Feature Article of Monday, 23 April 2012
Columnist: Ackon, Paa Kow
Ghana has a total land area of 92,100sq.miles stretching 672 km north to south and 357 km east to west. Ghana’s physical size makes it about the same size as Great Britain. Out of a total land area of 23 million hectares, 13 million hectares representing 57% is suitable for agricultural production, whiles 5.3 million hectares representing 39% of this is under cultivation. Ghana is blessed with rich mineral resources such as gold, diamonds, manganese, limestone, bauxite, iron ore as well as various clays and granite deposit.
It is an incontrovertible fact that Ghana is the second largest producer of gold in Africa, second largest producer of cocoa in the world, second largest exporter of wood and wood products and third largest producer of timber in Africa. Can anybody tell me why we are still poor? It is a shame that a poor country like Bolivia with a poverty level of over 50%, can allocate 23% of its annual budget to education, and is able to offer free education up to senior high school level, whiles we double-cross ourselves and assume it is not feasible here.
It is not startling that we do not have any clear national vision on mobilizing our total manpower for the technological, industrial, economic, and scientific rebuilding of this country, so that we can produce the needed conditions which would result in an abundance of every good thing for the greatest welfare of the masses. The question most Ghanaians are asking is ‘‘what has become of the blessing of the wealth of our gigantic resources, the power of our endowments and the potentialities of our people’’? How can we grasp the prospects before us and meet the challenge to our survival?
We must admit that our leadership over the years has overwhelmingly been run along the lines of the “politics of the belly” a primordial lust for wealth and power along crude racial, tribal, party, and familial lines. In this system, government officials and politically connected business cream of the crop use their positions and authority to enrich themselves, their families and kinsmen at the purse and expense of the tax payer. It is also regrettable that the system our leaders have preferred in recent years thrives on corruption and nepotism.
Inadvertently, corruption is not particular to Ghana alone, indeed, it is a serious problem in many Asian countries but Singapore is the least corrupt country in Asia according to the annual surveys conducted by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd (PERC) and the Berlin-based Transparency International (TI). All countries have laws aimed at fighting corruption, but very few governments apply such laws as strictly and consistently as Singapore.
Corrupt officials, particularly high-ranking ones, are dealt with in Singapore with a severity rarely seen elsewhere. Corruption in Ghana cannot continue to be a way of life but must be seen to be a fact of life. It is in this observation that I am inclined to agree with the political platform of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) on improving the Performance of Government that, ‘‘We need to reform state institutions, make government efficient and raise revenue to be able to pay public servants well to motivate them facilitate the work of the private sector and Ghanaian society in general’’.
If we will recall, in March 1985, the then Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew justified his government's approach to combating corruption by removing the incentives for corruption through the improvement of the salaries of political leaders and senior civil servants when he explained why the wages of the cabinet ministers had to be raised. He contended that political leaders should be paid the top salaries that they deserved in order to ensure a clean and honest government. If they were underpaid, they would succumb to temptation and indulge in corruption.
Lee contended that Singapore needed a corruption-free administration and an honest political leadership to preserve its most precious assets. He concluded that the best way of dealing with corruption was ‘‘moving with the market’’, which is ‘‘an honest, open, defensible and workable system’’ instead of hypocrisy, which results in duplicity and corruption. It is important to acknowledge that as far back as 1960, Singapore was a poor country as its gross national product (GNP) per capita was US$443. But it managed to strengthen its existing legislation to reduce the opportunities for corruption and to increase the penalty for corrupt behaviour. Today, through accountability and incorruptibility of the government, Singapore has achieved a developed nation status with a per capita GDP of close to US$30,000.
The traditional winner-takes-all attitude in which power and family relationships prevailed over the rule of law is plague which must be diagnose with all the emergence it requires. It is quite unfortunate that the monopoly in politics has always been the exploitation of people through party politics. As the Holy Father (Pope Pius XII) pointed out in his 1944 Christmas message, the organized and liberally financed politicians are clever at manipulating the amorphous crowd to get votes and achieve power, their only goal, from which position they totally forget the people's interests, and take care of their own and that of the party which supported them.
Arguably, one can say without cutting up words that our leaders have betrayed and despoiled Ghana and left us with despair and joblessness. I keep reminding my peers that: A nation has collapsed when the vast majority of its youth wake up in the morning with nothing to look forward to. We praise ourselves as middle income country when majority of our active and youthful population gad about the streets without any meaningful job, hence the formation of Unemployed Graduates Association of Ghana (UGAG).
The time is now for us to be on our tails and expose and shame our leaders for they have let us all down. We need to take control of the destiny of the nation as the leaders corrupt everything that they touch. All that our leaders are good at is to use public office to amass wealth at the expense of the rest of the population. We the younger generation should expose and stop them now. We cannot fail in this laudable object, unless we allow our minds to be improperly directed by politicians who careless about the welfare of the ordinary Ghanaian.
I gaudily remember when we were growing up, our teachers and parents cautioned us to arise as Ghana youth for our country, because the nation demands our devotion, and that we should unite to uphold her, and make here great and strong, we are all involved in building our motherland. Why do we think this song is no more indispensable? Why has the youth of this great nation allowed the leaders to use us as hewers of wood and drawers of water? We owe it a compulsion to ensure that the cajolement, the wheedlings, the seductions and the Trojan horses of corruption which have characterized the leadership of this country over the years is stoutly resisted.
It is evident here that, as a result of mismanagement and poor planning, the country is spending far more than she earns. Should anybody believe the allegation made by Mr. Herbert Mensah that such expenditures are made conspicuously and profligately, on party activities? As snooping as I am, I want to discern whether there is any truth in the allegation made by His Excellency Flt Lt. Dr. Dr. J.J. Rawlings that our new found oil money is being swallowed by the 'greedy bastards'.
How come our National Security Agencies did not find any interest in interrogating the former President to adduce evidence to establish the truth or otherwise? After all, don’t we all accept that it is corruption that has denied us progress? It is corruption that has made us to live with homelessness, poverty and disease, lack of water and unstable power supply, poor education, road accidents; unemployment, bad transport network, bad sanitation and decaying neighbourhoods.
It is nerve-racking that Ghana has “intellectuals and a ruling class” who have been educated at public expense and who have lived and travelled in London, Singapore, New York, Hong Kong, Berlin, Oslo, etc. to witness how these societies are ordered and yet they have no shame in ruling a nation where you find citizens condemned to fetching water from the same stagnant pond as goats, pigs, horses, lizards, chicken, donkeys and frogs. And we are in the 21st Century with all the technological advances at our disposal to transform our own societies in our own collective interest. Obviously, our educated elite have let the country down.
Our leaders are the “greedy bastards” and we the youth should be merciless in our appraisal and constructive criticism of the leadership. They have let Ghana down and we must as a matter of urgency, demand for an anti-corruption and anti-poverty platform where we would request for substitution to all the ‘‘greedy bastards’’ who are holding key positions in our society. We are suffering from “state-sponsored” corruption in all aspect of national life. We need deliverance from a corrupt and corrupting government run by a narrow elite that have organised society for their own benefit at the expense of the majority of the masses. It is quite sad that after 55 years of independence, political power has been narrowly concentrated and has been used to create immense wealth for those who possess it. No wonder the losers are the people of Ghana and who only too well understand.
We are suffering from corruption, bad leadership and bad education. We are living amid a corrupt and corrupting system which has to change. And it is our responsibility to bring about that change. Would it be too difficult for us to measure our current progress by the improvements in the health of our people; by the number of children in school, and by the quality of their education; by the accessibility of water and electricity in our towns and villages, and by the cheerfulness which our people take in being called Ghanaians?
It is significant we realized the need to put in place a leadership for efficiency, leadership for probity, leadership with responsibility, and leadership which is transparent and accountable. Each of these aspects of leadership is of equal importance in that it affects the livelihood and the quality of life of all Ghanaians. Transparency and accountability are essential characteristics of good leadership because without these, leaders cannot and will not be trusted with the ultimate disadvantage and demise of a country’s economy.
We must put an end to the corruption that has taken over Ghana in order to progress. Ghanaians want to be freed from the corrupting minds and hands of the “greedy bastards” or the narrow elite. Ghanaians are demanding an exemplary, transparent and incorruptible leadership that will act with a sense of urgency against corruption and cover-ups.
Evidently, corruption thrives in environments like ours where governance is weak. Indicators of weak governance in both the public and private sectors include total disrespect for laid-down procedures for procurement and tender, non-enforcement of laid-down control principles, abuse of managerial powers, slipshod supervision, non-existence of codes of conduct, and improper payments and accounting systems, to name a few.
The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) was an initiative adopted by African Heads of State and Government to build a new partnership between African countries and the West towards the development of the African continent. NEPAD was a pledge by African leaders to their people, to consolidate democracy and sound economic management, and to promote peace, security and people-centred development. What has become of this NEPAD initiative?
It is of the essence to stress that, efforts to deal with corruption should start from the top and government must be seen to be providing good, accountable and responsible governance. If the citizenry perceive the government as being largely corrupt, efforts to deal with corruption will usually prove ineffective. A nation’s attitude to work, degree of individual challenge and self-satisfaction, the sense of right and wrong, and deeply felt national aspirations, perceptions, and expectations could instill good corporate governance.
More appropriately, it has been recognized that security of investment, the liberty to do business and the economic opulence of the corporate sector will only be guaranteed by the conscious mobilization, participation, and contribution of the bulk of the citizenry through the same access to opportunities, ownership and employment, provisions of basic social infrastructure, and accountable and transparent use of the limited national resources.
Public office is supposed to be a public trust and this is why under the Criminal Code, 1960 (Act 29), every public officer who commits corruption in respect to the duties of his office and every person who corrupts a public officer in his duties as such is guilty of an offence. We all know we have not done much in exposing corrupt officials. The fight for justice against corruption is never easy. It never has been and never will be. It exacts a toll on our self, our families, our friends, and especially our children. In the end, I believe, as in my case, the price we pay is well worth holding on to our dignity.
The political leadership must be sincerely committed to the eradication of corruption. They must demonstrate exemplary conduct, adopt a modest life-style, and avoid indulging in corruption themselves. Anyone found guilty of corruption must be punished, regardless of his/her position or status in society. If the `big fish' (rich and famous) are protected from being prosecuted for corruption, and only the `small fish' (ordinary people) are caught or executed, the anti-corruption campaign will lack credibility and is unlikely to succeed.
Unfortunately in Ghana, what is holding us back is an ineffective, corrupt and corrupting state run by a narrow elite fittingly described as “greedy bastards”. I am fed up and stirred up enough to want a change and now! What about you? What do you want and with all these economic impediments that you face which stem from the way political power in Ghana is exercised and monopolised by a narrow elite?
Money and corruption are ruining this land, crooked politicians deceive the working man, pilfering the profits and treating us like sheep. We are tired of hearing promises that we know they will never keep. As we often say, ‘‘one does not wait for the devil to bring the grace of God’’. Likewise, if we want political and economic systems dedicated to the service of each and every one, let us not expect them from those who aim towards another objective: Each and every one of us must work at organizing such systems and voting for a progressive leadership.
The Sun is shining, the hope is there and I am AWAKE. Ipso facto, I stand against corruption and the greedy bastards!
The Time for a Progressive Leader is now!
Paa Kow Ackon
0203 623 397