I am straining to understand the logic behind and justification for some of the retirement perks given to our former Presidents. I will attempt a fuller critique of the legality, logic, purpose and morality of that package and question the conventions and precedents that are said to have guided its framers sometime soon. Of particular and immediate worry however is the provision of retirement homes and offices to retired Presidents. Why does our poor country assume such a burden?
This piece is occasioned by the request of Ex-President John D. Mahama to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Transitional Team to be allowed the use of his current state owned abode at East Cantonments as his “retirement home”. I am one of several thousands of Ghanaians strongly opposed to his request to be allowed to keep that house and live there in “retirement”, and personally 100% opposed to the whole idea of giving retirement homes and offices to our Ex-Presidents. But I’m saddened by the fact that Ex-President John D. Mahama knows or ought to know, that his continued stay in that house three days after the swearing in of our new President is in violation of our laws, he being enjoined to vacate the premises a day before the swearing in of our new President. Couldn’t he simply comply with the Transition Law and move out of the building to his own home and start negotiating that it be granted to him from his own home. A lot of his dignity is being lost and his shine quickly dwindling.
Dr. Omane-Boamah’s characteristically brusque and illogical rationalization of present and future accommodation allocation arrangements for our new Vice-President, Dr. Bawumiah and Ex-President Mahama are out of order, out of turn and beyond his power to determine. His new private position as Head of Communications in the former President’s office, clothe him with no such license. It appears Omane-Boamah is still unaware that the “old order changeth yielding place to new”1 and is still under the billowy illusion that he still has that often abused, unfettered, unquestioned and unquestionable authority, improperly used discretion, full control and easy unbridled access to state assets, and unwise and illogical use and wanton allocation of our State’s resources. Omane-Boamah doesn’t seem to realize that since the December 2016 election results were announced, there is a new steely resolve among Ghanaians that there’ll be “no more abaabas33”2. He doesn’t realize that the suddenly reborn Ghanaian is determined that we must now comply with law, spelt out procedure and due regard for the public interest, and that his painfully irrational and absurd justifications for all manner of his boss’ and the former government’s reckless and contemptuous actions and inactions which he regularly hurled at us, are now a thing of our painful past and that he cannot transport that madness to this new dispensation. Somebody wake Omane up!
The law is the law and it was tardy for Mr. Mahama, presumably poorly advised by the brazen and unguarded likes of the afore mentioned young, power possessed spin Doctor, “Goebbels” Omane-Boamah to allow what should have been a quiet, compliant, exemplary and dignified departure from the house he had lived in for eight years to develop into to such a ridiculous, embarrassing and painful fester. It is noteworthy that only a few days after the NDC lost the election, the former Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Doe-Adjaho disclosed in an interview that he had packed his personal belongings from his official residence. I will not dwell on the gossip of why Mr. Mahama failed/ forgot/refused to make adequate provision for more suitable and preferable ‘presidential’ status accommodation after serving as President. Nor will I speculate on why he did not live at Flagstaff House during his tenure as President which would have made a more polite request (than Julius Debrah made) to be allowed to return to and retire in that same house which he had previously lived in as Vice-President for four years much easier to consider and accept. Such gossip and speculation is the job of social media and our time and energy consuming, rumour filled Whatsapp trail.
Why we give ex-Presidents “retirement homes” and offices in addition to the long, luxury perk filled list of other “entitlements” is my worry. I think, the convention, practice or norm should rather be that presidential candidates “kwatrekwa”3 who do not own their own ‘humble homes’ to which they can return after defeat at the polls or to which they can safely retire are, ‘unfit/unqualified’ for contesting for the high office of President. Period! Let’s scrap this expensive, resource draining practice of bequeathing unnecessary, underserved goodies and bestowing undue honor on our former Presidents. The whole concept of rewarding our former Presidents with houses, offices, cars and liveried servants etc., must be thoroughly reviewed to suit our beggar nation status. Why should we give an ex-President a “retirement home” and office? Please tell me. This lopsided Mobutu, Bokassa type rewards scheme must be scrapped. Various committees charged to do this have been unable to provide a reasonable and balanced package so far and we the citizens must stop being spectators and demand that this reward scheme for our Ex-Presidents is critically and dispassionately looked at again, openly with input from the public. It can be re-worked without unduly emasculating them of their dignity, honor and justifiable and defendable perks. For example instead of providing them with buildings expensively maintained by the state as offices, we can make state facilities, guest lodges, conference rooms etc available to them when they meet high powered delegations or important visitors. Of course, this proposed arrangement is premised on the ground that an ex-President must be able to run a small personal office at home, in his study or elsewhere, calling for the State’s support only when there is an absolute need.
It must be stressful, the dilemma the new NPP government finds itself in; How can we evict a former President from a home he so covets? What use is there in bickering over a $2.0 million house in a resource rich country as Ghana? Won’t kicking him out subject him and us as a government to both domestic and international public attention and ridicule? Such questions and many more must be bothering our three day old government. But our suddenly militant people are now not subjects but citizens demanding that law and due process applies in everything and that Mr. Mahama vacates the house without delay. I pity John Mahama, no one is saying a word in his defense. ‘Mmere dane…’
We are a small, broke country. Let’s stop the ‘too known’ and cut our coat according to our cloth; Tanzania and Rwanda style.
- Alfred Lord Tennyson
- John D. Mahama
- Dr. Kwabena “Akuk)” Darko, Circa 1992 (I’ve just avoided plagiarism charges!)