MANASSEH’S FOLDER: False claims, dumb defence

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She’s not just any weightless propagandist or faceless serial caller whose words ought to be disregarded or treated with contempt. She is a lawyer. She is the Member of Parliament for Dome Kwabenya Constituency in the Greater Accra Region, the second biggest constituency in Ghana in terms of voter population.

She is the Deputy Majority Leader of the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana. And she is the Minister of State in charge of Procurement in the Republic of Ghana. She is addressed as HONOURABLE. Much has been given to her. And much is expected from her – including honesty and integrity.

That is the reason some of us paid serious attention to the video that surfaced last week. If you still haven’t got the clue, then I am talking about Sarah Adwoa Safo, the owner of the titles in the above paragraph.

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Last week a video of hers took social media by storm and forced its way into the headlines of traditional media. In that video, Adwoa Safo is seen addressing her constituents and touting her achievements. With her eyes widely open, as if to lend more credence to the words, she laces her presentation, occasionally and professionally dabbing sweat on her face in a way that would not disturb her make up.

She tells her constituents that the community day senior high school in the Dome Kwabenya Constituency, one of the legacies of former President John Dramani Mahama, was actually the product of her (Adwoa Safo’s) hard work.

She says it was her hard work at the parliamentary committee’s level. She goes on to say she had worked with the World Bank, which is based in Washington D.C. and when she heard that the World Bank was bringing money to Ghana to build schools, she approached the Bank. She goes on to say that the World Bank asked her to give them a litigation-free land and they would build the school in the constituency. But that does not seem convincing enough so she goes on.

She tells her audience that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, which built the community day senior high schools did not build any of those schools in the New Patriotic Party (NNP) stronghold. “This is the only NPP stronghold in the whole country that we have this school. This shows that this project is not for the government,” she emphasizes. And draw applause.

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Whoever hears Adwoa Safo’s claims and lives in Ghana would find her assertions disturbingly dishonest.

First of all, it is not true that none of the community day senior high schools were not built in the NPP stronghold apart from Dome Kwabenya. A number of them have been built in some constituencies in the Ashanti and Eastern regions where the NDC has never won an election. Or does Adwoa Safo want to dispute the fact that Adugyaman SHS near Mankraso in Ahafo Anor and Agric Nzema SHS near Kwadaso are located in NPP strongholds?

Besides, the community day senior high schools were the NDC’s manifesto promise in the 2012 elections. The government failed to build all the 200 schools it had promised, so the media put the spotlight on the government and followed each of the completed projects keenly. The processes from beginning to the ends of the projects were widely publicized. The question of whether or not the Dome School is a government project does not arise at all. It is not debatable.

On Friday, I went to the Ghana Office of the World Bank to find out if there was any element of truth in Adwoa Safo’s claim that she used her connection with the World Bank to secure funding for that project. The answer I got was an emphatic no. The World Bank, I was told, provided funding for 23 of the 200 schools that were to be constructed by the government. The schools and their locations were not singled out and negotiated.

Besides, the Bank said it did not deal with individuals on this matter. It dealt with the Government of Ghana and any claims that someone used her influence to get funding for a particular school was, therefore, untrue. “If she had said she lobbied the education minister or the government, then we wouldn’t have problems with that but to say that she lobbied the World Bank is not true,” I was told.

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Former deputy minister of education and MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudjeto Ablakwa, and other former government officials have also stated the criteria that went into the selection of areas for the schools. Priority was given to districts that did not have senior high schools. And since the Dome Kwabenya area did not have one, it automatically qualified for the school. Nobody even needed to lobby the government, not to talk of the World Bank, for the school to be cited there.

With these clarifications, one would have expected a remorseful Adwoa Safo to publicly apologise to her constituents and the nation for peddling falsehood. That would have eased the social media trolling and won her some admirers. But on Sunday, the NPP in her constituency mounted what they will consider a strong defence, but what I consider dumber than Adwoa Safo’s initial claims.

The NPP Communication Director for the Constituency, Nana Nkrumah, told journalists that Adwoa Safo negotiated for the land where the school was cited. The party produced a letter from Sarah Adwoa Safo’s office, in which she requested the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) to release land for the school project. The tone of the letter and the response from the GAEC indicates that there had been a prior discussion on the matter and that some other government officials such as the municipal chief executive of the area, were involved.

The main claim of Adwoa Safo is that the school in her constituency was initiated and built by her, and not the government of Ghana. In her own letter to GAEC, however, she stated that the land was needed to enable the government to build the school. The last paragraph of that letter reads:

“I would, therefore, be grateful if you could grant us the said tract of land to enable the government to construct a secondary school facility in the constituency as part of the One Hundred (100) secondary school project initiated by the government.”

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Adwoa Safo’s letter to the GAEC

Letter from the GAEC approving the use of the land for the project

So who sanctioned the release of this letter to the public? How on earth do you say the government is not responsible for the project when the letter supporting your claim states government’s ownership of the project twice in one sentence? Or they think our heads are filled with sand so we would not be able to understand and analyse it?

Already some propaganda media outlets are publishing that Adwoa Safo bought the land for the project. The information available is that the land belonged to a government agency (GAEC) and it was released for the project. It was not sold.

Adwoa Safo must be commended for showing interest in the project in her constituency. She should be commended for taking part in negotiating for land for the siting of the project. That is where her credit ends. She should not lay claim to someone’s mediocre glory. Some of us have always maintained that the community day school project is a product of mediocrity and uncritical thinking.

I wrote last year that if governance is reduced to borrowing, building, and bragging, then any idiot could do that. Little did I know that there were geniuses lurking around to falsely claim the bragging rights of what had been borrowed and built.

Honourable Sarah Adwoa Safo, what you have done is dishonourable. The best way to save your beautiful face in this matter is to apologise or keep the lower part of that pretty face shut. And this advice also goes for those defending you.

The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a journalist with Joy 99.7 FM. He is the author of two books “Voice of Conscience” and “Letters to My Future Wife”.  His email address is azureachebe2@yahoo.com. The views expressed in this article are his personal opinions and do not reflect, in any form or shape, those of The Multimedia Group, where he works.