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Opinions of Sunday, 7 January 2007

Columnist: Amankwa, Kwame

Amanfuo – Of our politicians, public servants and God

Every political speech by an American president’s and politician if often interspersed with the words “God” as in “God bless America”. So recently after the hanging of Saddam, when asked what he thought about the whole hanging business, it was the usual response from George Bush that “God bless America”. Now these politicians of the developed world are often very religious and use the name of God not when they are in trouble as in corruption deals or stuff like that, but as a way of demonstrating their behaviour and actions whilst in office have a feel of righteousness about it. Infact when asked whether he had sex with Monica Lewinsky the then president did not make any reference to God in order to clear his name in any of his testimonies.

The situation gets interesting when we examine the Ghanaian and sometimes the Nigerian political scene. Some secretary general of a political party is alleged to have tried to take a backhand from a rival political party and “caught” on take or camera. What was the response? “God will be my witness and fortress. Only God knows”. When Haruna Esseku was allegedly caught on take talking about “kickbacks” the same reference to God and innocence was made. Someone allegedly used state money to fund the expensive lifestyle of his concubine in no where other than America. When the issue of investigation and dismissal was brought up, the individual in the face of the obvious facts before him said “only God will reveal one day the person whose anus is white”.

A Nigerian governor who was wanted by the UK authorities on money laundering charges recently smuggled himself out of the country dressed apparently as an awuraba. When he safely reached his backyard, his initial comments were to the effect that it was God who facilitated his travel out of the UK.

Recently I have heard most regional ministers, DCEs, chiefs, accountants, drug pushers, smugglers, crooked custom officers, azaan and awaam pastors, self acclaimed business people, bribe taking police officers, wives and husbands and the list is endless, who have been engaged in one societal malfeasance or another and caught red handed making reference to how God will exonerate them.

This phenomenon is something that is gaining currency and which the writer finds embarrassing, especially now that we have some sort of rule of law. If one is accused of stealing or pilfering or “caught” dipping their dirty hands into state or church coffers, such individuals should and must regardless of their beliefs, seek redress through the appropriate justice institutions.

God cannot defend someone who has been caught taking bribes or stealing public money. What God can do is help rehabilitate such persons. Instantly making reference to God in such instances often flies in the face of justice, as it is seen as a refusal to admit guilt which in most circumstances can be proved beyond all reasonable doubt.

A famous South African politician was recently accused of raping a girl he knew to have the Aids virus. That the act had taken place was not in doubt. It was now for the courts to determine if consent was indeed given and taken. The case of the ant versus the elephant. Lo and behold God’s name surfaced!!. “God will bring the truth to light” never mind all the moral, ethical, health implications such an act by someone who should have know better will bring on a nation struggling to contain the epidemic.

In years gone by soldiers who were alleged to have made coup attempts were arrested in the middle of the night and sent to God knows where. Now on a limited number of occasions they were caught with the goods and organization to usurp the existing regime. Even then some still insisted that God will clear them. Now how easy is to believe such people? One such person who led a group to attempt to overthrow the Kutu regime with knives and swore by the name of God when caught that they were innocent subsequently and successfully masterminded the two most important coups that has taken place so far in the land. Can we therefore then believe such people when they are “caught” in the middle of causing mischief or upsetting the socio-political system.

Kankaniba was a brilliant accountant in one of the Ghanaian educational institutions. He connived with the headmaster to populate the pay roll with ghost names, diverted millions of school funds and items for their personal use. Years later when the 1981 coup kicked in and a war was waged on school bursars he was caught. It was all there black and white. Kankaniba went to church the first Sunday to say that “God will deliver me from my enemies”. We are talking of a very destructive economic crime. Some days later some soldiers came from the “castle” to take Kankaniba away and he was ever seen until many years later. It was only when he returned that he confessed to having stolen millions and then begged his redeemer for forgiveness.

There are many such personalities in our society who commit serious economic crimes and sometimes murder for which the whole of society is now paying a heavy price. They sit in churches and mosques where they put on a saintly face. The leaders of such religious institutions may even know such people and their evil deeds, yet they lack the courage to admonish such people. Custom officers who go to work with empty hands and yet return home from work with stolen and forcibly acquired goods of struggling travelers. Years ago I went to clear my personal belongings at Tema harbour. The customs officer came to inspect my things and immediately took a pair of black shoes. I asked the agent what the officer was doing with my shoes and the reply was that for his “private use”. I was fuming with rage as it was the one that I had planned to wear to church that Sunday to thank the same God for bringing me back safely from abrokyire after delivering me from ogyakrom. I was warned by the agent that if I continued to make a fuss, my things will rot in that warehouse. Later the agent came to tell me that the officer was asking for “cola” before he processes my documents. I told him to go and tell the officer that if he wants them to come and pick up the dead body of a custom officer from the base, he should continue with his demands. Obviously it took me more than 2 weeks to clear the goods as the officer decided that he was having a break at 12 o’clock and that his computer had also broken down so no action will be taken until the following day and there after. Who was I to complain to besides my God.

Desperation and annoyance set in and made me wonder why I had to bother with bringing in all the things that I had bought to spice up the lives of people back home.

God being so kind I went to church that Sunday in the only shoe that I had brought and surprise surprise was the customs man sitting next to me unnoticed. During prayer time I “tuned in” to listen to his story and requests to the Almighty and all l could hear was the thanking of God for his job and family etc. Heaven help us.

Our politicians and others with huge responsibilities within our Ghanaian society ought to live by example and by their principles. When they go wrong, as we all do from time to time, and as is done in the developed world, they should be bold and principled enough to admit and where appropriate resign as there may be more dignity in such an action. Always using the name of God in an attempt to exonerate and throw ice over peoples eyes is not after all a wise strategy.

God less Ghana. The most peaceful place on earth.



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