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Opinions of Thursday, 24 September 2015

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina

Anas holds a mirror to our face

Anas Aremeyaw Anas and his associates have held a mirror to our face and what we see should shame us all as Ghanaians. We have seen the enemy and he is us!
Make no mistake. This scandal is not about a few judges caught on tape. It is about who we are as a people.

While we salivate at the prospect of the judges who have been caught and are facing trial and humiliation and punishment, there are many, not just in the judiciary but throughout our society who are just as guilty. They are still free because of the 11TH Commandment, “Thou shall not be found out”.

Come to think of it, many of the corrupt are hiding in plain sight--- the school administrators who take bribes before admissions--- the hospital staff milking NHIS and destitute patients—the politicians demanding bribes before inflating and awarding contracts--- the police leeching money from poor drivers to build their private wealth—the delegates of our parties who take bribes to select candidates for all levels of office—police, military and civil service leaders who take bribes before admitting people to their services--- prosecutors who take money to botch the cases before they get to the judges whose corruption we are discussing! And many more.

Corruption thrives, not just in the judiciary but in the executive, in the legislature; in Anas own media fraternity, in our parastatals and in our political parties. And we know it does—we do in the face of God. As Diogenes said, “I have looked for honest men at noon with a lamp and found none.”

Therefore, while we must demand justice for those who were caught, we must do so with humility and solemnity. It is likely that even some of the judges who will sit in judgment of those caught are themselves corrupt judges who have not been caught--- yet.

This scandal raises some fundamental questions:
1: How do we avoid mob justice and respect the due process rights of those caught?

2: How do we deal with the lawyers, drivers and criminals walking free who facilitated this scandal? Are there innocent Ghanaians who are in jail because they would not or could not pay bribes?

3: If Anas alone could do this, how do we justify the amount of public resources that go to organizations like CHRAJ, BNI, SFO and other agencies charged with protecting the public’s interest?

4: How much damage will be done to the public’s confidence in the judiciary? Can we still trust judges to deliver impartial justice? Can we have faith in the justice they have delivered in the past, including the 2012 Election Petition judgment?

5: As the head of the Judiciary, who has repeatedly alluded to corruption in the judiciary, should the Chief Justice resign as propitiation for our outrage?

While we work through this scandal, we must be grounded—in reality and in history.

Judicial scandals are not new, in our country and in history. In the US, in 1980, the FBI’s undercover investigation into the COOK county judicial system, called “Operation Greylord” led to the indictment of 92 people, including 17 judges and 48 lawyers. Between 2003 and 2008, 2 judges in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania were shown to have taken 2.6 million USD to sentence 2,500 juveniles wrongly. And they went to prison.

Even in Ghana, there have been similar scandals, some involving political pressure rather than money in the past. In 1979, a number of Ghanaians, including 3 former Heads of State were given sham trials and sentenced to long sentences and in some cases to death. It was the attempt by some judges to reverse these sentences and the believe that their actions may have been tainted by corruption that led to the unfortunate murder of the three judges in 1982. Corruption, of the judiciary or public officials, does not only come in the form of money. It comes, sometimes in the form of political pressure, or sex, or goats etc.

Moving forward, we must accept that the fight against corruption cannot be restricted to singular events like the “ANAS tapes” and the resulting punishment of those involved. After all, the execution, imprisonment and the public flogging of the corrupt, as well as exposes by Anas in the past have not cured us of corruption.

They must involve the re-orienting of our society to one that values honour and integrity above wealth.

We must teach our youth that wealth at any cost is wrong. We must rediscover the values of hard work and of thrift and simple living.
We must, through our actions show that a poor judge who renders fair justice is worth more in our eyes than a corrupt judge with riches.
And we must accept that as long as there are people willing to bend the system with their wealth, their influence, their power, sex etc, there will be corrupt judges and public officials.

Hopefully, one of these days, Churches would honour poor teachers and judges and citizens by asking them to chair harvests, to put on display, not their wealth but their character and the examples of their lives.

We are all accountable for this scandal. As Burke said, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. We may indeed be good men and women but are we doing something against the evil of corruption?

Finally, let us pray—for Anas and his gift to us—to the judges who are facing our justice and our scorn—to all those public officials who are yet to be caught— for virtuous citizenship from all of us—and for Ghana so that she may live up to her motto, “ FREEDOM AND JUSTICE”.
Arthur Kobina Kennedy