Columnist: Kwesi Biney
Riddle riddle, since time immemorial, nations have lived with a certain man, communities and leaders of communities hate this man. Leaders of the communities have the power to either remove this man from the society or reduce his influence in the society, but the more the leaders do or purport to do to isolate the man, the wider the tentacles of the man grows. While the man keeps recruiting fresh followers into his world, leaders fight over who dealt more with the man to either reduce his abominable acts in society, or who oiled his actions.
Ask any child who just last Tuesday stepped in the classroom for the first time and the answer will be CORRUPTION. Many governments have fallen on the dagger of corruption in this country. Some leaders were tied to the stake and shot dead without the opportunity to explain why they invited corruption into their lives, if they did at all. Communities have been denied basic amenities of life because of corruption; projects have been poorly executed because of the man called corruption. People die prematurely because corruption was at the corner pretending to be checking wrong doing on our roads and in our hospitals. And who is he?
Rick Stapenhurst and Sahr Kpundeh have described corruption as ‘the abuse of power, most often for personal gain or for the benefit of a group to which one owes allegiance. It can be motivated by greed, by the desire to retain or increase one’s power, or, perversely enough, by the belief in a supposed greater good.’ They also assert that ‘while the term corruption is most often applied to abuse of public power by politicians or civil servants, it describes a pattern of behavior that can be found in virtually every sphere of life.’
If corruption can be found in every sphere of life, then is it right to single out a group of people and blame them for the canker we all claim to abhor? Is every action or lifestyle of a person, be them in private life or the public sector be considered as a lifestyle borne out of corrupt practices? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, because one’s lifestyle must be on the basis of one’s income on which the laws require payments of taxes to the state. So if a public officer whose position is attached to a known remuneration is seen to be leading a lifestyle whose cost is far higher than his known and legitimate income, there is a perception of corruption out there. Even in the private sector, one’s activities and lifestyle can also generate suspicions and create perceptions of corrupt practices by the suspected individual.
Indeed, many people and political leaders, when pushed to the wall on this issue of corruption, have taken solace and succor from “perception”, making a case that the allegations of corruptions are only perception and cannot be proven. On perception, Robert Sekuler and Randolph Blake have this to say ‘perception entails a sequence of interrelated events. To understand perception completely requires knowing all the components of that sequence and the way the components interact.’
In our environment, even if there are no material evidence to support a claim of corrupt practices by an individual, sudden lifestyle change on attaining a certain public position in consonance with known legitimate incomes create individual theory of a reality that defines one’s view of a person. These views become more entrenched in the minds of society particularly when there are no structures and processes to make people account for what some describe as ‘extra curriculum incomes on the blind side of the state.’
Corruption, it is said, is as old as Adam, yet some societies have been able to reduce it to the bare-minimum, through fear of punishment as well as legitimate norms and traditions shared by all the actors in that society. In cases where political and economic opportunities are sufficiently plentiful that there is less need to use wealth to buy political power, or to use power to extract wealth in order to get ahead, corruption is minimized.
The irony of our situation in Ghana today is the fact that our economic and political conditions have made almost every individual in our society either an active player in the corruption chest game or a beneficiary of corruption. It is very interesting that the clergy is very much interested and concerned about the levels of reported allegations of corruptions in both public and social lives. However, it is also true that the church is also a beneficiary of corrupt activities of its members. Do the Priests question the sources of incomes of their members who are voluntarily or coerced to pay to the churches?
The invitations to public office holders to church functions on a weekly basis even when that public officer is not a member of that church to donate huge sums of monies for church activities are major stress on the finances of many public office holders, but who are they to refuse a handsome donation to the church. The fear of being described as anti-Christ is sufficient for the public office holder to find any means to make the money to satisfy the church. This is just one example.
While in some countries, acts of corruption are severely dealt with, it is not the same in our case in Ghana and many African countries. In fact, success through corrupt practices are hailed and respected. Countless number of factors can be outlined as reasons for the ever growing incidence of corruption among us as a people, but those reasons are no justifications for the level of corruption particularly among public officers who are in better stead to live reasonably comfortable lives as against majority of the citizens.
The call therefore by Mr. Yaw Osaafo Marfo on Ghanaians for a change of mind and heart as a means of dealing with corruption is a welcome one but human beings are such that pleadings for change of attitudes or activities which inure to the benefit of the individual will not attain the desired results no matter how bad it affects the broader society. This is where the use of the power of the state becomes necessary, to deal with a canker that is destructive to our collective good. The full force of the state is required, in situations as we are grappling with today, to let citizens know that a few group of people by virtue of their positions cannot take all of us ransom.
The level of thievery in our society today has gone beyond need. The levels of criminality in our society are built on greed. It has become fashionable today to see some public officers who under normal circumstances could not afford holidays in their villages, plan their holidays with their fiancés in South Africa or Dubai, the latest destinations. The people around you knew you before you got to political office, so they will speculate and make your government look bad.
In any case, we can only be talking about good governance only when we use political authority and exercise control over society and the management of its resources for social and economic development for all. We should see corruption as a disease that require our collective efforts to address rather than pointing fingers to others as being Clearing Agents. If there is no importer, there cannot be a Clearing Agent. The PNDC/NDC has done 27 years out of our 62 years of nationhood. Did they contribute towards the growth of corruption? I am just asking.
Daavi, some four tots to warm my body.