information more cause for concern than the failure to broadcast the UN speech.

I also note how in your company’s quest to position your new TV baby, JoyFM gets to have a go at GTV as a marketing tool for your Multi TV. And that should be understandable when the folks at GTV (and GBC) refuse to wake up, allowing new competitors an opportunity to run them down to the advantage of their boxes. This I agree, we can discuss another day.

I don’t speak for Multi TV. But you know we can always meet and talk – anytime, any day. In any case, if GTV’s failures create opportunities for others to benefit, who should we blame? Those taking advantage of the opportunities? I don’t think so.

As a senior colleague (need I add that you are more senior to some of the persons who go around with that title) and as I stated earlier, I get surprised at your misrepresentation of facts. President John Mills has never said that he will not make use of the ‘Jubilee House’ or indicated that he will not move in. Your unequivocal statement that the president has refused to move into the place can therefore not be true.
Actions speak louder than words. The man has not moved into the house yet. Is there a more eloquent way to express his refusal to use the facility? I don’t think so.

Indeed, one of the core points raised during the tour of the ‘Jubilee House’ organised for the media was that once the ‘green light’ is given for the building to be populated, various units of the presidency will move in, followed finally by the Vice President and President. This very important point, which was then qualified with the explanation that government still owes the contractors some money (about $6.5m), in addition to which funds must be provided to complete other critical works and pay consultancy fees, was obviously not important to the JoyFM reporter you sent to be part of the tour.

So at what point does the issue of the security quarters come in? The deputy information minister mentioned it…

Your claims, in the piece under reference, are for me, just a continuation of the deliberate distortion of the facts on JoyFM’s Newsnight program of last week Thursday. You and I had a discussion about that, if you remember.

In our conversation, you stated clearly that the president cannot move into the presidential mansion without the security quarters. If I remember clearly you said that there shouldn’t be an occasion when people will be scrambling to mobilise troops from Burma Camp if there is an attack on the facility.

Why anybody would continue to tell Ghanaians that President Mills is refusing to move into the place baffles me. In any case, even for you and I, mere mortals, we’ll consider carefully certain key ingredients before selecting a place to stay how much more a President? I therefore find the argument that the building is complete so he should move in quite disappointing because it also goes to show that as journalists we have not strived to understand the workings of the institutions we report on.

Exactly my point. Money is needed to build a place for soldiers and until that is done, the president will not move in. Those are the ingredients the president and his aides want to consider before the seat of government is moved to the so-called Jubilee House, right?

Ato, you know very well you were not telling the truth when you wrote that $50m is needed “to complete the project before you move in.” Where was this statement made? Let’s try and put things in proper perspective my brother. I know you’ll tell me it is not your job to do that, but nobody has said that until the $50m is found and spent to complete the project, the president will not move in. That’s simply not true, Ato and you know that.

The deputy information minister said it. In one breath he said 15 million cedis is needed for landscaping and the completion of the general services area and the like. In another breath, he says we need 35 million dollars to house security personnel. And until these are done, my impression is that work is incomplete. If work is incomplete the president won’t move in.

While I reckon that you were personally on the tour and noting the rather poor understanding of the issues and misrepresentation of the issues in the JoyFM reportage on the tour, I am also inclined to believe that you could get the true facts if you want to. That is if you thought that my discussions with you were total hogwash.

We disagree. That doesn’t mean anything you said is hogwash! I enjoyed our discussion. It was informative and I made it clear to you my points of disagreements.

The above notwithstanding, I think your rationalisation that the Mills government is demanding “more than half of what has been spent so far to complete the remaining two percent” is not accurate. Again, even if there were any doubts about the details presented during a tour, I have sighted a follow-up statement from government clarifying issues relating to the ‘Jubilee House’ and the proposed accommodation for security personnel.

That follow-up statement was, in my opinion, for damage control under the guise of clarification.

Writing weeks after, I hold a contrary view to your focus on matters that are clearly inaccurate and which have been corrected. To put in the public domain facts that are inaccurate knowing very well that they are not factual gets me worried. Even before the government statement clarifying issues, the Daily Graphic, CitiFM and the TV stations among others reported accurately on the tour.

It is not true Ato that $15m is needed to do landscaping. That is not what the deputy minister said. Indeed, it is outrageous you would suggest that a Mills government in particular will want to spend $15m on landscaping because he’s the last person who’ll engage in any such frivolous expenditure.

This is what the statement said in part… “What is required to complete the ‘Jubilee House’ is $15million which includes payment for $6.5million arrears owed the contractors, unpaid consultancy fees, completion of work on the General Services Building (which is supposed to house a clinic, fire service post, restaurant, post office and a bank), a garden, landscaping, helipad area and other required security installations.”

Clearly, we are working with two different materials here. As I said, I am working with the words of the deputy minister during his tour of the Jubilee House with journalists. That was when he spoke about the gardens, some bushes and other projects that need to be completed. He then adds: “so far as all these uncompleted projects are concerned, the AESL tells us that we will need some additional 15 million dollars for that. Now this 15 million dollars does not take into account a major defect that we all noticed later. That defect has been the lack of residence for security. This is even embarrassing that you have a whole presidential palace without the security people having a decent place to live. However, we are not brooding over spilt milk. We have been in talks with the technical people and we have identified a place as we showed you. Now we will need an additional 35 million dollars to prepare that place, bring down those structures and build a new residential post for security. So… an additional 50 million dollars is what we need to say that we have completed this presidential palace according to preliminary estimates.” Those are the deputy minister’s words. I am not the one who is saying that 50 million dollars extra is needed. It’s the minister.

Can I accuse my own friend of deliberate peddling of falsehood intended to ridicule? Maybe not, but to say cynically that “15 million dollars for mere landscaping is sickening… What sort of grass are they going to plant there?” exposes some deliberate act.

Any such accusation will be unjustified.

I will prefer not to comment on your unsavoury remark about the president chewing the grass at the ‘Jubilee House’ and making an unnecessary farce about a claim you know very well to be false.
Who is peddling falsehood here? Me, you or the deputy information minister, whose words I have quoted above?

My brother, the same applies to the $35million figure for the proposed residential accommodation which is what it is, a proposal from the contractors and AESL. That is not part of the original project cost and was very well explained to the media on the tour, in follow-up interviews and the clarifying statement.

This is one point I don’t understand about this government’s information machinery. Why should you say something and create a situation where there is need for a “clarifying statement”? I repeat: that statement was more for damage control than anything else.

Let me link this to the disappointing claim on your station that even though there are security posts (which your reporter claimed falsely were six) government insists that it must build a new security post at $35million. The five security posts at the various entry and entrance points to the ‘House’ are what they are, security posts like the table you have in front of JoyFM for your Westec security guard. What the Indians proposed and was accepted by the previous government (but which we understand this government is yet to consider and I know President Mills will have none of) is a residential quarters. The two are completely different.

That’s what you say now but when we spoke, you gave me the impression that without the security quarters nearby, the president cannot move into the mansion and that it won’t be safe for him to do so. In fact, in a few paragraphs before this one you mention certain “ingredients” that need to be considered before the president moves in. Security, I know, for you is paramount and that security is severely compromised without the quarters nearby.

And please, a president’s security is not the aide de camp and the guards following him. Find out about that, if you care.

I know this already. But thanks for reminding me.

This has take some 45 minutes of my time this morning, but I guess even if I do not make enough sense to you personally for the sake of the time I spent writing it, you’ll accord me space on your blog and on so others will correct the misrepresentations in your piece.

I am more than glad to publish your response on my blog. However, you know I have no control over

And my brother, permit me to make this plea, you can still make your points clearly without the insults. Remember when you used to write the Letter from the president and the number of people who loved it?

Thanks for the brotherly advice. I will heed it when necessary and take full responsibility for all my words and deeds. I know those who loved the ‘Letter from the president’ from times past. I also know those who loved my writings from last year after I decided to shelve the pseudonym. Then they were not in power and so they loved my writings. Now, that they are in power they see me as a nuisance. Life is like that. Win some, lose some.

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