After the release of the Ford Expedition gift investigative exposé prior to the 2016 general elections, Manasseh Azure Awuni, the investigative journalist behind the story was offered police protection but he turned it down.
This was disclosed by Manasseh Azure Awuni himself on GTV’s ‘Moomen Tonight’ on Wednesday, April 28. During the interview, Awuni recalled a conversation he had with Dr Edward Omane Boamah, a then-minister on the night the Ford exposé was aired on Joy News.
“In 2016, when I did the Ford exposé, it was a typical election period. Dr Omane Boamah who was then the Communications Minister called me that night and said: ‘Manasseh, we know the weight of this story you have done, we know quite a number of people are not happy, so I’m calling to let you know that I can get some police to come and give you protection.”
Manasseh recalls telling the minister, “Thank you so much for your concern, but I feel safe.”
But under President Nana Akufo-Addo, “Now, I walk with Police protection, thanks to the national security minister. I’m grateful to the government for that, but naturally, there isn’t any journalist who would want to be driven with another person in your car,” he told Abdul Hayi Moomen.
When asked how come a government who seeks to silence journalists especially you [Manasseh] would give police protection, Azure Awuni averred, “I am not saying that the government is seeking to silence Manasseh. There is a culture of silence that is threatening the media or the general space of free speech and so at the end of the day, the question you should ask [is], why it should get to a system or a state to necessitate police protection for a journalist, why should we get there in the first place? I’m saying that I’m grateful to the government, but we have got to a state I never thought or dreamt [….] in my journalism career.”
About the Ford gift exposé
Early in 2016, President Mahama came under intense public criticism for accepting the Ford Expedition gift worth about US$50,000 allegedly to influence him when he was Vice President in 2012.
Djibril Kanazoe, the Burkinabe contractor who supplied the gift, admitted giving President Mahama the Ford Expedition vehicle for which the president called to thank him.
The gift, according to reports, was prior to an attempt by the contractor to win a bid to construct the Dodo Pepeso-Nkwanta road.
The same contractor was contracted to build a wall at a cost of over half a million dollars for the Ghanaian Embassy in Ouagadougou.
Speaking for the first time on the matter on Kofi TV in December 2020, John Dramani Mahama indicated that the reportage was part of the propaganda championed by the opposition to cause his defeat in the 2016 elections.
Regarding the Ford bribery case which was being trumpeted by the NPP, Mahama explained, “I bought Toyota Landcruiser for the Chief Imam because I was supposed to travel with the Chief Imam to a function elsewhere and whilst we were about leaving, his vehicle broke down so we had to transport him in my car, so, I decided to purchase a new vehicle for the Chief Imam. I used my own money, almost $100,000, bought… a brand new Landcruiser for the Chief Imam, so can I be bribed with a $50,000 Ford Expedition?”
He questioned further, “How can a vehicle which was supposed to be a bribe be presented to the Ghana Embassy in Burkina Faso?”
He went on, “The car was not even a brand-new vehicle, the person [Djibril Kanazoe] was a car dealer, normally when there is a new model of such vehicles…you decide to either sell it or something, this 2010 Ford model, the guy stated that he admires President Mahama so he decided to give the vehicle to the Embassy so that they present it to President Mahama.”
“The vehicle was added to the presidential pool, so when we were moving from the Castle to the Flagstaff House, I was informed of the vehicle; the guy registering the vehicle asked what to do with the vehicle because he thought it was my personal vehicle, I asked if the vehicle was presented to the presidency and they answered in the affirmative, so I asked them to put it in the pool,” Mahama told Kofi Adomah of Kofi TV.
Mahama emphasized that the vehicle was used by the soldiers to provide escort duties for the VIPs visiting the country.
“When I was leaving the presidency, the vehicle was left at the presidency…,” he stressed.
“During the campaign, they used [it] against me that I had] received a Ford bribe, but it was deliberate propaganda just to [tarnish] my name; as a leader, you can’t avoid that because as a leader you are seen as a garbage ship; any garbage they will pour on you. So, these were part of the occupational hazards; we take the blows but we continue moving forward.”