Feature Article of Monday, 3 December 2012

Columnist: Odiasempa, Kojo

The Fourth Republic In Danger!

By Kojo Odiasempa

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ghana is heading towards either a coup that will be made bloody by the masses or a civil war if politicians of the 4th Republic continue with the corruption, arrogance, and moral depravity they've become associated with since the inception of the Republic.

I'm a retired serviceman whose belief that the military shouldn't involve itself in politics nearly cost him his life on June 4 1979 (because I thought the rebellion was going to set back the march towards the planned handover to civilian administration) and again on December 31, 1981 and for sometime thereafter (because I thought there was no justification for the coup. I have a shrapnel wound scar to show for it). Others who weren't so lucky on those occasions died leaving behind wives and children most of whom are yet to receive adequate compensation. Others were forced to relocate to other countries with their families.

However since the said periods and away from home and certainly wiser, I've had more than enough time to reflect on that belief. Unfortunately and sadly, just like the majority of Ghanaians, I have come to the conclusion that those who died, got maimed or suffered greatly in 1979 and 1981 as a result of having the same belief, have died, gotten maimed, or suffered in vain. The very things that made Ghanaian politicians loathsome are back in a more revolting way. Majority of Ghanaian politicians and public appointment holders in the 4th Republic, have even been more selfish and more unpatriotic than their predecessors. Parliament has become self-serving. Indeed some of our law-makers may be labeled as criminals who have become what they are by manipulating the system with their ill-gotten wealth. This is happening at an alarming rate. No wonder the corrupt practices that resurfaced in earnest under Kuffour have been increasing exponentially since. In fact, I sometimes wish the officer corps in the military in 1979 had listened to the other ranks and "sacrificed" some then known corrupt politicians alongside the generals to disabuse people's mind that the "cleaning exercise" was limited to within the military. The current crop of politicians would definitely have learnt something from it.

The recent revelations at PAC and the political violence between the supporters of the NDC and the NPP, which is reminiscent of the run-up to the independence elections, are very troubling. They confirm the suspicion of the majority of Ghanaians that both the NDC and the NPP have settled judgment debts, waived taxes, and done other unconscionable things that are callous and insensitive to the plight of Ghanaians without following laid down procedures and due diligence and caused financial losses to the State running into hundreds of millions US dollars as a result. The fact that the NPP and the NDC are singing different tunes about the existence or non-existence of contracts in certain situations makes one wonder if there was any proper handing/taking over notes between any outgoing and any incoming administration.

There are also tons of money to be made and assets to be acquired illegally when one is in parliament and with probity and accountability dead, one doesn't have to worry about punishment--ever. This notion, rightly or wrongly, is fuelling the present political violence: Some hoodlums-turned-politicians and their political parties see the impending elections as their chance to join in the fleecing of the country and illegally acquire assets or die trying

What is happening today in our beloved country confirms everybody's fears that the two parties are engaged in a competition of besting each other at causing the most financial loss to the nation and enriching themselves and their cronies at the expense of the masses to the extent that alternative forms of governance, unthinkable a few years ago, are being discussed in ever widening circles. To make matters worse, the President is giving parliamentarians a raise from ?3000 to ?7200 each per month RETROACTIVE January's 2009 because apparently they're more deserving of such a whopping raise than the remaining 99.99%--the more ammunition for them to increasingly wreck others marriages and entice young and impressionable girls with their ill-gotten wealth! The fact that NO PARLIAMENTARIAN (and I mean NO PARLIAMENTARIAN) HAS CRITICISED THIS IS VERY INSTRUCTIVE. No wonder confidence in Parliament and our politicians is ZERO!

Yes, these two political parties and their members are behaving like the fiddling Emperor Nero and have vilified the likes of Hon Appiah Ofori and Mr. Martin Amidu who have been bold enough to expose the gargantuan and “death-by-firing squad-deserving”pillaging of the country’s resources by their parties. The politicians don't realize the dangerous path they have set themselves and the country on by mismanaging the country's finances and then polarizing the nation to cover up their misdeeds. Because the political parties have been fielding crooks with ill-gotten wealth as candidates and in many cases are also being bankrolled by such people, majority of the parliamentarians have less than stellar qualities as a result of which the pool of patriotic and effective and efficient candidates from which ministerial appointments can be chosen is small. And with the political parties muddying the water more by intentionally nominating such dubious characters to ministerial posts--knowing the Vetting and Appointments Committee will rubber-stamp the nominations-- or giving them contracts in appreciation for their "help," the results have been predictable: We've had more incompetent and morally-bankrupt parliamentarians including ministers in this Republic than at any other time in our history. A politician is more likely to be guilty of a crime of moral turpitude in his community; the gap between the rich and the poor is the widest; the nation is witnessing the least rate of development etc etc. The country now is much at risk of imploding. The earlier these politicians realized it and came together to do something very drastic to redeem themselves, the better it would be for them and the nation. I am talking about the probability of a coup or civil war. In the absence of a credible alternative political party to NPP and NDC, and the rest of the people impotent or fractured, the armed services are the only institutions better organized and capable of removing these corrupt politicians. The present vibrant and patriotic corps of well educated, well exposed, and confident young (age-wise) senior officers in the armed services aren't only brimming with new ideas but they also understand the country's situation even better. They may therefore find it difficult to resist the call to rescue the country from its present predicament. After all, they've done it before and if the mood in the country is anything to go by, a coup tomorrow would receive a massive support.

This coup, unlike the others, would be very bloody because the masses, having experienced deterioration in their living standards for decades as a result of mismanagement of the country's resources including the oil especially by the powers- that-be, would want to teach these nation wreckers a lesson future generations wouldn't even forget by attacking and snuffing the life out of anybody perceived to have contributed to the impoverishment of Ghanaians all these years. And believe me, the masses know them all. The attacks could even extend to immediate and distant family members--and even to friends. This could be followed by “Guantanamo Bay-style”trials of these nation-wreckers in which common sense trumps legal technicalities and they'll have to prove they're not guilty

Screams of "Human rights abuses!" and/or "Sanctions!" from the western countries and their satellites would be meaningless because Ghanaians know these countries didn't care when these criminal politicians in their lives committed the most egregious human rights abuses against Ghanaians by stealing money--and very often hiding them in the financial institutions and investments in these very countries-- that could've created jobs the lack of which has turned the unemployed into criminals who prey on Ghanaians, that could've paid farmers decent prices for their produce so that they can look after their dependents well, that could've paid the doctors decently enough to stem their strikes that cause unnecessary deaths to people, that could've equipped the police adequately to protect life and property, that could've given minors and seniors free and excellent healthcare etc etc. The western countries complicity in these heinous crimes is evidenced by the difficulties encountered in repatriating such ill-gotten wealth back to the country of origin even when they have been identified and located.

Yes ECOWAS, following tradition, would suspend us; the Commonwealth might suspend us and the UN would urge "a speedy return to democracy"--whatever that means. In the end, the will of Ghanaians to be rid of corrupt politicians "by any means necessary" and control their own destiny would prevail. [Besides, Ghana is not landlocked to be boxed in by unfriendly neighbors. And we have oil!]

In the absence of a coup, Ghana could have a civil war brought about, unfortunately, by the oil and the political violence. This is what the criminal western governments would want so that they could use the confusion to steal our oil and the other resources with minimum effort.

Unfortunately, all the country's oil resources are in areas which haven't seen development for quite a long time. This deprivation and the very nature of the location of these areas which doesn't lend them to easy policing could motivate the indigenes to do something drastic to prevent the central government from receiving "oil cash" which would be misused. Whatever this would be, it could change Ghana forever. For security reasons, I have decided not to give details. However, examples abound in other areas of the world and http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7519302.stm is very instructive. The Armed Services could be drawn into it. Unfortunately, social, economic, and political issues wouldn't allow them to be used effectively or if used, to give off their best. What would follow would be anybody's guess.

It's true it took "Woyomegate" for Ghanaians to realize the extent of corruption, misappropriation, embezzlement and pillaging of the nation's resources going on. But it is also giving these politicians and public appointment holders the opportunity to embark on a journey to redeem themselves by doing what the masses and the Constitution require of them They ignore the opportunity at the peril of their lives and those of their loved ones.

At this point in our history, politicians should know they are sitting on a powder-keg as a result of their poor performance and irresponsible behavior and massive corruption by both NDC and NPP administrations. Whether this would explode or not would depend on what they do now and what the next administration would also do in its early days.

Fortunately, the loss of the man who wasn't personally as corrupt as Kuffour or even Rawlings but whose administration Ghanaians perceived as equally bad because of his weak leadership, the now deceased President John Fiifi Atta–Mills, is giving politicians the chance to reflect on what their callous, selfish, and unpatriotic behavior has done to the nation and the opportunity to change for the better.

For starters, I would suggest whoever becomes president after the impending elections stop the arbitrary and "humongous" raise parliamentarians and their hangers-on have been given IMMEDIATELY because the Constitution doesn't stop them from practicing their professions and parliamentary sittings are done to make this easier. The raise is undeserved, utter nonsense, and pure daylight robbery done no doubt with ESB in mind. Those whose advice was taken to arrive at this notorious decision aren't even fit to be called animals. They should personally troll the internet and see how Ghanaians everywhere feel about his decision. It's sad that no sitting MP nor any major party has railed against this decision. I guess they want to do it when guns are pointed to their greedy heads! Secondly, after the impending elections, the incoming administration should DEMAND those whose it is their constitutional duty to do so, to declare their assets IMMEDIATELY. Despite our constitution being very clear about this requirement albeit not comprehensive enough, majority of public office holders have CHOSEN to ignore it completely. Now we know why: The easier to acquire assets illegally. Paupers suddenly becoming very wealthy on becoming politicians or public appointment holders have become common. They can't fool all the people all the time.

The incoming administration should start the trend of periodically publishing the salaries and fringe benefits of members of the administration and other public appointment holders as well as the 'allowances" and other benefits of members of parliament. This could start a national debate as to their adequacy or inadequacy. After all, it is OUR MONEY! There shouldn't be anything secret about it. The same thing should happen to the country's receipts and payments. Payments should include those that go to the ministries, the regions and the districts. The details of public contracts approved to be awarded should be published in the mass media including the submission of bids and the winning criteria. The so-called MPs Common Fund which the parliamentarians were supposed to use help fund development projects in their areas but which they have used as part of their earnings on the quiet, should be audited, fully accounted for and the report made public. MPs found to have embezzled funds should be prosecuted and thrown into jail to serve as deterrence. I’m even saying that the Fund should be abolished. Parliament shouldn't be an impediment to these modest measures because the alternative could be a gun to its head since it has also shown that as far as the safeguarding of and fair and equitable distribution of the national cake is concerned, it can't be an honest broker.

That being the case and the fact that the formation of the Economic and Organized Crime Office and its predecessor (the Serious Fraud Office) has shown that the government which rules is the problem, I suggest a panel be appointed to listen to the views of Ghanaians on how best to tweak the existing organization to be more responsive to its mandate in a non-partisan manner. Thereafter and immediately after the elections, the reconstituted organization should thoroughly investigate "everything" and "anything" about these judgment debts, the awards and the execution of national (government?) contracts, and the sale of government lands and certain state enterprises right from NDC1 through NPP1&2 to NDC3, apportion blame and make appropriate recommendations which should be published publicly in order to bring pressure on the government of the day to implement the recommendations IMMEDIATELY. The aforesaid measures should go a long way to rebuild the confidence Ghanaians have lost in the politicians and enhance stability.

On the other hand, if the government fails to act by hiding under the mantra, "the case is before the courts" like the NDC is doing with Woyome or sweeps everything under the carpet like Kuffour did in many instances during his administration including the largest financial malfeasance in the history of Local Government that occurred in 2003 at the Tema Municipal Assembly inspite of the SFO's very serious indictable observations and findings against such people as Ishmael Ashitey (then MP for Tema East and now unashamedly NPP Greater Accra Regional Chairman who was thereafter rewarded with a ministerial post), and Ashong Narh (the then CEO, Tema Municipal Assembly and now NPP Tema East MP) and assurances by Nana Akomeah, (an ex- Minister of Local Government, on November 27, 2003), the country could be in serious trouble. That's why the recent call by the former National Security Cordinator, Mr. Kofi Quantson, on Ghanaians especially politicians "to put the nation first" in all their deliberations must be taken seriously.

Personally, no government can convince me that with the proper husbandry of all the resources the nation has, it can't provide free or subsidized quality medical care for the old and the indigent, free primary and secondary education for our children, good roads and drinking water, and electricity for our rural folks (who feed us and produce our wealth) within 25 years. The NPP presidential candidate Akuffo-Addo should be commended for initiating discussions on the free primary and secondary education aspect of it. However, I fault him for promising too much but without any plan to show for at least one program. Without any plan, why should he be taken seriously? He's just like Romney who in the just-ended presidential elections promised creating 12 million jobs in his first four years if he became president. Unfortunately he didn't have any plan and apart from his racist core supporters, Americans were right in rejecting him. Without any plan, such programs end up being riddled with waste, accident, error, crime, and unethical practices which may spell their demise because they become unsustainable. They end up becoming extra avenues for looting by the supporters and hangers-on of the party in power. The present state of the NHIS and the School Feeding Program are examples.

Again, Akuffo-Addo's position can't be taken seriously if ex-president Kuffour of all people is also supporting him. This guy with all the savings made even under HIPC could've done twice what he did under his 8-year rule. Instead, he essentially codified bribery and corruption. In fact all the so-called judgment debt saga can be traced to his two administrations. The present NDC has only upped the ante!

Kuffour also rushed the country into oil production when the necessary infrastructure wasn't in place because he wanted to take his "cut" through such surrogates as Dr. Adusei even though the heavy lifting had been done by previous administrations. Witness the agreement his administration signed with COSMOS. If this is not criminal, then I don't know what it is! He even went on BBC to defend the importation of products which could've been easily and better produced by the local industry if his government had assisted it.

The NDC's "quality education before expansion" may be more credible but have they improved on what was even handed over to them? Certainly no. So why should Ghanaians believe them?

Free and quality Primary and Secondary education. . . free and/or subsidized quality Health care. . . good roads and drinking water, and electricity for our rural folks.. . All or most of it would've been achieved since the inception of the 4th Republic by conscientious politicians. Not so with the present crop of Ghanaian politicians.

The 4th Republic politicians have proved to be the most self-serving, the greediest and the least patriotic in the country's history--and there's no sign that their behavior will change for Ghanaians to get "a break" in their lives. In fact things are becoming worse for Ghanaians and unless they clean up their act, they themselves and/or the nation will become victims of uncontrollable events in the immediate future.

"As?m k?se ?nam kwanso reba.”

* E-mail: kodiasempa@yahoo.com