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Ghanaians do not need to fix themselves, they need good leadership

Fri, 21 May 2021 Source: Ebenezer Banful

A few weeks ago a group launched a campaign with the hashtag FixTheCountry The group was calling on the Government to fix the unstable electricity and water supply, reduce incidence of corruption, stop illegal mining and solve the unemployment problem. Another group opposed to the FixtheCountry group emerged with the hashtag #Fixyourself.

Sovereignty they say resides and flows from the people so the people have a right to question ineffective government policies and actions and condemn unethical behaviour.

People have important roles to play in the development of a nation. Unfortunately, in Ghana, the active participation of the people is limited to lining up to cast a vote at polling booths and the occasional complaints and participation in demonstrations and strikes. We hardly question our political leaders except at election time. Do we hold our leaders accountable for their actions and decisions?.

One of the reasons for this is that Ghanaians have not been raised to question authority. We hardly question our parents, doctors, politicians, bosses and people in leadership positions. On the occasions when we have the courage to ask questions of a leader the response by the leader in some cases will be “don’t you know who I am or I say so.

In my view the solution to the problem in Ghana is not to fix yourself because when Ghanaian leaves the shores of Ghana and goes to say UK or USA, he or she does not litter, he or she puts in the number of hours he or she is required to work thereby putting in a day’s work for a day’s pay and he or she does not miss work to attend a prayer camp.

He or she tries not to exceed the speed limit when driving and stops at pedestrian crossings when people are waiting to cross. He makes a conscious effort to obey all the road rules. He or she does not dip his or her hands into the public purse for personal purposes and does not divert public revenue into their own pockets.

The clocking system at the workplace functions correctly and is not tampered with so he or she arrives on time and leaves at the correct time. He or she can choose to litter but he or she must be ready to face the consequences if caught. Sanctions are applied without fear or favour. In this scenario, it can be argued that he or she has fixed him or herself because the system and institutions in the country work. There is no discipline and accountability.

Where in Ghana will the president, a minister, a politician or even a DCE be charged for exceeding the speed limit or for not wearing a seatbelt and have his photograph appear in all the major newspapers? I wait with bated breath.

In Australia, the Prime Minister was fined for not wearing a seatbelt. His photograph of him not wearing the seat appeared in all the major newspapers. He apologised and paid the fine.

A question that comes to my mind is as a nation do we have a crisis of leadership or do we have the leaders we deserve?

Failure of Leadership

In my opinion, Ghana’s most troubling problem is the failure of leadership at all levels. It appears to me most of the people in leadership positions on paper have the skills and knowledge but fail because of hubris, ego and the pursuit of selfish personal interests at the expense of the broader national interest or needs.

Power tends to morally destroy the nature of our leaders and fill them with destructive pride. Our politicians and leaders see themselves as people to be served, a position that makes them appear superior and unaccountable. In such situations, selfish desires and protection of personal and selected interests are set against the clearly articulated needs of the people.

This has over the years produced leaders that have plundered the resources of the country. The lack of selfless, non – corrupt and committed leaders has contributed immensely to the lack of development in Ghana.

Corruption in Ghana has grown at an alarming rate. It has gone from a mere act of accepting bribes to a complete state of mind and way of life. It has progressed from the poor attempting to "make ends meet" to a sense of entitlement from anyone in a position of authority e.g. the concept of protocol.

You cannot even get your file in a public sector agency released if money does not change hands or you happen to know somebody. In some cases, you have to know somebody who knows somebody in that agency. Such activities undermine public service delivery. In most cases, the result is a square peg in a round hole occupying a leadership position.

There are of course failures of many of our institutions. Many of our institutions do not function effectively and efficiently, the police, the judiciary, GRA, Audit Service, DVLA to name a few.

Malaysia, Singapore and Ghana were former British colonies with the same political set-up. Malaysia and Ghana gained independence of Britain in 1957. Singapore gained independence in 1959.

Malaysia and Singapore have become rich and more developed in all aspects of economic development. Ghana has virtually become poorer and under-developed, roads fall into disrepair, houses are built on waterways, health services are very poor while Ghana has immense human, material and fiscal resources but regrettably has failed to transmute into visible socio-economic growth and development.

Malaysia and Singapore’s progress and development speaks a lot about the committed, visionary and nation spirited leaders they have had. For Ghana to be poorer than Malaysia and Singapore speak volumes about the poor leadership we have had in Ghana.

In recent years we have the examples of the late Dr John Pombe Joseph Magufuli of Tanzania and the current President of Rwanda, Joseph Kagame. These two leaders have shown that a country can make progress if it has nation-spirited, visionary and committed leaders. Without these, a country will retrogress or at best remain stagnant.

This is the problem of Ghana.

Our leaders have failed to harness the benefit of different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. Political leadership is parochial rather than national. In Ghana, if you criticise the government of the day no matter whether the criticism is constructive or not you must be an NDC member or supporter and vice versa.

The result is a divided country with divided loyalty and exclusivity. A house divided against each other will not stand.

In Ghana, national resources and ethnic origins are manipulated by the government to stay in power to the detriment of national cohesion. Leaders have used and continue to use their political position or political affiliation or position as head of an agency or department to embezzle economic resources.

Nepotism is rampant. You have to know somebody or be affiliated to a political party to get a job, get a school for your child who has the required grades or get a service.

To be posted for national service to a department like Foreign Affairs, you have to be linked to the politically powerful. Often, some of the people who end up being accepted in these positions have relatively low qualification for the position.

The problem in Ghana is that subordinates are witnesses of the actions, omissions, corrupt and unethical behaviours of their leaders so the question is how do you check that subordinate. Leaders send staff on personal errands using government vehicles, what would the leader do if that officer also leaves the office with a government vehicle to undertake personal tasks or absent themselves from work without proper authorisation.

The above example of unethical behaviour undertaken by our leaders has hardly scratched the surface of their unethical behaviours.

Under our constitution and the Westminster system we use in Ghana, a minister is ultimately responsible for all actions by a ministry because, even without knowledge of an infraction by subordinates, the minister approved the hiring and continued employment of those civil servants. If misdeeds are found to have occurred in a ministry, the minister is expected to resign or face scrutiny for his or her actions.

It is also possible for a Minister to face criminal sanctions under the Westminster system. This will never happen in Ghana. If the Minister fixes him or herself the subordinates will be following the example of the Minister and they will also subsequently be “fixed”.

The concept of conflict of interest exists only on paper in Ghana. MPs and sector Ministers sit on Board or Committees where they are going to benefit from the decision to be made.

We have a large number of Ministers each of whom is entitled to duty allowance, wardrobe allowance, special allowance, fuel allowance, chauffeur, steward, gardener, security expert and escort, gets ex gratia payment plus a V8 car loan.

How do we find money to fix our roads, schools and health systems with so many Ministers with a Ministry having 3 Deputy Ministers? Is the President thinking of the country? This is a country running a high deficit budget with high debt to revenue ratio and a wages bill of over 60% of GDP.

We have children still going to school under trees, our health system is sub-standard and yet we are voting money to build a cathedral. There is a groundswell of opposition but the Government is bent on spending money on the project.

Is this government for the people? You be the judge.

We buy fuel-guzzling SUVs for each of our parliamentarians because the roads are bad. Why not spend the money to build the roads so we can use fuel saving vehicles on the road?

Failure of institutions in Ghana

Our leaders have perverted every institution of government and appropriated all governmental apparatuses and placed them at their service. Democratic accountability includes systems, laws, and contexts that build an enabling environment for accountability.

The government of the day exploits and controls weak state institutions such as the police and the security agencies. These agencies are used on occasions to silence and intimidate persons who oppose Government actions.

The police do not give impartial and good security. Why should the police arrest a person for saying that another person is HIV positive? Why should the police at the instigation of a person A arrest a person B for defaming person A? If a person claims he or she has been defamed this a civil matter, this is not a core matter for police.

Is the IGP and leadership of the police service not aware of some of these matters? In truth, poor leaders and bad governance should be prevented at source by the laws and justice systems. Instead, bad leaders are tolerated by the corrupt elites and weak institutions, poor law enforcement, a failing justice system, biased police and an ineffective legislature.

While human greed, insatiable wants, poor conditions of service and salary are obviously drivers of corruption, inability to hand out prompt punishment to these corrupt leaders and individuals means it will continue. Good governance can be deepened on the back of resilient institutions including the judiciary, the audit service, the National Centre for Civic Education. Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and the Ghana Police Service.

Administrative, bureaucratic and judicial procedures involved in the apprehension of corrupt elements and the retrieval of looted funds or meting out of punishment is a further clog in the fight against corruption and a major leadership challenge.

Our leaders must strive to practice what they preach, set crystal-clear expectations, and communicate effectively with every member of the group they have authority over.

The MP for Assin says there are NPP and NDC operatives involved in galamsey and yet no action has been taken against these people. They are not punished or even investigated.

In fact there are a number of persons in the current administration who should not even be at post because of past unethical behaviours. One of these people only apologised to Parliament during the vetting exercise and that was the end of the matter.

There are a number of reports with adverse findings against individuals but nothing has been done in implementing the report e.g. the report of Justice Emile Short Commission established under article 278 of the 1992 Constitution.

We get the small fishes but big fishes are untouchables.

In fact, corruption has become a way of life and a second nature to the extent that a man or woman who refuses to dip his or her hands into the public purse is being looked upon as an abnormal individual while compulsive thieves have become our nation’s role models.

The statements by Nehemiah 5th century BC and Amos 8th century BC reflect the reality of life in Ghana. Jerusalem with gates broken and Israel where all manner of evils are committed by the people, where there is no justice in the court but where the churches are filled to capacity and music is played loud supposedly glorifying God. Amos writes: I hate I despise your feast days and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.

Take away from me the noise of your songs, to the melody of your harps I will not listen but let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream [Amos 5, 21, 23-24],

The way forward

There are sayings of the Ga and Akan people which translated means let’s not dwell on spilt milk but protect what is left or it is broken but yet to fall. This means that with goodwill and effort we can change the situation but we need the public-spirited leaders to make a start. The current government led by President Akuffo Addo must set the example. Corrupt officials must be punished to set an example.

We do not need a change of government to all of a sudden find corrupt officials. We need to make sure that the concept of ministerial responsibility is immediately put in place and enforced. The buck must stop with the Minister and ultimately the President.

We need to strengthen our institutions and make sure there is very little political influence in the operation of these institutions. For example, politicians and influential people or leaders must allow the police to do their work as stated by DSP Afia Tenge (see Ghanaweb 18 May 2021).

The institutions must be independent of government both on paper and in practice. Merit must be the criterion for filling positions and the concept of protocol must be banished forever.

The NDC, NPP divide must give way to inclusiveness. We need leaders who will ensure that each individual has the opportunity to reach their full potential. The human capital, the natural resources cannot be effectively harnessed unless we have a capable leader who will put the national interest first.

This is the significant challenge facing the nation, Ghana.

Our leaders must understand the importance of transparency and accountability in leadership and make a personal commitment to it and start working towards it immediately.

Finally, we need to start to enforce our laws without fear or favour and the judiciary must be seen to be playing its part. Politicians and leaders must start serving the people and put into their heads that they are not to be ministered unto.

Our leaders must fix themselves and start now and the people will follow.

God Bless our homeland Ghana

Columnist: Ebenezer Banful