A reflection on corruption within the Judiciary

Fri, 9 Oct 2015 Source: Kwame Frimpong

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The recent exposure of corruption within the judiciary by Anas seems to have sent shock waves throughout the nation. The general reaction seems to be one of unbelief. If one observes the throngs of people of all walks of life – the clergy, traditional leaders, the political elite, top public servants, the academia, street vendors – all juggling for positions to watch the videos, then one has no choice but to conclude that a serious tsunami has hit Ghana.

But I seemed to be in a different state of unbelief or shock – I was left in a state of helplessness and confusion resulting in the question, “wait a minute, what is going on?” I am sure that question would elicit one answer, also in a form of a question , “are you the only stranger in Jerusalem?” But unlike the Biblical Philip who could point Nathaniel to something unique, the encounter with the Messiah, I doubt if any Ghanaian has been able to point to something positive out of this rather unfortunate revelation in our country. All that we seem to be so obsessed with is the apparent jubilation over the exposure – “yes we’ve now got them”!

Social implications

There are some wider social implications in the corruption scandal in the Judiciary exposed by Anas that seem to be lost to the Ghanaian community. I think this is more serious than the fact that we have uncovered the scandal. This piece tries to address three of them.

First, which is the most serious one, if the Judiciary of all institutions of the state could go to this extreme, to stoop so low, then it is a serious reflection on the type of society in which we all live. The judiciary is the fountain of justice, the one area one would feel safe to approach in the event of one being abused or deprived of one’s fundamental human or legal rights.

But if this bastion of justice, between the rule and the ruled, cannot be trusted to be a safe haven for the oppressed, then our whole existence as a nation has been eroded. The people should be able to put their faith in the Judiciary but if that faith does not exist, then we are in a state of absolute anarchy. It is justice that no nation can afford to lose let alone trifle. If we do, it breeds contempt for the law and each one can become a law onto him/herself.

It is surprising that majority of us are looking at the corruption in the Judiciary from a very narrow perspective. Any serious concerned Ghanaian should rather be worried to the bone. The corruption within the judiciary should tell us that the level of corruption is so deeply rooted in every fabric of the nation that what Anas has exposed is just the tip of the iceberg.

Hypocrisy of the Ghanaian

Following from the first is the second, which is the hypocrisy of the Ghanaian. Our inability to recognise and address the most serious cancer or evil in our society is a product of self-denial syndrome. We have this “holier than thou” mentality and attitude in the country. We are all pretending that we are different from the judges. But the reality is that most of us do worse things in our official positions than the judges. Whether it is politician, a traditional leader, a man or woman of God, a trader, a foot-soldier, assembly member or ordinary man on the streets, we all have one type of blood in us – steal and steal, and nothing else but steal.

The judges do not have access to vouchers, purchase orders, pro-forma invoices, the signing of contracts, etc., all sources of duping and open thievery with impunity at every level of the function of the state. They are able to send their children to the most expensive schools in foreign countries at the expense of the poor tax payer and put up luxurious buildings like their counterparts in public positions. Their participation in this gloomy state of affairs is to fall on despicable things such as goats, yams and pitiable sums of GH¢500.

It is sad indeed. In my honest opinion, the judges have stooped so low simply because unlike the rest of us, they do not have the same opportunities of dipping their hands into the state coffers which most of us rather choose to grab. Thus, the only real difference between the judges and the rest of us is the fact that we have not been caught. We have all fallen short of God’s glory. He or she who is without sin should be the first to cast the stone at them.

Time for sober reflection

In this respect, the most serious outcome should have been a sober reflection by all, admitting that we are at the nadir of our nation building and, therefore, should adopt a more radical approach to addressing this social cancer. Like the people of Nineveh, we should thank Anas in the form of Jonah for awaking us to the reality of the evil deeds of our nation and turn to God for a redemption, and change of our ways.

Once the people of Nineveh realised the state in which their nation was , they acted to avert the catastrophe. The King, the leader of the nation, took a decisive action by declaring a fast throughout the country. The whole nation, from the King down to beasts on the streets, all fasted and repented from their ways. And as the Good Book tells us, “if my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and heal their land” [2 Chronicles 7: 14].

State of lawlessness

We are in this state simply because of the extreme state of lawlessness in this nation. The level of indiscipline is unparalleled. I had the occasion to address this issue in a piece in the Daily Graphic of 28, January 2013. Most officials have the audacity to openly steal, use state resources at will and abuse office simply because there is no system of accountability. The rule of law that ensures that all citizens are subject to the laws of the land has broken down completely. We seem to be behaving like ordinary grasshoppers, jumping around without any aim, vision or direction, other than grabbing and abusing our way with sheer impunity. We need a resolute action to confront this menace in our country.

What the nation, therefore, needs is not the gloating over what has happened within the Judiciary by spending precious hours over the videos. We rather need two things.

First, let us all join together and thank Anas for providing us with a mirror for us to see our nation and ourselves clearly – that we are at the pit of the bottom of corruption that has seeped deep into even the judiciary, the fountain of justice.

Second, we need to use that opportunity to do a serious introspection in addressing the evils of this nation, particularly in confronting the impunity of indiscipline and lawlessness which are fuelling corruption and other abuses in our society.

The writer is the Founding Dean, GIMPA Law School and Consulting Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Professional Studies, Accra.

Columnist: Kwame Frimpong