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Opinions Sat, 16 Sep 2017

The rejuvenating waters of Kyebi – Nana Addo’s legacy must be preserved

It was incredibly relieving to see the rivers from Kyebi clear up, and suddenly seeing clear blue water emerge, after the fight against ‘Galamsey’ began to impact meaningfully on the waters of the motherland. Before my relief could subside, this week, Ghana entered into an ecstatic mode, celebrating the commencement of Free Secondary School Education (F’SSH). The explosion of Joy and hope was rather thunderous and rapturous, only surpassed in recent times by the outburst of joy which followed the victory of Nana Addo Dankwa in December 2016 following the Presidential elections.

However, if there is any one singular factor that could yet erode the enormous favour that the incumbent President appears to be doling out to Ghanaians, it is Corruption, the bane of African democracy.

As far as I can see, the fight against Galamsey is yielding outstanding dividends, 1 million dollars is either hitting each constituency or on its way there, F’SSHS is being rolled out and significant rot is being unearthed on a daily basis. However, it is not surprising that some Headmasters were alleged to have been extorting monies from intending students, even though the conduct is expressly forbidden. The prompt dismissal of a couple of them and the interdiction of some 11 or so, barring any possibility that they may have been unfairly dismissed, was a step in the right direction. Unless and until the state is quick to punish for and recover from the illicit fleecing of the people by Government Officials, the practice will not subside; the fight against corruption must be sustained. F’SSHS was no doubt seen as a fantastic opportunity for some corrupt Headmasters to maximize their takings. This was expected, save that the speed with which they acted was shocking; even a Reverend Minister was one such officials!

Whilst the parliamentary expenses scandal in the UK, a while back, may have surprised many, it proves that the main reason why corruption is less prevalent elsewhere is undoubtedly due to the intolerance of those who are charged with the duty to punish or sanction those who may be guilty of such transgressions. The unfortunate parliamentary practice in the U.K. continued whilst no one was interested in the enforcement of the applicable rules of practice or in sanctioning the transgressors within the ranks of Law Makers in the Mother of all Parliaments. The practice ceased immediately it became clear that even people of title were shamed and imprisoned for what had initially been treated as probably, mere indiscretions.

A corrupt Government, to a nation, is as poisonous to the soul of the Nation, as muddied waters are to the health of the people who drink from the waters so corrupted. A country tolerates corruption at its own peril. However, there is hardly a cure for corruption other than a rigorous and consistent sanctioning of aberrant conduct. CJ Magara of the Kenyan Supreme Court now has his name indelibly etched in the annals of African Jurisprudence, in utmost fidelity to the Law and the Constitution; he found the courage to uphold a decision that was against the interest of the man who appointed him to his current position. In the recent decision, he stated as follows: “The greatness of a nation lies in its fidelity to the constitution and the strict adherence to the rule of law."

There is no gainsaying the fact that the longer the prosecution of provable corruption waits, the more difficult it will be for the new NPP administration to encourage prosecutions in future.

A failure to prosecute old cases will no doubt mellow the resolve to punish new cases of corruption. With the effluxion of time, some Government appointees may begin to engage in the practice – creating and looting - due to an absence of obvious deterrence. Passions may wane with time and there is a clear risk that the President’s own interest and desire to seek re-election may gradually wither and wane. It was disappointing to have learnt that the President should have appeared to some concerned observers to be losing his zeal so quickly, especially in light of his fire and brimstone campaign speech at the Trade Fair site in December 2016. The passion in him that night was electrifying.

The NPP won the 2016 elections on the back of a campaign to exorcise the canker of corruption. The rather convoluted and protracted process to set up a Special Prosecutor’s Office may have been well-intended, as it appears primarily designed to circumvent accusations of witch-hunting, whether actual or perceived. It is however so very unnecessary and may only add another basis for an appeal for a convicted felon, if prosecuted by such an Office.

If there is anything that will immortalize the name Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo, it will not merely be his incorruptibility but most likely, his ability to cure the Nation of this dreaded canker in the same way that he is beginning to clear our waters. We don’t have to look too far for some lessons. The Late President Mills appeared incorruptible too, as records show now. In his case he died penniless. The Late Professor will only be remembered because he is the first to die as an incumbent occupant of the highest office of the Land. There is no proven record of corruption against President Mills, yet he has not been excused from the corrupt happenings under his Presidency. The late Professor has never been seen as a glorified Ghanaian leader in spite of his rather unblemished personal record. The late President Hilla Liman of blessed memory also does not appear to have had a jot of evidence of corruption against him. He is also known to have been impecunious after his forcible removal from Office. He however presided over a corrupt Government. Hilla Liman is conspicuously absent from any serious national discourse.

After F’SSH, Nana Addo also has a great opportunity to go down in history for clamping down on the canker of corruption especially as his, would be a properly designed and sustainable scheme, without the sensationalism, recklessness and sheer cruelty under the PNDC, sometimes for trivial and even unproven allegations of wrongdoing, many years ago.

Several developments are militating against the Government’s preparedness to rid the Nation of this Canker; allegations of corruption against the President’s own appointees. These will continue until the end of his first term of office. They may be reckless at times, even frivolous and preposterous but it is causing excitement in certain corners, as it no doubt will, if not attended to, cause electoral damage to the NPP.

Worse still, is the recent public revelation by the Auditor General that some members of parliament have pressured staff to drop some prosecutions. This is disquieting, if true, a very indicting revelation which must be investigated with alacrity. I wonder why the Auditor General is not offering us any promises to investigate the relevant cases with the view to revising the relevant decisions and also in order to name and shame such MPs.

It was the President of the republic who in previous speeches had rhetorically questioned why a Nation so Rich as Ghana was yet poor. The answer must lie in our apparent ‘infidelity to law and order’.

Nothing in Law prohibits the NPP Government to encourage vigorous prosecution of NDC offenders, even if it has the semblance of a Witch hunt. The best argument for the setting up of a Special Prosecutor’s Office is the difficulty that an Attorney General (A.G.) may have in prosecuting fellow Cabinet members or other. There are however, several adhoc steps that can be undertaken, from case to case, in order to avoid situations where the A.G. may feel conflicted – such as the hiring of private practitioners to prosecute special cases. It is up to the A.G. to act professionally so as not to be easily pushed around by anyone or unduly influenced from any corner in much the same way as CJ Magara.

In spite of the constitutionally entrenched protection that the Electoral Commission of Ghana enjoys, the incumbent one has never been trusted. Hence, what guarantees the independence of an Office in Ghana is not its entrenchment by a constitution, a legislative instrument, the appointing Act or any other which protects the office holder from removal, but in my opinion, it is the character of the office holder or more likely, the effectiveness of the sanctions which may brought to bear, such as, even their impeachment, in the event that the office holder misbehaves.

It is said that people with good intentions make promises but people with character keep them. Furthermore, rather paradoxically, it is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It should not be part of the purpose of this Government only to make people smile but to also take steps to ensure that the happiness and the hope they have produced in people are preserved and protected from destruction. NPP must leave Ghanaians a valuable policy of insurance against corruption and if possible, insure the Country against future bad Governance.

Columnist: Kwame Ohene Asare