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Opinions of Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Columnist: Bright Philip Odonkor

Ghana can’t fight corruption with corruption

In recent times, there has been growing dissatisfaction among many Ghanaians about corruption-related issues in the country.

Corruption is pervasive in all sectors of the economy and people who have been found culpable have gone unpunished making it possible for it to linger on. We live in a country in which everything is refracted with corruption lenses except maybe the air we breathe.

Corruption in Ghana is not a new phenomenon. Since the attainment of independence, governments have been accused of their involvement in corrupt practices. Several investigations conducted but have yielded no dividends. As a result, people perceive it as normal.

I believe there’s some level of corruption in every person. Some are able to control it others don’t really care. It is not a Ghanaian thing; neither is it an African canker but the brazen form it takes here with governments subtly supporting it while rhetorically claiming to be fighting it is what makes our case very appalling.

In western countries, the laws of the state work. Public institutions have that independence to work, so even though there are corruption cases, they are dealt with expeditiously.

In Ghana, the tree of corruption lives on because, over the years, we’ve only been pruning the branches.

The more I Iisten to the fight against corruption-related issues on TV, radio or online, the more I’m persuaded that the anti-graft war has largely failed because its commanders and foot soldiers have concentrated their arsenal on noisily cutting off the branches, not in the uprooting of the tree itself. If a tree lives, it’ll always grow its cut off branches back.

Our politicians and other public officials are embracing corruption as a priority on the national development agenda instead of responsible and accountable leadership.

While a few politically and economically powerful elites benefit inordinately every day from the cancerous environment, millions of Ghanaians suffer agonizingly.

Truth is, corruption is not only at top (politics). Beyond politics, Ghanaian culture breeds and embraces corruption. Bees of corruption scandals have stung the face of every nook and cranny of the society.

From the family to the cathedral; we value, practice, condone, and reward cronyism, nepotism, bribery, and corruption. Meritocracy rarely exists in our culture. So let’s not pretend politicians are from Jupiter, Saturn or Uranus. They’re a mirror image of our society.

Martin Amidu’s resignation from his position as the Special Prosecutor on Monday, November 16, 2020 didn’t come to me as a surprise. It amply demonstrates how the country is retrogressing in its fight against corruption. The progress of our dear nation, has often been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

Without a doubt, no one has won the fight against it, including the generals of our military, the commissioners of our police service, the judges of our courts, the speakers of our Parliament and the presidents of our country. The scourge thrives and it’s unhealthy. Can we nip corruption in the bud?

Corruption has permeated every fibre of our nation’s esse. It’s gone beyond mere leaders, as after all, the country doesn’t only constitute leaders. People celebrate riches regardless of its root source; one might see a person struggling to make ends meet become a super-rich man overnight and everyone is celebrating his wealth.

He’s left unquestioned. In other places, such a person will be under the radar of the law enforcement agencies, he might either be engaging in drugs or being used as a conduit for money laundering.

But here, no sooner than becoming filthy rich like that, he becomes the toast of politicians and chiefs, even academia hurriedly bestowing on them honors.

Ghanaians don’t hate corruption. We are only envious of the people practicing the corruption. In Ghana, having convenience correlates positively with corruption.

Most of us are willing to offer huge sums for “protocol” but we come here shouting ‘corruption’, ‘corruption’, ‘corruption’! The change you so much desire starts with you.

For some people, corruption is just like taking a rare breed of sweet wine whose taste still lingers in the mouth and makes the tastes buds wanting more.

Almost everyone is willing to pay for what ought not to attract payment. The individual at the point of rendering you a service is willing to do what she/he is paid to do, unless and until you stretch your hand to drop something or show proof of connections to power.

This has become the norm rather than the exception. Our inability to build a merit-based system will make us perpetual tails and never heads. Stop offering bribes for favours; it all constitutes petty corruption! Such is the way to disentangle ourselves from these shackles. The only pain is we aren’t the ones benefiting from it.

In truth, it’s only fanciful and fantastic thought as to what our country would have been like if corruption was totally purged from the system without even a scintilla present. In point of fact, it would be inhaling and enjoying a breath of fresh, fragrant, redolent air contrary to the rancid ambience we seem stuck in.

Corruption is a major impediment to economic development. It takes away resources from the common pool and deprives a large population of having an equitable share of the national cake.

The fight on corruption seems not to end because leaders and politicians who are supposed to be anti-corruption crusaders have sacrificed the national interest for their own parochial and selfish gains.

The bane of this country’s development is the unwillingness and inability of the various levels of leadership to lead by example. They’re neck-deep in corrupt practices.

And certainly, any fish rots from the head. So for the corruption fight, it is a hoax until we find better ways of addressing how money is financed at the top echelons of leadership.

The onus lies on every Ghanaian to win the fight against corruption, lest we all perish as a nation. Let’s imbibe the four-pronged approach: prevention, education, enforcement and a change in our individual mindsets. Cases of corruption are rising but still, Ghana will rise.

The author is the African Journalists for Economic Opportunity Training (AJEOT-2020) Best Article Writer & GIJ Eminence Awards 2020 Online Media Personality of the Year; Political and Social Commentator, Columnist and a Prolific Feature Writer.

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