Folks, the fat and ugly noise issuing forth from President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Mr Martin Amidu to create the misleading impression that the Office of the Special Prosecutor will do anything spectacular to eradicate corruption from Ghana makes me wonder whether they really know “the Ghanaian Sphinx”.
Don’t get me wrong. Eradicating corruption from Ghana is a laudable move; but the cards stacked up against it are frightening, clearly because of the systemic problems that resist solution and the tacit connivance of those pontificating against corruption while cunningly promoting it.
All that has been happening over the years indicates that the fight against corruption cannot be waged and won through empty political rhetoric or spur-of-the-moment measures such as trumping up allegations/charges against political opponents and portraying them as corrupt and ripe for prosecution.
It appears that all the attention is focused on drawing the dagger against those perceived as political opponents who happen to oversee institutions, as is emerging under Akufo-Addo.
It is nothing new. Ghana’s history is replete with such measures, especially when a government is no more in power and its functionaries become the bull’s eye. Commissions of Inquiry set up to investigate happenings under President Kwame Nkrumah started it all. It didn’t solve the problem.
Succeeding governments going that way couldn’t use such means to end corruption in Ghana. The draconian measures used by Jerry John Rawlings‘ AFRC wreaked much havoc but didn’t solve the problem.
The PNDC’s version didn’t work either. Its Citizens’ Vetting Committee, One-Man-One-House Committee, and the Confiscated Assets Committee couldn’t either. Rawlings’ “house-cleaning exercise” turned out to be a wash-out.
(After snuggling to Nigeria’s Abacha and being favoured with millions of Dollars to sing Abacha’s praise and after his wife, Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings, masterminded the divestiture of Nsawam Cannery to her for which she was being tried only for President John Agyekum Kufuor to unilaterally end it all and free all others facing court for high-level corruption, what justification do the Rawlingses have to talk about corruption anymore? And to imagine that Rawlings was instrumental in the appointment of Martin Amidu as the Special Prosecutor irks even more.)
In our 4th Republic, all talk of the fight against corruption provokes concentrated ridicule. It’s all a matter of those wielding political power turning the gun against those they wish will not rebound to wrest political power from them.
From Rawlings to Kufuor, Mills to Mahama, and now Akufo-Addo, it is the same old story told in different ways. Too much ado about nothing. Only the blowing of needless hot air to irritate us.
That is why Akufo-Addo’s cosmetic measures don’t mean anything for as long as the institutions to help him succeed are themselves weak and unprepared for the responsibilities placed on them. It is all hot air being blown about. Time is oozing out; and by the time the political rhetoric ebbs, little would have been done.
So far, some cases highlighted as instances of corruption have hit the headlines. That of Dr. Stephen Opuni, former CEO of the Ghana Cocoa Board, caught much attention to the extent that the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General would even stick her neck out to say that he would be imprisoned for 25 years at the end of his trial (even before his trial begins)!
The Economic and Organized Crimes Office (EOCO) that took it upon itself to investigate him rashly froze his bank account, which reinforced claims by the government and its surrogates that he was guilty of corruption.
Now, what do we have? A High Court in Accra has ordered the EOCO to de-freeze all his bank accounts. What does this court order tell us?
Another instance. The trial of those charged with corruption at the National Communications Authority is moving at a snail’s pace—in fact, stalled—because of technicalities.
Snippets of many other cases being trumped up are emerging. What is clear is that there are too many complications in our judicial system that won’t easily allow Akufo-Addo and his government to have a field day just because they are politically charged to point accusing fingers at those they construct as corrupt.
That is why all the zealousness with which this lame-duck government and Martin Amidu are going about things makes me wonder whether they really know what is at stake. Amidu is talking about prosecuting people as if the road ahead of him is paved with gold.
Not until the inadequacies of the judicial system are identified and tackled, all the threats against those constructed as corrupt and worthy of punishment will amount to nothing. It will only embolden them to devise better means to perpetrate their activities and erase all traces.
For now, the Opuni case speaks volumes that must be heard. Corruption in our Ghanaian (African) situation has a deep root in our moral, cultural, and societal constructions:
How many times haven’t we heard our relatives and friends admonish us to “make hay while the sun shines”, implying that it is not easy to get appointed to such positions of trust in the public service and one must exploit the situation, not knowing when one will be fired?
The pressure on the individual to make profit from an appointment is heavy and real. And unexpected dismissal is real too. Why not grab whatever is available when possible while waiting for the bad news by radio announcement along the line? It is cultural; it is irresistible; it has no respect for political persuasion.
Let’s remember also that what happens before such appointments are made is noteworthy. Whether through heavy lobbying or any other means, getting appointed to high public office doesn’t just happen anyhow. Strings are attached. So, when one bends or stoops low (to conquer), who is clean enough to cast the first stone?
(Ayikwei Armah’s _Fragments_ and Chinua Achebe’s _No Longer at Ease_ or _A Man of the People_ say it all.).
For as long as conditions exist for corruption to thrive in our system, no amount of pontification, hounding, prosecution, imprisoning, murdering, etc. will solve the problem. Eventually, those shouting the loudest against corruption turn out to be the secret masterminds behind it. Too bad for us.
I shall return…