Ghana has a rich history of sporting scandals that have brought disgrace to the nation at international level.
We've profiled some of the most notorious of them (click here to read), but what all of them have had in common is how successive governments have failed to punish culprits for political expediency.
Politics pervades every aspect of Ghanaian society, and to think a sector as politically lucrative as sports will be spared represents the height of naiveté.
Sports is an instrument of political influence which is used in diverse ways to further the cause of political entities. The phenomenon is hardly limited to Ghana or Africa. The difference, however, is the level of abuse which ultimately result in disgrace and shame for the country.
A lot of decisions in Ghana sports are tainted with political considerations to the detriment of the sector. The shame at Brazil 2014, when Ghana airlifted more than $3 million for Black Stars players and officials, and indeed the other tournaments could have been avoided had laid down structures been allowed to work.
Now that the nation is reeling from yet another one in the shape of the Australia visa scandal, where investigations have started into how dozens of Ghanaians tried to illegally exploit the just-ended Commonwealth Games for their own ends, can we trust the President to finish what he's started?
How we dealt with Brazil - a reminder
The outrage after the Brazil 2014 airlifting fiasco was palpable for two reasons: the GFA/Black Stars players seeming lack of patriotism and the political dealings which contributed to a botched football campaign.
The Justice Dzamefe Presidential commission of Inquiry was instituted by a Constitutional Instrument (CI 82) to, among other things, look into the preparation of the Black Stars and the lapses that culminated in Ghana’s early exit from the tournament.
For four months the commission sat. It interviewed 87 witnesses, and presented a report to the President, a further two months later. Then President, John Mahama, promised to work on the recommendations, but that promise was received with skepticism. Failure to sack Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, the man under whose watch the entire World Cup saga unfolded did the government of the day and the country a huge disservice.
Long story short, the John Mahama administration issued a White Paper on the Dzamefe Commission report, locked and forgot about it. By December 2016 when his government were voted out, the report was but a memory.
Can Akufo-Addo be trusted to crack the whip?
It was no surprise that his first response to the latest shame at the Commonwealth Games in Australia was to suspend the Deputy Sports Minister Pius Hadzide.
President of the Ghana Olympic Committee, Ben Nunoo Mensah; the Board Chairman of the National Sports Authority (NSA), Kwadwo Baah Agyeman, and the Chef-de-Mission for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Mohammed Sahnoon were recalled from the Games to assist the Criminal Investigation Department in a probe.
Ordinarily the President’s response should inspire confidence of an end to this canker, and although some have lauded the move, many more still are skeptical. I’m one of those who is not overly excited by the suspension of Hadzide, at least until the Police CID conclude their investigations and the real culprits, which include people from the sports ministry and the NSA, have been made to face the full rigours of the law.
We've been here before
The Kufuor administration prosecuted and jailed Mallam Issah, then sports minister, in 2001.
The conspiracy theories vary depending on who’s speaking. What is clear was that Mallam Issah was not ‘one of their own’. He was a member of the People’s National Convention (PNC) and was co-opted into the NPP administration under the President’s all-inclusive government policy, which also saw the CPP’s Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom made Energy and Public Sector Reform Minister.
Issah has always maintained his innocence and insists he was framed by elements within the Kufuor administration with the connivance of the then President.
The John Mahama administration moved Elvis Afriyie Ankrah from the sports ministry to the presidency when Ankrah was implicated by the Dzamefe Commission, a move which afforded him a safe haven. It shielded him from being dealt with by the law.
Worlanyo Agra, implicated in a probe into stinking money guzzling in 2011, continues to walk a free man despite been culpable for several breaches of the country’s procurement laws.
The President’s current response is consistent with what we’ve seen in recent years. The various political regimes tend to shield ‘their own’ in matters like these.
If there’s a reason Ghana continues to be the subject of ridicule and shame on the global stage it is because successive governments have failed to crack the whip when situations have called for it.
A missed opportunity
The President will look back at an utterance he made in January and admit it was a grave error.
At the Presidential Encounter, Asempa FM's Patrick Osei-Agyeman (aka Countryman Songo) asked the head of state what he planned to do about the World Cup's Commission of Inquiry report.
“I have forgotten about the 2014 paper…it has not been very much on my radar,” the president confessed.
With the current nonsense from Australia threatening to mar his zero tolerance of corruption quest, Nana Addo will be the first to admit that, perhaps, implementing the recommendations of the Dzamefe Commission would have forestalled this visa scandal.
Implementation of the recommendations made by the Dzamefe Commission, one of many from the several scandals the country has been engulfed in, would have inspired confidence in the actions by his excellency today, in response to Ghana’s latest shame. At the moment it looks like business as usual…until those found culpable stand in the witness box of a law court to prove their innocence.
If it’s some of ‘their own’, that would be massive political points for the regime.
But they never touch their own, do they?