Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Kofi, Kojo, Ama Annan and Titi Alakija Episode

The Wall Street Journal’s news section published a major investigation of the oil-for-food program on May 2, 2002, charging that Saddam had siphoned money from the program for his war chest and that U.N. auditors were lax. Annan’s name wasn’t mentioned, but shortly after Bush went before the U.N. General Assembly in September 2002 to make the case for going to war, Claudia Rosett, a commentator writing on the Journal’s editorial page, led a two-barreled attack on Annan for being a “ditherer” over the war and ethically tarnished in presiding over the oil-for-food program. After major combat in Iraq ended, other conservatives, including William Safire, began focusing on the oil-for-food program as well.

Annan took a very long time to respond, suggesting, to his critics, that he didn’t take the matter seriously. It wasn’t until April 2004 that Annan named an independent commission, led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, to investigate oil-for-food, with a freewheeling mandate to look at the questionable behavior of U.N. officials monitoring the program, examine whether Security Council members were aware of the corruption, and take a hard look at his own and Kojo’s roles.

The secretary-general was so convinced that he had nothing to hide that he didn’t initially hire a personal attorney—he met with investigators twice without legal advice before friends intervened.

The criticism of Annan grew louder last year even as the Volcker commission began its work, but the complaints primarily focused on his handling of other issues. Whether preoccupied by the inquiry or haunted by the deaths of his colleagues in Iraq, Annan seemed to have lost his once-vaunted political instincts.

As a longtime U.N. bureaucrat, Annan has always had a reputation for being reluctant to fire employees and for being extremely loyal; mention the latter quality now and he interrupts to say, “Loyal to a fault?” That is, indeed, the rap. Ruud Lubbers, the U.N.’s high commissioner for Refugees, was accused of groping several women in December 2003, and investigators found the complaints valid.

But Annan consulted outside lawyers who concluded that the U.N.’s internal investigation wouldn’t hold up in court. He officially cleared Lubbers in July, a decision that sent shock waves through the organization, essentially conveying the message that Annan, the renowned human-rights champion, was a member of the old-boys’ club. “Kofi didn’t go back to the investigators and say, ‘Get more goods, you haven’t made your case,’ ” says one high-ranking staffer. An Annan pal says bluntly, “He should have just fired the guy.” Only this winter, when newspapers printed the affidavits describing Lubbers’s boorish behavior, did Annan force Lubbers out.

Another sign that Annan’s political judgment was out of whack came on the Sunday before the November 2, 2004, presidential election, when he sent letters to the U.S., Great Britain, and Iraq, urging the countries not to send forces to go after rebels in Fallujah. “We were thunderstruck,” says a senior American official. “It was hard to see this as anything but an effort to interfere with the electoral process.” Annan insists that he wasn’t trying to tilt the election toward John Kerry, but he admits that the Fallujah letter was a mistake: “In retrospect, maybe the timing was not the best.”

The dark atmosphere at the U.N. grew darker after Bush’s reelection, as congressional committees investigating the oil-for-food scandal began to churn up information about Saddam’s looting. “There were weeks when Kofi seemed disturbed, bothered, unfocused,” says a prominent diplomat and Annan backer. Annan became increasingly worried and withdrawn. Staffers and diplomats grumbled that it took forever for him to make decisions.

In December, in the diplomatic equivalent of a substance-abuse intervention, Annan sat through two separate confrontational meetings (the first with top staffers at the home of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fr├ęchette and the second with friends and informal advisers at Holbrooke’s Central Park West apartment) as people told him in excruciating detail all the ways in which he was screwing up. Annan was urged to make amends with Washington, clean house, and be more forceful in his leadership.

At the same time, the secretary-general’s heartbreak over Kojo was intensifying. Annan got a call from Fred Eckhard, telling him that, according to news reports, Kojo had deceived him; the Cotecna checks had kept coming for years. “It hit him like a rock,” said an aide who was with Annan when he got the news. Senator Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican, promptly demanded Annan’s resignation. “I was taken aback and puzzled,” Annan says, in a soft voice. He called Kojo, and a series of angry father-son conversations ensued. The Volcker report subsequently revealed that, according to Kojo’s financial records, Kojo conspired to hide the payments by disguising them as money wired to him from three separate companies and other sources, a sum estimated to be about $400,000.

Annan received more bad news in December. The Volcker commission was also quizzing his chief of staff, Iqbal Riza, about shredding documents. Riza insisted to Annan and the commission that the documents were duplicates—that he’d agreed to the shredding after secretaries complained their files were full. The news of the shredding wouldn’t become public until the Volcker report came out in March, but Annan knew that the revelation would be damaging. Did he worry that everyone would think “cover-up”? “Exactly,” he says. “Cover-up, and remember the eight minutes in the Nixon tapes.” Annan decided to purge his staff in late December, sending Riza, 70, into retirement, getting rid of many of his closest advisers, and bringing in Mark Malloch Brown, the forceful and witty British head of the U.N. Development Program and a former political spinmeister, as his new chief of staff.

Still, Annan couldn’t shake the blues this winter. It’s been an open secret for months in the U.N. that he has been melancholy and unable to hide his distress. “He’s put on a brave front and tried to soldier on,” says Pakistani ambassador Akram. “He’s been under pressure for so long. It affects his mood.” The entire diplomatic community and staffers, it seems, have been swapping stories about how distracted Annan has been. After Annan met with Tony Blair and Condoleezza Rice in London in March, word spread quickly that he had stumbled over his talking points, an embarrassing and uncharacteristic faux pas. His every gesture is under a microscope, from the slump of his usually erect shoulders to each nuance of his body language. “Watch his hands,” says a sympathetic ambassador. “The more nervous he gets, the more his hands are all over the place. They betray him.”

This winter, Annan and Nane stopped hosting what were once regular parties at their home, and have turned down virtually all the invitations they receive. “I’m not in the mood for socializing,” he says.

Tell Annan that friends and colleagues worry that he seems depressed, and he doesn’t deny it. “There hasn’t been too much to laugh about,” he says. “There have been those difficult periods when you wonder, What’s it all about and where are we going? I’ve been under pressure for, how many years now? Almost fifteen years, going back to my background in the Department of Peacekeeping. I can handle the pressure, but certain things touch you.”

Kofi Annan married Titi Alakija, a Nigerian woman from a well-to-do family, in 1965. A few years later they had a daughter, Ama, now 35, followed by a son, Kojo, now 31.

A friend recalls that there was “trouble” relatively early in the marriage, remembering a vacation when the couple opted for separate quarters. Still, Kofi and Titi stayed together for many years, through a number of Annan’s career moves—to a U.N. job in New York, a posting in Ethiopia, a year at MIT for a master’s degree in management, a career detour back to his native Ghana where he managed the state tourism agency, and a return to the U.N. in Geneva, to work at the High Commission on Refugees.

The couple separated in the late seventies, but Annan remained an involved parent. “Kojo lived with his father for a while; Kofi did everything for him,” says Julia Preiswerk, a Geneva psychoanalyst who has known Annan for four decades and remains a close friend. Shashi Tharoor, now the U.N. undersecretary-general for communications, who worked with Annan in Geneva, says, “He had this rule that he’d leave work to pick up the kids at school and bring them home and then come back to the office.” Annan was proud that his young son saw him as a nurturing figure. Tharoor adds, “One story he told was how Kojo said, ‘Dad, I want you to come to this event at school,’ and Kofi said, ‘I can’t, I have an official commitment.’ And Kojo said, ‘But all the other mothers will be there.’”

Annan had been living apart from his wife for several years when in 1981 he fell in love with Nane Lagergren, a beautiful and accomplished lawyer working at the U.N., who was divorced with a young daughter, Nina, from her first marriage. But the couple never entirely blended their families. Around the time Annan learned he was being transferred by the U.N. to New York, the first Mrs. Annan moved from Geneva to London, and the Annan children were sent to boarding school in England. Ama was 12 and Kojo was 9. (Annan married Nane in 1984.)

It’s been an open secret at the U.N. that Annan has been melancholy and unable to hide his distress.

Annan clearly wonders now about the impact of that early separation on his son, but it didn’t seem unduly wrenching at the time. “I got used to taking decisions for myself very early, from when I went to boarding school,” Kofi said. “Kojo went to boarding school early. He came on holidays.”

The family relationships played out mostly over weekly phone calls and summer vacations. It was a jet-setting life—the children also spent time in Nigeria, their mother’s homeland. Still, Kojo seemed like a happy-go-lucky kid. He was outgoing and a star rugby player at his British boarding school; father and son would see rugby games together and watch them on TV. (Kojo did not respond to several requests for an interview, sent via his London lawyer, Clarissa Amato.) As a teenager, Kojo spent a summer living with his father and stepmother on Roosevelt Island, working as an intern for fund-raiser and family friend Toni Goodale. “We loved him around the office,” says Goodale. “He was a delight—terrific personality, outgoing, funny.”

After graduating from Keele University, Kojo wangled a job in September 1995 at Cotecna through a family friend and was stationed in Lagos, Nigeria, as a junior liaison officer. According to the Volcker report, the company hoped to exploit his family connections. Indeed, Kojo ultimately arranged for his father to meet Cotecna chairman Elie Massey. (The report found no evidence that Annan and Massey discussed the oil-for-food contract.) After two years with Cotecna, Kojo resigned as an employee, but signed on as a consultant.

From that point on, Kojo went all out in using the Annan name to make money, according to the Volcker report. He met with an Iraqi ambassador in Lagos to inquire about business opportunities, visited his father in New York during General Assembly meetings, and talked up the virtues of Cotecna to African diplomats.

If Kojo was rebelling against his father, or was angry over the divorce, it wasn’t apparent. “I’ve never seen any problems or tension between Kofi and Kojo,” says Goodale, who has been hosting a family Christmas dinner at her Upper East Side home with the secretary-general and his children for many years. “Kofi would glow when he talked about Kojo and Ama. Kojo made his father laugh.”

Annan, an indulgent father and by nature nonconfrontational, remains baffled about Kojo’s motives. “I’ve always lived quite a straight life,” he says. “I’m not one of those who is in a hurry to get rich. It’s not my way of life or desire.”

In the Annans’ official residence, the large red-brick mansion on Sutton Place, Nane Annan joins me in the second-floor library, a handsome wood-paneled room decorated with an Oriental rug, stacks of art books, and African masks and sculpture. Her blonde hair is pulled back in a bun, emphasizing the worry lines around her eyes, and she speaks in a lilting Scandinavian accent, her voice often drifting off mid-sentence. 

Japan, ice cream increased by 8 cents: the entire company apologizes

Employees of  Akagi Nyugyo producers of Poki

For the first time in 25 years, the ice produced by Akagi Nyugyo suffered a catkin of 10 yen: the quivalente of 8 cents.

Despite being a irrissoria figure, to affect a price unchanged for a quarter century, the Japanese company met to apologize to its customers. In the video posted on YouTube at least 100 employees appear.

The increase was due to a surge in the cost of raw materials and production. In 1991, the year of the last increase, the company bought a newspaper page to apologize. The video posted on YouTube was seen by over a million people in less than a week

Adakabre’s defiant father reveals secret

Adakabre Frimpong Manso

Father of under attack afternoon talk show host on Neat FM, has corroborated accusation by his son, Adakabre Frimpong Manso, that he has on a number of occasions been verbally attacked by the flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Akufo-Addo.

Robert Okyere Frimpong Manso, speaking from his base in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, disclosed that he wanted to hold a press conference to reveal all that Nana Akufo-Addo had been doing to his beloved son; threatening to end his broadcasting career.

He revealed an earlier letter written to the management of the Despite Group of Companies by Nana Akufo-Addo, and the NPP, complaining about his son; obviously inciting management of the company to sack him.

The man popularly called, R.O. Frimpong Manso, disclosed how he defiantly confronted Nana Akufo-Addo at a funeral in Kumasi in the presence of Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the NPP Member of Parliament (MP) for Kwadaso Constituency, asking him to leave his son alone, because as he put it “Adakabre had told me all that has been happening”.

The second incident happened in Tamale in the presence of the widow of the late Alhaji Aliu Mahama, Hajia Ramatu, ex-NPP MP, Frema Opare, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, Bugri Naabu, Titus Glover, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, Hackman Owusu Agyeman, Henry Quartey and Kofi Duah and Kwesi Agyeman.

The first attack had taken place at his Nima residence in the presence of Herbert Krampah and one Asiamah, an NPP elder with Gabby Asare-Otchere Darko and Nana Akomea, later summoned on the same day to mediate for amicable settlement.

In a telephone interview with The Herald, R.O. Frimpong Manso, said he had planned to hold a press conference on Monday to expose the 72-year-old three-time flagbearer, but he had been prevailed upon by his son for peaceful co-existence, however, the incessant politically-motivated verbal attacks, have left him with no choice, than to let the public know what is happening.

“In fact, if not that Adakabre has stopped me….but I am watching, will come out and reveal all that Akufo Addo has done against my son. I will do it, because me, he [Akufo Addo] can’t diminish me, I am a pensioner”.

The 78-year old man, who traces his political history from Ghana’s first president, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, said he has been worried about Nana Addo’s behaviour towards his son to the extent that last year, he had the cause to “appeal to his conscience” to desist from disturbing his son at a funeral in Kumasi.

Speaking to this paper yesterday on the heels of a barrage of attacks and accusations directed at his son by the largest opposition party, spurred by a press statement from a deputy communications director, Anthony Karbo, R.O. Frimpong Manso said, “It wasn’t confrontation but I was appealing to his conscience last year to stop intimidating my son”.

But the NPP flagbearer in a response told him “Then talk to your son he is destroying my name”.

According to him, after his encounter with Nana Addo, he later learnt that it did not go down well with him and so he Nana Addo stormed out of the funeral grounds of Nana Osei at Nhyiaso, in anger as his investigation later confirmed. He explained to The Herald that his encounter with Nana Addo at the funeral grounds, was only to counsel the three times presidential candidate to have a big heart and stomach criticisms, as leadership is all about accepting divergent views.

He said “as a leader, even in cases where your name is mentioned and it is unpalatable, you must accept it in good faith”.

“I told him you are a political leader if your name is mentioned and even if it is bad, you must take it in your stride, you must have a big heart”, R.O. Frimpong Manso, expatiated.

The onetime Director of State Protocol, said he was very concerned about the intimidating tactics being meted out to his son by Nana Addo and his men and warned “he should remember if he wants to disturb my son, I won’t agree. He should remember he (Adakabre) has a family. I am concerned about what Akufo-Addo is doing to my son”.

For unknown reason, Adakabre Frimpong Manso, could not be on his afternoon programme yesterday as loyal listeners who tuned in to listen to him, were shockingly treated with music.

Perhaps hinting what is bound to happen in the coming days, Adakabre’s father said, all Nana Addo was seeking to do to his son was to get him out of the station, having hounded him from Adom FM few days after losing his (Adakabre) his beloved mother.

Mr. Frimpong Manso, who revealed he spent years in exile in London, said he was amazed at Nana Addo’s quest to stoop so low as to chase out his son, who he insists has not done nothing wrong.

To him, his son is only working hard to contribute his quota to the development of Ghana, and so did not understand why he will be targeted.

“He wants “Despite” to sack Adakabre. A whole presidential candidate, a leading political opposition party, you want to descend so low to fight a young boy, who is trying to make a name for himself and mother Ghana? Adakabre, is not working for Neat FM; he is working for Ghana that is how I see it, A whole political leader you want to descend so low?”

The man, who revealed his ties to the Convention People’s Party (CPP) said “I attend CPP Council of Elders meetings” and served notice that “My son cannot be intimidated by Akufo-Addo”.

Meanwhile, additional information dug out by The Herald revealed that the first attack on Adakabre Frimpong Manso’s by Nana Addo was in December 2011 at a press soiree at his residence at Nima, upon an invitation from Hebert Krampah, the then Press Secretary to the NPP flagbearer.

Those who witnessed the incident mentioned that, Mr. Hebert Krampah, had called out Adakabre from amongst his colleague media persons to greet Nana Addo, but the NPP leader, flared up and went into tantrums, saying so many things like a baby.

This bazaar incident happened in the presence of one Asiamah; an NPP Council of elders member from Cape Coast; Central Region. Also present to witness the embarrassing spectacle was Herbert Krampah.

Gabby Asare Otchere Darko and Nana Akomea, later intervened in the situation, and settled the issue the same day after Herbert Krampah, had briefed them as to what Nana Addo, had done to him.

Following the amicable resolution of that fracas, Nana Addo, impressed upon the seasoned radio host to help him in his campaign, but in his presence, he told him he could not do it, because his cousin is John Alan Kwadwo Kyeremanten, who was also contesting the NPP presidential candidate slot.

The second incident happened in April 2014, at the NPP congress in Tamale, when the two met again in the residence of the late Vice President, Aliu Mahama.

Nana Addo, was said to have come from the hospital where he and his entourage had gone to visit accident victims. Adakabre who wanted to show respect by greeting Nana Addo, was snubbed by him after which (Nana Addo) went into a verbal vitriolic attacks, threatening to deal with him.

This incident also happened in the presence of the window of Aliu Mahama; Hajia Ramatu, Frema Opare, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, Bugri Naabu, in that order.

“The fifth person in line was Nana Addo, who refused to extend his hand and started shouting abuses at him and ended up saying that Adakabre, should never mention his name on radio and that if he does, he will see”.

So for about 90 seconds to 120 seconds, Adakabre, kept quiet then later proceeded to shake the hands of Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, Hackman Owusu Agyeman, then shook the hands of Titus Glover and then the last person being Henry Quartey.

In Adakabre’s company was his producer, Kofi Duah and Akwesi Agyeman, who were all surprised. Later Nana Addo’s bodyguards, were threatening to deal with him. The issue worried the team that, they quickly called Fada Dickson in Accra to inform him about what had happened. The management of Despite Group of Companies, through Fada Dickson, wanted to pull Adakabre from the Tamale, but he refused, insisting he will stay to cover the congress.

However, Adakabre, continued to receive life threatening messages, including one from a certain Augustus Jonah, dated March 11, 2014.

Adakabre declined to speak with The Herald on the details of the threats, but said “there were several close relatives who were insisting that I should report to the police, but yet again I told myself “God will do it. The whole family is worried. At a point my family was putting pressure on me to stop this radio business”.

He was, however, shocked at the utterance of the NPP Director of Communication, Nana Akomea, whom he had in one instance to tell his party and especially Nana Addo to “desist from abusing and threatening him , and made reference to these two incidents”.

He was also shocked at Titus Glover, who had begged him not to go public with the incident inside Aliu Mahama’s residence.

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