Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis John
THE COMPLEX PERSONALITY OF CORRUPTION
No doubt the word “corruption” has become one of the most important vocabularies in the moral expenditure on governance and political critique of modern society. It is important because, perhaps, it provides valuable insights into the extent to which society deviates from the norm of acceptable behavior. This working definition is too broad and vague, lacking a defining specificity of political choices broadly framed under the oversight of an enforceable moral compass of a people’s choosing. To the extent that the concept is invested with various shifting complexions of ideological, political, and moral definitions depending on the moral geometry of a society or persons under investigation, particularly in the Ghanaian context, we shall not attempt to belabor its operational conceptualization and multilayered definitions here.
In sum, our position is that mere mention of the word itself invokes various shifting images of certain socially, morally defined bracket of assumptions, connotations, and perceptions that are already familiar to many people, our readers in particular. This loud admission underwrites our sharp departure from any sense of rigorous intellectual expenditure insofar as a conceptual elaboration of the idea goes.
Notwithstanding the competing assertions above, the concept has taken on an image of a proverbial meme in the controversial political DNA of the Fourth Republic. So entrenched has this moral mutation been in the political DNA of the Fourth Republic that attempts to contain it have remained endlessly elusive, or palliative at best. Ex-President Kufuor’s popular wisecrack that corruption has been in existence since the days of Biblical Adam has come to represent an indictment of official dereliction and an irresponsible circumvention of his government’s constitutional mandate in fighting the canker. He may have issued that regrettable retort in the heat of public outcry and public righteous indignation against pervasive corruption in his government.
In fact, his careless remark gave a sanctimonious impression pointing to political normalization of the practice in Ghana’s body politic and thereby shifting the strategic focus of official culpability from his person and government to a normative indictment of a convenient timeline of moral mythology harking back to mortal beginnings. The remark also gave the impression that the moral and political crusade against corruption was and still is unwinnable. Kufuor thus usurped the moral authority of the Constitution though this did not necessarily take away the symbolic import of the antiquity of mortal corruptibility. This is a statement of fact.
THE MO IBRAHIM PRIZE FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN AFRICAN LEADERSHIP
Readers may want to refer to the website of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for extensive description of what the Foundation is all about, including the Mo Ibrahim Prize For Achievement In African Leadership. It means we shall not be discussing either institution here in any consuming detail of informational preciseness except, perhaps, make sporadic references to the minutiae of the Foundation’s core operational mandate. Thus, we shall provide a brief critique of aspects of the Ibrahim Prize on the assumption that readers already have some intellectual familiarity with the informational content of the website.
Mr. Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese billionaire and telecommunications entrepreneur, is a visionary character. Fundamentally, his generosity and philanthropy define what progressive Nkrumah and others may have called the African Personality. It may also have been what Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu called Ubuntu. In fact, Mr. Ibrahim’s largess and visionary philanthropy directly speaks to the Afrocentric underpinnings of African Personality in what some have described as seeking African solutions to African problems. Thus, by setting up this Foundation he demonstrates to the world what Africans can do for themselves in terms of sound democratic governance, of improving the living conditions of the African masses, and of empowering Africans to demand accountability of their leaders and institutions.
He could have kept the money meant for the Foundation’s financial endowment in Swiss bank accounts, as Mobuto and other African kleptocrats are known to have done. Mr. Ibrahim could have equally re-invested the financial endowment in other lucrative concerns for additional access to possible incremental profits geared toward either his exclusive personal entitlement or familial benefit, or both. Yet he did not. Instead his visionary benevolence squarely places moral burden on African leaders to do right by their people, and more generally, spotlight on questionable practices of governance in Africa, thus providing a normative critical framology under which Africa is compelled to come face to face with a pedigree of moral trajectory upon which accountability, social justice, transparency, improved living conditions of the masses, democratic governance, national development, press freedom, and human rights issues take center stage.
But these expectations do not stand alone. Perhaps, an essential constituent of Mr. Ibrahim’s stringent expectations for the proper functioning of democratic structures is the enviable quantum of monetary reward he appends to the legacy of those governments and statesmen whose behavior measure up to a set of metric, represented by the Ibrahim Index Of African Governance. The initial price tag for meeting metric expectations is pegged at $5 million, then an annual payment of $200,000 running the course of a recipient’s life. But this quantum of monetary incentive may not, above all, serve its intended purpose. The fact is that some African politicians, statesmen, and governments are stealing more than these “meagre” amounts. We may hazard a controversial claim that some African politicians literally “own” their countries’ treasuries! Civilian capitalists like Eduardo dos Santos and military kleptocratic capitalists like Mobuto Sese Seko and Sani Abacha. Mo Ibrahim means nothing to such characters.
The more important fact is that, an African despot and kleptocrat who needs money to underwrite his and his families’ and friends’ extravagant lifestyles may not be willing to wait and receive the award after leaving office, a theory undermined by questions of competitiveness and forensic failure to predict a prospective winner(s) among a pool of candidates with any degree of certainty, or with a measure of stochastic conviction. This is not to rubbish or discredit Mr. Ibrahim’s vision per se. It is to state the obvious that it ignores the larger contributions of ordinary citizens to proper democratic governance and national development, of the Opposition whose political vigilance prods incumbency and thereby makes for improved living conditions of the masses, and of real political players in the shadows of ceremonial politicians and statesmen whose leadership meets the Ibrahim Index Of African Governance.
The fact that Mr. Ibrahim made elective democracy a signature of his visionary philanthropy speaks to a need for collective agency in matters of democratic governance. The primary concern for our critique is when the prize is awarded to individual statesmen rather than to government. Yet it is not the monetary award we are interested in. It is the symbolic gesture or content of Mr. Ibrahim’s noble vision that we think should drive contemporary African politics and institutions. We think the monetary incentive is merely a physical expression of that symbolic gesture, a gesture meant to discourage or dissuade African leaders from kleptomania and despotism and to initiate a shift toward a guaranteed financialization of the lifestyles of statesmen in post-presidential retirement.
In the end, no critique of the Foundation can override the symbolic gesture of Mr. Ibrahim’s vision.
KUFUOR FACES OFF THE MO IBRAHIM FOUNDATION
Akufo-Addo: “No society in the world has uprooted corruption, what they have done is to minimize it.”
Clement Apaak: “He [Kufuor] presided over the most corrupt government, one that channeled public resources and wealth to a few individuals, a fact not lost to the Committee, interesting (sic) chaired by Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary General, and a Ghanaian…Corrupt practices during his reign nullified all the so-called good things listed by his spokesperson…In the years between 1998 and 2008, a period of ten years, the highest corruption index assigned to Ghana occurred under the NPP-led Kufuor administration according to ‘The Role of the Corruption Perceptions Index’…In 1988 Ghana ranked 55th, and by 2004 Ghana reached 70th, repeating this highest level in 2006…”
Apaak’s Committee is the Prize Committee of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Apaak’s contention is that Kufuor and his government lost out to other potential awardees because of massive corruption that occurred under his watch, an entrenched political cancer he did not do enough in extirpating or minimizing. Regardless, the Foundation’s slighting of Kufuor obviously constitutes a blot on his legacy. It is, however, important to stress here that Apaak’s narrow statistical invocation pertains to questions of “perception” rather than of forensic intimations of examples from a dispensation of political empiricism, though he marshalled a few empirical examples from the Kufuor dispensation to establish a direct link between forensic empiricism and perception. Akufu-Addo was part of that link between perception and political empiricism, notwithstanding the forensic preciseness and factual empiricism of his claim that no society has succeeded in rooting out corruption.
The question is: To what extent can corruption be minimized, and how? What specific role did Akufo-Addo play in fighting public corruption as Ghana’s Attorney General in the Kufuor government? How many corrupt public officials did Akufo-Addo successfully prosecute as Ghana’s Attorney General? What does Akufo-Addo has to say about Kufuor’s filling the courts with friends and other personalities sympathetic to the Kufuor government? What is Akufo-Addo’s position on the Freedom of Information Bill (FOIB) and the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) versus Ghana Hybrid System (GHS)? We are not implying that a potential Akufo-Addo government is necessarily going to be a spitting image of Kufuor’s legacy. We are all aware of the Akyem-Asante factionalism tearing the Opposition apart.
What we are in fact saying is that the political ledger of Akufo-Addo’s legacy as a high-standing member of the ex-while Kufuor government is open to critical valuation and critique for, after all, he has been running his campaign partly on that questionable Kufuor legacy. What is more, both the political outlooks of Akufo-Addo and Kufuor are rooted in different ideological origins. Kufuor came from a varied background of the kind of partisan ideology deeply rooted in the kleptocratic property-owning democracy advanced by Busia and of the disciplinary pseudo-social democracy of Rawlings, with many not being privy to the little-known fact that Rawlings has always been both a secret and open admirer of J.B. Danquah. Rawlings’ political vision has partly been informed by his admiration for Danquah. As well, sale of state assets did not begin under Rawlings, but under Busia. Busia was synonymous with divesture.
The government of Rawlings took inspirations from there. So everywhere one turns to his government was in the thick of the Danquah-Busia ideological pedigree. The fact that Danquah and his wife Mabel Dove-Danquah named their son after Vladimir Lenin speaks volumes. In the 1980s, for instance, Rawlings made an important public speech in which he poured out his admiration for Danquah and other Ghanaian leaders, a speech that never recognized or mentioned Nkrumah. The brand of ideological framology which Danquah advanced harbored some subtle creative elements of pseudo-socialism and Ricardian socialism much as the derived free-market capitalism of Adam Smith and other classical and post-classical economists did. Rawlings also admired Nkrumah though not an Nkrumahist, as Mwakikagile notes:
“Rawlings himself has been quoted to have said he admires Nkrumah but he is not Nkrumaist. According to an article published on Ghanaweb on 9 June 2004, ‘I Admire Nkrumah, But I Am Not An Nkrumaist: ‘THE FORMER President, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, has dismissed assertions that by the Managing Editor of the ‘Crusading Guide,’ Mr. Kweku Baako, Jnr. That he hates the first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Mr. Victor Smith, Special Aide to the ex-President. Had quoted Mr. Rawlings as saying he did not hate Nkrumah but admired him for the good things he had done for the nation. However, he said Mr. Rawlings was not an Nkrumaist and it was therefore totally wrong and out of context for somebody to say a thing of that sort…Mr. Smith shifted the blame to the NPP, saying Baako’s effusions were part of the NPP’s agenda to malign Mr. Rawlings with the view to disorganizing the NDC…”
Mwakikagile concludes quoting Ghanaweb: “Mr. Baako was reported to have stated that the former President had developed hatred for the first President to the extent that wherever they (Baako and Rawlings) went, the ex-President had demanded the removal of Dr. Nkrumah’s picture.”
We may recall Kwabena Agyapong, the suspended General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), being cited for removal from office for allegedly asking a colleague to remove portraits of Akufo-Addo from his office. This is democratic dictatorship at its best. That aside, like Rawlings, Akufo-Addo has demonstrated some allegiance to the political ideology of Danquah. Akufo-Addo, on the other hand, has always been a pseudo-socialist and therefore we may point to his smattering of references to property-owning democracy, at best, constitutes an emotional rhetoric of political convenience. Akufo-Addo has courted the public support of pseudo-socialist Rawlings when he had found it convenient to do so. Even so, in the absence of any useful historical template pointing to a teachable track record of his fighting corruption in the Kufuor government, one wonders what to expect of an Akufo-Addo government in terms of a formulation of an effective strategy to fight or contain official corruption.
The pop refrain by his sycophantic minions that he is incorruptible does not pass muster. As well, his statement to the effect that no society has achieved any success trying to root out corruption is an implicit admission of his own potential corruptibility. Kufuor’s moral mythology offers an immanent encore of this truism. Unfortunately, Apaak, a member of the Mahama administration did not foresee the spate of corruption scandals that would rock the National Democratic Congress (NDC), a political party that claims allegiance to social democracy. The irony is that Apaak made property-owning capitalism the basis of his political and moral critique of the Kufuor government, but could not probably have foreseen corruption taking place under the social democracy of the NDC. But precedent in terms of the cyclic rhetoric of political equalization may be an important factor in assessing the rampancy of official corruption. We are not in any case confusing cause with effect. We are rather making assertions based on questionable facts of stochastic causations between the untoward behaviors of the two major political parties.
What, then, separates the social democracy of the NDC from the property-owning capitalism of the NPP, or vice versa? The human factor perhaps! Could Kufuor have been right then? How about Akufo-Addo’s controversial position that no society can uproot corruption? Is Kufuor’s Biblical Adam permitted in the social democracy of the NDC? What can Apaak tell us of the legacy of the Mahama presidency? Is it likely that Mahama or his government would be awarded the prestigious Ibrahim Prize? If so, on what basis? The sad part of the matter is that each party empties the national treasury before the other takes over. Some of the windfall of this blatant Orwellian thievery goes to the pockets of private individuals linked to both parties, the bribing of the electorate, members of the judiciary and parliament and other public officials, and the funding of electioneering politics.
Nepotism, cronyism, ethnocentrism, conflict of interest, shady procurement politics relating to sole-sourcing…have defied the logic of partisan political ideology. Official corruption has come to define the political theology of the Fourth Republic to the extent that it is beyond the ideological redemption of the two parties. All these go on while the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), and other departments in the national security apparatus remain largely nonchalant toward moral anomie. Where are the CID and the BNI when civilians like Martin Amidu and Ana Aremeyaw Anas seem to be doing some of the most important investigations? Is Kufuor’s Biblical Adam capable of the operational dynamics of time warp? What of the delusionary epicaricacy of either major political when it is in opposition? Is his Biblical Adam haunting Ghana and if so, will it haunt a potential Akufo-Addo government? Do our thieving politicians care about the Mo Ibrahim Foundation? Are our politicians capable of grassroots-democracy rather than of representative democracy?
We leave these questions to readers.
1) Clement Apaak. “Massive Corruption Made Ex-President Kufuor Unfit For Mo Ibrahim Award.” Ghanaweb. Oct. 27, 2009.
2) Kweku Dadzie. “Sale of Government Assets.” Center for Consciencist Studies and Analyses (CENCSA). Nov. 28, 2012.
3) Tetteh A. Kofi. “The Elites and Underdevelopment in Africa.” Berkeley Journal of Sociology. Vol. 17 (1972-73), pp 97. Regents of the University of California.
4) Ghanaweb. “No Country Can Uproot Corruption—Akufo-Addo. Oct. 12, 2015.
5) Godfrey Mwakikagile. “Western Involvement in Nkrumah’s Downfall.”
6) Kweku Adu. “Kufuor Dares Us, We Respond.” The Insight Newspaper. Jan. 9, 2014.
7) “I Won’t Steal Ghana’s Money as President—Akufo-Addo.” Ghanaweb. Oct. 6, 2015.
8) Ghanaweb. “I Admire Rawlings, But I Am Not An Nkrumaist—JJ.” June 9, 2004.