Deputy Minister-designate for Local Government and Rural Development, John Oti Bless, who doubles as National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Nkwanta North in the Volta Region, is in hot waters following what has been described as ‘reckless comments’ amid threats made against Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood.
The nominee, whose approval is before parliament, is said to have made the scandalous comments, including kidnapping allegation against the Chief Justice on Montie FM – an Accra-based radio station which has become notorious for broadcasting hate speeches and remarks – as the December 7 general election zeroes in.
The architect of the afternoon political talk-show called ‘Pampaso,’ Salifu Maase aka Mugabe, together with two other NDC activists – Godwin Ako Gunn, 39 and Alistair Tairo Nelson, 41 – are currently serving four months each in jail in addition to a fine of GH¢10,000 each for scandalizing the Supreme Court.
It is turning out that Oti Bless was a panel member on one of the numerous ‘Pampaso’ shows that was used to denigrate the Supreme Court justices, particularly the Chief Justice, when some of the members even threatened to kill the judges if the apex court did not back off the Electoral Commission (EC) in relation to the voter register for election 2016.
Some are of the view that Oti Bless caught the eye of the president by his appearance on the show where invectives are hurled on people considered to be opponents of the ruling NDC, even including the justices of the Supreme Court.
Parliament is set to debate on the nominee as to whether his nomination should go through, despite his poor showing at the vetting last week.
Mr Oti Bless reportedly said on ‘Pampaso’ on June 24, 2016 that the Chief Justice has to be monitored closely because she was actively engaged in partisan politics and was working against the Mahama NDC administration. He added that the Chief Justice had been ‘scheming’ for the NPP to win cases.
“Today we have a CJ who because of a political favour done her, will do anything to help the NPP. It is an agenda. The Electoral Commission should stop working and give it to Georgina Wood. Why meddling in the affairs of the Electoral Commission?” Oti Bless fired.
CJ On Firing Line
He continued, “And we have a whole CJ, look at how old you are; you have kids and grandchildren and yet you are at the court doing politics; you deliberately appoint NPP judges to do politics and scheme with NPP to give biased rulings. Are you not calling for war? Are you not calling for civil war? Are you not destroying this country?”
Urged on by Mugabe, the minister-designate also claimed the Chief Justice tried to connive with the then outgoing NPP administration to block late Prof. Evans Atta Mills from becoming president in the heat of the 2008 general election, which the NDC eventually won by empanelling a court on a public holiday to hear an NPP petition.
He said the NPP’s election petition was ‘fraudulent’ ‘dirty’ and ‘useless’ but the Chief Justice entertained it at the Supreme Court. He also lambasted the four justices who had ruled that President Mahama was not validly elected due to the widespread malpractices in the 2012 presidential election.
Attack On Jake
Oti Bless also said that former NPP Chairman, Jake Otanka Obestebi-Lamptey, who bought a state bungalow, could have prolonged his life on earth if he had sold the property back to the state for the government to build affordable houses for the poor.
The ministerial nominee suggested on the show that the Chief Justice was part of a plot to kidnap a child of Tony Lithur, who was President Mahama’s lawyer during the landmark Presidential Election Petition case, decided by the Supreme Court.
“Let me give you a last filla (information). Do you know that during the Election Petition case, these people made a plot to kidnap a child of Tony Lithur, who was lawyer for His Excellency John Mahama so he would not concentrate on the case?”
“We have to watch this Chief Justice. My brother Mugabe (referring to the programme host), I am telling you, when you go to the Supreme Court today, the Chief Justice is fighting one worker all because of politics,” Oti Bless underscored.
Petition To Parliament
A private citizen, Richard Asante Yeboah, has already sent a petition to the Speaker of Parliament and made copies to almost every high-profile institution, including the offices of former presidents and security agencies, asking the house not to approve Oti Bless’ nomination.
He transcribed verbatim the comments of the NDC MP and attached the audio recordings for the attention of Speaker, Edward Doe Adjaho.
He said in the petition that the MP “was heard audibly on Montie Fm on the 24th of June castigating the Chief Justice and the judiciary,” adding that “approval by this august house could be misconstrued to mean a tacit endorsement of his rather unfortunate conduct against the judiciary.”
He further said, “It is instructive to recall that one of the jailed panelists, Godwin Ako Gunn, referred to these submissions by John Oti Bless and based on them to make the comments that have seen him jailed for contempt.”
However, pressure continues to be mounted on President Mahama to revoke Oti Bless’ nomination.
Apart from some MPs making their reservations known to the speaker concerning their colleague, some civil society groups have entered the fray and backed calls for Oti Bless to be withdrawn.
IMANI Ghana president, Franklin Cudjoe, who initially preferred not to talk about the MP’s performance during the vetting, said the answers he (nominee) provided before the committee showed clearly that “he is not fit for the position,” and thus questioned the motive behind the nomination.
In a vetting that was aired live on state broadcaster, GTV, the young man, who said he is not married but has two children, appeared to fumble in answering many pertinent questions he was asked.
Even the least of questions seeking clarity on his own CV presented to the Committee, could not be answered satisfactorily. The MP made several omissions on the CV and failed to add other vital information where necessary.
Later, Mr. Cudjoe, likened the MP’s comments to the infamous ‘Hate Radio’ which contributed to the Rwandan genocide where close to a million people were killed.
“I am surprised the Chief Justice isn’t suing him by now,” the IMANI President said. “The unsavoury comments, the calumny, the vain glorification of treachery that was meted out to the Chief Justice – I am shocked,” he said
However in a defiant mood, Oti Bless fired back at his critics, particularly the IMANI boss saying, “Please tell Franklin Cudjoe to learn how to talk… He speaks authoritatively as if Ghana belongs to him.”
By William Yaw Owusu