…as UMB smells up in corruption scandal
Revelations that pledge by the Acting National Chairman of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) to supply all the 275 constituency offices of the party with brand new buses, was not hot air, but a vote buying escapade that is already in the works, has led to the emergence of more question marks.
Mr. Freddie Blay, who is promising to supply the buses as a counter campaign against President Nana Akufo-Addo, who is backing the Upper West regional Chairman of the NPP for the national chairmanship against Blay, is revealed to have entered into an agreement with Universal Merchant Bank (UMB) to fund the bribery.
The desperate NPP national Chairman wannabe is said to have fronted for all the party chairmen in the 275 constituencies around the country, to get the money from the UMB. It is not exactly known whether the money is a loan or grant, that UMB will give.
UMB is said to have since been agreeable to the arrangement leading to Freddie Blay’s promise on radio that he will supply the buses before the NPP’s national executives election on 7th July.
But like the Ghana Anti Corruption Coalition (GACC), which is demanding investigation into the bribe deal, has pointed out, political parties which are semi-public institutions and must be aaccountable. GACC wants the Blay deal investigated.
The deal, seen by many as open bribery for votes, has been punctuated by the fact that the NPP is currently the ruling party and when it was in opposition, it could not even afford to pay its rent and utility bills.
Many observers are demanding to know whether the arrangement with the UMB is a loan or a grant, and if it is a loan, what the nature of collateral agreed upon is.
UMB, a bank that is a conversion of Merchant Bank, which was fully owned by government until it was bought by FORTIZ Equity Fund Limited in 2013 has a share structure that still has government in the equation.
Per the structure, Fortiz owns 95.99% of the shares while the government of Ghana through the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) and SIC Life, who own 3.59% and 0.42% respectively, owns a total of 4.41%.
For the bank, partly owned by government to be furnishing funds to a member of the ruling party to enable him bribe delegates for votes, has raised concerns.
Freddie Blay, a notorious politician who pretended to be an Nkrumaist for a long time just so he could take advantage of a CPP Parliamentary ticket in the Western region to go to Parliament, is in a race to become the ruling NPP’s National Chairman.
However, even though he has been a longtime loyalist of President Akufo-Addo, the President is in support of the candidature of Alhaji Abdul Rahman Abubakar, alias Alhaji Short.
Blay, who had been used by Akufo-Addo and the Akyem faction of the NPP to remove the NPP’s suspended Chairman, Paul Afoko, is said to be out of the good graces of the President because the President wants to deodorize his image as a hater of Northerners. The palace coup that Akufo-Addo and his Akyem faction had carried out against Afoko, the NPP’s first ever national Chairman of Northern extraction, still hangs around his neck.
In addition, Nana is said to be backing the Northerner for the post because he wants to make it impossible for Vice President Bawumia, who is also a Nortyherner, to graduate to the flagbearership of the party. In Ghanaian politics, an unspoken rule is that a party can not have its Chairman and Flagbearer at the same time being from the same tribe or region.
Blay is said to have initially agreed to the proposition by President Akufo-Addo to step aside for Alhaji Short after Nana had promised to make him Speaker of Parliament in the place of current Speaker, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye. However, Prof. Oquaye is said to have proven stubborn, refusing to step down on medical grounds.
The situation has therefore left Blay with no choice but to paddle his own canoe. It is in his bid to neutralize President Akufo-Addo’s support for Alhaji Short and tip the balance of influence in his own favor that he has openly promised to provide all the 275 constituencies of the party with buses.
When asked on Asempa FM, where he had made the promise, how he was going to fund the provision of the buses, he said he could do so because he was a resourceful man.
“When you are resourceful, you will be able to do that. You don’t need to do that from your own pockets, no, you can’t do it that way; as a politician, you need to be resourceful and be able to raise funds for activities of such kind.”
It has emerged that he has entered into an agreement with UMB to fund the bribery project. Nobody knows the details. The GACC has since demanded investigations into the indecent proposal.