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Opinions of Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Columnist: Sydney Casely-Hayford

The big man's Kamera

Some time in November 1953, Mr. JA Braimah resigned from the Government of the Gold Coast after confessing he had accepted a bribe of £2,000 from Aksor Kasardjian, an Armenian contractor in the north, while serving as Minister of Communication and Works. At that time, the Assembly was rife with stories of bribery and corruption in Government and many ministers were accused of collecting as much as they could for both party and self.

Braimah’s admission was a novelty and openly disgraceful, as he was one of the few held in very high esteem at the time. All the same it was a very bold and noble step, what could have become a best standard had things not gone differently.

The CPP party had been invited by the Colonial Masters to form a Government after the 1951 elections, which they had won resoundingly, convincing Governor Arden Clarke and the British that they were ready to run a Government, but still with the help of a Governor/Prime Minister handholding – to some extent, the CPP governance novices.

But within two years, corruption stories had become so rife, a commission of enquiry (Korsah Commission) was triggered from what Braimah had alleged was a growing problem in the country. It was a big enquiry and very critical.

This is how Braimah put it to the Assembly. “I have heard rumors of bribery and corruption and I feel that some of the allegations deserve to be investigated. I felt I had a special mission laid upon me to give opportunity for the rumors and allegations to be investigated”.

The Commission issued its report in 1954. In paragraphs 89-93 it reached the conclusion that “allegations of general misconduct among those holding high office …. were not substantiated”. But it was critical of individual members, Krobo Edusei in particular, whose conduct was described “to have fallen below any acceptable standard for men in the public service and …. is strongly to be deprecated”.

As a result of the evidence submitted, two ministerial secretaries (among other) were later sentenced to terms of imprisonment. Nothing happened to Krobo Edusei. And that was how the corruption deepened.

But as early as 1951, Nkrumah had made a statement to warn against this. Ministers were known to be selling contracts to the highest bidder and the very recent failure of an Anti-Bribery and Corruption Committee were produced as evidence during the Korsah Commission of the distance the party’s leaders had traveled since 1949.

“the risk in accepting office under the new constitution which makes us half-slave and half-free … the temptation there is that it is very easy for one to identify oneself with such a constitution and thereby be swayed by considerations of personal temporary advantage instead of seeking the interests of the people. Hence we call for vigilance and moral courage, to withstand the evil maneuvering of imperialism. Now bribery and corruption, both moral and factual, have eaten into the whole fabric of our society and these must be stamped out if we are to achieve any progress.” – Kwame Nkrumah

Now when you track back into history and roll forward to today, you see very easily where we went wrong. Key Ministers who are not dismissed and prosecuted to set examples of unacceptable standards of service to the citizens of this country; sleight of movement positions to cover up one for the other, which have become the politician’s way to stay in “power” as they like to label it, have stretched us beyond a redeemable point, where it is easier to pretend not to see than to peek and be maimed in the eye.

This recent abuse by the BNI and other security agencies, flogging and disregarding the law in the face of judges can be contained. There are laws in this country that check the excesses of these agencies; these very agencies that want us to sign a new law that will give them the opportunity to spy on us and intrude our privacy without a court order.

Seeing as we are doing some history today, let’s remember that when Nkrumah mooted his Preventive Detention Act, many were his ministers who argued vehemently for the law to be passed. In fact they argued harder than Nkrumah himself. Years later when favor turned its back on them and they were hounded, they squealed like frightened mice and scampered to safer destinations beyond Ghana.

If we pass this “Spy Law” in its present form, many are those who will regret like yesteryear.

But you have to blame the judges. You sit back when you have all the authority, and allow a BNI officer to contemptuously walk away from your instruction and allow such public disorder to carry on?

You have to blame the President. How dare a Minister of the Interior issue a statement of half-truths and disgracefully blame others for a deliberate swerve of justice and deport “criminals” from the jurisdiction of this country undermining our high-level professional security agency who has accused them of treason? When the Security Advisor uses the Bureau of National Investigation to arrest citizens because they have taken a picture of his private property, you do nothing?

You have to blame all Institution heads who sit back and allow their authority to be usurped and mismanaged, looking on as if we have not paid for enough capacity building for you to make decisions as heads and leaders of a pack of unsupportive staff? .

We have been round the gamut and this is now turning into a laughable merry go round. Someone on the outside of the wheel is making us more dizzy as we try to get off to fix the broken cogs, and in this case, trust me, it is not the colonial master as Nkrumah tried to palm off his responsibility in the statement quoted above.

We are doing this to ourselves, or maybe I should say the politicians are dangling us by the goolies and it is too painful to wrench away.

But Bank of Ghana chief, Kofi Wampah resigned, four clear months before he had to leave; he shouted, “I am fed up, go, take the money for your elections, I don’t want a part of this anymore”. Well, not in all those exact words, but he has shown the way. Any other head ready to roll on their own volition? A good example of what a head can be used for?

My admiration for Dr. Wampah. Whatever made him to jump ship, I congratulate him. Sometimes the nonsense gets to be too much and you have to make a statement.

So see where the National Security Advisor stands on the matter of arresting citizens without a warrant, without any criminal offence and with sachets of abuse of civil and human rights.

One day he will wake up and decide that the things I say on radio and what I write are a national security risk. He will follow me all the way to McCarthy Hill from Citifm on a Saturday morning after 12 noon and passing through Adabraka and Graphic Road, on to Kaneshie Obetsebi Round About, he will trail me through Darkuman, Odorkor, Sakaman and Mallam, eventually arriving at the McCarthy Hill traffic lights, turn right and up the hill and at the cross roads, he will insist I come back to his jail for speaking as a citizen of Ghana should. And I will have no defense except those who look out for me in the public domain.

But I flatter myself. I am no security risk. Just a Ghanaian doing his “thang” for God and Country. National Security is powerful in Ghana. Even BNI sef cannot refuse an order to arrest innocent people for taking pictures of the Advisor’s “private NDC jeeps”. As?m b? ba dabi.

But with the jury still out on what we use a “Quarm” head for, and in the light of descriptions of turning our children into hewers of wood and carriers of water, lets lift the intellectual discourse a bit and here is my limerick on this week’s episode.

A big man is Baba Kamara

Very angry about a Kamera

He called in the BNI

While sleeping with an open eye

Only to find the Kamera was bigger than his Kamara

Ghana, Aha a y? din papa. Alius atrox week advenio. Another terrible week to come!