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Opinions of Thursday, 21 May 2015

Columnist: Ayisi, Gabriel A.

Perception of Corruption in Ghana

I once wrote, that with the birth of the Internet, governance or politics is never going to be the same in Ghana. Corruption has been with us since independence, and our politicians have dabbled in it all these years setting Ghana’s development back several years, the cumulative effect of which we are experiencing under the current government, and sadly, we will continue to experience these harsh conditions under future governments, no matter which political party is in power, simply because we do not have the foresight of a bold visionary leader to stem corruption and transform this economy. In addition, in the name of politics, our resources are being scarced through corruption, embezzlement, and opaque theft of the national assets.

Remember the grandeur with which District Commissioners in the CPP regime would come to town amid colorful fanfares? It was our meagre resources which were being used for the fanfare parties, instead of sinking them into developmental projects. Then, we had only one national radio and one national television which sang the praises of the ruling government. Nobody knew, how much was being stolen out of our coffers, because there were no Internet, smart phones, etc., and obviously there was no Occupy Wall Street or Arab Spring, with their duplicative heir, Occupy Ghana to bare the ongoing corruption and virtual ineptness of our ruling governments. So please, do not think corruption now is worse now than it was then. It was a matter of exposure. We sang and continue to sing the adulations of those who were stealing the country blind then, because we did not know.

Under the Acheampong, NLC, and PNDC regimes, corruption continued. They killed, and subjected the citizenry into subjugation. Corruption was an open bar. Businesses were closed, their owners, Ghana’s foremost entrepreneurs, were unjustifiably thrown into jail, chased out of the country or even killed, with the assets appropriated among the leaders of the country. The Central Bank was the personal bank of the rulers, who could access it at will and walk away with whatever amount of money and gold bars they wanted. But it is only now that we have realized that there is corruption and misappropriation of the country’s assets. Again because there was no internet, Occupy Ghana, and most recently, dumsormuststop then. Under the Rawlings regime, the Divestiture of public corporations, opened an avenue to sell State Enterprises to cronies and family members without the sale proceeds being accounted for. In Ghana the phrase “Conflict of Interest” does not exist in our political parlance. First ladies become owners of State properties under dubious circumstances. Politicians and their cronies set up businesses, and appropriate government contracts to themselves and their cronies. Politics in Ghana has become a business and a “Get Rich Quick” venture. In most cases, the companies these politicians set up in the names of family members and cronies, are paid colossal amounts for no work done. Under NPP, the Internet was in its infant stages and its use was not widespread. Cell phones were also in its budding and nascent development stages, and the perception of corruption was beginning to get real hold. Yet still, when Ghanaians spoke of corruption, people from the government, were quoted as saying “corruption was as old as Adam” and nothing or very little was done about it. Our President’s answer to corrupting allegations were “show me the evidence” instead of investigating the allegations to prove or disprove them, only to allow corrupt practices among politicians and public officials to fester. There were “kickbacks at the presidency” which was alleged by a member of the Presidency, yet NPP has now found the voice to accuse the sitting government of corruption. If the Arab Spring had occurred then with its foster child Occupy Ghana in existence then, a lot would have been exposed to let Ghanaians know that corruption was as ugly then as it is today. Politicians suddenly became rich and even their sons began to buy million dollar hotels. Politicians sold government lands and bungalows to themselves. Nepotism was the order of the day.

Under the NDC Corruption continues to thrive, but, unfortunately, the Internet matured, cell phones have become the order of the day, Occupy Wall Street was born, the Arab Spring was born, and eventually, Occupy Ghana, many civil societies, and pressure groups have all been born and matured, thus everyone becoming aware of the atrocities being committed by our politicians and our public servants in the name of power and governance. Suddenly, corruption has reached unprecedented proportions, No, it has not, it has been at these gigantic levels since the time of Kwame Nkrumah through today, it is only a matter of exposure and the new found Freedom of Speech of Ghanaians through the various available media of today: radio (numerous FM stations compared to only one national radio during the early post-independence days), television, internet, civil societies, pressure groups as against their nonexistence in the past. It is the advent of the internet, the proliferation of FM stations that helped to make GYEEDA and SUBAH public and prominent.

What baffles me is the fact that our political parties find their voice only when they are in opposition. Suddenly, they know the answers to all our political problems when they find themselves in opposition. The NDC did it when they were in opposition, and now the NPP is doing it so loudly, now that they also find themselves in opposition. When the NPP was in power was Dumsor not a daily occurrence? How come they did not solve it then and completely, so that the successive government would have the freedom to deal with other economic development problems? Why didn’t the Rawlings regime under NLC and PNDC solve the Dumsor problem before the NPP took over? Whom are we kidding with such political and economic indiscipline, irresponsibility, and ineptitude? Ironically, if you have a sore and you do not treat it, what happens? It gets worse and may become gangrened and eventually kill you. The tragic unbearable dumsor, which has become worse than ever before as we are experiencing it today, is the cumulative negligence, ineptitude and cluelessness of our present and past governments.

What the country needs are jobs. With the current economic situation free education is “meaningless”. Why do we continue to produce more and more graduates who come out to find no employment? We killed entrepreneurship in the country, when our businessmen and women received the blunt of Military Coups? We killed them and chased them out of the country, why, the hungry soldiers appropriated their assets to themselves and their cronies in the name of national economic salvation? Who are the rich people in the country today? Mostly, the ex-military officers, their cronies, and their political friends. Most of our politicians are murders by default. For example, if a hospital is to be resourced, and the politician or the public official who embezzled the funds for the exercise is to be held accountable should a patient die because of the unavailability of proper medical attention. The same applies to death attributed to automobile accidents, because someone embezzled funds meant for the construction of safe roads. The vicarious liability can be found in all aspects of our national development and our lives when the country’s assets are misappropriated to the detriment of its citizens. Citizens, corruption endangers our safety and we must fight it with all our might. I will return with an overview of how badly our governments are handling our development processes by simply applying Band-Aid remedies to our development process. Our theme must be to add concrete incremental development to our economic growth on a consistent basis. We need to be truly patriotic, eschew selfishness, personal aggrandizement, and focus on a holistic national development by matching our natural growth with our national development agenda.

Dr. Gabriel A. Ayisi