Some Ghanaians are reportedly expressing outrage after President John Kufuor's life was put at risk over the weekend when the presidential jet carrying him aborted its trip due to technical malfunctions. They are calling for the resignation of President Kufuor's top advisors for putting his life in danger. They contend that President Kufuor has been not been using the presidential jet, nicknamed the Flying Coffin, due to its unworthiness.
Kufuor was traveling on the presidential jet on a scheduled state visit to Equatorial Guinea to participate in that country's 40th Independence anniversary with President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. The flight had to be aborted after the pilot cited failure of the pressure system, which made temperature within the cabin began to rise significantly.
From the capital Accra, managing editor Ben Ephson of the independent Daily Dispatch newspaper tells reporter Peter Clottey Ghanaians are upset that President Kufuor's Advisors did not value his life.
"Actually what happened is that the pilot said there was a reduction in pressure so the internal pressure system was not working. So the plane started getting hot. So 20 minutes after the flight, he (President Kufuor) had to return to Accra," Ephson noted.
He said Ghanaians are expressing outrage after the president's aborted attempt to fly in the "Flying Coffin" presidential jet.
"If you remember, this plane in the 1990s it was nicknamed the flying coffin because ex-President Jerry Rawlings had used it and he has had a few close shaves with life and death. So the ex-president had to buy a new presidential jet. Now, when President Kufuor was in opposition before winning the 2000 election, he had criticized the way and manner the new plane was bought. So I believe that arising from that previous criticism, when he (President Kufuor) came to power he refused to use that plane and in the end, he exchanged that plane for some helicopters and jet fighters for the Ghana Air force," he said.
Ephson said although the president would be going out of office this year, he controversially put forward a plan, which would acquire two new presidential jets.
"Incidentally, within the last three or four months, he (President Kufuor) has put together a package and he is buying two presidential jets totaling $110 million dollars, and which would be delivered in mid 2009. That is for whoever becomes the next president to use," Ephson pointed out.
He said President Kufuor's plan to purchase two new presidential planes did not go down well with some Ghanaians who he said are still opposed to it.
"The decision to buy those two planes came under a lot of criticism, and some of the arguments used by the ruling NPP (New Patriotic Party) was that President Rawlings also bought one. And I believe this is what quite irritated a lot of floating voters because their argument is that well, for the floating voters, President Rawlings because he had a majority in parliament in 2000, bought a presidential jet, and you (President Kufuor) to use. You are buying it for others to use. This is what has irritated some of the floating voters. So, clearly there was criticism that well, whether we like it or not, money has been spent that was the people's money and not that of the former president. He (Ex-President Rawlings) used state funds to buy the presidential jet, so yes, you may have criticized it, but yes you have to use it," he said.
Ephson said Ghanaians are expressing their frustration over the plane's close call in flight.
"I think that people have been a bit angry. Angry in the sense that the presidents put himself at that risk because, take it or leave it, he is our number one citizen. And that if decided not to use the plane, people expected that he could have chartered a plane or had a plane sent for him, or gone by a commercial flight because that plane was not named the flying coffin for nothing. It had put the former president's life at risk. So people were wondering, yes he may had flown a few times, but you know the president's health is always paramount in any given country, and people thought that he was taking an unnecessary risk," Ephson noted.