The British High Commissioner to Ghana, Jon Benjamin, arguably the most controversial diplomat in the country, has been replaced.
UK Foreign Office, has announced the appointment of Iain Walker by Her Majesty as the new British High Commissioner to the country.
In a statement published on the UK government website, the appointment of Mr. Walker, would take effect in August 2017.
The statement added, Mr. Benjamin, would be transferred to another Diplomatic Service appointment.
Jon Benjamin, described as an unconventional diplomat, has not shied away from participating in Ghanaian conversations and controversies.
His favourite target had been President John Dramani Mahama and the controversial founder of the International God’s Way International Church, Bishop Daniel Obinim.
He also joined Ghana’s twitter community to mock people on trending issues including politics. Last December, Jon Benjamin was forced to delete a tweet suggestively jabbing President John Mahama after it angered sections on social media.
Snippets of information gathered by The Herald had suggested that the outgoing British High Commissioner to Ghana, Jon Benjamin had overstepped his diplomatic boundaries and meddling in Ghana’s political and economic affairs.
Diplomatic intelligence reports have captured him in bed with the elements of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) which has left room for worry especially by the some member of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
In Jon Benjamin’s list of friends in the NPP is President Nana Akufo-Addo’s nephew Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko.
Among the reports indicting Jon Benjamin are threats of UK visa denials, sacking of staff for their closeness to former President John Dramani Mahama, making scatting political remarks on social media among other undiplomatic behaviors.
Jon Benjamin, is also reported to be using his connection at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) against the erstwhile administration especially ex-President Mahama. This has been at play for some time now with The Herald’s managing editor meeting one of the BBC reporters here in Accra, sometime last years.
But of the worse things, are cables to his Home Office in England falsely claiming a prominent Ghanaian businessman deals in narcotic drugs. When the matter was reported to the Ghanaian businessman and he sent word to Jon Benjamin, he replied by threatening to deny him an entry to the UK with a visa ban.
It was mentioned to The Herald that at the heart of the Jon Benjamin’s dislike for the NDC government is scandal bordering on the construction of the Police Hospital in Accra. Over 43 million Pounds have been pumped into the project yet the International Hospital Group (IHG) is yet to complete the project which started since 2005. The Mahama government is said to have raised red flag over demands for additional money thus angering the UK Company and its High Commissioner, Jon Benjamin.
Meanwhile, hospitals such as Dodowa, Ridge, the 600-bed Legon Medical School hospital and others have long been completed with some already in use. Jon Benjamin was last Wednesday seen leading UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to pay a courtesy call on President Nana Akufo-Addo. It is not yet clear whether the Police Hospital Redevelopment matter was discussed.
The British High Commissioner to Ghana, has also been captured to have aided the victory of Nana Akufo-Addo by engaging in both public and private moves which greatly tilted the election in favour of the NPP.
At least, the Executive Editor of Africawatch magazine, Steve Mallory reveals a phone call and two emails to him from Jon Benjamin seeking information on how he obtained Nana Akufo-Addo’s medical records from the prominent Wellington Hospital in UK, which showed that the then opposition leader was unfit for the job of Ghana’s President.
The Africawatch magazine in its January 2017 edition directly accused Jon Benjamin of embarking on a regime change agenda which he succeeded with the election of Nana Akufo-Addo as president during the 2016 General Elections by targeting ex-President Mahama with lots of negatives.
President’s nephew Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko is mentioned as the liaison officer handling Jon Benjamin with most of diplomatic cables to his officers in Britain made mainly from media publications by the pro-NPP media houses.
In December last, Jon Benjamin sparked a social media war on twitter when someone faked an account in the name of radio host, Salifu Maase alias Mugabe, claiming that the broadcaster had decided to visit his family in the UK.
The High Commissioner to Ghana, Jon Benjamin replied to the comment on the fake Tweeter account thanking him for apparently ‘forewarning’ them.
Mugabe is widely held to be a sympathizer of the NDC and an avid follower of President Mahama, and it was clear that the Mugabe’s name was used to draw political venom from Jon Benjamin, which he flatly fall for.
Indeed, the Tweeter account interpreted Jon Benjamin’s statement to mean a possible ban of him entering the UK.
The fake account had tweeted: “I will visit my wife said kids in the UK soon” to which Mr. Benjamin responded: ” Well, thanks for letting us know. There is a saying in English: “forewarned is forearmed”. But Maase, who was jailed four months by the Supreme Court for making threatening statement against the judges, cast doubt over a possible ban of him visiting his family by the High Commission.
“If Kennedy Agyapong can travel to where ever he want in this world I don’t think you pple will be a barrier to me visiting my family in UK,” he tweeted, but ostensibly not happy with the use of the phrase “you people,” Mr Benjamin replied:” Oh! “You people”? I see. Well, well, well.”
A follower who was following the banter between the two and was shocked by the posture of Maase tweeted “…he probably doesn’t know who you [Jon Benjamin] are” but that appeared to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Mugabe then fired back at the follower and asked whether Mr. Benjamin is he God, stating that the only person he fears in this world is God and not a fellow human being. “Is he God? The only person I fear in this world is God (Allah) not a fellow human being,” he tweeted. Mugabe again tweeted the “UK is not Heaven,” when another follower pointed out to him that Mr. Benjamin is the British High Commissioner to Ghana.
Following media report, Mugabe later discredited Tweeter account saying he had presence on social media platform. The UK High Commissioner never apologized or withdrew the threat of a visa ban.
In November last year, the then governing NDC criticized the US and UK foreign missions for threatening to revoke the visas of political leaders who incite violence in the December elections.
In a statement signed by party’s National Chairman Kofi Portuphy, the NDC said the two countries have fallen for NPP propaganda the party is to blame for Sunday’s attack at NPP flagbearer Nana Akufo-Addo’s residence.
The NDC said it “notes with concern a direct accusation made against the NDC by a US representative without recourse to the facts of the incident. We believe that if our diplomatic friends had been a bit more painstaking and diligent in their inquiry into the incident, they would have become aware of the facts and not be subject to manipulation by the maliciously efficient propaganda machine of the NPP.
“The NDC seeks to state emphatically, that at no point was the residence of Nana Akufo Addo targeted by the NDC. We believe that our international partners must be more diligent in seeking the truth rather than relying on biased political and media propaganda”.
“The NDC notes with interest the threats issued by the two missions to revoke visas and other such diplomatic actions and wonders why similar threats or sanctions have not been considered after previous incidents when the NPP and its supporters have been engaged in inciting or instigating violence, including hate speech.”
On Tuesday 2016, some Ghanaians on Twitter were outraged by Jon Benjamin’s comment in which he was seen to be taking a dig at the outgoing President Mahama. Mocking then the president, Mr. Benjamin in a tweet wondered if the dry dusty air had been ushered in by an inauguration. Most Ghanaians on social media felt Jon Benjamin was being sarcastic with President Mahama’s many inaugurations of projects ahead of the December 7 elections.
This is not the first time that Jon Benjamin has sparked diplomatic row in his host country with some political elements unhappy about his moves. He is on record to have played a major role in the economic situation in Zimbabwe following attempts by President Robert Mugabe’s decision to amend the land policy in that country.