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Opinions of Friday, 23 October 2015

Columnist: Inusah, Mohammed

Judicial exposé is only a tip of the iceberg

Opinion Opinion

I have attempted to steer clear of the ongoing commentaries that have taken over our media landscape-about happenings in the judiciary. But, the temptation has become overwhelming that I needed to share some personal perspectives. I have heard some tuneful renditions about how corruption and its related misdemeanors have cost this nation to the tune of billions. Like many other commentators have done, I am not going to take the “ostrich” position by pretending these things only exist in the judiciary or the police. Corruption and corrupt practices are pervasive, endemic and rooted even in places that people would not ordinarily associate corrupt practices to.

Yes, today the hammer has fallen on some judges; and some individuals are reveling in the exposé. They are excited and euphoric about the fact that “somebody’s meat come for chop chop”. How hypocritical of such people. While I admit that issues of bribery and corruption must be treated and dealt with forcefully, we must also not lose the sight of “events and circumstances” that incentivize people to engage in such practices. In “isolated” sense, there is no excuse for any person, or group of persons to engage in any form of corrupt practices. However, analysing issues of bribery and corruption from such “stand-alone” perspective misses the bigger picture.

Greed and avarice-are without doubt-some of the reasons for the resurgence in corruption in Ghana today. The “privileged and well-positioned” individuals in our society are mostly, the ones who benefit from these acts. Can you imagine the plight of a farmer who has to pay huge sums of money to a school administrator just to secure admission for his or her child? The dilemma of a teacher who has to part away with nearly two-month worth of his/her salary just to have his/her documents worked on at the Controller and Accountant’s General Department: by an “officer” whose monthly allowance is enough to pay the salary of the teacher? That is how burdensome the issues of bribery and corruption is exacting on the less privileged. Like we say “everybody dey chop for in work-side”. But, we forget that there are limits to the extent to which you can “chop” from your work-side.

Other “subliminal” but corrupt practices in our society

Like I said earlier, I am not going to take an ostrich position by pretending corruption is pervasive only in the judiciary and other “suspect” government institutions. There are some other subliminal, but equally corrosive practices that are chipping away the moral and upright ecology of our societies. What distinguishes a nation-wrecking judge from a teacher or lecturer who awards grades and other academic exercises not on merit, but by other standards that compromise the sanctity and integrity of his/her profession? And in the process, denying students who have the potential to probe the frontiers of academia and scholarship the opportunity to make a contribution to national development. A lot of things are happening in our institutions of Higher Learning.

Again, what is the distinction between a corrupt judge and a teacher who refuses to award his/her student what s/he deserves, just because of what he/she describes as “personal beef”? All these events, as harmless as they may look, go a long way in wrecking the nation. Can you also imagine a scenario where appointment to a position that is critical to national development is hinged on political, ethnic or other affiliations? These things may not come to us as corruption, but nevertheless, their implications can be as dire and corrosive as bribery and corruption. In such cases, the people who end up managing the sensitive and critical affairs of our society tend only to “blind-gamble” and toy with our lives.

Another area that needs some critical looking at, is the way and manner people sabotage others at work places just to discredit and impugn their characters. The “I won’t let him succeed” attitude in our homes and work places has become so common to the Ghanaian lexicon to the extent that, the little progress or promise others show in their endeavours, the faster the determination to bring them down. Like a friend tells me: “the ‘negative’ competition mentality has assumed insane proportions”.

A lot of us tend to have the notion “we are in competition” with others. As a consequence, we would do “everything in our power” to make sure we beat them. This is pedestrian and infantile! While healthy competition is engendering technological advancement and other innovations in other parts of the globe, ours is based purely on how to bring other people down (Ph.D. syndrome). I wished there was a way of quantifying (in monetary terms) how such despicable behaviours are costing the nation.

The economists, especially the neo-liberals would tell you competition is good for evolving healthy socio-economic prospects. But, when they become platforms for stifling innovation and promise, then they are a threat to the security and safety of the society. Corruption: whether in the judiciary or other institutions are bad to the security and safety of the ordinary Ghanaian. The thing is, have we given a critical look to how these subliminal acts of commission and omission are thwarting genuine and sincere efforts to our national cohesion and development?

Let us therefore not get stuck reveling in the fact that, Anas has made some exposé in the judiciary. There are unfortunately, very serious events that are unfolding and gradually taking over the moral ecology of our societies. And whose implications, are considerably more egregious and lethal than what we are currently “chewing over”. Stand-alone approaches to fighting “open-corruption” is not enough, when these other subliminal but distasteful events are allowed to fester.

This is where anti-corruption civil society organisations like the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) have to be commended, for the tireless efforts they are making in ensuring that corrupt practices are minimised for the development good of the nation. Their efforts, hopefully, would help save Ghana a lot of resources (which would have gone to private persons through graft) for the prosecution of national development plans.

By: Inusah Mohammed Awall

Twitter: @Wagoooni

Co-Founder: Nabil Centre for Strategic and Development Policy (NCSDP)