A while back, local emcee, M.anifest nee Amet Tsikata wrote this entry on his blog, The Birds & The Beats, under the posting of his newest song;
“Politics is wildly divisive and should have nothing to do with justice … anything else is egregious and should be concerning – you could be next to be victimized. But everything is politics right? Well, last couple of months my father has been unjustly incarcerated in the land of my birth. I’ll spare you the rational and emotional tirade on screen. I divulge my feelings in the song above.”
I managed to catch up with the busy artist at a coffee shop right before he headed to the airport to catch a flight to Ghana, where he would be visiting his father. Drinking his tea, Amet gazed outside the window and recalled finding out about his father’s incarceration, “I was getting calls and texts from home at 6:00am and was not trying to look at my phone,” he chuckled. An hour later his curiosity got the better of him and when he read the first text message he learnt that his dad was on his way to prison to serve a five-year jail term.
Tsatsu Tsikata who was the Chief Executive Officer of government-controlled Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) from 1988 to 2000 has been in and out of the Ghanain courts since 2002. The prosecution’s case was that Tsikata guaranteed a loan for 2.3 billion old Ghana cedis contracted by Valley Farms from the French Development Agency, Caisse Centrale De Development in 1991, but the company defaulted, thus forcing GNPC to pay the loan in 1996. Tsikata was said to have guaranteed the loan without the approval of the GNPC board. On June 18th he was sentenced to five years imprisonment on three counts of willfully causing financial loss to the state and one count of intentionally misapplying public property.
Mr. Tsikata is well acquainted with law, “He’s extremely smart and regarded as a gee-whiz,” said M.anifest. He holds an LLB (First Class Hons) from the University of Ghana which he obtained at the age of 18 and a BCL (equivalent of a Masters’ degree) (First Class Hons) from Oxford University. Prior to GNPC he lectured in the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana (Legon) and many of his former students are in the Ghanain judiciary.
In his defense, Tsikata argued that the loan was viable and questioned the judicial process. While he successfully challenged the constitutionality of the newly formed Fast Track court, by which he was tried, he never received a copy of the forensic audit on which his charges were based. He was also unsuccessful at getting the court to listen to evidence from the International Finance Corporation, which he argued would prove that GPNC had provided a guarantee on the loan.
Immediately after his arrest, family, friends and supporters started the “Free Tsatsu Tsikata Now! campaign. They viewed his arrest as a vendetta by the ruling party, NPP, against people associated with previous NDC regime. While in custody, Tsikata suffered a serious asthma attack, “I learnt much later that it was 12 hours before he was attended to and there was speculation that he wouldn’t make it,” M.anifest said solemnly. When the December 7th election called for a run-off and there was the possibility a regime change, the courts seemed to tread lightly while dealing with the Tsikata case. On December 17th he won an appeal for applying for bail citing that the judge was biased. “Realistically it shouldn’t be so, but the justice system pays attention to politics,” M.anifest acknowledged.
Right before John Evans Atta Mills was declared president of Ghana, the guards manning the door of Mr. Tsikata’s hospital room informed him that they were leaving and he had been pardoned by President Kuffuor. He was not pleased and immediately wrote him a letter in which he says, “Your apparent exercise of the Presidential prerogative of mercy in respect of a conviction and imprisonment which you were the prime mover of is the height of hypocrisy. I have never sought, and I do not need your pretence of mercy. Justice is my quest and I will pursue this quest in accordance with the Constitution and laws of Ghana.”