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Opinions of Saturday, 1 September 2018

Columnist: Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane

Trials, Cathedrals and the Court of Public Opinion: Who is still standing?

A pictorial view of the Cathedral A pictorial view of the Cathedral

Just like everyone else, one day I woke up to the news that a number of banks have had their licences revoked (Capital Bank and UT Bank inclusive).

So I asked myself, did the auditors and the Bank of Ghana also go to sleep? If not, how did we get here and why did we not prevent ourselves from accruing more debt in the form of 1.4billion cedis that was given as monetary salvation for these now fallen banks?

Yes, I know. We all have so many unanswered questions. This issue serves as a real eye-opener for us and brings to light the fact we must begin to question the nature of the auditing that is done here. I find it unjustifiable that some of these banks had their licences obtained by false pretenses yet they were still allowed to operate for years; but this is only one part of the problem. The story has just begun.

As a leader or shareholder in a company, whenever there are benefits or accolades, those at the forefront of leadership receive the awards (most of the time). In the same way, if there are any losses or backlash for any decision, they will bear the brunt and responsibility must be taken.

This is not the first time someone is alleged to have embezzled or mismanaged such a huge sum of money so what is different now and why does everyone seem to be talking or trying to shut those who are talking up? We will soon find out.

Plans are being made to build a National Cathedral which will lead to several buildings like Scholarship Secretariat, Passport office and some bungalows for Judges being demolished. If we were playing a game of chess, we would technically be at our financial checkmate so why plunge ourselves into further debt?

Ever since I was old enough to analyze the news, I have always heard that we were in one debt or the other and at a point, we even had to be part of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (popularly called HIPC).

I can't be convinced that anything has changed looking at the Ghc142.5 billion debt (as at December 2017) with a high tax rate making the cost of living in the country somewhat unbearable for the ordinary Ghanaian. Winston Churchill definitely knew what he was talking about when he said: "I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle."

So why aren't people outraged by this National Cathedral plan since it is clearly not the right move considering where we are, financially as a nation? Where are the think tanks, the economists and all the pressure groups? Why are people silent?

The answer lies in the fact that the collapse of Capital Bank and the erection of the National Cathedral have one thing in common- Religion.

Karl Marx, a German philosopher and economist, once wrote "Die das Opium des Volkes" which translates in English to Religion is the opium of the people. A quick look at opium and why Marx might have likened it to religion. Opium is a narcotic drug obtained from the unripe seedpods of the opium poppy which was used medically as a painkiller for centuries.

Though opium does its job as a painkiller, it can be very addictive and destructive when abused. Marx believed that just like this drug, religion also had a similar function which was to reduce the suffering of people so that they would not give up on life.

However, he believed this was made so in order to blind society from seeing the class structure and oppression that were necessary to initiate a revolution. In short, it is difficult to come between someone and their religion; this is what we are seeing in these two cases.

Just like many other Christians, I have taken some lessons from and listened to Pastor Mensa Otabil's preachings ever since I was a little girl. I am not one to swallow everything I hear hook, line and sinker so I do some research myself whenever I come across something new.

Aside being a Pastor, Mensa Otabil also serves as the Board Chairman of the collapsed Capital Bank. When the issue of alleged mismanagement/embezzlement of the bailout funds to Capital Bank came to the fore, I was not surprised when some people decided to hail insults on anyone who dared to question the facts of the matter with some congregations being told to shut up as Christians when it comes to this particular issue.

Yes, God is good. That is why he put brains in our heads to think, analyse and have opinions of our own. If Pastor Mensa Otabil were an ordinary man, he would still be criticized but the difference is there might not be so much of an uproar from Christians.

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying he did what he is alleged to have done because I cannot say a man is guilty without fair trial. I am only saying that if indeed there was an issue with regard to how the funds were managed, he should not be excluded from trial and scrutiny because no one should be put above the law.

I have been sitting like a spectator and watching as events unfold but the match is getting heated and it looks like team Ghana is losing, so I am now standing.

So as a citizen and member of the court of public opinion, I stand with the law on this. Regardless of a person's social status, the law should be allowed to take its course.

With regard to the Cathedral, I would like to leave this poem by the late Prof Kofi Awonoor which happens to be one of my favourites. Enjoy.


On this dirty patch

a tree once stood

shedding incense on the infant corn;

its boughs stretched across a heaven

brightened by the last fires of a tribe.

They sent surveyors and builders

who cut that tree

planting in its place

a huge senseless cathedral of doom."

By : Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane