Professor Stephen Kwaku Asare (aka Kweku Azar) says he could not agree with veteran journalist and writer Elizabeth Ohene on her latest stance against Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
According to Kwaku Azar, a fellow in Public Law and Justice for CDD-Ghana, it is proper and it is the constitutional duty of CSOs, NGOs, the media and other state institutions to keep the government in check and to do so loudly and repeatedly.
He explained that during Ohene’s days as Editor of the Daily Graphic, she was labelled by some members of the general public as an “all-knowing editor”, but he, Kwaku Asare, then a student, together with other students, supported her.
The people, he argued, “were wrong then to question and attack her knowledge, motive and even morals merely because she dared demand accountability and transparency from [the] government.
“My auntie [in reference to Ohene] was right then to speak truth to power and is terribly wrong now to attack those who are speaking truth to power!!”
Prof Asare, posted Wednesday on his Facebook Timeline: “People in power in Ghana like to intimidate. And, with their teeming “fans,” they succeed in intimidating many. As such, many are afraid of saying something to [the] government because it will unleash its attack dogs on them”.
He added: “Many are afraid of questioning judges because they will hold it against them when they appear before them. Many are afraid of questioning teachers because they will fail us, etc. They have succeeded in silencing most of us!”.
On the matter of the Agyapa scandal, Kwaku Azar wrote that the NGOs and CSOs are right to demand that the mineral royalty income should be used in a beneficial, responsible, accountable, sustainable and transparent manner.
“They are right to insist that the Auditor General should be allowed to do his work. They are right to question why and how Ghana lost $200M because of PDS. They are right to question the economics and governance of Agyapa. They are right to ask why Korn Ferry is used as a headhunter in 2020 and how much is paid to them”.
Prof Stephen Kwaku Asare stressed: “They are right to ask how much was paid to Agyapa’s transaction advisors when the Attorney General department could do [the] same work for free. They have asked such questions not just of the current government but also of all past governments as is their right [so] to do. The notion that unanimous Court decisions should end debate is alien to those who love the law. Re Akoto, Ayine, France etc. were all unanimous. Few agree with them!”
Elizabeth Ohene in her latest article dubbed “All-knowing neutrals” questioned the inability of the NGOs and CSOs in Ghana to take criticism.
She stated that the CSOs were “currently very busy doing what they do best, which is to point out what the government is doing wrong”.
Then she charged: “Since that is their self-appointed role, I wouldn’t feel the need to comment but for the persistent fact that the CSOs appear to think that any criticism directed at them means one is against them.”
Ohene, who was a Minister of State added that she could not understand why it was okay for CSOs to point out what they believed to be wrong “and yet, someone pointing out what they might have gotten wrong is supposed to mean you don’t want them to exist”.
She further wrote: “These groups have strong opinions and express them in colourful language. I like that. They claim to love Ghana far more than anybody else and definitely more than anybody in politics. I have problems with that. They claim to be honest, hardworking and effective and they have answers to every problem. They are mistaken.”
Elizabeth Ohene continued: “They say they are not party political, and they are openly disdainful towards those in politics, especially those in government. It is sometimes difficult to discern that they believe anyone apart from them serves Ghana or has good intentions towards Ghana.
“They seem to operate on the general principle that governments are corrupt and ineffective and NGOs and CSOs are clean and effective. For what it is worth, I disagree.”