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2016 BBC interview on corruption was very discourteous, says Mahama

John Mahama says the perception that African leaders are corrupt made the BBC interviewer Peter Okwoche asked him “that” question

The flagbearer of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), John Dramani Mahama says a 2016 BBC interview question on corruption was very discourteous and that the question threw him off guard.

“The thing about that interview was that the question was very discourteous,” Mahama said. “The Western media has created an impression – of course, from some experiences; I mean the period of Mobutu Sese Seko and all of them that characterises every African leader as corrupt. So one won’t ask a Western leader that kind of question because it is discourteous.”

Speaking on Class FM on Monday, John Mahama said the perception that African leaders are corrupt made the BBC interviewer Peter Okwoche asked him that question.

“If you were interviewing Tony Blair you are not going to ask him: ‘Are you corrupt?’ But it’s that perception that African leaders are corrupt that made him ask that question and of course, he threw me off the cuff. It was a question about ‘have you taken a bribe before’?

“And it caught me off guard, I will tell you that. But I answered it, I tried to clarify the question, but he kept persisting and I answered, ‘No, I haven’t.’ Of course, people took advantage of that and made a lot of noise about it.”

Off-plan

In 2016 Peter Okwoche of the BBC asked President Mahama directly if he had ever taken a bribe. Mahama denied ever taking a bribe.

He said: “Any human being in the world would have encountered corruption one way or the other, either being offered a bribe or a bribe being demanded from you. What you need to do is to put yourself in a position to [resist it] …”

But a former presidential aide, Stan Dogbe, said that the BBC interview should not have happened.

According to him, he was not present at the BBC’s interview with the then president because it was not on the itinerary for that trip.

Speaking on Joy FM in May this year, Dogbe said: “It’s one of the interviews that the president should not have done. It’s because he did not go there for an interview.”

“Decisive” action against corruption

Mahama said during his time as president, he dealt decisively with corrupt individuals in his government. The fight against corruption must be an everyday thing, he said, and must continue whether one is in government or not.

Mahama said: “That’s why I keep telling the president to prosecute people in his government. You don’t have to wait until a new government comes and then they begin to haul all of them before the court.

“In my time I said to the anti-corruption institution: ‘You don’t need my fiat to prosecute or investigate anybody and so if you come across any case of corruption just go ahead with investigation: it should be prosecuted.’ And it landed one of my Members of Parliament in prison. As I speak today, he is in prison.

“Dzifa [Attivor] resigned over the bus branding issue. And at the National Service, we dismissed over 110 officers because of the ghost names saga. We put 31 of them before the court.

“And so it’s not about post-regime fight against corruption. Corruption takes place as long as you are in governmen, and then when you leave government you have to face a searing fire of accountability.

“The thing about corruption is that we must create the awareness and we must allow the institutions work and insulate political leaders from a certain discretion in terms of how things are done and that is the only way we can fight corruption.

“Unfortunately … over the years, one, because of poor funding of the anti-corruption institutions, two, because of the political interference in their work, they are not able to work as well as they should,” Mahama said.

* Asaase Radio 99.5 – tune in or log on to broadcasts online.
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