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Opinions Wed, 20 Jun 2018

‘I want to be corrupt’

Last week was 50 years since I touched base as a citizen of this land.

Sometimes I wonder how I did not land in any of the first - world countries such as Canada, Finland or the United States of America (USA).

This is called the accident of birth and is not subject to any explanations. On that day, I took time off to reflect on my life to see how I am faring. What I saw was nothing encouraging.

Early experiences with the Church

I was brought up by a grandmother who loved her God and served Him faithfully. I am talking about the generation that fed the reverend minister at the expense of their own families. I can even see her carrying firewood and a bunch of plantain to the mission house. In her spotless white women’s fellowship kaba and slit, she was singing her favourite Joy, Joy when we go to heaven.

To her generation, mankind was supposed to suffer on earth and enjoy in the life hereafter. Yet, she did not even receive a Christian burial because she had failed to pay tithe and attend church service in the last three years prior to her demise. The church did not accept the explanation that she had been bedridden and without any income.

As if that was not hurtful enough, not long after that, the ‘Osofo’ acquired a brand new Nissan Blue Bird, the hottest brand at that time, for his personal use with Church funds. Most Church members were furious and argued that a bus would have served their collective interest. His defence was biblical and interesting. He questioned whether any of the disciples was on the donkey with Jesus, and that put paid to the agitations.

Childhood encounters with corruption

My journey took me to our days in the primary school. I remembered Silifatu, my mate, who always topped the Art and Craft subject during exams, though she was not one of the cleverest. Art and craft was supposed to be things done with the hands. Salifa knew her weakness in other subjects and took advantage of a corrupt system to shore up her marks. She resorted to her own definition of crafts and these included eggs, corned beef, cow tails and minerals. Of course, she was often hailed by our teachers as the best Art and Craft pupil amid admonition to us to follow her exemplary footsteps. Some of those who took this advice are now business tycoons, politicians and contractors.

Encounters with the departed

My reflections took me to the other world and I saw millions of our compatriots who had died from preventable causes. I saw the little ghosts of schoolchildren who had been crushed to death by a dilapidated school building. Then were the millions of Ghanaians whose lives had been cut short through accidents. With a tone filled with disappointment, one of them asked me why we should be building new airports and extending runways while our roads were death traps. He asked further how many of us often had the opportunity to travel by air and whether I knew how many lives would be saved if the Accra-Kumasi road and Accra-Ho roads were dualised.

The next were those who had passed on as a result of routine medical conditions which elsewhere would not have required even surgery. Some were victims of the ‘no bed’ syndrome which all of a sudden is receiving so much attention. Their spokesperson told me that it had been the situation since time immemorial. He concluded that if only he knew that health care would be given to the highest bidder, he would have stashed a lot of money because that was very possible where he used to work. “I thought we were building a nation for our collective welfare and that of our children. How wrong and stupid I have been,” he sobbed. He queried if others were still flying abroad for medical treatment. I pretended I had not heard him! He was about to mention names. Thankfully, as soon as he said Bawu, their credit got finished and I was ushered into reality.

My mid-life resolution

Now back to reality. Perspiring, I began to ask myself some critical questions. Is it true that we are all children of Ama Ghana? And if the answer is yes, why are a few swimming in wealth while the majority are perishing? Then it dawned on me that our society applauds wealth, irrespective of how it is acquired.

There is no collective security and so one must buy his own security at all cost. If possible, send your children to school abroad and have the right links to secure you a bed when you get sick. Better still, fly out for treatment. And for your security on our death trap roads, acquire a V8 or make sure you are given one by the state and push others off the road while using a siren. To tell you the truth, our society encourages corruption in practice and only abhors it in speeches.

In a pensive mood, unaware that my better half had entered the room, and as if possessed, I shouted: ‘I want to be corrupt.’ Surprised, she asked why, and with tears in my eyes, I replied: ‘Because that is what my country wants her citizens to be.’

Columnist: Major Kofi Baah-Bentum (retd)