A trade of words and heated arguments characterized portions of the vetting of Dominic Nitiwul, the minister-designate for Defence, in Parliament when he was asked a question by Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, MP for North Tongu, in relation to an accusation the nominee made on former president John Dramani Mahama.
In what appeared like a race to saving each one’s own, Chairman for the Appointments Committee, on one hand, stepped into a question posed to the nominee, stopping him from answering it on the grounds of national security, while Haruna Iddrisu, on the other hand, showed up right in time to calm the nerves of Okudzeto at a time the MP was boiling up from what he believed was an attempt to deny him of an answer from the nominee.
In the showdown, Okudzeto Ablakwa, in making reference to a presser addressed by Nitiwul on December 7, 2017, where he stated, among other things, that the former president had taken over military lands, asking him (John Mahama) to vacate it in his own interest, asked if the nominee still stood by his words.
Okudzeto quoted the nominee as saying, “I want to advice the former president that he should look for a place and leave because it is a dent on hoim. It’s not good for him. He was a president and he should leave there. He should have protected the Armed Forces; I am talking about former president Mahama and I won’t more. That can’t happen any longer; not under my watch.”
Years on, according to Okudzeto Ablakwa, even though the office of the former president issued a response to counter the claims, Dominic Nitiwul had still not issued an apology or a retraction.
Here is how it all panned out:
Okudzeto: Do you still stand by these statements?
Nitiwul: Mr. Chairman, I want to state emphatically that I said, and let me repeat, if I were the former president and because of the situation there, I will not stay there because he was Commander-In-Chief. The answer I want to give, I’ll believe that you should hear off camera first because of the respect; not just the respect for the former president but because of the security implication.
Chairman Joseph Osei-Owusu then cuts in, asking, “You say that the answer you want to give, should be heard off camera first?”
Nitiwul: If after that, you still want me to say it publicly, then I will but I’d advise that you hear me off camera first.
Osei-Owusu: Honourable Minister, if you consider it not worth public, I’d ask you to just leave it there.
Nitiwul: I’ll think that I’ll leave it there.
But, Okudzeto Ablakwa, who asked the question, would not easily let this go.
Okudzeto: Mr. Chairman, my question has not been answered. It’s a simple question: does he stand by it? We will not be bamboozled by this claim of national security interest. Do you stand by this? You publicly attacked the former president. You accused him of being on a land that belonged to the military which is not true. Do you stand by it or not? It’s a simple question. He shouldn’t hide under national security pretentions.
And then, now getting quite furious, he turned to the Chairman of the Committee, Joseph Osei-Owusu and said, “What you have even done is more dangerous than what he said about the former president and we’ll not accept it. It gives a certain connotation as if the former president has done something wrong. I mean, please,”
Joseph Osei-Owusu then retorts, obviously also incensed by now that, “If you cannot abide by, kindly go out and when you calm down, you come back.”
Okudzeto responded, “Mr. Chairman, that’s not fair. People’s integrities are being impugned.”
In equal measure, Osei-Owusu responds, “It is fair! You rant on, rant on, I ask you to hold on but you rant on, it’s not fair. If your tempers are high, I ask that you stay out. When you cool down, you come back.”
At this point, Haruna Iddrisu, the Ranking Member on the Committee, stepped in.
Haruna: Chairman, I don’t think tempers are that high. Minister, Chairman will rule on your question but you can do the first part of his question: do you stand by your words or not?”
Nitiwul: Mr. Chairman, from where he read, it is very clear that I did not say that the former president purchased military lands. You read your own thing. I never said that and I’ll never say that anywhere because it’s not a true thing that he, former President Mahama, went and purchased military land.