More than half a century ago Kwame Nkrumah optimistically declared that the black man can manage his own affairs. At that time there was belief, there was hope that the black man can manage his own affairs. What is the situation fifty years on? Yes, we must ask ourselves this question and we must at least attempt an honest answer. Our attempts in providing an answer will in itself demonstrate and reveal the truth of whether the black man can manage his own affairs.
We have experienced the era in which some persons forcibly took the power to lead Ghana and we have also seen the era in which some persons were voted into power to lead the country. The key factor in all changes of government has been corruption! And more than fifty years on corruption is still the main factor. Can the black man manage his own affairs?
I wish to attempt an analysis of some of the factors that I believe lie behind the corruption phenomenon. In my analysis I have made a lot of reference to the phrase “our leaders” so I would like to clearly define the persons who have the responsibility of managing the affairs of the country.
Leadership of Ghana
The group of people who have been mandated and entrusted with the leadership of Ghana through a democratic process are the President and his appointees. These include the Vice President, Ministers, CEOs and board of directors of state-owned institutions and companies, departments and agencies, CEOs of metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies. When I say our leaders or the ruling elites I am referring to this group. The buck stops with this group.
The performance of leadership
Ghana operates a system of executive presidency so the elected president has the strongest opportunity to make the biggest impact in the fight against corruption. The president is the one who appoints the heads of all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs); the heads of the entire Metropolitan, Municipal, Districts and Agencies (MMDAs); and heads of all government-owned companies and institutions. If President Mahama can hold all the persons he appoints to head these institutions accountable he will reduce corruption drastically to levels that are comparable to leading countries in Europe and elsewhere. Take for example the ministry of roads and highways; the standard cost for constructing a particular type of highway is well known. If that type of highway is constructed in Ghana and the cost of construction is unacceptably far higher than the well-known standard cost then one of the important contributing factor is corruption. All the President needs to do is hold the Minister and the CEO of Ghana Highways Authority (GHA) accountable; if the CEO of GHA is at least fired from his job for poorly managing and supervising the project other CEOs will sit up and drive CHANGE in their MDAs and MMDAs. This will have a huge impact on reducing corruption. In all the MDAs and MMDAs these standard costs for executing all kinds of projects and all activities have been documented and are well known. Why is it so difficult for the presidency to take these straightforward actions? The answer lies in the following factors:
1. Family linkages;
2. Ethnic linkages;
3. Political party affiliations; and
These factors are so powerful in Ghana to the extent that they undermine our good sense, our university degrees and our professional experiences and stature.
In Ghana, family links, ethnic links, political party links, business links, and friendships have powerful vested interests which are largely counter to the collective national interests, and have become more important than national values and so they easily compromise the good character, good attitudes and behaviours that are required for the building of a strong nation. As a result, our institutions cannot be protected from manipulation by the few politicians and the few persons in powerful positions who exploit these stronger links for personal interest; these few are the ones who benefit disproportionately from the state. In Ghana, it is people who are paid by the state, people whose sustenance is entirely from the state coffers that are the rich people! These links also provide protection from the law for these persons and create a situation where merit does not count for much anymore. The President finds it difficult to fire the Ministers, CEOs and other heads in the MDAs and MMDAs who supervise projects and activities that exceed budgets to unacceptable levels because they are either family members, from the same ethnic group, party members, business partners or friends. At worst they get recycled to other posts!
When a family member, ethnic member, a party member, a business partner or a friend falls foul of the law and we are in a position of authority we are unable to allow the laws or rules to take their cause against the accused person because the family link is stronger. So, largely it is people who do not have persons in positions of authority and cannot pay their ways out that receive the punishment that goes with breaking the law. Due to these linkages persons in positions of authority will circumvent processes and even the law to employ family members, ethnic members, party members or friends in jobs that these people are not the best fit. State institutions are therefore weak.
The ruling elites manipulate the system for individual benefit against the collective national interest. Similarly, when we are in a position of authority we feel obliged to ‘grab’ from the state for our families, ethnic groups, business partners and friends. Indeed, when you are in a position of authority and you do not ‘grab’ from the state for these interest groups you are considered a fool and a failure by them! In many cases when these elites are able to ‘grab’ from the state for their ethnic group, they are honoured and given titles such as ‘Nkosuohene’ by their ethnic group. In this situation how can the state become strong, how can the state build wealth and be able to equitably protect and provide for all her citizens? We have placed the cart before the horse! This irony continues because we also make the claim that the state does not do enough to take care of our needs so we have to take care of ourselves. But how can the state which we perpetually make weak by our actions, ever be in the position to take care of the needs of all of her citizens equitably?
Ethnic links are enhanced by the chieftaincy institution which is ethnic in nature and exists only for the interest of its ethnic people. Often, ethnic interests conflict with the greater national interest and sometimes also conflict with the interests of other ethnic groups leading to ethnic conflicts. Ironically, if we made the collective national interest stronger it would provide for all of us better and give a more sustainable social security than individual competing ethnic interests. If the chieftaincy institution is not reduced to a purely ceremonial status and they continue to wield a governing authority on their people this negative impact of ethnicity on the democratic process will never be minimized to a harmless level.
Another important factor that is counter to the progress of the collective national interest is the tradition whereby we are more concerned about the manner in which the facts of a vexatious matter are presented than the worth of the facts. This is another tactics used to avoid facing the reality and taking responsibility for our actions and inactions. National debates are quickly diverted from focusing on the facts stated in order to call for and make the necessary paradigm shifts to focus on the manner in which the facts were presented. In the end instead of recognizing the importance of the facts being stated, the person who stated them is prevailed upon to apologise for the manner in which he presented the facts; especially when these facts are against the persons in position of authority and power! Ironically the call for apology would often come from civil society groups whose purpose for existence as a civil society group is to uphold the moral standards in society!
These few persons in position of power therefore escape accountability at all levels. When the complaining voices of ordinary Ghanaians grow louder they re-invent the wheel, present new ideas and systems and pretend to be working hard.
Because our institutions can be so manipulated by politicians and persons in position of power, it gives room for corruption to thrive and become pervasive and almost the norm in every facet of the Ghanaian life. In the end the state and for that matter the collective interest is no longer able to protect the ordinary Ghanaian whose lives are progressively deteriorating.
These ruling elites who manipulate the system and control it are also constantly on the various media platforms or pay people to speak for them on these platforms. It also appears that to get a political appointment to a position of power and privilege you have to get access to the media platforms and be heard saying things that the powerful want to hear. So, people will do whatever it takes to be heard on the airwaves and say whatever they think will promote this agenda!
Paper qualification is king in Ghana, not track record of practical achievements! Another quality which is king is TALK instead of DOING! So get some paper qualifications, make your voice heard on radio and bingo you are given political appointment.
These ruling elites who manipulate the system launder their image and monies through the religious structures. They are the ones who occupy the front pews in the churches, give testimony about how the good Lord has blessed them when in truth it is misappropriation of state resources. These persons occupy multiple positions on the boards of numerous public institutions and government organizations and committees and run around busy day and night as if they are the only capable Ghanaians. This is nothing but GREED! And because it is humanly impossible to do all these things properly they mess up the institutions they govern and run down the government-owned companies. Ironically, they are the ones awarded prizes of excellence at hastily and porously organized awards programs. The same few faces recycled everywhere all the time!
These people are also experts at parroting terminologies that express universally accepted contemporary ideas. You will hear them shouting these terminologies on the air waves and in the print media as though they knew what the terms meant.
These happenings have succeeded in eroding the confidence of the ordinary Ghanaians in the ability of government and public institutions to provide equitable services and protection to make their lives better. We no longer believe that we can receive any public services that are due us if certain strings are not pulled such as somebody you know, a party you belong to, the ethnic group you belong to, or the money you can part away with. Fairness and equity no longer exist; we no longer have a truly meritorious culture in our society to the extent that some small voices have gathered enough courage to propose military takeover. It has therefore become very difficult for the ordinary Ghanaian to be motivated to be patriotic and to offer national services to the nation; and to partner government.
The perpetual mode of re-inventing the wheel
The ruling elites have put Ghana in a perpetual mode of re-inventing the wheel, always planning and hardly executing existing plans before making more plans. We would rather keep re-inventing the wheel than do the hard work and go through the uncomfortable changes in mind-set, in attitudes and behaviours that are imperative to the achievement of the sustainable results that we desire. And when we do not achieve sustainable results we quickly come up with new plans, new systems and so on. For us the existing processes and systems are always the problem, never the human being or what I call the human factor because that will expose all our embarrassing shortcomings. Because the ruling elites are not doing the real work the State never has enough to take sufficient care of all her citizens. Most Ghanaians are vulnerable in a savage environment where they do not get the necessary social services, protection and security from the state; poverty and hunger is still pervasive that some can risk their lives to travel across the desert and rough seas in search of greener pastures. Re-inventing the wheel allows the ruling elites who have been voted into power or appointed to positions of authority to pretend to be working whilst essentially maintaining the status quo which benefits them. This is because while they are re-inventing the wheel they take for themselves the lion share of the national cake.
The barrier of superstitious mind set
We are prone to superstition, the situation whereby we believe that an overwhelming number of everyday events happen in a way that cannot be explained by reason or science. We are therefore in a perpetual search or waiting for the supernatural intervention to solve our problems even when our God-given minds, our God-given talents and our God-given capabilities when applied to the God-given natural resources can solve our problems and lift us out of poverty. This superstitious mind-set has deprived us of our critical thinking abilities and our problem solving abilities – we are waiting for and looking for supernatural interventions. We no longer link our achievements to the application of our God-given abilities so that we can build on them and show the younger ones that hard work pays; it is as if achievements are only by chance through the grace of God. This de-linking of achievements from hard work has provided the cover for people to steal or do other illegal activities, get rich quick and attribute their ill-gotten wealth to the grace of God only. It also provides a cover for laziness to be justified and mediocre performance to be applauded and rewarded. Ill-gotten monies are laundered, cleaned through the grace of God and the owners of such ill-gotten monies become the respectable people in society! This has made many people, especially the young to doubt the value in hard sincere work.
The de-linking of achievements from hard work is also the reason we do not take responsibility for our actions and inactions, and we are also unable to hold ourselves and our leaders accountable.
And because we are not developing our God-given minds, our God-given talents and our God-given capabilities we have increasingly failed to solve our problems; and we have failed to process and utilize our God-given natural resources to lift our people out of poverty. Our highly educated people, who have sat in the same classrooms with white people, acquire the same degrees and in some cases even did better than the white people, whose praises we sing when they return home fail to help solve our problems! They only earn their fat salaries from the national cake, enjoy the good life; remain in the planning and policy making mode and talk plenty whilst the national cake gets smaller. This time, the white man does not need to come and colonise us in order to plunder our resources because our leaders will gleefully hand the resources over to them so long as they get enough for themselves, their families and friends. Even the ill-gotten monies that our leaders make are saved in the white man’s banks!
Worst of all, this superstitious mind-set has created an infinite demand for spiritual services. Most people sincerely believe that they can get something out of nothing through the supernatural intervention of miracles! This is because they have seen people whom they know suddenly and mysteriously become rich. At the individual levels many people, people without conscience are feeding fat on this superstitious mind-set and offering all manner of spiritual services.
Ghana started wandering in this wilderness when we abandoned the strong philosophical foundation laid by Kwame Nkrumah. We lost direction and for over five decades now it has been as though we rather set out to demonstrate that the black man cannot manage his own affairs. If the black man will ever manage his own affairs then we have to go back to the strong philosophical foundation laid by Kwame Nkrumah. We must keep voting presidents and political parties in and out of power until the right one comes along; the one who will build a State on the strong philosophical foundation.
Build a State that will be stronger than family links, ethnic links, political party affiliations, and friendships. Take concrete actions against those who plunder and squander the country’s funds and resources and take actions to stop future plunder and squander; and build a State that is held together by a strong and enduring philosophical foundation i.e. common BELIEFS and VALUES that are strong and superior to any parochial interests. We must re-establish the strong and enduring philosophical foundation because it is the only way that we shall end this wandering in the wilderness.
We must reborn the new African that Kwame Nkrumah described. The new African who uses his head, heart and hands to make his life worth living; and the new African who is a critical thinker, honest, and hard working.
When the ruling elites of the developed countries speak, especially in moments of crisis, they always refer to their core values and beliefs as the foundation upon which their countries have made progress and the foundation upon which they will overcome the crisis. China makes reference to their cultural revolution which even though unnecessarily bloody is the foundation upon which China has made the fantastic progress that everyone talks about these days.
We also need independent and credible civil society groups who are not influenced by the ruling elites; these groups must continue educating the ordinary citizens so that they can hold our leaders accountable at all times.
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