In my early years, an event happened that shaped my thinking.
I was nine years old at the time and my mum was offering me one of my favorite toffees because she wanted me to keep mute about something in our house which I was the only witness to. She made me promise not to tell my dad or any other person. The toffee was to seal the deal or so it seemed. I never spoke of that issue to another soul. At the time I did not understand the import of what happened. It would take me two more years to realize the full consequence of my actions.
Erroneous perceptions about corruption
For many years, Ghana has struggled to curb the incidents of corruption in our state. Through some supposed actions and initiatives by successive governments, the country, and its leadership claim to have tried to solve the problem but the problem persists.
It doesn’t seem like it’s going any where anytime soon. So then I ask, what are we not doing right? Do we even know the real problem?
I have heard my teachers talk about bribery and corruption across various stages of my education. Many of the time, the main focus are politicians – the police be on top of this list when corruption comes up for discussion. The teachings seemed to suggest that these two groups are a representation of corruption. Many of us believed that narrative wholeheartedly. We chastised policemen and had a certain negative perception that all policemen.
During one of my academic exercises, my teacher had asked that we mentioned the professions of our parents. The class was calm and full of admiration when people mentioned that their parents were doctors, lawyers, engineers and the likes. When it was my turn, I mentioned that my dad was a police officer.
Pandemonium broke. Students were laughing uncontrollably and the teacher wasn’t exempted. He showed a small smile at the end of his mouth. That was how people started to think that their monies were looking after me because per their perception my father was a police officer and that automatically meant he is corrupt. To them, my father couldn’t be an exemption. That’s how deep the problem of corruption is and how erroneous it is perceived. We think of it more as a badge worn by only a certain group of people, but is that really the case? Your guess is as good as mine.
On October 14, 2020, I was following a corruption forum organized by Penplusbytes and Media General Group. In attendance were political parties, CSOs, students and the general public that followed on television and on social media. The event was actually up in the trends – it had gathered a lot of interest, it had people talking about corruption.
Here, the expert panel did what I would call “due diligence” to the topic – they provided data on corruption and how Ghana’s statistics in that area was shaping up.
Dr George Grandy Hallow, a research consultant at Penplusbytes observed that “corruption statistics are important because they help us to get a picture of what was happening but they don’t explain why it persists”.
Although this was a logical explanation to why we have heard so much about corruption growing up but little or nothing that suggests it was going away, the studies only showed what the problem was; it never said how it could be solved or why it was going on.
The problem of corruption may live forever with us because as a people we may just have decided not to put an end to it.
In figurative terms, Dr George noted that “fighting corruption is like putting a trouser on an octopus, it’s a difficult task”.
Successive governments have tried to fight the cancer but to no avail. Offices like the Office the Special Prosecutor have all not lived to expectation. I don’t know why these supposedly independent offices are established when the main work of the offices are still prone to political manipulation.
The fight against corruption goes beyond just the creation of anti corruption offices.
Failed systems and leaders
In 2015, ace journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas shook Ghana and the world. He released his investigation about the judicial system in Ghana and the exposé brought to bear the whispers which were heard in the darkness for years. For those who say people are only guilty until proven, Anas had proven beyond reasonable doubt that the country was in ‘tatters’.
That exposé amongst many other exposés and cases of corruption paint a vivid picture about Ghana and the cancer that’s been eating us for so long. These were judges who were supposed to serve justice through fair means to people while bringing perpetrators of crimes to book. They had become the crimes themselves.
Sitting at the forum, a lot of things came rushing through my mind when Executive Director of IDEG, Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey said “the political elite seem to have an unwritten consensus to keep the corrupt system.” I didn’t understand at first, but looking at the number of corruption cases that have gone under the rug in this country, that probably was a fair assessment.
Many people who have walked on the corridors of power and have played roles in cases of corruption continue to walk the streets of this country freely. They walk freely because they are protected by the same laws that are supposed to put them behind bars. We have created a system where the thief is responsible over the system that’s supposed to catch thieves. In the end the robbery just continues.
I made an interesting observation during my basic school days while I learnt Social Studies. The same questions about corruption and how to solve it had been answered by our fathers and their father’s fathers, and the same questions have been answered by my generation. How do you keep solving a problem you claim to know for so many years, cutting through so many generations and yet it stills takes center stage in your lives?
I believe that more than ever the current developments have shown that the issue of corruption is beyond what we see. The supposed fight by the political elites is a charade. We need to institutionalize the fight.
In our schools, let’s teach students about integrity and uprightness. I gather that the Ashesi University in Ghana as part of if its required courses teach students about integrity and doing the right thing when no one is watching. If we want to change this country, it starts with actions like those.
Let’s have a moral code and let’s make a conscious effort to fight corruption. If we can’t do this then we might as well agree with Dr George Grandy Hallow when he says, “we are like ladies in bikini, we cover less when we’ve already showed the world more”.
There would be many that will come after us just like many have gone before us. If we can’t solve the problem of corruption or decrease it’s alarming rate, there won’t be a country for any of our children, or brothers or friends.
By Edem Tutu Vine|3news.com|Ghana
The writer is a student of Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) and an intern with MG Digital. Views expressed in this article are entirely the writer’s and do not in any way or form represent those of the Media General Group or any of its sister stations.