Hon Ayariga, who is also MP for Bawku Central, does not understand why journalists should ask him to give a breakdown of the budget for the Black Stars’ participation in the justended Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2015) tournament in Equatorial Guinea, which he presented to Parliament on Wednesday.
He banged the phone on Afia Pokua, host of ‘Burning Issues’ on Adom FM, on Wednesday evening over the same budget issue, asking her to take a course in Public Administration. He was furious and asked why Afia Pokua was calling to ask such questions at 9:00pm when he was at the gym.
The minister refused to disclose the budget before the tournament and said bizarrely on radio that disclosing the budget would have meant giving Ghana’s tactics to its opponents.
Throughout previous live interviews on radio, Mahama Ayariga sounded flippant, snobbish and virtually insulted the intelligence of listeners with his answers.
“I don’t report to you. I report to the Auditor-General, I report to Parliament,” he told Kwami Sefa Kayi on Peace FM in Accra when the host sought to find out how much was spent on the Black Stars in Equatorial Guinea.
The next day, he told Captain Smart of Adom FM that “you are using valuable time to discuss useless matters,” and at another point said, “If I decide to grant you an interview as a minister, I expect you to ask me useful questions…you want to take over the job of the auditor? Are you the auditor?”
Mahama Ayariga continues to be unapologetic since his uncalled for outburst; but pressure is beginning to mount on him toapologise while others are even calling on President John Mahama to sack him from his government.
Lawyer Maurice Ampaw even called on President John Mahama to sack Ayariga, by Monday, since he doesn’t qualified to be a minister considering his insulting behaviour.
Sulley Braimah, Executive Director of Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), which for decades has been fighting for journalists and media rights as well as promoting free speech, wrote a satirical ‘letter of apology’ lambasting Mahama Ayariga for disrespecting journalists who want accountability.
“You are right in describing those questions on accountability as ‘useless questions.’ That is why I am writing to you to apologise profusely on behalf of the journalists who are harassing you for accountability,” he said satirically.
“In fact, they really don’t know who you are or perhaps they are underrating you. I will let them know you are a Harvard trained lawyer, expert Emeritus of public administration and a respected member of our law-making Chamber. But I wonder why you should be angry and surprised about the conduct of some, or even all our journalists,” he said.
He told Mahama Ayariga that “first of all you should have known by now that many of our journalists are fearless and wouldn’t mind asking you, a whole Minster in charge of the entire youth of Ghana and our sports, very hard questions.
“Honourable, I thought you would have also known by now that unlike you, almost all these journalists haven’t been to Harvard before. So quite clearly, they don’t have the Harvard capacity and can’t ask the ‘useful questions’ that you the Harvard people are used to.
“In fact, the problem is not just about they not having been to Harvard before. It is also because, unlike you, they have never had the benefit of enjoying a free car, free fuel, free driver, free accommodation, fat salary and allowances, a cook, security detail and other such goodies as a Minister, at the expense of the taxpayer,” he added.
“But I agree with you, Honourable. You did well by directing them to the Auditor General. Yes, if they need accountability on how you spent the taxpayers’ money shuttling between Ghana and Equatorial Guinea during the tournament; how public funds were used for the needless venture of flying predominantly party supporters to Equatorial Guinea, they should go to the Auditor General.”
The MFWA Boss said satirically that “if the journalists persist in demanding accountability, hold on to your strategy, which has been very effective so far. That is, continue to give them bulk figures, no breakdowns.
If they want breakdowns direct them to the Government Statistician. If they want to know how many planes were chartered, direct them to your colleague, Dzifa Ativor, the Transport Minister.”
He said journalists demanded the same level of accountability and succeeded in letting Ghanaians know that their tax money was squandered during the World Cup.
“The problem now is that when these folks called journalists know there is basis to hold you accountable to the people (and unfortunately for you, there is a lot of bases for them to do so), they no longer hear nor understand the word, ‘stop’.”
He further said “they are going to continue to ask you the questions you regard as ‘useless’ until you render proper accounts to the people.
“If you had spent that money prudently, our journalists would have been asking you more ‘useful’ questions. While I apologise to you for the ‘useless’ questions, I cannot but encourage the journalists to even put more pressure on you to account. It is the people’s money and you must account for it properly. Sorry, but you have to.”
Managing Editor of the Insight newspaper, Kwesi Pratt Jnr, also chastised Mahama Ayariga for his comments, saying even if the so-called question was ‘rubbish as he put it, it was the duty of the minister to display tactfulness in his answers.
“As you become a leader in this country or village, one thing you can never say – you’re not allowed to say – is that ‘somebody is talking rubbish’.
You can never say that. Never! Who are you to say that somebody’s act is nonsense?”
He added: “Are we not in a democratic dispensation? Even if it’s ‘rubbish’, it’s his duty to ask you ‘rubbish’ questions and when he asks you ‘rubbish’ questions, you are rather obliged to give wise responses.
“When we are setting up a building, don’t we ask how much money was used? When constructing roads, don’t we ask how much was used? Everything that we do in this country, we ask how much was invested; but why is it that as for football, we’re told not to ask?
“If I were him, I would retract and render an apology because such language is not appropriate; not for a minister,” Pratt told Ayariga.
Nana Akomea, Communications Director of the NPP, described as unfortunate, Mahama Ayariga’s description of journalists but said the minister erred.
The NPP capo however urged Ghanaians to forgive Mahama Ayariga because according to him, the minister was not one of the NDC appointees that are seen as arrogant, disrespectful or one that uses intemperate language in public.
“He is not one of the babies with sharp teeth and I hope he will be forgiven.”
Earlier, Nii Amasah Namoale, NDC MP for La Dadekotopon, had urged Mahama Ayariga to exercise restraint because it is impossible for him to ‘fight’ the media or journalists.