Former President John Dramani Mahama has finally withdrawn his controversial request to be allowed to keep the house he occupied while in office.
The house, which is officially designated as residence for vice presidents, was used by Mahama while he was vice president and continued to live there when he became president.
This compelled Vice President Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur to continue his stay at the official residence of the Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG) but later moved to Australia House, a state safe house.
But days after losing power, President Mahama put in a request that he should be allowed to keep the building, generating furore in the country.
The request to have the house appropriated to him as part of his end-of-service package might not have been accepted by the Akufo-Addo government, looking at the backlash accompanying it.
That was contrary to Mahama’s opposition to the sale of government bungalows to public officials, for which reason at a point two of his ministers went to court to challenge the late Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey’s decision to purchase one of such state properties.
This is what seems to have provoked public anger and outcry against the former president’s decision, with some angry Ghanaians threatening to march to his house to evict him, and this might have compelled him to beat a hasty retreat.
In a letter dated Tuesday, January 10, 2017, titled ‘Official Residence and Office,’ signed by John Mahama himself and addressed to President Akufo-Addo with a copy to the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Mr Mahama noted, “I refer to our agreement on the above subject matter and wish to inform you that I have decided to formally withdraw both requests to continue to stay at my current place or residence, No. 3 Prestige Link, Cantonments, and also to use bungalow No.6, 3rd Avenue, Ridge as my office.”
“It would appear that these requests threaten to mar the spirit of cooperation with which we as co-chairs of the joint Transition Team have managed the smooth transfer of power from my administration to yours.”
He was of the belief that the controversy surrounding the house in question was “absolutely not needed” in these early days as the Akufo-Addo-led NPP administration tries to settle down in office.
He justified his initial request, “I do recognize that these are facilities that are conventionally extended to presidents that leave office and I am also mindful of the approval by the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana on Wednesday, 4th January, 2017 at its twenty-second sitting of the third meeting of the fourth session.”
According to Mr Mahama, “Contrary to the erroneous impression created by some persons in government and the interpretation given to the formal letter submitted on my behalf by Julius Debrah, this was a follow-up to an agreement we had on my choice of accommodation and office. I have never requested to purchase the property.”
In view of the prevailing circumstance, he noted with emphasis that “My request is therefore humbly withdrawn.”
Some Ghanaians have argued that former President Agyekum Kufuor was deprived of his office, not to talk about his end-of-service residence which to date has not been delivered.
A number of notable persons have since commented on this latest position by the former president.
Kofi Bentil, a member of the civil society group, said President Mahama should have avoided the charges and veiled accusations made in his letter.
“It forces response, and scrutiny won’t be in his favour,” Kofi posited.
“Did Prez Mahama make a request to Parliament? Did the transition team make a request to Parliament?” he queried.
He further posed, “After passing the Buandoh report, does parliament have the power to change the report ON THE REQUEST OF a beneficiary?
“Do you see the huge ethical, moral issues etc that it raises?
“And does parliament have a right to grant such requests outside the report?”
Mr Bentil suggested, “I think President Akufo-Addo should be allowed space to deal with the broken economy he has inherited. Dumping controversy like this won’t help anyone. Good enough that the request is withdrawn. The fight is however, not over.”
According to him, “Many Ghanaians reject the whole Article 71 principle. And I pledge that we will fight it until justice rolls down the hills like water and righteousness ascends to the thrones of power.
“We are a poor nation working hard to be better. It is anomalous that those who lead us and must make the most sacrifices opt to reward themselves at our expense and check out of our common reality.
“We don’t owe any politician a living. If you want to make money go into the private sector.”
Founder and former President of the African University College of Education, Kojo Yankah, added his voice to Mahama’s latest decision.
“I am very happy to hear that President Mahama has withdrawn his request to occupy his former residence. Thank you, Mr President, for staying clear of this potentially cancerous precedence. Public servants should be well advised.”
By Charles Takyi-Boadu