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Opinions of Saturday, 10 April 2010

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

Decriminalization Of Our Public Officials

: A Crime Buster For Dummies…..

“Ouch, Attayi Stop It .That Hurts!”

Ghanaians have a new catchphrase: “I ain’t afraid to go to jail”. It originated from the fact that Supposedly, Ghanaian public officials are not afraid to go to jail. Why is that ?

It seems our justice system moves very painfully slowly. It’s zigzagged and time consuming, that‘s why our public officials are not afraid any more about going to jail. .

LET’S MAKE A DEAL

Here’s a deal: According to the news report, Dr. Wereko Brobbey was allegedly caught in the vise of the law for financial mumbo- jumbo during the Ghana@50 fanfare. Now, I won’t write anything damaging about the former Chief Executive Officer of the disbanded Ghana@50 secretariat.

I’m not going to comment too much on the case simply because I do not have much information of the details.

Secondly, I don’t possess enough knowledge to dissect the case to find out how he got himself into that financial web. The allegations could be true or false .So I’m not in a good position to objectively critique with authority of the case’s dynamics. Nevertheless, that won’t necessarily prevent some party fanatics to call me names that would be so bad to be printed here. If you don’t believe me, just read the readers’ ‘comments’.

Anyway, comments such as: “I’m not afraid of prison”, is not uncommon in Ghana and therefore could not pass without serious discussion.

Well, I can only hope that the allegations against Dr. Wereko Brobbey are not part of a selective political witch-hunt, perpetuated by other opposition political parties. We have to be careful of the way we treat our political opponents and formal-politicians. Because today’s political under-dog could easily become tomorrow’s power equalizer and vice versa. I am not in anyway advocating a system of you –scratch- my back -I –scratch- yours or you -do –me- I- do- and you man- no –go- verse.

Having said that, I’d like to recommend a few steps to stop our public officials from embezzlement and misusing the government’s money .I’d love to confront them with the reality of prison life, even before they devise a scheme, participate or collaborate in any criminal activity such as : Willfully causing financial lost to the state.

Yes,we need to totally decriminalize our public officials-- including our pastors who are using religion to cash in on the wounded souls.

Oh well, a deal is a deal, so don’t ooh and ahh me. You have accepted the deal up to this point so let’s move along!

Case in point: According to the news report Dr Wereko Brobbey allegedly professed loudly with a straight –face, “I’m not afraid to go to jail.” I beg your pardon! Where on earth would any responsible and respectable person say that? I don’t know about you but, if I became a casualty of the law (may God forbid!) I wouldn’t say that,” I ain’t afraid to go to jail?”

Hell no! Jail is not an exotic place to spend a vacation. The platform of such statement is irrelevant. Prison is prison, unless a person is a jailbird or just bluffing to make himself feel good.

First question: “What goes on inside the fortified prison walls?” If you have to ask then you probably either don’t know anyone who works in prison or you don’t know any jailbird.

I have not been to Ghanaian prisons ,but I bet he wouldn’t have said that if he knew the living conditions of our prisons .Trust me, if he knew all the detail he would have u-turned his decision very fast. Or could it be that maybe our public officials have a VIP treatment when they go to Nsawam Prison, for breaking the law?

Maybe, (just maybe) we have to institute a system where our public officials, bank managers and ordinary people who are prone to misuse the public’s money to tour the Nsawam prison, from time to time-- just to familiarize themselves with how the place really looks like and works. Undoubtedly, it won’t be pleasant at all when innocent people are compelled by the virtue of their positions and duties to visit the prisons, but let’s think of it as a ‘patriotic duty’ to tour the prisons.

I’m not kidding. This will put a check on the white- collar crimes being committed by our public officials because they surely won’t leave their nice mansions behind to spend time in the prisons —the prisons that are infested with blood -sucking bugs and other crawling elements, not to mention sexual assaults on inmates by inmates.

Yes, serious unreported sexual assaults do go on in prisons every day.

Anyway, a few years ago there were programs known as ‘scare –straight’ and ‘Project Option’ that were introduced by the state of New Jersey, to help troublesome teenagers who needed directions in life. Once a week teenagers were bused across the state, near and afar and were taken into prison facilities, to sensitize them with the prisons’ living conditions and the effects of incarceration on the prisoners (inmates). This was intended to put some fears into the young people, and it surely did .

Sometimes, some of the participants broke down and cried. Several of them were so traumatized that they couldn’t hold on to their ‘nature’s calls’. They peed, farted and ‘defecated’ on themselves.

According to the social and prison experts, those were indeed very successful programs because they were able to prevent many troubled kids from going astray as they grow.

If that could be done in the States ,to control crime recidivism rate among teenagers I wonder why we can’t institute such a nice program in Ghana for our public officials, bank managers and people who have difficulties keeping their hands off from the government’s money.

Now, please don’t write to me and complain about me bashing your party or your party members. I’m not attacking anyone. There are criminal elements in NPP, NDC, CPP and any other party in Ghana. So this is not a personal attack on anyone. I’m just making a suggestion and a few points here. So just go along with the program. You hear?

Prison life is dreadful thing however, I have to admit, I don’t get weepy about politicians’ tribulations and their grace- to- grass episodes because I have more important things to worry about:

I worry about how to stock the empty library (the NPP abandoned) with good books. I worry about how to provide after-school programs for the children(the NDC will ignore again) in my district so as to keep them from going astray .I worry about providing playgrounds for the kids in my town and locality. I worry about providing the resources for the final year JHS students in my locality to prepare them for their Basic Education Certificate Examination.

I worry about how Ghana can provide a school nurse in every school district to treat minor medical problems of the students, before an out-of – control medical issue develops.

I’m not interested in rubbernecking and trivializing politicians’ predicaments because there are other pressing needs to discuss that need immediate solutions.

Yes, I know most pubic officials can afford to buy their way out in prison and get a preferential treatment and other trimmings because of their status and political ‘connections’. But, supposed the political stature couldn’t get them any thing? Just because they were former public officials doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to be let off from some of the assaults that go on in Prisons.

Supposed a public official or a bank manager who weighs just 130Ibs was sent to jail for embezzling money from the local bank. Then he ended up in the same Prison where the victims also have relatives or sons who are ‘macho’ to their bones. If the angels were not on his side he might even wind up in the same cell block with the people who hate him. They might not know who he is, but what about if an okra-bra bra-mouth person found out and the news got into the prison? I bet you won’t like to watch that if it were televised live as a ‘cage-fight’, no matter how much you love watching violent films.

That can make things very ugly for the would-be prisoner.

A lot of crazy things do go on in prison. The big always swallows the small—literally.

There is always a worse-case scenario and the possibility of the weaker one becoming someone’s “wife”.

Can you imagine hearing one of our former public officials screaming for help behind the prison’s walls,”ouch, Stop Ataayi, that really hurts”? Just tough it out!

Well, our justice system moves painfully slow both inside and outside the prison’s walls. Just get used it. But, be careful not to fall on the wrong side of the law.

Can you hear me now, Carl Wilson? ”Ouch, I told you prison is not a joke!”, “Aren’t you afraid to go to jail now?”

“Ouch, that hurts” Watch your back!

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi (The Voice Of Reason) NJ, USA

* The author is a social commentator and the founder of the Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment, Educational and Apprenticeship foundation at Asuom.