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Opinions of Monday, 1 June 2015

Columnist: Atchulo, Joseph

Corruption, the Root Cause of Poverty in Africa

Corruption is something that we talk about; it is something whose negative influences we complain about, it is something that even the corrupt acknowledges it is a bad thing. But the tragedy and irony at once is that those who engage in corruption love it, the irony at once is that those who do not engage in corruption directly accommodate it, our high levels of tolerance for corruption in Africa is simply amazing.
Long time ago, a great Greek philosopher said that ‘it is in the nature of man to hang the small thieves and to elect the big one’s into public offices’ we do that in Ghana, we do that in Tanzania, we do that in Sierra Leon, we do that in Africa, and that is why Africa remains the poorest continent on earth.
Today many young Africans are running away from Africa, not so long ago, over 400 Africans drowned in the Mediterranean Sea because they were running away from Africa.
Not so long ago, a group of Africans drowned next to the island of Malta because they were running away from Africa, this time round Africans are not wailing and kicking as they are been taken away to be enslaved, but this time round they are been seen wailing and kicking as they seek to enslave themselves in Europe and America, this is the tragedy of Africa.
When you look at Africa today, whether you are looking at Ghana ,Nigeria, Sierra Leon, Uganda or indeed any country in Africa , our richest men and women are the men and women who occupy public offices.
We live in a continent where we celebrate thieves and vilify good men and women; this is the tragedy of Africa. While every other continent in the recent past has moved in the right direction, Africa still remains in the words of Tony Blair as the ‘scar on the conscience of humanity’.
We live in a continent today, where our young women upon attaining the age of puberty cannot even afford sanitary pads, but our men and women in public offices have ipads which they do not know how to use.
We live in a continent today, where our leaders who preside over our health sectors do not have faith in our health sector, when they are sick and their families are sick, they run away to seek treatment in in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and in India, even our health ministers do not have faith in our health departments.
We live in a country and countries today, where the political leadership has no faith in the educational sector. They bring unto us what they call free education or Free Compulsory Universal Education, but it is free indeed free of knowledge, because they can never dare take their children to those schools.
We live in countries where we claim Agriculture is the backbone of the society but we do not use technology to produce crops, Africans are dying younger than they were dying 50 years ago.
We live in a country where Africans will energetically seek to amend the statute of Rome, whiles there is war in Sudan, whiles there is war in Mauritania, whiles there is war in Somalia, whiles there is no rest in Eritrea, whiles Nigeria is being terrorized by Bokum Haram and innocent girls kidnaped, raped and impregnated to spread their insane agenda, whiles xenophobic attacks is being undertaken on other African nationals in south Africa, Africa is indeed a tragic continent.
And I want to submit to you that corruption is the cause of all these, for some reason, a reason that I do not understand, Africans still engage in the most primitive forms of accumulation. Many Africans particularly those in the public service will never rest until they have homes in different capitals of the world which they never live in. They have cars which they never drive.
They have beds of gold which they never sleep on because they have no sleep anyway, they buy food which they cannot eat because they long lost their appetite, we live in sad times.
The history of anti-corruption crusaders in Africa is one and the same, their mortality rate in office is very short, before Prof Lumumba director of Kenya’s Anti-Corruption Commission was sent out of office, his colleague Nuhu Ibadu of Nigeria had been victimized, before his victimization McCarthy in South Africa, and his equivalent in Malawi and Zambia had been victimized.
It is high time we as Africans move from the drawing table and go out there and do that which is right and good, to awaken the conscience of Africans so that they may realize that corruption is a cancer that must not be allowed to grow.
But I want to use this occasion to remind us Africans, that the children of darkness who are the perpetrators of corruption have one advantage over the children of light, they are well organized, they are prepared to kill, they are prepared to do anything at all to ensure their ill-gotten wealth is retained and protected.
I have always said that those who want to fight corruption must go to the bible, and they must go to the book of Mathew and read about a man called John the Baptist, and they must remember he was in the habit of telling a king called Herodias not to engage in the habit of adultery with his brother’s wife, and he said this so often to the irritation of the king, they must also remember that there was a lady called Salome and they must remember that Salome danced so well that Salome asked for John the Baptist head.
And I want to remind us Africans, that is the way it is for corruption fighters today, they are like John the Baptist telling the later day Herodias, you are corrupt! You are corrupt!
The question is, are we prepared? If we Africans are prepared then I have nothing to fear because this continent will be liberated.
The history of oil throughout Africa has been a sad history, if you go to Nigeria which is the 4th or 5th largest producer of oil in Africa, the Nigerians do not have a good story to tell, Nigeria is a great country but is famous for producing some of the greatest thieves the world has ever known, you go to the DR Congo which is the richest resource country in the world and the DR Congo is notable for producing some of the greatest thieves the world has ever known, go to Angola with all its oil, it has one of the richest women in the world the daughter of the president, Isabella Dos Santos, she claims to be a business woman but the last time I checked, she was just a tenderpreneur.
Go to different African countries and the tragedy of Africa is that Africans are in the business of canonizing thieves and demonizing its saints. The question is, you that love this continent, what is it that we must do? because corruption is alive and well.
In Africa all sectors of the economy are not spared from the scourge of corruption, even the church of Christ is not spared, even the mosques are not spared, even the temples are not spared, so do the clergymen present in this country, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory not only of God but the expectations of the people of Ghana and indeed Africa.
The African is a very strange being, when you give the African the power of the vote which is an instrument for decision making, how does he use the vote? He waits for some thief to give him 50 cedis or so in exchange for the vote, and then he votes in the direction pointed to him by that thief.
I like the way Prof Lumumba puts it ‘When an African is given a vote, it’s like he’s been given a blank cheque to go into the showroom and buy for himself a Mercedes Benz, when he gets into the showroom he buys the Tuk Tuk from India and when he gets home he expects the Tuk Tuk to behave like a Mercedes Benz, that has been the tragedy of Africa.
When we are given the rare opportunity of the vote, to elect good men and women into public offices, we elect them based on the size or the depth of their pockets, or on the basis of their ethnic extraction and when they occupy the public offices we expect them to behave well. We are asked to elect a committee to determine the fair rules of hunting, then we elect wolves and hyenas and we expect them to take care of the sheep.
We Africans must realize and understand that this is neither the time for sorrows and lamentations nor the time for us to dramatize our pain; this is the time to re-energize and to warn ourselves of the dangers of corruption. This is an occasion fellow Africans where we must ask ourselves, why it that all civilizations are ahead of us?

In the book of Mathew Jesus told a story about a rich man whom the bible records that one day he went on a long journey.
When he was travelling he took 5 talents and gave it to one of his servants, to another he gave 2 talents and to another he gave 1 talent and afterwards left on his journey. On his return the bible records that he called the three servants to come and render accounts, the first servant said; master you gave me 5 talents and I have worked with it and have 10, and the master said onto him good and faithful servant, the second servant said; master you gave me 2 talents and behold I have 4, he said onto him good and faithful servant, the third servant came and said unto him ; master you gave me 1 talent and I knew you were a hard man sowing were you do not reap, take back your talent, and the master said thou wicked and worthless servant, why didn’t you give my talent to the exchangers ,that I might have usury upon my return, and he commanded the talent to be taken away from him and given to him that had the 10, and he said; he who has, more will be given and unto him who has not even what he has shall be taken away from him.

If you look at Africa today how is that our minerals are taken away from us, from Ghana , from Nigeria, DR Congo, from indeed every country in Africa , our gold, timber, oil, is taken away from us and they are given away to those who have. If you look at us today, if there were a miracle to say anything that was not made in Africa should disappear, all of us would be naked, because the cloths that you were none of them were made in Africa, the ties that you wear, none of them were made in Africa, even the underwear’s that we wear none of them were made in Africa.
The question is, are we children of a lesser god? No we are not. But we have allowed ourselves to be corrupt in our ways and in our morals. Our leaders steal from us and they keep the money in Europe and America, they are scared to keep it in Africa where they stole it from. The question is for how long will we allow this to happen.
All the holy books whether it is the Holy bible or the Holy Quran are unanimous in one thing, that if we want to liberate ourselves from the dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty and chains of suffering, we must do something about it.
I look forward to a day when the works of Chinua Achebe in his book things fall apart and no longer at ease and a man of the people shall no longer be true that the African is corrupt through and through.
I look forward to a day when Africa shall not be a winner in the equivalent of Olympic medals is the wrong things such as corruption indices as prepared by Transparency International.
But the sad truth is that good laws out of themselves do not fight corruption, because if it were just good laws, what is better than the ten commandments, but you and I know that we owe the ten commandments in bridge.
So we must have something, a change of heart, a total change, a DNA transplant, a character transplant, so that our dominant instincts becomes the instincts to do that which is right and good.
Not so long ago, the African Union came out with a slogan saying ‘Africa 2063’that if we as Africans have lost 50 years, let not this generation lose another 50 years. The question is, are we going to gain Africa by mere pronouncement or we must change ourselves?
We must change our behavioral DNA, so that we are no longer attracted to that which is bad and evil, the question is are we ready? The question is do we say with our mouths what we do not believe with our hearts? The question is, are we going to wait for outsiders to tell us to do that which we ought to have done? The question is are we prepared to sacrifice our lives for that which is good and right?
The question is beyond the comforts of our homes are we going to roll up the sleeves and meet the poor and oppressed and desperate in the grassroots? The question is are we ready?
I am of the conviction that until there is a paradigm shift in our mindsets and attitude, Africa has a long way to go. And I have no doubt that it can be done, and it must be done, and it will be done, because if it is not done we are done.

Atchulo Joseph