What tribalism? Corruption is the real enemy.

Sat, 18 Apr 2009 Source: Owusu-Nkwantabisa, Nana

I’ve been yearning to write this for a while. Let me start by saying that most people who visit this forum and read these feature articles have a common purpose- a burning desire to see their beloved Ghana succeed. We are one people (Ghanaians) who want to see Ghana succeed and bask in its glory. So, why all the tribal trash? Why are we at each other’s throat? Tribalism is prevalent throughout the world and politics being a game of kinship, politicians exploit our differences to advance their own goals. If we want to be pawns in the political game, then let’s go ahead and swallow that bait hook, line and sinker. I don’t suppose anyone wants to be called a pawn so let’s wake up if we have fallen for the bait and channel our energies towards the real enemy-corruption.

Not so fast though. We can’t be ostriches either. There are real fears that must be addressed. Is there an agenda by Akans especially Asantes and Akyems to dominate Ghana as preached by the NDC to win the last elections? False! The NPP has remained true to its origins- it is the party of the intelligentsia who want the rule of law, democracy and free enterprise to prevail in Ghana. Is the NDC a non-Akan party that seeks to advance an-Ewe agenda? False! I believe the NDC is an umbrella of all anti-NPP folks seeking an alternative to the NPP in the absence of a strong CPP. Unfortunately though, right now, what seem to be uniting each side of the divide are ethnic affiliations. The question is ‘na who cause am’? It is the politicians and that can be traced back to the leadership. Kufuor owed it to Ghanaians and now Mills does to prove that their parties are more than ethnic groupings. Both parties have some homework to do in promoting leaders who are not from their traditional support bases. Let’s send them to finish their homework and come back in 2012. In the meantime, let me move on to my main topic – corruption.

Why do I believe corruption is more dangerous when ethnocentrism has torn several African countries apart? I am not naïve. Tribalism is dangerous because that is what is used to galvanize the support of the masses that subsequently leads to mob actions. We’ve recently witnessed the NDC Ghana-Adangbe group make the first dangerous move. Mills has the sole responsibility to rein that in. We are watching and listening. The response is deafening silent right now. As Ghanaians and human beings however, we all know that ultimately, the grab for power is put the politicians and their friends closer to national resources. It is to gain the influence that would be parlayed into wealth (ill-gotten). In a society funded by the toil and sweat of the farmer, the majority of the middle class seek government employment. That is one of the structures of our economy that must be reformed. I will return to this subject but let’s quickly review how corruption has undermined our economic development.

We always argue about ideology and whether Nkrumahism was good for the country at independence. What undermined Nkrumahism was not so much a flawed ideology as corruption. Oyokoba shared his website that features the Nkrumah documentary with us (I believe it is ghanatubes.com). Check it out if you’ve never seen it before. In my opinion, Kwame was right about African unity and industrial development (see where it got China). It was the break neck speed at which things were implemented and the poor cash flow planning on how to maintain the infrastructure that killed his dream. He banked on more cocoa money and when his politics failed to please our Western buyers, he run out of funds and his Marxists friends (eastern block countries) were no where to provide the demand we needed. They were instead busy siphoning what we had through the supply of snow ploughs and the building of silos that led to the rot of our cocoa reserves. Nkrumah biographers and economic and historical works on Ghana attest to the corruption of the ministers that undermined Nkrumah’s dreams. Must the Ghanaian look for ‘chop-chop’ at every opportunity? Is that what it is all about? I need honest answers from you my learned friends.

Whether it was the Busia regime, the Kutu era, the Limann government, Jerry’s 19-year rulership or Kufuor’s 8-year dispensation, corruption (coupled with ineffective leadership) has undermined us more than tribalism. Tribalism is therefore a tool exploited to advance corruption.

So, why haven’t our ‘smart’ leaders – Nkrumah(Penn), Busia and Kufuor(Oxford), Limann (LSE), Jerry and the military crew (Teshie-Ghana Army/Air Force Officers Training) and now Mills (SOAS), not been able to rein in corruption (chop-chop)? Gosh! They need 22 million eyes to scrutinize clever Ghanaians trying to make a living or perhaps we all need a revival to repent of our sins including some of the pastors who prey on their flock instead of praying for them. Why are the Scandinavian countries able to minimize corruption or Botswana able to do it best in Africa (see enclosed table from Transparency International:

(http://www.transparency.org/news_room/in_focus/2008/cpi2008/cpi_2008_table) I have lived in Botswana so I can tell you what I saw. Simply, they keep a relatively small government workforce and pay them well. Government jobs are competitive but transparent. They recruit directly from the colleges and not through ‘whom you know’ although I don’t deny it doesn’t exist. The main distinction I will argue is that employees are well compensated with excellent benefits and therefore corruption is frowned upon. There is public shame when one is convicted of corruption as opposed to our ‘do you know who I am’ culture. Who wants to lose their well-compensated job for a quick bribe? A vibrant private sector is essential to reducing government payroll and corruption. The Mills administration must review whatever was left of the policies of the Kufuor-era that sought to encourage private sector growth and employment. Smaller government means ‘fewer fingers in the pie’. Try stealing from a private business and you are out of a job. Steal from the government and you become a big man.

My dear friends (especially ‘diasporians’), keep up the good job you are doing as you go about your hustle and support your families or create employment in Ghana through your remittances. By so doing, you have joined the farmers who paid for your education and those in the private sector who are creating employment and reducing government corruption. Stop dissipating your energies in unnecessary tribal strife. Let’s use this forum to swap ideas and knowledge and to keep the government on its toes. I hope they read what transpires here.

Nana Owusu-Nkwantabisa (Class of 1990, Legon, Okponglo Republic)

Columnist: Owusu-Nkwantabisa, Nana