By Michael J.K. Bokor, Ph.D.
I am against any talk of “political witch-hunting” or “political vendetta” when it comes to dealing with politicians who are known to be men or women of straw but become rich overnight because of how they take advantage of the public office they hold. The “rule of law” must take its course in the NDC government as it did under Kufuor.
Kufuor’s NPP sought to enforce that same rule of law by digging deep into the performance of government functionaries in the Rawlings government---to either recoup what was suspected to be fraudulently siphoned away from the national coffers or to confirm their claims that that government was corrupt. And it led to the establishment of the Fast Track Courts whose activities we are all aware of today.
Some NDC functionaries were tried and jailed. People commended Kufuor for taking that bold step. As of now, the trial involving Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings and the others over the Caribdem issue is still in limbo but its impact is damaging, to say the least. In taking that pound of flesh, much blood was drawn from the NDC victims. Victor Selormey died and Tsatsu Tsikata nearly died too.
The NPP government used the “rule of law” to tell Ghanaians that the Diverstiture Implementation Committee did not do the right thing. This revelation contributed largely to public perception of the first NDC government as corrupt. Then, the rumours concerning the Ghacem issue took Kweku Baako and Gaby Otchere Darko to Norway and London---with the blessing of the Kufuor government---as part of the pursuit of the “truth” of corruption against JJ Rawlings and co.
But for the NPP government’s own failure to prosecute the NDC’s District Chief Executives, etc., the matter would have gone a long way to suggest that something concrete was being done to stem corruption in public office. The NPP government’s one-sided approach to the matter was problematic. It eventually flagged in the face of abject corruption that its own functionaries indulged in.
Then, as if cursed, the NPP machinery itself unwittingly got caught in the web of corruption in spite of its much-touted “Zero Tolerance for Corruption,” Open accusations of corruption and unconscionable display of immoral tendencies confirmed the people’s fears, especially when Kufuor’s made the claim that “Corruption had existed since the days of Adam” and that anybody who had evidence against any of his appointees should go to the Police with it. Thereafter, and as if possessed, all of them went to every length to own property to confirm their mantra of the “property-owning democracy” which they were championing
Who is not aware of the fact that for the first time in Ghana’s history, a sitting President acquired property while in office and insisted on acquiring more?
What is wrong with digging deep into the performance of the previous government, especially against the background of public statements made by Prof. Mills himself that the NPP government was corrupt? How can he prove it to all if nothing is done to investigate those issues?
We are all aware of the fraudulent means by which Yaw Osafo-Marfo (then Minister of Finance) led teams of NPP government functionaries to use resources from official sources to enter into negotiations with dubious institutions, including the IFC and Chinese hair-dressing salon!! In 2001, much money was spent on so-called rehabilitation projects at the Osu Castle, Kufuor’s own private residence, the Peduase Lodge, Bungalows of Ministers (especially J.H. Mensah), etc. that drew much public complaint because the contracts for such projects were not awarded through the proper means. How can any sane person fail to “smell any rat” in such underhand dealings? Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey and Kwamena Bartels, especially, have questions to answer and must be brought to book. If that move will be interpreted as “political vendetta,” so be it. But are we as a nation prepared to condone and connive with any public office holder who does things anyhow? We must not!
We must be careful how we lump issues together. Let us not give the NPP functionaries the opportunity to hide under any “political language” to escape punishment for wrong-doing. I insist that the new NDC administration must look seriously into all instances of corruption (especially where it caused financial loss to the state or where the NPP functionaries manipulated the situation for unfair advantage). Anybody found to have done the wrong thing for personal gain must be taken through the due process of law and punished. It is only then that punishment for such malfeasance (NPP’s own word again!) can serve as a useful deterrent to those who enter public office.
We must remember that seeking to expose wrong-doing in public office is a good antidote for corruption. Take the US, for instance, where public office holders are severely punished if found to have abused their offices for personal gain. The system takes care of deviants and nobody sympathizes with them. In that sense, anybody who decides to go into public office must be prepared to face the consequences of any act of commission or omission. Those who have been punished for abusing their offices often admit their crimes and serve their terms without attributing their fate to “political vendetta.” If in our case we cannot set good standards for public office holders to live up to, then, we are doomed. We have no justification to cite the examples of those practicing stable forms of democracy. They took pains to ensure that the checks and balances in the system work efficiently and effectively without pausing to find out whose ox is being gored in the process. Those who live by the sword must die by the sword. If public office is that sword, then, those accept appointments into it must be prepared to live with the choices that they make. In most cases, the public office holder is free to steer clear of corrupt practices and avoid the negative fallouts; but if such a person decides to indulge in such corrupt practices, then, he or she must be prepared for the logical consequence, which is punishment.
The NPP government set a good example by establishing the Fast Track Courts to deal with cases involving “causing financial loss to the state.” And these courts served that government’s purposes to a limited extent, which was to denigrate the NDC. What the NPP government failed to do was to ensure that the courts worked round in a 360-degree manner to deal with NPP functionaries whose conduct in office wasn’t any different from that of the NDC functionaries who were being speedily prosecuted. Had the courts dealt with any of Kufuor’s appointees, the situation would have been different. But for whatever reason there might be, the operations of the court were limited to only the NDC functionaries; hence, their being discredited. The Kufuor government shorthanded the system by doing the right thing wrongly.
Under the new NDC administration, the search for and punishment of public office holders should be tackled in a broader scope. Yes, we must first begin with the NPP government functionaries. Every corrupt blade of grass on the field must be weeded out. Then, when Ghanaians get to know what exactly the NPP functionaries did wrong, they will be in a position to judge things for themselves as the searchlight is turned on those in Prof. Mills’ own government. We must begin from somewhere and ensure that everybody who comes to notice as indulging in corrupt practices in public office is dealt with. The dead wood must be weeded out of the ystem. Others who think that they can enter public office and do things anyhow must pause to assess the situation before they accept any appointment offered them. Unless we straighten the line to ensure that deviants are punished, no amount of pontificating on patriotism, morality or abstinence will help us stem corruption in officialdom. The spirit of patriotism must be nurtured through conscientious efforts by us all to do the right thing for our country to develop the way others have.
If we do not take decisive steps to punish corrupt office holders, we cannot change anything about and for our country. Enough of such vacuous references to “political vendetta.” Those who have nothing to hide or fear shouldn’t run away in the vain attempt to hide. Let us remove all hiding places from the system so that anybody who indulges in corruption in public office will be stand, exposed as a boil on a bald man’s head and punished!!