The Pains Of Democracy

Sun, 18 Dec 2005 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Here?s John Kufuor, touting the virtues of democracy ? repealed the colonially-imposed criminal libel law, opened the field of freedom of expression, tolerated more dissent, opened up the economy, got debt relief - in a country that has seen most of its life under military dictatorship. It?s wonderful life, this democracy. And here?s, again, as the same democracy opens up the forces of development, Kufuor trying to find the right word to counter what the chair of his ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP), Harona Esseku, told the Accra-based ?The Enquirer? in an interview that the Castle, seat of Ghanaian governments, is a centre of kickbacks and general corruption. Esseku?s statement, coming from an NPP insider and a cabinet member, effectively make nonsense the NPP?s key policy of ?zero tolerance? against corruption. It?s an unkind, indifferent thing, this democracy.

Ghana engulfed in the "Castle Hijacks Kickbacks? reveals the increasing birth of freedom ? in Tamale where people are asking policy developers to consult Ghanaians and their values or the Member of Parliament for Ningo Prampram, Enoch Teye Mensah, of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), alleging a libel, taking a legal action against a cartoonist of the Accra-based ?Daily Guide? ? because the dawn of democracy has enhanced Ghanaians dignity and open up their development process. But as the Esseku-?The Enquirer? Castle kickback scandal rocks Ghana and the NDC, which was in power five-and-half years ago, rule comes under investigations for corrupt practices, years of disillusion kick in. Ghanaians are afraid of their developing democracy being toppled by the military as most perceive widespread corruption nationally. Ghanaians grit their teeth as the perception of corruption grows and the enchantment of the ballot fades.

Who is to blame? John Kufuor, Jerry Rawlings, Obed Asamoah, Justice Emile Short, John Atta Mills, Justice George Kingsley Acquah, Nana Akuffo Addo, Aliu Mahama, Inspector General of the Police (IGO), Patrick Kwarteng Acheampong, Acting Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Theophilus Cudjoe? In any case someone?s to blame. Ghanaians should look around for that somebody who could not fix corruption and give him a boot. Bend over, President Kufuor. Politicians are to blame because they let Ghanaians down. Ghanaians are not to blame because they are democratic driven but rather led by untrustworthy politicians. While Esseku may say the Kufuor Castle is the centre of kickbacks to finance the NPP, former President Jerry Rawlings says some members of his former government are ?thieves,? an admission that he failed miserably in his long-running campaigns to eliminate corruption. Despite modern democracy in general having its problems, it is proving healthier for Ghanaians as they use it to put searchlight on their long-running development problems such as corruption which has brought suffering, confusion, military coups, instability, questionable leaders, moral and spiritual decline, unGhanaian policies, and arrested development.

The problem of corruption isn?t because of democracy; the problem is Ghanaian elites and institutions are not using democracy to deal with corruption ? a serious problem in Ghana?s almost 50 years life. Kufuor?s remarks that those who talk of corruption should prove it reveals not only an overwhelmingly helpless President in the face of deep-seated corruption culture but who has not got thorough grasp of the Ghanaian society and corruption issues ? part of the issues emanating from the Ghanaian traditional culture. Like almost all Ghanaian governments, the politicians and other ?Big Men? of the ruling NPP did not do their home work properly before coming to power. While part of the reason may be the formal education they have had, which is not heavily rooted in Ghanaian environment, they do not understand Ghana well enough to tackle her needs despite their pretensions. Can Kufuor fix Ghana?s corruption? Was Rawlings almost 20-year-old heavily anti-corruption regimes, which saw executions and imprisonments and property confiscations, able to fix corruption?

Take some of the 56 ethnic groups that make up Ghana during their pre-colonial empires days such as the Asante Empire and analyze the democratic ethos then and why that empire?s democratic flame died. Ask why the British colonialist was able to destroy the evolving Asante Empire democracy. And then consider what happened next. What happened next was egoism driven by corruption ? and that?s what some Ghanaians such as the journalist Kwesi Pratt, who has risked his life at the hand of military juntas in his democratic struggles, is afraid of, since increasing perception of corruption is a recipe for instability and mal-development.

Some of the problem of corruption and democracy or democracy and egoism is skillfully captured in John Dunn, professor of political theory at Britain?s Cambridge University, latest book ?Setting the People Free? (Atlantic). Dunn wonders what will happen to democracy, whether in Ghana or Britain or Nigeria or Japan, when the interest of egoists, more appropriately Africa?s ?Big Men,? who are one of main cause for corruption and who undermine democracy, hold sway. Ghana?s difficulty in handling corruption is rooted in the fact that her governments have not thought very seriously about it as a matter of national urgency despite the country?s history indicating so, but rather governments have floated one makeshift policy after another, all to no avail.

Despite the Kufuor Castle?s helplessness in containing corruption, even the main opposition NDC, which is leading the campaigns to probe the Kufour Castle alleged kickbacks, is no better and are ill-paced to take advantage of the NPP?s current troubles. This is because the opposition figures, as part of the elites, are either unable or unwilling to present a clear agenda of how they would tackle corruption differently. The reason is the way that political will that goes with tackling corruption in a democracy appears an illusion in Ghana. For this lack of political will, for some strange reasons, Ghanaian leaders don?t want to hear about the implications of corruption in the development process, but its there, as Ghana?s democracy increasingly enlightens the dark corners of her development process path.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi