Arguably, the two most lucrative businesses today in Ghana and much of Africa are the Kingdom Business and Politics; i.e., being in government. Your church founder, archbishop or branch pastor has probably parked in his garage a Jaguar, a Merc and a Landcruiser; meanwhile, the average congregant faithfully giving the offertory and tithes rides on trotro and – when the going gets tougher – resorts to A. D. one-one; to wit, go on foot.
When a candidate wins an election to Parliament or the Presidency; when any of our people get appointed a DCE, Minister, Council of State Member or onto any statutory board; all family members – including even those not on talking terms with the victor – troop to the Mosque the next Friday or Church next Sunday to praise the Great Provider. Why? “Our time has come.” This is the time for the family’s decades-old bad fortunes to be turned permanently for the better. Dishonest or illegal behaviour by people in authority is so endemic in our society that in my maiden edition of Ghana Today, January 13, I wrote “Corruption is as old as…”
But I also added that, “since, it is widely accepted that leadership is cause, all others are effect; let us start with our leaders. Predating President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, we have had regimes led by John Dramani Mahama, John Evans Atta Mills, John Agyekum Kufuor, Jerry John Rawlings, Hilla Limann, Kutu Acheampong, Kofi Abrefa Busia, Akwasi Amankwah Afrifa, Joseph A. Ankrah and Kwame Nkrumah. Governments and the Public Service under each and every one of these regimes had been accused of graft, mismanagement and corruption. The colonial governments that preceded our self-government regimes were also accused of mismanagement and disrespect of our people.”
In that very first episode, I urged thus: “At this new beginning, it is instructive to remember that all the coup d’états ever staged in this country were ostensibly plotted to topple corruption, incompetence and discrimination that had eaten deep into the fabric of the existing governments…” I continued to illustrate how all three democratically elected regimes preceding President Akufo-Addo’s had been toppled by corruption, arrogance and insensitivity to the plight of the suffering masses. Today, I put it out for my opinion that no external aggression or attractive promise by the opposition can dislodge the sitting government; but, corruption and internal disintegration can very easily. We are not so much concerned about a party tumbling out of power insofar as it is through the ballot box. But, we are concerned about the cause, if it is the corruption; because of the dire ramifications dishonest behaviour by people in authority have on our lives as a nation and even on the lives of generations unborn.
That is why, on this 21st day of July in the Christ Era, I dedicate Ghana Today to the President’s announcement, last week, that he and some of his appointees had declared their assets. What makes Assets Declaration important in our quest to fight greed and grabbing in public office is not far-fetched. Teacher Mensah comes to political office owing virtually every conceivable money-lender in town; Korku Koklota joins government as a brokeman serial caller; nonentity lady Atani Azoso tumbles onto an important public company board; and within four years all are owning chains of fuel dumps, hotels, commercial transport and holding shocking degrees from respectable universities. Abuse of political office for self-gain and for the unmerited advantage of friends, relations and party. If what you were worth when you were entering political office is known to the general public; if what you are worth at the time you are exiting political office is publicised, the vigilant section of society can raise alarms where necessary for your questionable acquisitions to be probed. The Citizens Vetting Committees of yesteryears may have been draconian in their operations; the idea of accountability they espoused was in itself noble. And, asset declaration before and after serving in government, criminal prosecution in a court of competent jurisdiction, confiscation of ill-gotten assets and deterrent custodial sentences should be an improvement on the CVCs to bail us out of the engulfing political office corruption.
In that first edition under reference, I captioned Ghana Today Akufo-Addo, Lead Us Out Of The Mess!! I submit that the way to bail us out of the encircling gloom is not for the President to engage in any cosmetic assets declaration. He should remember that his Legon friend and mate, President Atta Mills, made a similar proclamation that he had declared his assets. He asked his appointees to declare their assets, but, they treated the Asomdwoe-hene with the contempt he did not deserve. The Woyome, Asofotone Waterville, SADA etc., etc., banditries are still so fresh in our minds. If a leader leads a pious life, eschews corruption as best as Mu’allim Nyerere did, but, fails to carry his appointees along on that trajectory, he tends to look like a hermit sheep – odd, funny and naive – instead of earning respect and love. That is how the dear professor, unfortunately, turned out to look like.
The way out is not the way back. The way to swerve the Atta Mills fate as far as the fight against corruption is concerned is not to take the Atta Mills course of action against corruption. 1) Insist that all your appointees declare their assets faithfully and honestly – or get fired! 2) Without prejudice to what the Constitution or some other law says, see to get all the declarations published for scrutiny and possible challenge from the general public. 3) Make ample arrangements for appointees to declare their assets before the next general election to allow for fair comparison by the general public. 4) Measures should be put in place to encourage the constituents and the general public to sound the alarm bells where appointees’ spouses, little kids and close allies begin suddenly to own property they can hardly justify. There is no gainsaying that when you begin to tighten the noose on them, the bad nuts will attempt finding escape routes. 5) If the President has not set up one yet, Ghana Today strongly recommends for his consideration a team that will monitor the private lives of his appointees and other leading party figures. If the person has suddenly flown all his children to attend Swiss or American schools – even though you are offering free SHS and quality university education here – and he tells you his wife or old school friends are sponsoring, Mr. President, take it with a pinch of salt!
The practice has been that, if you like, you declare your assets. Place the document in the custody of the Clerk of Parliament or some such authority. If anybody suspects you may have made false declarations, they should go to court to get a justification why the sealed declaration should be opened and scrutinised. Haaba! How many ordinary people will be bold enough to go all those tortuous miles in a country where “You are too know” and “You are witch-hunting” are a serious deterrent to vigilance? I give it out for my opinion again that asset declaration that is shrouded in secrecy – or left to the choice of the appointee – runs counter to our Whistle Blower Act, Office of Accountability, Special Prosecutor’s Office and the many attempts to enhance transparency and deepen our democratic process. Mr. President, act decisively and convincingly too!
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