The memento photo

“If you want to be liked by everybody, sell ice cream.” I heard this saying, on Joy FM’s ‘Strong and Sassy’, on Wednesday, August, 18.

Hosted by Animwaa Anim- Addo, arguably the silkiest voice on radio, the all-female discussion programme touches on all the feminine issues you can imagine.

I found the saying intriguing, so I posted it on my Facebook wall and attributed it to the source – Bridget Otoo.

Not that I agree with it in toto, because it is usually the children and the women who like the ice cream sellers. If you are a buyer, depending on one’s mood and the depth of the pocket, you look away and cast the ice cream seller into oblivion.

Within minutes of posting the saying, a Friend of mine, Kaleb J-Q responded saying, Bridget Otoo is not the originator of the quote. He graciously shared a link to the original phrase, “if you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader, sell ice cream” by Steve Jobs. How apt this would have been in my defence of Agyeman-Manu, if I knew about it. Any way.

The difference in the wording of the two phrases notwithstanding, I was touched by the fact that a Friend was that quick to fill the void in my knowledge, as far as this saying is concerned. Appreciate it, KAB Jones.

Some of you may have noted my constant reference to Baby Tei. He is only a baby in name. The grey-beard man is both a Friend in need and in deed. He is one of few Friends who can tell me in the face that this is bad, shun it. Others do ‘corner-corner’. When he starts saying, “hani ma kɛɛ bo…” – let me put it to you that, then I know I have lost the argument.

I recognise his discomfort anytime I mention this issue. However, I keep going back to it because, for me, that is why I consider him a Friend. It was circa, 2008. We were mates at GIMPA. One evening, he asked me for a lift in my beloved Hyundai Excel car. Bridget (not Otoo) and Abigail, were my permanent passengers. On this eventful day, Baby Tei joined us because he had issues with his car- a Mercedes Benz 190.

Barely two kilometres out of GIMPA, he asked me,”oyɛ inside light lo?”- do you have inside light? I don’t know why, but I found the question offensive and would have gone at him the Ga way. But I hesitated momentarily, and rephrased my thoughts. So I retorted, “Kɛɛ mɔ hami inside light, kaabi mi akɛ oyɛ inside light lo? To wit, “say switch on the inside light for me, don’t ask if I have inside light.” He laughed, Bridget and Abigail laughed and I caught the bug- we all laughed hilariously.

I know people who would have stormed out of my Hyundai Excel and slammed the defective door with a remark that would have sounded like this, ‘car gbonyo-gbonyo nɛɛ hu okɛ baa wo ohe, mtcheeew!!!’- You drive this jalopy of a car and you want to give directives. Subsequently, we gelled and formed a study group and the rest is history. We are still in touch and have each other’s back.

Thus, when I posted one of my articles recently, and he commented on the length, I replied that he should read them in instalment if he could not read at a go. He replied with a smiley emoji- very typical. So I “DMed” him and he drummed his point home. Going forward, if it has to be long, it has to be in two parts- deal.

Do you have a Friend? Once, my wife asked me this question and I mentioned Baby Tei. She followed up to know how many times I check on him in a week to warrant my referring to Baby Tei as my friend. Her point was that she does not think I have a friend. Well, I disagreed with her.

Now I know, that apart from my favourite, “some people will never like you because your spirit irritates their demons” – Denzel Washington, Steve Jobs has also hinted at this. And there is another one, “it’s okay if you don’t like me. Not everyone has good taste”, Author unknown. Hm!.

Wherefore I ask, who likes you? Better still, who is your Friend? What is the meaning of Friend anyway? I checked and found this, “a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations.

Eutache Deschamps, a French Poet, describes it aptly, “friends are the relatives you make for yourself.”

Kissi Agyebeng’s friend

Ghana’s new Special Prosecutor, Mr. Kissi Agyebeng’s Friend is called, Mr. Godfred Yeboah Dame. He is the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of Ghana.

Mr Dame outshone his boss during the first term of President Akufo-Addo’s tenure. So, he got promoted in the second term. His former boss is not in the current government. Clearly, the President likes him.

Mr Dame and Mr Agyebeng were class mates in Law School. That’s where they became Friends. Mr Agyebeng said he is a year older than Mr Dame. In a nutshell, they go way back.

Therefore, when the position of Special Prosecutor became vacant, Mr  Dame, on April 16, 2021, nominated Mr Agyebeng, in accordance with Section 13(3) of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Act, 2017 (Act 959), to the President for consideration.

This is pursuant to Section 13 (8) of the same Act 959, which requires that when the position of the Special Prosecutor becomes vacant, the President shall, within six months, appoint another qualified person to occupy the office.

It came to pass that on July 22, 2021, the 43-year-old was vetted by the Appointment’s Committee of Parliament. After the vetting, I was tasked to write a story on things we learnt from Kissi Agyebeng’s vetting. I did and drew these six lessons; always be yourself, have a strategy, make the right choice when you do not see eye to eye with your boss, don’t let relationships influence your professional judgement, if you agree with a controversial principle, endorse it and don’t cut your nose to spite your face.

Later, I realised that I left out one key lesson that I learnt. That is, Have a Friend. As indicated above, during the vetting, Mr Agyebeng revealed that Mr Dame is his Friend.

If your Friend can elevate you from, a position of a Private Legal Practitioner, to the country’s most trusted corruption preventer, detector and prosecutor, then there is definitely something good about having a Friend.

Actually, it is an open secret in Ghana that having a Friend or knowing ‘somebody’ opens many closed doors. It was supposed to be ‘what you know’ but it changed to ‘whom you know’, now I hear it is ‘who knows you?’

The similarity

I decided to write about this issue because I recognise some similarity between my current situation and that of Mr Agyebeng.

The REAL Boss at Myjoyonline.com is my former class mate in Journalism School. He has a mug with this inscription, ‘The REAL Boss’, on it. He likes the inscription so much. That is why I decided to refer to him by that title for the purpose of this piece.

Since we left school, we have been in touch, albeit irregularly. Recently, I had been worrying him for an opportunity to work with the Multimedia Group. So, when the opportunity presented itself, he asked if I could perform the role. I said bring it on. He did. I was taken through the vetting process and it’s been close to four months now.

I work under him. So, he has been teaching me how to walk the ropes at The Multimedia Group. There have been a few slips already. And like toddlers do, when they are learning how to walk, on each occasion, I get up, clean my soiled hands in my clean shirt and move on.

I have made this point in a few of my articles that, many practitioners of a particular profession, would always differ on the meaning of principles and the best way out of any situation. Lawyers, especially differ on the true meaning of words and phrases.

For instance, the Special Prosecutor’s Friend, Mr Dame is in court, challenging a 3-2 decision by the Supreme Court to remove Justice Honyenuga from hearing the case involving the former CEO of COCOBOD Dr. Stephen Opuni and others.

“The Attorney General says this decision of the highest Court of the land contains fundamental errors of law, which have manifestly resulted in miscarriage of justice”, is how www.myjoyonline.com reported the matter. Oyiwa!!!

Therefore, can you imagine a situation where The REAL Boss and I disagree on the newsworthiness of a breaking story?  Our Nigerian cousins would say, ‘tofi akwa’ or ‘Nban)’- may it never happen, God forbid.

That’s because, here at the Multimedia Group, what can and cannot, be published is encoded in a detailed editorial policy.

My discomfort

Mr Agyebeng’s role was carved out of Godfred Dame’s role. Thus, I have no doubt that as independent as Act 959 makes him, his apron strings are tied to that of Mr. Dame. Why? Because I know politicians. Mr Dame would expect his Friend to run issues by him, ‘dole dole’- That’s Hausa, meaning certainly.

Professor Ransford Gyampoh of the Political Science Department, University of Ghana, agrees. He said, “the Special Prosecutor will walk  in the shadows of the Attorney General” on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show on Monday. August 30.

Moreover, the images I saw on TV during the swearing-in ceremony of Mr Agyebeng at the Jubilee House, got me worried. You know how excitement at weddings reach crescendo during the photo session?

What I saw on TV reminded me of a call to all ‘Friends of the Groom’ to join him for a photo. At a point, I saw Mr Dame trot with excitement written all over his face, to join President Akufo-Addo and Mr Agyebeng for that memento photo of the trio. In the process, they broke two Covid-19 protocols, albeit briefly- no nose mask, no social distancing.

From Eric’s Diary: Have a Friend, Kissi Agyebeng has one
The memento photo 

Does this mark the end, from the beginning? I soliloquised.

From Eric’s Diary: Have a Friend, Kissi Agyebeng has one
Mr Kissi Agyebeng receiving the Scroll of Office from President Akufo-Addo

Don’t let relationships influence your professional judgement

In the 6 lessons article aforementioned, one of them is this, ‘Don’t let relationships influence your professional judgement’.

And this is how I opened this sub heading, “No man is an island, we need family relations and friends to get by. But when it comes to public office, the two are not bedfellows”.

According to Mr Agyebeng, “as for relationships, the fact that I was so close to you at some point in our lives, will not give you a free pass because of that relationship… I will not say I am not going to investigate the matter. I certainly will investigate.”

Mr. Kissi Agyebeng, please do you know that in Ghana, relationships can be long, winding and complex? Haven’t you heard someone say that I am attending my stepmother’s cousin’s son’s wedding? I dare say that in such instances, if you know one person in there, you are obligated to all of them.

And knowing what I know about politicians, my mind is not at peace with you Mr Agyebeng as the Special Prosecutor. Not that I don’t trust you, because I don’t even know you. But.

For instance, will you be able to look your friend and benefactor of your current status, Mr Dame, in the face and tell him that, ‘that’ Minister, who is the President’s Friend, has been found to have used his/her office for personal gain, so you want to investigate and prosecute?

Mr Agyebeng, just imagine. This is just imagination, that a very close officer to the President. Who works at the Jubilee House. Who is known to enjoy ‘high-life’, is proven to be the brain behind the chartering of the G-Kelt aircraft at the allegedly high cost to the tax payer.

Keep imagining ooh. It is further proven that s/he benefitted 10% from the transaction. Now stop imagining. Did you say you will “not give [the person] a free pass because of that relationship?”

What if your Friend, Mr Dame thinks your legal basis for wanting to prosecute, “contains fundamental errors of law?”

Well, if we go by your above referenced assurance, then we can rest assured. However, a Professor of Linguistics of the University of Ghana, Opanyin Agyekum, has a favourite Akan proverb, “s3 wodi wano w) ankasei a, ebi nw) wo da”- if you use mere words to weed thorns, you will never get pricked by any. In other words, you can only cross the bridge when you get to the river.

Moreover, if Martin Amidu’s claims of interference are anything to go by, then I am beginning to see the end from the beginning.

Especially so, when a previous public officer in a complementary public service organisation- The Audit Service, was retired under controversial circumstances. His crime? For allegedly daring to prosecute the then Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Marfo, a close pal of the President? Shaking My Head.

Mr Agyebeng, you definitely are between the rock and a hard place.

I say so because the politicians that I know will, at the least, not give you funds to operate with, if you dare touch any of their anointed.

Former President Mahama states this; (I can’t say for sure if he has done this before) but read him;

 “The first Special Prosecutor did not get the kind of cooperation he needed to do the work that he had been given. We heard him complain about funding of the office, in terms of logistics and finance to recruit the kind of personnel that he needed to do the job. We also heard many complaints where the Executive and the political establishment had attempted to interfere in his job.”

H.E. former President Mahama continued, “the beauty of the Special Prosecutor is the independence of the office and his ability to investigate corruption notwithstanding whose ox is gored. When you take that independence away, it robs the office of its usefulness.”  Ex-President Mahama said this during his ongoing ‘Thank you tour’.

It’s time to go

Mr Agyebeng, it has been one month since you started work. Your salary alert for August, 2021, from the Controller and Accountant General’s Department,  should be hitting your bank account any moment from now, if not already.

How are you faring? Do you have an office and the requisite logistics to work? If you don’t, this is the time to make use of your friend – Mr Dame, for all you need.

Just in case you have forgotten, this is what you said when you were asked this question during the vetting;

Question – “if you do not see eye to eye with the President?”

Answer – “There are two choices for a person. You either resign or go ahead. My first inclination will be to persevere. Because, that is my calling and that is the oath that I have sworn. Unless it becomes so unbearable, then I’ll say the Republic should take its job.”

I hope we don’t get there, but my gut feeling indicates otherwise.

That said, it is good to have a Friend. A real Friend actually. Because, “a real friend is the one who walks in when the rest of the world walk out,” – Walter Winchell.

What is important is to ensure that you don’t find yourself in a situation that is prone to conflict with your Friend, otherwise, your friendship will take a nose dive and hit the ground crashing.

Dear reader, it is for this reason, that my Friend Jackie, has vowed to never have any business relationship whatsoever, with anybody she considers a Friend.

Odabo – that’s good bye in Yoruba.

Let God Lead. Follow him directly, not through any human.