Fighting Corruption in Ghana? Forget it!!

Sun, 12 Feb 2012 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Woyome fraud has opened a wide window through which we can peek into the web that makes it difficult for anybody to attempt fighting or eradicating corruption in Ghana. What is it about Woyome’s misconduct that will make anybody sympathize with him and create the impression that the official action being taken against him is bad or that he shouldn’t have been arrested at all?

That’s the impression I have gathered from the mixed feelings that have greeted his arrest and trial. Four prominent groups of sympathizers have given me this horrible impression:

• A group calling itself “Free Woyome Movement” that is embittered at his arrest;

• Two high-ranking officials of the NDC (the National Chairman, Dr. Kwabena Adjei, and the National propaganda Secretary, Richard Quashigah) who dashed to the Police Headquarters to sympathize with Woyome last Friday when he was arrested and sent there as part of the official and formal process to investigate the fraud.

• The Volta Caucus of the NDC MPs condemned the official action against Woyome, detesting it as a “Rambo style” of arrest, which indicates that what the government and the Police have set in motion to get to the bottom of the matter is unacceptable to them.

• A group of chiefs from the Volta Region who were at the CID headquarters in Accra today to solidarize with Mr. Alfred Woyome, whom they described as their “son.” (Myjoyonline, February 10, 2012). They were also reported as not being pleased with the manner in which Woyome's arrest was handled.

Should we see the sympathizers (especially those representing the NDC) as beneficiaries of the corruption who do not see anything sordid about the fraud? Or that they consider Woyome’s arrest as the cutting off of their lifeline? Corruption benefits those who indulge in it and their supporters. That’s the case here.

Despite the apparent politicization of this Woyome case, we note that the mixed feelings with which Ghanaians have reacted to the fraud are disappointing. In a serious case of this sort, one would expect nothing but an overwhelming reaction of disapprobation and concerted efforts made to ensure that the culprits are identified and punished to serve as a deterrent to would-be fraudsters. But it isn’t so.

As would be the case, opponents of the NDC are unanimous in their stance, using the Woyome case as their trump-card to heighten their condemnation of the government. They are quick to hoot at the NDC itself as a party of crooks and thieves while pointing gossipping fingers to Woyome’s ethnic extraction to indulge in negative generalizations that “Ewes are thieves” or that “Ewes are destroying Ghana.”

From the other angle, there seems to be much sympathy for Woyome from the NDC camp, at least, from the comments that we have heard from the party’s activists. The government has been pushed to the wall by this show of sympathy, which suggests that President Mills is portraying himself as someone who is destroying his own house (the NDC).

Regardless of how the public have reacted to this brazen fraud by Woyome, it is undeniable that those who see nothing wrong with Woyome’s misconduct or that of the government officials whose incompetence or connivance enabled him to benefit from the judgement debt payment can’t see where the problem lies. They are so blinded by whatever is nurturing their sympathy not to regard Woyome’s misconduct as reprehensible or to even consider it as a serious act of corruption.

Such sympathizers may have various reasons for sympathizing with Woyome, but the truth is that they are creating a bad impression and giving corruption their blessing. For as long as such people refuse to condemn such fraudulent acts and would rather choose to empathize with the perpetrators, it will be difficult for us to make any concerted effort to fight corruption. We can’t take a unanimous position on such a vice let alone reach a consensus on how to eradicate it.

For President Mills, particularly, this Woyome case is worse than a test case of how far he can go to stamp his authority on the party that has put him in power or to mobilize his own government’s functionaries to help him fight corruption. The sympathizers are not only in the NDC itself but they are also with him in the corridors of power. Such people are operating a dagger-in-cloak business with him. What could be more dangerous than this conundrum? I have no doubt that the situation is worse than dicey at this stage.

Beyond this Woyome case’s potential to divide the ranks of the NDC itself (considering the fact that there are those in the party who support the government’s action against Woyome in the teeth of the opposition that his sympathizers have put up already), there is also the larger threat, especially now that a group of chiefs in the Volta Region has waded into the fracas on the side of Woyome.

The pressure is mounting to suggest that the NDC’s standing in the eyes of those in its so-called “World Bank” (the Volta Region) is being threatened further by a singular act of fraud which, under normal circumstances, should have been de-politicized and treated as a pure crime to be dealt with as laid down in our statutes. Unfortunately, however, sides have been taken and the matter given a huge political dose. Already, some voices have begun warning President Mills of the dire negative consequences of the government’s action against Woyome. This kind of attitude won’t encourage anybody to wage any war against corruption in the country.

We must be bold enough to separate the goats from the sheep. Woyome himself knows that he did the wrong thing, even though his public posturings before his arrest and consequent trial (which opened last Monday) might create a different impression that he had a genuine case to defend. From his press statement, one might think that he was being unduly defamed or that his rights were being abused.

But ever since his arrest—and after the circumstances surrounding his fraud have been revealed—he seems to have reached that moment of epiphany and might be better off, resigning himself to his fate, which will dawn soon.

Not until we stand up boldly to fight corruption wherever it occurs in whatever form, we can’t clean our stables. Fighting corruption is a must, and we need to come together to do so with one voice and in a concerted manner, regardless of the personalities involved. The reality, however, is that we in Ghana are more keen on talking about corruption than fighting it.

What this Woyome case has raised clearly persuades me that Ghanaians can’t be trusted to help fight anything that is detrimental to the national cause. If our living conditions continue to deteriorate because our leaders are incompetent; if social conflicts continue to erupt in many parts of the country because of chieftaincy and land disputes, which endangers well-being; if our country is still under-developed despite its huge natural and human resources; if our leaders continue to misrule as they give their utmost blessing to bribery and corruption as the order of the day, let us not blame any outside force. Let’s blame ourselves.

Indeed, Ghanaians are difficult people. No matter who rules them, the situation will not change. Not because such leaders lack what it takes to rule, but because of the very nature of the people being ruled. Because they are not willing to change their own negative habits. History serves me right to conclude that the country still has a long way to go in fighting corruption to become anything but what it has been all these years.

Among others, the findings of several Commissions of Inquiry that have been established in this country since the First Republic include the persistence and prevalence of corruption in Ghana. From the days of Nkrumah to date, corruption has dominated any discussion on our endemic national catastrophe.

What Rawlings did in the June 4 era, leading to the killing of Army Generals and former Heads of State who were accused of masterminding corruption, didn’t solve any problem. No amount of sermonizing about corruption has solved the problem either. Corruption in our case is systemic and our institutions of state can’t tackle it. In short, those taking it upon themselves to fight corruption have themselves ended up being embroiled in it in one way or the other. So, who is really to be trusted to eradicate the vice?

We shouldn’t be surprised that nobody will want to be a whistle-blower. The consequences for any yeoman’s job of the sort are dire for the whistle-blower. A case of a witness ending up becoming the accused?

This Woyome case replays the kind of attitude that segments of the Ghanaian society displayed toward the Richard Anane case when it erupted. By hook or crook, Anane survived and returned to the limelight. Despite all the horrifying revelations about his misconduct, his Ghanaian wife appeared before the Parliamentary sub-committee to declare that she had faith in him. And he sailed through.

Kufuor’s senseless claim, attributing the existence of corruption to the days of Adam, and all the sordid things that happened under his watch won’t escape scrutiny in any attempt to discuss this Woyome scandal as part of the endemic national problems. If our leaders don’t act expeditiously or make encouraging statements concerning the fight against corruption, the people will not be motivated enough to do anything to eradicate the vice.

And if our leaders act too but don’t get the overwhelming support that they need, we can’t solve the problem. Although President Mills’ initial handling of this Woyome case is not encouraging, he has so far ensured that the law takes its course. He needs support, not condemnation (especially from his own party’s ranks). As the Woyomes come and go, the challenges mount but we can’t handle them properly. Will we not see ourselves as part of the problem, then?

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.