Is the kitchen too hot for Ayariga?

STARSFOR some reasons, many thought Mahama Ayariga was bringing a fresh face as Minister for Youth and Sports when he was appointed in July last year after the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Ayariga had replaced the ebullient Elvis Afriyie Ankrah under whose stewardship Ghana recorded its worst World Cup performance as it made an ignominious first round exit – aside all the controversies that encapsulated the nation’s campaign.

However, it is not limpidly clear whether Ankrah’s replacement was directly linked to the Black Stars’ insipid performance. Perhaps, yes. Maybe, it could have been connected to other peccadillos.

But for those who believe in change – no matter which form it takes, Ayariga’s appointment was in the right direction. Indeed, since taking over, the sports minister has appeared quite dynamic and vibrant – promising to breathe life into the deteriorated Azumah Nelson Sports Complex after visiting the edifice.

He was also instrumental in organising a football seminar after the World Cup that sought after the supreme revolution of the sport.

Although he was not much treasured, he was still given the benefit of the doubt by the media.

But now, it seems the modest respect that the media has reserved for Ayariga is evaporating with humiliating rapidity – if not faded away already.

This is informed by the former Minister for Information’s imprudent reactions to questions legally thrown at him by journalists who want to know how the Equatorial Nations Cup budget was spent.

Rather irritably, Ayariga said on Adom FM that instead of journalists asking questions about the development of sports in Ghana and how the Black Stars’ performance could be harnessed for the ultimate; “sadly you are asking me about…the money that was spent on food.”

“You are using valuable time to discuss useless matters, please, I think that this is very regrettable and it will dampen the spirit of the boys who were trying to kill themselves only to come back and even the food that they ate, they will hear on radio that their minister is [answering questions] about the food that they ate. It’s sad,” the Sports Minister seethed on Adom FM’s Dwaso Nsem last Thursday.

He argued that since the journalists are not auditors to be probing him on the details of the budget, there was no need for the questions adding that “If I decide to grant you an interview as a minister, I expect you to ask me useful questions…you want to take over the job of the Auditor? Are you the Auditor?”

Mr Ayariga who appeared before Parliament exactly a week ago, noted that government spent about $5.717.869 on Ghana’s preparation and participation in the 2015 AFCON tournament. Earlier, he had flared into tantrums on Peace FM on the same issue.

“I don’t report to you. I report to the Auditor-General, I report to Parliament,” the MP for Bawku Central told Kwami Sefa Kayi on Peace FM in Accra when the host wanted to find out how much was spent on the Black Stars in Equatorial Guinea.

It is, indeed, pathetic to hear the sports minister say all these things as if it was now criminal for journalists to find out what the tax-payers’ money was used for!

How illicit is a question that bothers on budget for the team’s food? Even if the minister thought the question was ‘useless’ as he wants everybody to believe, couldn’t he have found a discreet and subtle way of responding to it?

Is that the kind of response he could afford when the same people who put him there demand answerability? Is demand for accountability now illegitimate?

Clearly, it appears the kitchen is getting too hot for Ayariga.

Perhaps, the sports minister may not be aware that being abrasive and belligerent towards the media can only make his work more difficult than he could ever imagine. Truth is, you cannot fight the media – and it would be preposterous for him to think that he would be successful without the tacit support of the media.

That is why many right-thinking Ghanaians are calling on President John Mahama to ‘push’ him out of the sports ministry before he inflicts further damage on Ghanaians as well as the man who appointed him.

Mr. Ayariga has said on Muntie Fm in Accra that he owes nobody an apology for his outbursts last week, but he may be wrong and one would appeal to his conscience to swallow his pride – eat humble pie and say what he dreads so much to say: “I’m sorry.”

It does not spoil anything if Ayariga does lay bare his act of contrition. It would only demonstrate his level of maturity – nothing else. But in case he decides not to show remorse for labeling legal questions from journalists as ‘useless’ – that is his own judgment.

Nevertheless, if he thinks the kitchen is too hot for him, he could also take the most honourable step by throwing in the towel so as to avert more of such ‘useless’ questions — because more of those are coming on the way, especially when Ghana is odds on favourites to win the 2017 African Cup of Nations bidding rights.

By John Vigah

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