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Opinions of Monday, 4 November 2013

Columnist: Abdul-Yekin, Ali Abdul

Mystery of Ghana’s war against corruption

In any war, we the people of Ghana are embarking upon our Commander in Chief, is not only expected to be seen verbally declaring our intentions but actively executing actions aimed at winning the war. Corruption is indeed a serious problem in today’s Ghana and like children expected to be calling on their father in desperate time, Ghanaians called on President John Dramani Mahama daily. Well, Christians every Sunday go calling on God to have their problems solve but almost all of them, lived and die by these same problems. Does this make them stop? The masses are not stopping but increasing in number as the threats gain momentum, leading to more holy dodgy men, to help with the confusion.
The concerns around the menace of corruption as a cancer destroying us, attacking our sense of being as a people by wrenching up our eco-soc-political fibre, is clearly becoming unbearable. The outcry on this disease is now gaining front headlines in our news reportage. The "Who is who" in our political opportunism, are assuming the front role on the call for something to be done about corruption. Our politicians are becoming so crafty these days, in their pretence of doing something about corruption. Like the mushrooming Apostles jumping into their hysterical state, ranting at God in none audible language and appealing to the invisible on behalf of their flocks in time of socio-socio-political desperation, the show seems real.
The interesting thing about this is when the news caption says "Ghanaians Must Help President Mahama to Fight Corruption". How can Ghanaians help Mahama again after giving him the highest opportunity of our nation in assuming the role of our Head of State, Head of Government and Commander in Chief if the Ghana Armed Forces?
In fact, if Ghanaians want to turn President John Deamani Mahama into God, we do not need to do more than we have already done, by making him the President of the Republic of Ghana. President Mahama can go to anywhere in Ghana and gain access to anything in Ghana, as he pleases. How hypocrite is this appeal? This to me sounds like hearing people telling me about the power of God endlessly and the same people appealing to me to join them in the name of God, to do away with one criminal in our community. The criminal should not have been there in the first place if truly God had got all these so called powers.
No wonder our population flock to Churches and Mosques in the number to appeal to God for assistance, since it is obvious to them that God’s representative of Ghana on earth, seems to be doing nothing. Some of our poor masses who troop to these holy place to pray for our President, do not even take their bath most days of the week, as they are incapable of affording to pay for the water or iron their cloths, yet they do everything to ensure they are clean on Sunday to ensure God listen to their prayers. Well, now that the President himself is indifferent about the Public Utilities Regulation Commission (PURC) obnoxious increase of the price of our utilities and since God only listen to clean people, it is looking like the President himself is not helping the poor, in getting God to help him in the fight against corruption.
On a more serious note, President Mahama does not need any favour from anyone in Ghana, to deal with the issue of corruption in Ghana. The authority of the office of this man today is such powerful that all he needed, is to employ the effectiveness and efficiency of his office, if it is indeed his priority.
The captions you see, on the news appealing to the president on corruption, are just cheapening up the office of the president. It is making the president look like he is not aware of his responsibility. It is however up to the president to uphold the sanctity of the high office of our land. It is again about his priorities.
On the challenges of corruption itself, the practice has now assumed two forms. Corruption today in Ghana could be formal or informal in nature. Either way, it is a cost on the state and the people at large. The higher in degree of corrupt practices the affair of the nation assumes, the leaner the Consolidated Fund. These two forms of corruption in Ghana have become so sophisticated that they look like a normal part of our life. Everyone talks about it but none of us seems to want to do anything about it, like we do every Sunday and Fridays about the evils of our life.
Corruption as a practice is seen by its beneficiary as a right, in the course of a gainful effort to which a reward is earned while to the victims, it is just a bad system that must be put up with. Every Ghanaian knows what every other Ghanaian is doing. Everyone knows where the corrupt practices are taking place and those responsible for it. In fact most of those benefiting from the corrupt practices know each other very well and each knows exactly what the other is doing. Well, in our part of the world, record keeping is not our way of life, so everything is kept in memory and transmitted orally, as we have done for thousands of centuries.
The interesting thing about this is every practitioner of the corruption in Ghana joins others, when the noise is being made but none goes after the other. Everyone has a lot to say on corruption and we sometimes even laugh when we are recounting our painful experience as victims of corruption. It is common to hear a person recounting a sad story of how a close relative passed away untimely, because the individual could not afford to grease the palm of state employees to provide the necessary medical assistance. We even turn such sad experience into melody and sing them with great passion, to the amusement of other victims.
I recalled a panel discussion on EG TV where the issue was how police officers were stopping drivers on the road, in a broad day light and taking them to the station just to extort money from the victims. The panellists, who I believed to be highly educated, turned out to be very economical with the issue. These individuals all the same, mentioned the location and the police station responsible but that is all their frustrations could go on the issue. One of the panellists even recounted his personal experience, where he has to pay “the guys” at the police station after seriously taken into consideration the complication he has to go through, if he had to embark on getting the right thing done. They left one wondering why the officers and the superiors in charge of them, are not held to account. “It is very bad, you know”, was all the panellists have to employ in addressing the menace of the cancer destroying everyone in Ghana.
Another problem fuelling the flame of corruption in Ghana is our misconception of Democracy. Our new found version of Extreme Capitalism, being mistaken for Democracy, is not helping the situation at all. The system has made deception a way of life to everyone. The desperation to make money at all cost is now our way of life. Everything thing depends on how much one can afford to pay, as the state itself has eroded off all its social responsibility to its citizens. The most able take the basic needs of life for granted while the less able live like outcast, whom their own nation is formally exorcising. Everything in Ghana, including everyone of the constitutional right of the Ghanaian, is commercialized. The more essential is the right, the higher the cost and the corrupt practices around it.
I shall not be surprise, given what is happening now, when my grandchildren will be praying to me in my grave telling me that Ghanaians are paying to get ballot papers to vote in general election and people are being deported from the capital city, because they are destitute. It is already happening in some West African states, anyway.
The fight against corruption is challenged by the perception of employing it as a reward for political commitment. Activists of a political party, engage in corrupt practices to get back what they believed were their investment in winning an election. Other members of the party, who have been rewarded with one official position or the other, turn a blind eye to ensure the same people help them in winning again. Those in opposition, also turn blind eye partly to practices not to be accused of being greedy of other people’s success, but to ensure no one border them when it is their turn to lick the dirty wound.
The problem here is people like me are called “sadists”, who hate the “legitimate” prosperity of others. Why not, when illegitimacy is now legitimized and saintly? People like myself look old fashion and out of date with time, to be complaining when the cost of living is increasing daily and everyone is grabbing to keep up with things.
A friend once chastised me for being unrealistic. The one I called a friend and a fellow Ghanaian, asked me of how I think our President got to where he is today. The person, who sees things way as the president, queried all the qualities of my president and asked me if he is exceptional in any, to earn him a charisma of being the one with the magic touch of solving the problems of Ghana? I hardly mentioned any of the qualities. My president is not an orator or skilled in providing informed solutions to problems. He does not even have as part of his imagination, finishing his reign with Ghanaian institutions boosting of making a common wooden chair locally, talk less of industrial machines for our domestic consumption. Mention it and Mr. President will ask you “how much?”
The only thing my president does is, smile. The person told me that, the President’s money “talks for him”. The person told me that my president is very rich, and in the midst of abject poverty where everyone is desperate for money, wisdom talks less. He only sees things in what we as a nation can buy and not what we can make.
It might be wiser to hold back in sharing with you that, in a situation like what we have in Ghana, the most corrupted person becomes the head of the corrupted system. Is it not true that in a military reign, the most senior bandit becomes the head of the gangsters? It is also not true that, in a land of mysterious people, the one with the biggest “juju”, like it was the case with Moses in the Bible, assumes the highest position?
Our experience in the military rule informed us that when the boys in the green take over the destiny of a people, led by the biggest rogue among them, loyalists are sent to every part of the conquered domain to head and sustain the agenda of the establishment. Well, our Constitution allows the President the duty of choosing almost everyone and all we hear every day, is the rage of corrupt activities going on in every one of the departments.
Our parliamentarians in Ghana are said to be too busy getting their own share, as they are being warn by the Clark of the house to stop failing to turn up to their legitimate duty posts. These individuals are just doing exactly what those before them did. It is the same old story that made some people great today. Those doing it today believe it pays, as the “big man” is only being paid in his own coins. We all wished he has turned a new leaf, if indeed he has. If he is being paid in his own coins and to those imitating him see him as a symbol of success, how can they take him serious, if he tells them not to be corrupt? They will definitely never take him serious, even if he is.
How do we then address this complicated living cancer called “Mr. Corruption”? Do we rely on our most able man? Do we join the poor masses in calling on Mr. God, as the big man himself frequents the Churches these days? What do we do?

Kofi Ali Abdul-Yekin