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Opinions of Thursday, 29 October 2015

Columnist: Boafo, Eric

Time to Unmask and Retire Anas

After about a decade of ‘jaw dropping’ exposes, has the time come for us as a country to officially unmask and comfortably retire Anas? Anas should be publicly unmasked and enlisted as the first candidate of a Ghana witness protection program. Right after his unmasking ceremony the man should be whisked away in a convoy driven straight to Kotoka where a chartered flight will fly him to Seychelles or the Bahamas or any remote Island of his choice where he will assume a new identity, meet a girl, marry and live happily ever after, all at the expense of the good people of Ghana. As some may believe, his latest release on the judges finally struck a chord with Ghanaians so even if he tried again to secretly film another institution all he’ll find is people chasing him away with insults for even daring to bribe the average angelic Ghanaian.

Although that is what we all hope for, we all know that won’t be the case. Just like the 10 or so times Anas has released tapes we all clamor around our screens and pretend to be shocked at the fact that a headmaster, police officers, custom officers and now judges, took bribes in cash and now in goats from the disguised Anas. How hypocritical or us? Do we honestly believe there is any institution in Ghana that Anas can take Tiger Eye to and return empty handed? Education? Health? District Assemblies? Parliament? Presidency? How about even our churches and the media Anas is a member of? We would expect Anas to be less likely to find material for his next release after every exposé but it’s quite the contrary. After every Anas release, we all take the high road and point fingers at those caught and rationalize that we can’t be caught by Tiger Eye because we are not as greedy as those accused.

Anas, deservingly gets a lot of credit for what he does, but it should not take from the fact that one does not have to possess the clandestine and ‘spiritual’(as claimed by one of the judges) abilities of Anas to be able to spot corrupt acts in Ghana. Almost all of us Ghanaians can attest to the fact that corruption is part and parcel of the Ghanaian cultural fabric. It is institutionalized in education through teachers charging unapproved fees, paying bribes to get wards admitted to schools and the worst is the sale and leakages of examination questions. It is a fact that the police intimidate drivers for bribes on our roads on a daily basis. Is it not also a fact that Custom officers at the ports are amongst the richest civil servants in Ghana? How about the 10% of awarded contract amounts paid to ministers and party funds of the ruling government? So if corruption is this endemic in our society how is it that we wait on an individual, Anas, before the powers that be try to do anything about it?

Although Anas has been a huge success in his quest to expose corruption, his exposés have had almost no impact on the prevalence of corruption in Ghana. This is not a failure on his part but rather, a failure on the part of our leaders who for very convenient reasons look on helplessly just like all of us. What is most sickening is the tendency to focus solely on the culprits caught on tape rather than indicting the systems and institutions that these people are a product of. There is only so much Anas can do – he couldn’t have gone to all judges, neither could he have encountered all policemen and custom officers in his previous exposés which is why the response to Anas’ videos should not only be about reprimanding and prosecuting the culprits but should rather be focusing on the prevalence of corruption in these institutions. If Anas has to go back and reinvestigate all the institutions he has exposed in the past, there is no doubt that he will make the same findings because other than transferring the people involved no further actions are taken to ensure that these practices are discouraged.

Anas goes through very great lengths to produce his videos which come at a personal cost to him and sometimes to innocent people caught in the middle. For instance, in the case of the judges, for every case Anas succeeded in influencing a judge, there were parties or victims that were negatively impacted. In some of these cases a murder and an armed robber were set free, and in another a rapist was left off the hook. Inasmuch as we would want corrupt practices and people exposed, it should never be at the expense of innocent and unwilling participants who in the case of the judges were denied justice. If the burden of such investigations were rather entrusted to state agencies like the BNI then in the case of the judiciary investigation they could have orchestrated the various cases through collaboration with other state agencies involved liked the police.

President Mahama recently said that we can all be like Anas with our cameras and the power of social media. The president is right but what he and most Ghanaians are in denial about is the little to no impact Anas’ videos have on the prevalence of corruption in Ghana. As evident in the high demand for tickets to the premiere of the judges’ video and the long queue that formed outside the International Conference Center, Anas’ exposés to most Ghanaians are Hollywood blockbusters. The genre is Corruption Horror Movies which are meant to shock and entertain us. Yes, we need more Anases out there but we don’t need the same old Anas. We need a strong and powerful Anas whose videos will not only entertain us but send people to jail and also lead to sweeping changes that will minimize corrupt practices in our institutions.

Anas can’t do this by himself and neither can the president expect ordinary Ghanaians to acquire the clandestine skills of Anas. If we are going to make progress in the fight against corruption, then we have to institutionalize what Anas does by empowering the appropriate agencies, like the BNI or ECOCO to undertake what Anas has been freely and willingly doing for us. Anas’ mission he says is to expose, shame and jail. He has exposed and shamed at all levels but jail? May be not. The truth is Anas lacks the ability to jail as a private citizen but more importantly he lacks the evidence collecting skills that will enable his tapes pass scrutiny in court. We hardly hear of Anas’ culprits going to jail because very often lawyers poke holes in his videos in court. In most of Anas’ videos the worst punishment the culprits face is the public shame they suffer. As much as the public think the judges caught up in the Anas’ bribery scheme are guilty, these learned judges will never spend a night at Nsawam just because they know enough about the law to make the videos irrelevant in court.

If Anas is going to be unmasked and retired then he should only accept it on condition that our political leaders institute policies and measures that will finally make a dent in the fight against corruption in Ghana. What good are institutions like the Police Service, ECOCO and the BNI if they with all the power entrusted in them have to wait for Anas to release videos before they take action? It’s about time we retire Anas and let the BNI or ECOCO be at the forefront of secretly recording and exposing acts of corruption in our society. With the power of the state behind them and with their investigative expertise their evidence will stand a better chance in court than Anas’ videos. Corruption is not just an African phenomenon as we are made to believe. Even Western countries that constantly rank very low on the various corruption indexes had periods in their history when corruption was as prevalent as it is in most African countries today. Humans by nature are easily corruptible and will remain so for as long as the calculus weights the potential yield way higher than the consequences of being caught. And until the calculus changes, Anas must as well keep his beads mask on and double down with Team Tiger Eye.

By: Eric Boafo