Relatives of the former president are implicated in an investigation into the corruption scandal that has shaken European aeronautics giant Airbus. The revelations come at a bad time for John Dramani Mahama, who is taking a fresh run at the presidency this year.
One could hardly have imagined a more unlikely setting for a revelation of this nature.
The scene takes place in November 2010: Philip Middlemiss, former star of the successful British series Coronation Street, goes with his girlfriend, actress Leanne Davis, to a charity gala at a cricket club in the north-west of England.
In keeping with the theme of the evening – psychedelics of the sixties – the actor is dressed in a three-piece plaid suit and Chelsea boots.
When a local newspaper asks him what his plans are, Middlemiss’s answer is unexpected to say the least. “I’m working out in Ghana, in West Africa. My best friend’s brother’s the vice president. So I went out there thinking of directing a feature film and now I’m working with the government.” The journalist, obviously taken aback, asked him if this was a joke. “No, no, that’s the truth!” he replies, laughing.
Ten years later, the results of a joint investigation by French, British and US authorities into alleged corruption at the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus in 23 countries, including Ghana, shed new light on the exchange. And they have plunged John Dramani Mahama, the former president who was planning to make a political comeback this year, into turmoil.
A case of kickbacks
Between 2009 and 2012, John Dramani Mahama was the Vice President of Ghana. After President John Atta Mills died in July 2012, Mahama took over the Presidency and the leadership of the National Democratic Congress, then won the national elections in December that year.
But four years later, Mahama lost the presidential election to veteran contender Nana Akufo Addo by over a million votes.
Now Mahama’s political opponents accuse him of having links to a corrupt network in a case of kickbacks in the contract for the sale of Airbus military equipment to the Republic of Ghana.
Philip Middlemiss, Leanne Davis and John Dramani Mahama’s brother, Samuel Adam Mahama, are suspected of having acted as intermediaries between Airbus and the Ghanaian president.
These accusations, which have been reported in recent weeks by many local media and the now ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), are a heavy blow to this seasoned politician, who dreams of winning back the supreme magistracy and who has already been invested by his party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), for the presidential election due to be held in December.
At the end of March, a new twist in his campaign took a further turn for the worse: Ghana’s special prosecutor, Martin Amidu, who had found the corruption suspicions credible enough to open an investigation on 4 February, announced that he had summoned four “suspects”.
He wants to hear from Philip Middlemiss and his collaborator Sarah Furneaux, as well as Leanne Davis and Samuel Adam Mahama.
All four have British nationality and it is difficult to imagine them travelling to Ghana in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic to answer questions from the courts. But the announcement had the effect of a political bomb.
John Dramani Mahama has so far declined to comment, but his lawyer has said that the former president has not received any bribes.
The Secretary-General of the NDC, for his part, has stated that the current period, marked by COVID-19, is not conducive to such controversy. “Any judge who sits on such a case will vanish,” said Stephen Atubiga, a senior member of the party, causing an outcry.
Many are calling on the former head of state to explain himself or even withdraw from the presidential race.
NPP spokesman Awal Mohammed said John Dramani Mahama has lost all credibility in the run-up to the upcoming elections.
A view shared by Kofi Akpaloo, the candidate of the Liberal Party of Ghana.
“It is definitely inconsistent with accountability when a person who supervised such a transaction is going round canvassing for votes from the people of Ghana, and yet that same person does not want to open up to the people of Ghana on the transaction; to me it is the height of inconsistency and lack of accountability,” said Yeboah Dame, Assistant Attorney General