Ideally, a change of government in a country should not bring about any recriminations and retributions.
People in the government become members of the “loyal” opposition. Their experience is useful to the country, because having just emerged from running things at the practical level, they can point out the loopholes in the proposals – usually conceived from a theoretical background – of the former opposition politicians who are now running the government.
But alas, that’s not the situation that this country is facing at the moment. One hears too many stories about the shameless pilfering allegedly carried out by some members of the past government who have become the new opposition.
Apart from blatantly taking huge sums of money out of the coffers of the state, some are alleged to have used their positions to acquire enormous plots of land, some of which used to belong to state institutions. Even individuals are alleged to have been were cowed into accepting the forceful of their legitimate properties, because they feared to go to court to incur the wrath of powerful members of the government.
One hears these stories and one asks: “But did the members of that government not know that they could one day be exposed?
And the answer comes out: “They never thought they would lose the election!”
And one sighs. For that explains a lot! Otherwise, how could sane people be unaware that it is dangerous to be so insensitive to public opinion?
Some formerly highly-placed persons are credited with so much alleged land-grabbing and property acquisition as make one ask: did it matter to them that they were embarrassing their entire administration by being so greedy?
And the answer is this: “When a human being becomes greedy, there’s NO LIMIT to where that greed can drive him/her!”
For even if one is not fearful of embarrassing oneself, one should take care not to embarrass one’s friends, relatives or business colleagues, for after all, one owes them some affection, if not respect.
By the way, it isn’t only in Ghana that people do not scruple to embarrass their friends in power by unduly tapping into political influence to enrich themselves. South Africa is currently in the throes of the ‘mother of all scandals’, arising out of the relationship between President Jacob Zuma, his son Duduzane and two Indian brothers, the Guptas. The inroads the Guptas have made into state businesses have reached such a stage that the phenomenon has been dubbed ignominiously as “state capture” (no less)!
Now, the South African economy is not child’s play, so when “state capture” is mentioned, it takes one’s breath away. We’re talking of billions of dollars made from contracts involving EKSOM (the state-owned electricity company); the South African Defence Force (warships and military aircraft that cost the earth); and so on.
From the proceeds of corrupt contracts, the Guptas have allegedly bought a magnificent edifice for Zuma in Dubai. They also bought air tickets and arranged for luxurious accommodation abroad for certain Cabinet Ministers, including the Minister who granted them South African citizenship with extraordinary speed.
Of course, the Guptas never thought they could ever be exposed. Nevertheless, they did take precautions to whitewash their image in South Africa: they hired a notorious British public relations firm called Bell Pottinger, to carry out “black operations” in the media on their behalf. This entailed (1) Bell Pottinger bribing South African journalists to carry out “soft” interviews with the Guptas, in which the Guptas would be allowed to deny any rumours about themselves and their relationship with the Zumas and other Ministers, without being seriously challenged and (2) using social media to blacken the names of those who opposed their relationship with members of the Government.
The clever term Bell Pottinger coined to malign those opposed to the cabal was an emotive one, namely, “white monopoly capital”! They knew that opposition to “white monopoly capital” was widespread within the ruling ANC and that ANC people would, by knee-jerk reaction, rally to defend the Zumas if they were convinced that “white monopoly capital” was indeed after their blood!
However, South African society is much more sophisticated than the Guptas bargained for: intimate Gupta emails, detailing their dealings with all manner of people, were leaked!
How devastating the exposure has been is revealed by one journalist, Justice Malala, who wrote that there was no use the Guptas denying the authenticity of the emails because “I am in them!”
Malala disclosed that Bell Pottinger had approached him to do an interview with the Guptas (!) and that he had insisted on certain conditions with which the Bell Pottinger contact person would not agree. The implication in Malala’s disclosure was that other journalists, unlike him, might have taken the Bell Pottinger shilling and “co-operated” in carrying out their black propaganda project.
In Ghana, we have not as yet had any leakage of emails (so far), but I am sure some are on the way. Certainly, the talk about dirty business deals engaged in by members of the previous government grows by the day. The troubling question is: what can be done about those corrupt deals?
If too much noise is made about the iniquities of the past administration, people have the right to ask, “Are they too not Ghanaians? Is what they did not Ghanaian in character? In making all this noise, are you not going to blacken the name of all Ghanaian politicians — and associates of politicians — and thereby create the harmful impression that businesses cannot be run successfully in Ghana without political patronage?”
Another question is this: “Will you not, by prying too much into the affairs of the past administration, be carrying out a witch-hunt? Isn’t the fear of witch-hunts one of the main reasons why governments in Africa take every precaution not to give up power? Isn’t that why there are so many totalitarian regimes on the continent”?
But that last question must be answered with another question: so, because we fear that investigating the crimes of corruption by a past administration can be misconstrued as a witch-hunt, we must allow blatant corruption to go unpunished?
Must the laws we have ourselves enacted, prohibiting –and punishing – corruption, be ignored, then? Isn’t every investigation of a crime a sort of witch-hunt? If you’re going to ignore some laws because applying them can be misinterpreted as a “witch-hunt”, then where will you draw the line?
Ther police want to check the papers of commercial vehicles to see whether they are insured or have passed a test for road safety?
Communities catching lazy people who steal other people’s plantain and/or goats?
Trying book-keepers and accountants who indulge in false accounting and fraud?
Yes – it’s as absurd as all that. Corruption is every bit a crime as those that have been sketched above. But it is worse, in that its effects are more widespread than is immediately apparent.
Corruption in awarding contracts for road construction, for instance, forces some contractors to cut corners and giving us dangerous roads. Dangerous roads, of course, kill people.
Corruption in the sale of public utilities ends up giving us utility companies that do not take the public interest into account when deciding on their charges. After all, the utilities must make profit in order to recoup any bribes they might have paid in obtaining their licences! Ask this: who in Ghana is satisfied with the charges levied for electricity today? Charges for mobile phone usage? The reach of potable water distribution – and its price?
No! We must eschew loose thinking. If no serious attempt is made to eliminate corruption, we shall be voting money for social development and not getting any social development whatsoever because the money does not go to provide development but is spirited into – private pockets!! And that will destabilise our society because the lack of development inevitably creates political discontent.
It is in consideration of the above facts that we must speedily create the office of a Public Prosecutor who will use a team of experts to investigate and publicly prosecute crimes associated with using the governmental machinery corruptly to make money.
The people who fear a witch-hunt must allow thenselves to be assured that the Public Prosecutor will carry out his/her duties in the public arena – i.e. before the open courts – so every evidence he/she unearths against accused persons can be seen and analysed by the general public, as well as by the courts. Witch-hunts, on the other hand, are usually carried out in secret by cults and/or cabals of exorcists!
Ipso facto, bringing evidence in court – publicly – against corrupt ex-officials (irrespective of the positions they formerly held in government) cannot amount to a witch-hunt.
The description of such a public process as a witch-hunt is therefore merely self-serving and has no merit. It should be dismissed with contempt.
Therefore, the Public Prosecutor Bill should be enacted with all dispatch.
Thereby, we shall make a beginning in trying to cut off the head of the corruption serpent.
We may not succeed completely, of course (because to fail is human.) But at least no-one can accuse us of not attempting to succeed!
Source: CAMERON DUODU
**This article first appeared on Myjoyonline