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Opinions of Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Columnist: Joshua Anoumou Agbenu

How to get away with corruption

File photo: Corruption File photo: Corruption

‘Kill Or Be Killed’ was his nickname. Others chose to call him KBK. He was an ex-convict. He had stared at the criminal and legal justice system in the eyes severally for a few counts of crime.

The jet black scar on his right cheek distorted the smile he was unsuccessfully forcing to place on his face. "Why the name KBK?" I asked. "Kill or be Killed. You fear to mention it in full?" he teasingly asked. I returned that with a smile.

“I was 24 by then,” he started. “I’m sure you already know the story. A young man charged with fraud and theft. He woke up one day and decided to walk into a supermarket to pose as the errand boy of one of their new customers who was there to pick up some groceries.

“That customer of theirs was a rich neighbour of mine. He didn’t know me. We were just some poor folks who lived in broken kiosks behind their house. That morning I had heard him tell the gardener to hurry and pick up those items by noon. That was how it all started. Fraud. Intentional deception. False representation,” he said sadly and sipped some water.

"The theft came in because I picked two boxes of oatmeal and three tins of milk from the shelf to add to the items I had falsely come in for. I regret all of that. I was just some poor hungry fellow who needed a temporal solution to his woes as at then. My plan was to sell them and get few cedis to manage domestic affairs for the week.

“For my nickname, it is a slogan I personally crafted after Junior Secondary School. I had no Senior Secondary School education. That slogan was my self-motivation speech anytime I went out there to engage in menial jobs to make ends meet. I could see the system and the unfortunate situation it had placed some of us in. I knew it was a hustle where you killed or got killed, not literally. Friends I worked with and superiors I worked for knew that slogan. For some who felt it was harsh, they just went with KBK,” he concluded.

I sighed. "Interesting," I finally said. "With these narratives said and more, even with the one you said on radio last night about ill-treatment and other unhealthy conditions that came with this sentence, would you say it’s indirectly shaped you for the better? And have there been any lessons learnt?" I asked.

He laughed. That laugh had a tone of mockery in it. Did this man think we were here to joke? Well, I returned that laughter with a broad smile. "Forgive my ill manners," he pleaded.

"It has shaped me for the better. And for the lessons, I have learnt a lot. At least, I now know that my minor acts of stealing and fraud can be pardoned and easily erased if I join a particular community or gain certain features," he said firmly. "Surprised?" he asked me.

"A poor man steals for once, certainly his first time and the law, the entire society inclusive come for him to lay his head on the guillotine.

"The aristocrat, elite in society, privileged upper-class man commits a series of thefts, one that creates a wound to an entire nation, and it’s given the shiny word ‘corruption.’

"When the evidence is even clear and open, he is offered a legal defence team larger than a church choir. He gets a team of youth more loyal than the disciples of the Biblical prophets to defend him on social media and every other media space available.

"They call something investigation. Haha. They set down months for that. They toss the crime in the media like a die till it’s blown like chaff to the wind. This aristocrat who is a higher evil than myself walks about freely like he owes no one. Then the system repeats itself. It goes on and on!" he exclaimed.

“Great emotional argument,” I said. He gave a loud negative reply. "No! It’s not about emotions. This is the system that has been created here." He had some points. "So are you saying a way to get out of corruption is to be rich and powerful?" I asked him.

“That’s the first rule. The second is to surely be a first-class or second class friend of the politician. There were some mates with clear embezzlement and fraud charges worth millions of cedis who just came in to serve a week or two.

“They became free men a few days after whiles some of us served for a decade and more. I was there for twelve good years. Guys like these were operation boys for the corrupt aristocrat. Yea. Now the third is to gain some good education to the highest level. It helps in defence and strategy. At least, some good formal education could have made me a smarter thief.

"The fourth is to make yourself a key player in the administration of a ruling party. It doesn’t necessarily mean being at the front. It’s just about making yourself useful. With a space like that, even Judas and Barabbas will praise your neat escape with corruption each time."

"Wow," I exclaimed. "So this is how to get away with corruption right?" He nodded in the affirmative. "And even more," he added. "Till this system of corruption is aggressively fought, these ways of escape will even be broader than the gates of hell!" he concluded.

The writer, Joshua Anoumou Agbenu is a Public Relations Practitioner, a political communications analyst, an advertising strategist and a media activist.