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Opinions of Monday, 26 May 2014

Columnist: Antobam, Kobina

Mr. Woyome, You Are A Thief!

By: Kobina Antobam

Ghanaians must realize that, whatever the outcome of the Alfred Woyome trial might be, the $50-plus million he slyly “stole” from us will never be recovered. That money is gone. You may chop off his head, you may string a noose around his neck and hang him on the nearest mango tree, you may send him to prison for life, you may even take his mother, his wife, and his children away from him, but, my dear brothers and sisters, because of the way things work in Ghana, don’t hold your breath; just kiss the $50 million goodbye! And get on with your life. IT’S GONE, ADIOS, GOODBYE!!

Let’s say the court rules against him and he is ordered to cough up the money, the trouble is the guy does not have all the money saved up somewhere for a complete and full restitution to satisfy the court’s guilty verdict. The court knows it; Ghana government is aware that the money is gone; and we should realize that the money has already been divvied up and cannot be recovered; and especially you, the usually pathetic apathetic Ghanaian, should wake up and inhale deeply the crappy funky flatulence that has always been blown in your direction by politicians to choke your senses, so that you may finally realize that the world is not as simple as you and I always wake up to every morning.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Woyome has somehow taught us how the system works. There is nothing mysterious about the system. The only mystery is in the clandestine methods employed to steal from you, the citizen. Let me tell you, the undercover illegal financial dealings that go on among the elite of your society will amaze, blow your mind, and shock your pants off if you ever happen to see with your own eyes how the crooked dealings go on; and may the Lord help you keep your sanity if you ever happen upon the enormity of amounts of money that are stolen daily. Though I wasn’t a party to the deal, I have actually seen it done about three decades ago by some powerful Ghanaian officials, one of whom was my friend and didn’t care about my presence during the actual exchange of funds.

Let’s also assume that Woyome is found to be not guilty of theft, which should not be a surprise to all Ghanaians but will be tantamount to getting away with an equivalent of a rape or murder of the whole nation. How can a guy like Alfred Agbesi Woyome and those who aided and abetted the settlement sleep peacefully? How?

The other scary fact is that the crop of young crooks we have today are Ghanaians who are just one generation, or straight, out of their mud and thatch backward village homes, and Woyome might be one of them, who have suddenly discovered “civilization” in the city and have seen eye-popping wealth that doesn’t belong to them, but will use any possible underhanded means to steal as much as they can for themselves. They are evil, mean, nasty, uncaring, unfeeling, and have no sense of humanity and compassion. They reserve whatever little compassion left in them only for their immediate family and pay lip service to the concern they claim to have for the nation and the rest of us.

The central issue here is that this unarmed robber Woyome was supposedly aggrieved by Kufuor and his cronies for cheating him out of his share of the regularly bloated, thickly padded, largesse-filled contracts that were being passed around members of the ex-President’s clique during the time of the ugly Presidential Palace construction, the stadia construction, and throughout Kufuor’s two terms. Woyome almost got in on a couple of the deals but was abruptly rebuffed and got kicked to the curb. He wasn’t their type and he should have known that from the start.

Woyome thought that they had hurt his feelings. And in order to avenge the slight and rejection by the Kufuor gang, Woyome waited and recently visited his pain on all of us Ghanaians, by claiming the trumped-up losses of over $50 million, and that his fake financial loss was virtually our fault. But do you realize that the guy did not go to court right away when NPP was in power? He laid low for a few years for favorable conditions. And when the administration changed hands from the New Patriotic Party to the National Democratic Congress, Woyome knew his time had also come.

He then quietly started on his scheme of operations, or what everybody calls, modus operandi. He planned. He strategized. He built his connections. He took his time to work through the system. He knew which hands to grease. And those fools in government and the incompetent bumbling judiciary gladly obliged in anticipation of their share of the enormous proceeds. They held his hand and guided him through the Neanderthal judicial bureaucracy, and expedited the verdict in his favor and hurriedly paid the unprecedented crooked settlement with lightning speed and promptness.

One of the many questions I have always wanted to ask is that did this guy, Woyome, suffer any identifiable and credible losses to the tune of over $50 million? And, was the Ghana government even at fault to the pricey tune of at least $50 million? Were there any written contract(s) that were abrogated by the Kufuor gang that made a young Ghanaian like this wicked-looking Woyome lose $50 million?

I always thought that people only sue for redress of real tangible wrongs suffered and/or recoup actual identifiable, documented, supportable monetary losses when a promisor reneges on his/her performance of a contract. Not the kind of a frivolous lawsuit as Woyome’s is. This is naked robbery, plain and simple. And it is so sad that there were influential people throughout each step of the process who helped and ensured an expeditious resolution of this guy’s frivolity and greed.

Get to think about it, I guess we are the real fools in our imaginary paradise. We think we know everything. We defend them; we praise them; and protect these over-promising and under-delivering forked-tongued politicians, incompetent rhetorically challenged lawyers and judges, inept lazy civil servants, and shoot-yourself-in-the-foot Barney Fife law enforcement personnel. Some of us will even die for them. But if you only knew.

Unfortunately, some of us are also a sad bunch of helpless and hopeless people. We write opinion pieces, we scream, we argue, we yell about corruption all the time. But have you noticed how nobody cares anymore about being accused of being corrupt? Public officials in Ghana do not feel the need to come out publicly to deny any corruption accusations anymore. We pay them bribes and they gladly take it. We offer them gifts for doing their required jobs and they gladly take it. Most of the time, they demand it. Unfortunately, we have made our own beds and so we have to sleep in it.

The irony is that Woyome is no more corrupt than Mr. Kufuor. Mr. Kufuor is no more corrupt than our chiefs. The chiefs are no more corrupt than the civil servant. The civil servant is no more corrupt than the law enforcement officer. And neither is the parliamentarian nor the minister. We are all corrupt or are easily corruptible. Woyome’s claim to infamy is only that he has become Ghana’s exorbitantly enriched poster boy for the endemic criminality in all of us. Everybody is grabbing for his/her “share,” by hook or crook, or through the methodology of the private property ownership doctrine promoted by a section of our society.

On a second thought, we have rather evolved into a nation of super thieves. That’s exactly what we should call ourselves, not corrupt, but good old THIEVES. Our penchant for stealing, bribe extraction, national contract padding, and greed, has been wrapped around a nice-sounding sterile English word “corruption.” But the truth is, however much makeup and lipstick you slap on a pig’s face and snout, it is still an ugly pig. Yes, however beautifully we dress our perversions, we are still thieves. And, let’s face it, most of what we do daily is criminal, yet no one gets caught and punished.

Meanwhile, to ease the heavy burden of our daily struggles, we have also relinquished our fate on this earth to our God, and hopelessly pray unceasingly to the same God for a change for the better, while we dismiss the callousness of our leaders as “Everybody does it. So, what?” The policeman does it. The parliamentarian does it. The ministers and all politicians do it. The civil servant does it. Even the employees at your bank do it. So, what? Whenever we talk about corruption, we often envisage and accuse only politicians. But the reality is that we have come to accept this destructive criminal behavior as the nation’s way of getting things done.

If you are one of the many struggling Ghanaians these days, you would always wonder how we got to this point, and you will also painfully recollect the years of steady stagnation in the country since Kwame Nkrumah was abruptly removed from office. We’ve had military dictators come and go and were replaced by more violent soldiers who stood straight and tall and stared at us sternly and promised us heaven on earth. Yet, over many decades, things stayed the same or got worse. Then we recently found muddy dirty democracy (“demo-crazy”), and in our delusions thought that that was going to lead us finally to the Shangri-la.

Somewhere down the line in our newfound “demo-crazy”, Mr. Kufuor and his New Patriotic Party took over from Jeremiah John Rawlings and there seemed to have been an overall sense of economic stability. What we did not figure out was what was holding up the fake stability and how hollow and deceptive the stability was.

When we had no idea that we had oil deposits and there were no new national wealth or revenues being created by the Kufuor government, we should have also realized that the economy under Kufuor was being held up, to a very large extent, by the steady inflow of billions of dollars of remittances from Ghanaian emigrants and the disastrous HIPC restructuring.

Do you remember when that government was travelling everywhere overseas encouraging and enticing Ghanaian emigrants to increase their remittances? At that time, the Kufuor administration even tracked and tallied the portion the inflows into the economy that constituted remittances from Ghanaians abroad. The Kufuor government proudly made their regular assessments public, because remittances had become an essential revenue crutch for the state. In the meantime, the cabal was skimming off the top their clandestinely declared personal portions of the national coffers.

During that time, if Ghanaians abroad were constructing new homes in Ghana, travelling more and spending more at home in Ghana, opening lucrative businesses, and earning more than their counterparts at home, then the local politicians, the poorly paid professionals and civil servants in Ghana had to find a way to catch up.

The only way Ghanaian politicians, professionals, civil servants at home, and the law enforcement personnel could catch up was through escalated corruption, or rather, a more robust mean-spirited thieving skills. The fact that the national economy had no solid basis for real growth, the home construction boom and foreign remittances between 2000 and 2007 made Mr. Kufuor look like he had a Midas touch or some super macroeconomic expertise that made Ghana stable. He did not. The cabal did not. The truth is that there was not a single evidence of real economic growth in the country. Kufuor’s stability was simply voodoo economics.

Then, as soon as we discovered oil, we couldn’t wait for the oil revenues to start flowing in; our appetite for extravagance grew exponentially even before pumps were put in place to extract the oil. And before there was a single drop of oil, and before government changed hands from NPP to NDC, our rapacity, our corrupt nature, our unquenchable thirst for undue opulence escalated. Politicians increased their travels overseas, more late-model expensive luxury vehicles of all makes and models were crowding the inadequate roads, super mansions were being constructed all over the country by the few rich; rich Ghanaians and chiefs were mysteriously getting richer and were purchasing mansions and luxury homes overseas in cash. And the music played on.

Even our government, with reckless imprudence, has found it expedient to mortgage our future by entering into unneeded indescribably huge and constricting loan agreements with overseas loan sharks, when all the escalation of greed in us have been based only on the expectation of our future earnings from the oil. We have begun to spend our resources or “incomes” before they are earned.

Allow me to say it again that since the announcement of the oil discovery, we definitely have come to enjoy deficit spending, basing our excessive binges on what we are yet to earn. And if you choose to disagree with me, just wait a few more years for the reckoning day and you will see how much more rotten things have become. Right now, the bottom has already given out and we are near bankrupt and we don’t see it.

To compound our problems, we now have a new phenomenon for “legally” siphoning off more of our scare resources, called “judgment debt settlements.” Somehow, that’s exactly how we got to where we are with Woyome. Somehow, our elected representatives have apparently been entering into contracts on our behalf, without any form of transparency and oversight, and without asking us whether we wanted or needed it; and they have been abrogating them left and right whenever they felt like it, always to our disadvantage and often in their selfish interest. We, the citizens, are always left to hold the short end of the stick. We and the generations after us will be the ones who will end up paying dearly for the bumbling incompetence of our current leaders. And it is as if padding or inflating contracts for those crooks to pocket the loot is not enough.

I hope that I have made it abundantly clear that those in the judiciary and Woyome’s powerful political co-conspirators have already received their shares for facilitating the decision to expeditiously pay that whopping $50 million. And that the bulk of the money is no longer available for your government to retrieve. You should also seriously think about why those in charge were in a damn hurry to pay Woyome, without even the slightest attempt to hold on and file appeals for a reversal of the court’s decision, at least in the interest of the nation that they claim to love.

Finally, I would like to caution my fellow citizens that, with the rapid pace of the ever-widening gap between the infinitesimally few rich and the GARGANTUAN [I love that Ghana adjective] number of the desperately poor in the country, I can say with reasonable confidence that the reckoning day is near. And when it gets here, it won’t be a single day too soon!

By the way, anyone who believes that Alfred Agbesi Woyome deserves the $50 million, let us know and why.

Good day.