Opinion: Afriyie-Ankrah should not be the 2014 World Cup sacrificial lamb
The senior national team, the Black Stars, and, indeed, the whole nation went to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with high hopes following the spectacular performance of the team in two previous tournaments — Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010.
The team enjoyed overwhelming support in South Africa 2010 and it missed a semi-final berth as a result of the attitude of Luis Suarez of Uruguay and Liverpool fame.
But for that professional misconduct on the part of the player, Ghana would have rewritten Africa’s World Cup history as the first nation from the continent to have reached that stage of the competition.
The road to Brazil was not very easy, with the skeptics predicting doom for the country simply because the Ghana Football Association (GFA) had settled for a local coach, Kwasi Appiah, as well as the inability of the coach to get the full complement of the team with the absence of Kevin-Prince Boateng, Michael Essien, Andre Dede Ayew, his younger brother, Jordan Ayew, among others.
The skepticism deepened when the final match against the Pharaohs of Egypt, apparently the decider, was tagged as the end of the road for the Black Stars.
However, things did not go the way the agents of doom had wished and the team whitewashed the Pharaohs by six goals to one.
With that feat, the stage was set for the Black Stars to dazzle again at the world stage and make an impressive improvement on their last appearance.
The preparations towards the tournament were not bad, with all the necessary logistics and funding for the tournament being secured, as we were made to believe by the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the GFA.
Strangely, the performance of the team this time around was very disappointing and disastrous, with all kinds of allegations flying around accusing one office holder or another of malfeasance and mismanagement which culminated in player mutiny and the subsequent elimination of the team after the group matches.
One of the major casualties of the Brazil debacle was the energetic and charismatic Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr Elvis Afriyie Ankrah.
Mr Afriyie Ankrah has been moved from the ministry to the Presidency as a result of the bad-mouthing and flak he received from a section of the media, as well as some disgruntled Ghanaians who have an axe to grind with him.
My worry is that if one follows the sequence of allegations levelled against the minister, one will realise that some of the things being alleged that he had engaged in are merely speculative and lack the necessary substance needed to nail him.
Among the thousand and one sweeping allegations levelled against Mr Afriyie Ankrah are that he took 20 of his nuclear and extended family members, as well as his in-laws, to Brazil; he also took along some celebrities, including female musicians and actresses such as Becca, Jackie Appiah, among others, to Brazil, and even engaged in an amorous relationship with Jackie Appiah.
One other allegation is that her mother, who is domiciled in London, United Kingdom, was given the exclusive right to sell replica jerseys of the Black Stars and other paraphernalia.
Sadly, in the midst of these allegations, the President hastily removed Mr Afriyie Ankrah and his deputy from the Sports Ministry and re-assigned them.
What I consider most unfortunate about this whole scenario is that days after the President’s action, the man who took over from Mr Afriyie Ankrah, Mr Mahama Ayariga, instituted a Committee of Enquiry, chaired by Mr Justice Senyo Dzamefe, to look into the fall-out from Brazil 2014.
I am not holding brief for the minister, but I wish to state that I share his predicament, especially when the allegations which have been levelled against him have not been substantiated by his accusers.
All these were things that went on while the minister was still in Brazil. Now Mr Afriyie Ankrah is back and he has started explaining some of the issues. He has, indeed, repudiated majority of the allegations.
Since I started listening to Mr Afriyie Ankrah, both on radio and television, as well as reading his reaction in the print media (and I believe some discerning Ghanaians too do), the perception I formed initially about him, as well as the events that led to our failure in Brazil, has started to change.
The habit of condemning our political office holders before giving them a hearing is not the best way to help our democracy flourish. Everybody has his/her say but let us always show fairness to those who stand accused by listening to their side of the story.
Let us also show some respect to our ministers and other political figures because when we keep on maligning politicians unjustly, there will be a time when people will hesitate to accept political positions.
Mr Afriyie Ankrah has been sacrificed because of the half truths that were peddled in the media. I, however, believe that with the committee set to start its work, the President decided to reassign him so that he does not interfere with its work.
Whatever the case, the whole truth on what led to the Brazil fiasco will be made known in the shortest possible time. But the question I keep asking is: if Mr Afriyie Ankrah is exonerated at the end of the day, what will the President do about his current status?
By Vance Azu, Daily Graphic