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Opinions of Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Columnist: Abdul-Razak Lukman

The #FixTheCountry brouhaha

Some Ghanaians have been calling on the government to fix the country Some Ghanaians have been calling on the government to fix the country

I know that Africa has lots of corruption, but so do other democracies in other countries. The West and Europe do not, however, have epidemic levels of corruption where the money for e.g. high-speed railways disappear into private pockets so projects are shelved, where guinea fowls (state resources) would fly to a neighboring country thereby causing financial loss to the state, where excavators could fly within a twinkle of an eye without accountability, or industrial policies rigged in favor of the companies owned by the government functionaries or president's friends and families.

We have therefore normalized corruption in Ghana and setting up promoters of the same in a special form. You may not agree to it with your legal gymnastics of "proving beyond reasonable doubt" – but deep in your heart, you know it is as bright as daylight in our various offices.

That's why a former president himself, Kufour, in defense of his government's failure to deal with corruption entirely in his regime, had to back his defense with a biblical reference by saying, "Corruption started from Adam and Eve,"(Kufour, 2008). That alone should inform you of failures of past governments to deal with the canker.

Fixing Ghana – whose responsibility?

The issue of "fix the country" which has generated a lot of debate on various social media platforms for months now, is a source of worry to all and sundry, in and the diasporic communities. In fact, it is a good discussion but marred with political undertones because of its appeal to every promising Ghanaian – because we all want the country to be like the Americas, Singapore, Dubai, the Bahamas, and being innovative and hard-working like the Chinese and Japanese.

So the moment a hashtag has an appeal of development and growth, it arouses national dialogue and not political and emotional dialogue aimed at discrediting one political system over the other.

Fast forward, fixing Ghana is the primary responsibility of the state/government who has the powers, democratically and constitutionally, to act in accordance with the law.

It has the constitutional power to enter into transactions on behalf of the citizens, withdraw or make the same in the interest of the governed. That is to say, the government cannot act without having a justifiable reason enshrined in our national book (constitution).

So, with all the powers bequeathed to the state, why is she dereliction her duty! Is it the responsibility of the citizens to fix their attitudes before the country can get fixed?

No! I don't need to fix my attitude before the system can work. Fixing my attitude is a secondary matter to the government fixing the country as a larger body with all the powers bequeathed it. If the system is fixed and working as supposed, I will definitely be fixed no matter my attitude.

If the police service will issue tickets for fines and such monies paid directly to the state for violating the laws of Ghana without having to take bribes in place of that, I will definitely be circumspect in my dealings with the laws.

If government functionaries grant contracts to professional contractors without taking a dime from them, monitoring and supervising the progress of works without having to take something to approve a stage of progress, and without having to negotiate on terms of the contract backstage, then the contractors have no justifiable reason not to get things fixed.

Ghana doesn't need to have a problem with weak, fragmented leadership dominated by people of average or below-average intelligence employed mainly for their connections with the political elite. Appointments must not be facilitated by government functionaries, family, and friends, or "powerful side-chicks."

If government functionaries are hauled before disciplinary committees and as well, apolitically prosecuted for gross violations of state laws, then the ordinary citizen would definitely take a cue and fix himself/herself automatically.

If every citizen is truly equal before the law and punished for violating the same, then everybody will be fixed and the country will definitely be fixed. We have seen series of violations of COVID-19 rules by both top government functionaries and even the president being part of such embarrassing things.
The burial ceremony of the late Sir John was a slap on the president's face for not being an exemplary leader for the citizens to emulate. It is always the ordinary Ghanaian who has no access to good legal services that suffers from such violations.

All that the ordinary Ghanaian is asking for is that our improper land tenure system, wrong landholding, inadequate credit system, primitive technology, and the old system of plowing and irrigation, etc. need to be fixed.

If the government can borrow monies internationally in our name but can't enforce the laws of the country with the same powers, how then do we get convinced of honesty and integrity?

The same way the constitution grants you the power to enter into fair transactions on our behalf is the same way you are supposed to enforce the constitution with respect to violations on our roads, crime in the country, corruption, underdevelopment, unemployment, etc. Let's not choose and pick.

It is worth noting that the state runs defense, police, and court to maintain peace and order both externally and internally. If citizens fix their attitudes, but with reckless and politically tainted policing, politically motivated military, and corrupt judges, the country will never know peace and won't ever get fixed.

The citizens don't collect taxes, they rather pay taxes to the government who then determine how, when and where those taxes should be spent on. If government functionaries are now asking the people to fix themselves upon receipt of taxes, what logic is that!

You don't ask citizens to fix their attitudes when prices of goods and services are on the rice, when judgment debts upon judgment debts are being slapped on the Ghanaian public purse every week, when excavators have grown wings to fly, when contracts are being inflated, etc.

How does fixing one's attitude have to do with the flying of excavators? Isn't it that those asking for attitudinal change are the ones who really need it to transact on our behalf?

All that the people are asking for is to make the country work. Make it work by enforcing all the laws at every point of our national life, by not promoting functionaries and friends for violating the laws, by not inflating figures on contracts – assign the right people to where they are needed regardless of their ideological beliefs and by tolerating dissenting views and working towards making a change, etc.

Countries like the US, UK, Germany, etc where the system works, do appreciate their challenges and they don't find every reason to justify their wrongs in the face of the electorates. In Africa and especially in Ghana, we glorify and justify crimes and compare the same with present and previous governments. Our security setup is deeply political in response to services that they are duty-bound to.

That's why a full IGP of Ghana would justify the rampant cases of crime in the country without showing remorse for such a reckless statement ever made by a security head of the police service. If it were a serious country, he would have resigned.

In their (politicians) spirit of political drunkenness, politicians would equate Ghana's development pace to that of Europe and the West but won't equate their exemplary life in terms of policy implementation and the rule of law.

What present and previous governments fail to understand is that the sustainability of economic development depends on social progress. The unequal social progress often leads to instability and unrest. In our case, social progress is related to health, education, employment, and maintainable wages in an unorganized sector including agriculture.

Violent conflicts have a major impact. So do corrupt politicians.