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Corruption has a long history in Ghana – time to end it!

One morning after the June 4 uprising as, I had spent the night in Tamale in a friend’s house. I heard a loud cheer and then eerie silence. My friends and I went out to check what the loud noise was about.

 

We learned that the first batch of senior military officers had been executed by firing squad. A few days later, the second batch were also executed, ending what was to be the beginning of a long history of self-emulation in Ghanaian history. At the time, we all thought kalabule (as all manner of crooked and corrupt practices were called) could be decapitated by such irrational and populist actions.

Then in 2015, I read serious stories in the Ghanaian media about corruption in high places in Ghana, particularly, sordid stories of theft by senior public officials in the administration of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). All that pales into comparison with the sort of salacious details of state theft which have been surfacing since the 2016 elections and the defeat of the NDC.

 

What happened? Is this not the country in which senior military officers, including two former Heads of State were tired to the stakes and shot in cold blood? The excuse. Yet there was no hard evidence that these leaders were corrupt. In the 1980s, corruption and kalabule were rife did we learn anything? Obviously not. Was General Acheampong corrupt? Can anyone point to a mansion built by General Acheampong with stolen funds?

What is unfolding before our eyes is the sort of turbulence that usually ends in the painful disintegration or decline of a nation if it remains unchecked

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In the days following the 24 February 1966 coup in which the CPP Government under  Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown, the CIA (US) and its western cohorts carefully choreographed cock and bull stories about the corruption in the CPP, trying to destroy the myth that went with the name of Kwame Nkrumah.  We now know that the Osagyefo himself was morally upright and not corrupt. Corruption was also given as one of the reasons for the 13 January, 1972 coup against the Dr. Kofi Busia administration. Not one shred of evidence was produced against Dr. Busia. The same applies to Dr. Hilla Limann.

Today, the same cannot be said about the apostles of probity and accountability in Ghana. Stories of stolen state assets, of grabbed lands, and of monies collected from Nigerian dictators will shock any sane mind who witnessed the hypocrisy to which Ghanaians were treated as part of the 4 June 1979 uprising.

 

The same could be said of the 31 December revolution. This intervention was justified and accountability and probity launched as the ideological hallmarks of the PNDC revolution. However, it was not long before the PNDC fell to wiles of corruption as many found comfort in good living. Sgt. Daniel Allolga Akata Pore of the PNDC and cadres fought a losing battle against corruption within the PNDC. Some leading members of the PNDC have had their hands in the till in 1982, and it continues till today. They gave meaning to the term ‘hand go hand come’ which later found its way into national discourse.

As a result, the PNDC was wrought with divisions because of the emergence of the corrupt ‘bastards’ whose moral and financial corruption planted dynamite under the new revolution. The perception of corruption under the last NDC administration was a continuation of the PNDC period.

 

The stark contrast between the lifestyle of the ‘cadres’ of 1982 and the ‘Greedy bastards’ (to borrow Rawlings own term) of today shows that any attempt to fight corruption in Ghana requires more than rhetoric. Some might even say it is a lost cause.

In spite of what has been written here, there have been some attempts to rein in corrupt practices, such as theft and fraud.

The 1992 Constitution recommended the setting up of a Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). Public Agenda has learned that CHRAJ is “charged with investigating all instances of alleged and suspected corruption and the misappropriation of public funds by officials”. In 1998, the Government also established an anti-corruption institution, called the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), to “investigate corrupt practices involving both private and public institutions”. All these institutions and efforts notwithstanding, the fight against corruption is heading nowhere. Several non-governmental organisations and non-state actors have taken the mantle in the fight against corruption. But are we anywhere near ending this malice and affront to dignity? The answer is no.

 

The reason? Corruption and kalabule go far back in our history. Many of those before us can remember Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s dawn broadcast against corruption. The late General Kutu Acheampong of the Supreme Military Council preached against moral turpitude, nepotism, favouritism, corruption, and dishonesty which were rampant then. His sermons fell on deaf ears.

 

Most of our founding fathers were each accused of various degrees of corruption, with varying degrees of justification. But none of that can be compared to the sordid, open and rampant degrees of corruption to which we are all helpless witnesses. The most talked about case being that of Mr. Woyome. So, when I hear the current President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo promising to root out corruption, some part of me says it is about time. But the more realistic part says, haven’t we been there before.

 

In the last edition of Public Agenda, we carried a story by Chals Wontowe on the “winner-takes-all” attitude in our politics. This allows power and family relationships to prevail over decency and over the rule of law, and allows corruption of different types to thrive.

A commentator on corruption in Nigeria said that if Nigerians lived in ancient times when “God used to destroy nations that were beyond redemption in their moral transgressions, we (Nigerians) would have been more than ripe for total destruction”. I think the same might apply to Ghana today.

What is worrying about the level of runaway corruption is the openness with which we accept these transgressions. It seems that we have even crossed the boundaries of decency, between good and bad. We have gained notoriety for tendencies which in the years gone by we would have frowned upon.

 

The corruption bandwagon of often renewed and given a new lease of life with every civilian government. However, we can take comfort in the hope that since the new NPP administration promised some form of ‘change’, corruption will be on top of the list. The NPP Government has promised a Special Prosecutor, if that works, and one is appointed, we could see a change in public perceptions against corruption. We need to see some action against corruption. Unemployment, lack of welfare facilities, child abuse, maternal mortality, poor roads, poor sanitation, and so on, can all be attributed to corruption. Corruption is holding the nation back in its progress. Corruption kills. Sometimes, it is tempting to blame some foreigners, but not this time. How long can this go on?

Writing about corruption in Nigeria, Prof Jibril Ibrahim of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in Nigeria commented that “in order to avoid the total collapse of the Nigerian state which corruption is accelerating, all patriots must come together and fight it, for if we fail to do so the inevitable anarchy that will follow will consume us all.”  This is a call to Ghanaian patriots to rise up and support the NPP Government to end corruption before it kills us all.

 

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