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Opinions of Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Columnist: Damoa, Adreba Kwaku Abrefa

Corruption is a Bane of Ghana’s Progress

Corruption is a Bane of Ghana’s Progress and Development and a Militant against Justice

Corruption, implying tainting, destruction of purity, perversion and debasement has all the negative attributes imaginable to be disassociated with by any well-meaning individual of integrity and self-respect. It has all the negativities capable of shaming not only individuals, families and groups but nations by reducing them to objects of scorn and ridicule. In this discussion, though corruption is a world-wide canker most especially in developing countries, my main focus is on corruption in Ghana.

Why are developing countries more corrupt than their developed counterparts? Why are ‘Western countries more developed and less corrupt as compared to all others? In the opinion of some great thinkers, the dissipation of corruption would consists in the improvement of circumstances so that people may become fit or ready for better representative government, and ultimately for the best that is attainable, i.e. relative to the best possible conditions. Montesquieu blames racial characteristics such as servility of blacks and Asiatics as typical of accepting anything unquestioned. In the opinion of many, this servility and self-abasement could be remediable by universal liberal education, economic progress and social reforms yet these cannot be achieved without efforts. The educated in our societies who have the privilege to officialdom are the most corrupt or the most likely to condone with corruption, so where do we stand?
Corruption is identified as the progeny of a type of governance. What differentiates Western political culture from others is type of governance. Whereas Western political cultures whole-heartedly embrace attenuated democracy for its finest grains, other political cultures such as pertains in Eastern Europe and their Asian allies have either only just emerged from various forms of dictatorships or are even still immersed in it. Their acceptance of and understanding of democracy is marginal and brute, rudimentary and savage, hence the vae victis (woe to the conquered) doctrine of governance dominates over sensibility, reason and the ethos of sovereignty.
In my opinion, corruption is a human tendency. It is related with hedonism, material gains and materialism. The human body itself is by nature corrupt and corruptible because it is degradable and subject to destruction and decay. All said and done, corruption is susceptible to dissipation and can be replaced with virtue, honour, respect, recognition, progress and development through a process with determination and enforcement. It is a form of darkness in our mentality and attitudinal approaches that would disappear if only we want to, by embracing self and social discipline in the light of respect for personal and national values.
This is not to say that there is no corruption at-all in developed countries. Much as humans inhabit the developed countries corruption cannot be ruled out however I can say on authority that this canker is heavily suppressed in developed countries because they have endeavoured to do so through self and social discipline as a result of enlightenment on civic and social responsibilities and respect for national values. The contrary exists in developing countries for several reasons.
The first suggestible reason that comes to the fore in the minds of many is poverty but in my opinion, though it could be a factor, it is not at-all compelling because it is usually the poor and needy who under several circumstances mostly fall prey to mediocre corrupt officials of low morals in disgraceful institutions. Private and Public officials who take advantage of their official position in anyway unlawful have low morals. Corruption takes several shapes and forms including taking, giving and doing. This shameful lupus has its senior and junior forms termed as high and low profile. Whether high or low profile corruption none of them can be said to be driven by poverty.
High profile corruption consists in corruption involving higher gains in high circles unlike its counterpart low profile shame. High profile corruption has nothing to do with poverty because neither the giver nor the taker could be said to be poor. It usually involves greedy public officials, one party of whom has something to hide and seeks favours or cover, between officials on trust and the rich and famous for same or similar purposes and between officials of one country and another. It is clearly a matter of pleonexia, selfishness and insensitivity to and disrespect for personal, social and national values. Low profile corruption is common place in developing countries among the public and officialdom. In Ghana, they are too numerous to enumerate to any precision including men shamelessly asking their female prey for sexual gratification to feed their lust for their hedonic pursuit as a substitute.
It is astonishing to note that even Ghana’s 4th Republican Constitution overtly condones and endorses corruption in some of its provisions such as providing palaces for ex-Presidents, paying US$60,000 to MPs every four years, indemnity clauses etc. These provisions tend to create super-families and institutions that will always sit on the neck of the ordinary breathing down their neck. This is quite unheard of anywhere probably found in China and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Below are some of the analysis that lead to corruption.
• Neither low nor high profile corruption has any bearing on poverty as a cause, rather these further poverty and immiseration. Corrupt officials are to be seen as public enemies who must be dealt with very severely.
• Public officials are expected to serve not to be served or worshipped hence not to be given money for their services
• Members of Parliament, Ministers and Presidents are elected representatives of the people and the State, therefore the authority they wield is held on behalf of the people for the people not as singulis majores (having greater power than every one of their subjects) but acting as vicegerents of the people in the capacity of universis minores (of less power than all together)
• The problem with Ghanaians that has weaned and sustained corruption with synoecete sources from ignorance of basic universal basic civic rights.
• Ghanaians irrespective of academic status hold public officials in awe as if these officials hold authority for and on behalf of themselves as overlords.
• Out of ignorance of basic civic entitlements Ghanaians obsecrate, appease and are too complaisant to public officials.
• Being literate is one thing and being ignorant of one’s civic rights is another. The formally educated are corrupt and endorse corruption whereas our illiterate folks only yield to corruption as if it is a social status quo.
In my view as many well-wishing Ghanaians would agree with me, if we want Ghana to grow, progress and prosper for same to reflect on the nationals as it is in the advanced rich Western Countries where we migrate to find greener pasture, we definitely can make it. Therefore
• Ghanaians need to be educated on their civic rights and responsibilities irrespective of whether formally educated or illiterate. We need a government that will tackle corruption with zeal by putting all required modalities in place with seriousness, strengthen institutions and refrain from inane chants most especially to visit severe punishment on the corrupt to shame them irrespective of their political persuasion
• It is a basic right for every Ghanaian to ask questions where they lack understanding of things on socio-economic issues that matter and not made clear to them without the need to look over their shoulders.
• Know that officialdom is to render service as servants not as masters and objects of veneration to be held in awe.
• To hold public officials accountable for what they do and distance themselves from sycophancy. Let the criminal face the music
Others are facts of our socio-political fabric which we as Ghanaians must stand up against such as:
• The laws and established institutions of State have granted some oblique cognisance to abuses that have established some mordancy into our social fabric. There are different self-styled treatment categories for the poor against the rich, for the ruler against the ruled etc to the shameful acquiescence of the public who most ignorantly are bound to suffer most when things go wrong as they are going. Politics has polarised Ghana hence we agree to disagree on all issues. On corruption we must at least come to a compromise and shout with one voice against social rots that militate against progress and development. Instead, we condone with social evils for political expediency.
• Ghana’s political climate unequivocally admits the culture of vae victis (woe to the conquered) so there is little distinction between genuine public call for accountability for officials’ misdeeds and witch hunting.
• Threats and intimidation to Judges sitting on cases relating to abuse of office, commission of atrocities and corruption have dealt a lethal blow to fighting corruption
• The job for the boys political culture, nepotism and favouritism are major threats to any attempt to oust corruption from our system
The contrary to the above exists in the developed countries where corruption is scotched and severely suppressed. This partly accounts for the reason why they prosper whiles we languish in near perpetual immiseration.
• Every citizen including visitors and the ordinarily resident are very much aware of their civic rights.
• They question and hold their elected representatives and appointees responsible and accountable for whatever goes wrong in their community irrespective of political persuasion.
• They are aware of and uphold the fact that a public official is not in any way higher than any member of the general public so where an official is liable to criminal or civil proceedings, there is no discrimination, no favours and no hesitation. Also their institutions are empowered to tackle and deal with such incidents
• Equality of all before the law and State institutions is sanctified for all in developed countries so officialdom treads warily not to falter to incur personal atimy or that of their institution they represent.
• Institutions readily disown and distance themselves from officials who adorn themselves in acts and conduct that invoke public disgrace by readily assisting in their prosecution.
• Citizens in advanced countries are committed to up-liftment of social virtues, social values, self-respect, national image and identity and respect for sovereignty; these are valued so much that they must be protected from any form of adulteration.
• Witch hunting is an alien word in developed countries because of proper administration of justice put in place
• If we in Ghana want to ever develop like the developed countries, we must learn the good ways of these developed cultures and behave like them in our own ways and circumstances.
Not until we in Ghana appreciate our general public identity as the powerhouse of officialdom, not until the Ghanaian public emerge out of the inferiority complex of self abasement to officialdom and uphold the banner of universis minores, that officialdom are only held out as agencies for the public, not until officialdom are made accountable for their misdeeds, malfeasance and misfeasance, the commissions and omissions, corruption in Ghana will grow from strength to strength. Therefore ordinary hackneyed political platitudes like “Don’t give bribes, they corrupt; Zero tolerance of corruption; Tough on corruption without acting on them but remaining reticent on providing the core basic public enlightenment to the citizens, all those chants would be inane and not worth pursuing.
How can our political leaders claim to be championing the course of anti-corruption campaign when the same leaders rely on friends for their children’s education? Are these not Indian giving favour for favour that begets corruption? How can we take our leaders serious in their vain thunderous shout against corruption when they themselves live off the fat of Ghana such as State subventions for the rest of their life? How do we fight corruption when our leaders frown on investigative commissions of inquiry for whatever reason they may be invited and even refuse to attend? How can our leaders convince us that they are serious to combat corruption when they themselves pick and choose who to favour, such as cousins, sons and daughters, nephews, friends and associates?
Issues of socio-national importance must not be given any political flavour because a cheat is a cheat and must be treated as such but not without the due juridical process. From the sitting to all functus officio Presidents whoever that might be and their officials to the messenger, none is above the law for serving or having served Ghana in a privileged official capacity, hence answerable to the public. Developed countries have been so developed because they univocally decry corrupt officials and institutions including their Presidents and Prime Ministers, past and sitting irrespective of their political belonging.
In developed countries and those seriously inclined to develop, even heads of State who commit any act of corruption in any way are impeached with one voice through a due constitutional process. Some are arraigned before court to answer charges while their party supporters wait with indifference until the last determination is made by the law Lords, but in Ghana, the disrespectful conduct of party sycophants towards the rule of law drown out any such juridical process with outrageous demonstrations. If Asiatic countries like Malaysia and Singapore, if Botswana in Africa has been able to scotch corruption within their system, then I would disagree with Montesquieu as above and say that we can do it in Ghana if we want to. I contend that Ghana and indeed no race and nobody is ever cursed to failures. I don’t believe in any traits and characteristics that make people or social groups look and feel sub-humans in the eyes of the world. They are intended to psyche out the infuscate-hued African and Asiatics to perpetually submit to the establishing psychological syndrome of “white man’s burden” which in fact, they have succeeded in doing.
Ghanaian politicians devote time and energy to canvass for votes but they haven’t got time to vigorously campaign against a canker that drags them, their institutions and their country in mud and atimy simply because they endorse corruption to settle comfortably in society as ami du peuple (friend of the people)
Adreba Kwaku Abrefa Damoa (London UK)