By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Friday, January 24, 2014
Folks, if you think that there is hope for Ghanaian politics to improve, you are deceived. It will not for as long as morality doesn’t guide it. And morality is simple: that which is right or wrong and why. That which is moral manifests in good ethical conduct and is appreciated as such. It is the substance that impels good politicking.
We dismiss that which is immoral as wrong, negative, and an impediment to good politics. Unfortunately for us in Ghana, immorality defines our local and national politics to a great extent. And that immorality manifests as the buying of conscience through material inducements. Plainly put, through massive bribery and corruption at all levels.
We have for long been complaining that Ghanaian politics is dirty and continues to be dirtied all the more by those who profit from that filth. The dirt comes in many forms and shapes, depending on the source and what is at stake.
As the late A.A. Munufie once put it, Ghanaian politics is full of nonsense and to do it successfully, one must have a big stomach for that nonsense. We will not argue with him because the evidence of our own eyes confirms his claim.
Everything that makes Ghanaian politics dirty occurs right in front of our eyes on a daily basis. It is either wanton bad-mouthing of political opponents or issuing of threats against anybody perceived as a threat to one’s political interests. There have been physical attacks on political opponents, destruction of life and property, and plain treachery to pave the way for one’s preferred candidate to be in power.
Add to that the element of bribery and corruption and you will be painting the true picture of Ghanaian politics. And bribery and corruption come in different guises—outright buying of conscience through material gifts and other inducements, especially at election time.
Quantities of roofing sheets, corn mills, cooking utensils, furniture, vehicles, food items (rice, sugar, corn, salt, meat, and what-have-you), bicycles, motor-bikes and many others feature very much in the manouevres at vote buying. Beneficiaries are limitless—chiefs, religious leaders, students, workers, everybody lucky enough to be where the gravy train passes!
Don’t even mention the sugar-coated promises that gush out from the mouths of those desperately seeking to be in power. They know how to induce the gullible voters.
In effect, Ghanaian politics cannot be completely defined or done without recourse to bribery and corruption. It is a given.
Rather strangely, there has emerged a troubling tendency on the part of some politicians to label others as corrupting Ghanaian politics when they themselves are neck-deep in the vice. How many times haven’t we heard accusations and counter-accusations from politicians across the political divides on impropriety in political campaigns?
Of particular concern is the unceasing allegation of corruption that the NPP members have levelled against their opponents in the ruling NDC to create the unfortunate impression that the NDC couldn’t be in power if it hadn’t bribed the electorate and officials of the Electoral Commission. At least, that was the subtle rationale behind their petition against Election 2012 and their motivation to hold the country to ransom for 8 months before being humiliated by the Supreme Court on August 29, 2013.
One might be tempted to think that the NPP would be the last party to be hit by anything verging on bribery and corruption within its own ranks. But none would be so ignorant to do so, especially if lessons taught by hindsight should guide one’s perceptions.
Who says that a political party built on the principle of “property-grabbing democracy” would be devoid of corruption? We saw the mad rush to grab everything in sight when they were in power. Even outside the corridors of power, they haven’t ceased going after property.
Now, here comes the latest in the series of corrupt instances within their own ranks, which hasn’t pricked their conscience even. As the party carries out its internal elections for constituency, regional, and national officers, a lot of water is passing under the bridge.
What is happening in the Ashanti Region alone stands the party out for scrutiny as a corrupt institution that will be very difficult to clean, which is why their roof-top pontifications on bribery and corruption annoy me. Their nauseating holier-than-thou attitude irks me to the hilt too.
A contestant for the Ashanti Regional Chairman position, Bernard Antwi-Boasiako (alias Wontumi), has done two things to raise eyebrows. About two weeks ago, he bought nomination forms for free distribution to aspiring contestants at the constituency level. Then, this week, he donated a three-storey building to the party for use as its Ashanti Regional Headquarters in Kumasi. The party has accepted his gift, but that decision has angered the other contenders who complained of bias.
Clearly, the general impression is that Wontumi’s actions border on inducement of voters through material gifts. That is a clear instance of conscience-buying, loudly marked out as bribery and corruption. Despite concerns that his gesture amounts to vote-buying, Wontumi told Joy News on Thursday that it was God who directed him to do so and that he did it with a clear conscience. “As and when God directs him, he will give to the party”, he said.
And he is supported by Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, National Chairman of the party, who is seeking re-election even though already painted as a thief by a major financier of the party, Kennedy Agyapong (NPP MP for Assin South). Can a thief catch a fellow thief?
Obetsebi-Lamptey says that “candidates are free to use money to influence delegates if they have it because in politics, money is a gift”. (He has given a new meaning to bribery and corruption!).
Responding to allegations of inducement and corruption ahead of elections to select regional executives, he is reported to have given a lecture on the importance of using one’s strength in politics.
Let’s hear him: “If you speak well, then go and speak well, if you are a good organizer, show the people you are a good organizer, if you have money, then, use the money, if you have time and patience then show the people you have time and patience” (an advice that could potentially increase a vote-buying orgy, according to the news report).
Any shock to hear this utterance from Obetsebi-Lamptey? Not at all because we know what he is. But for him to lead the NPP’s pack to condemn others of indulging in vote-rigging or bribing the electorate is despicable.
Even in the NPP’s own internal politics, so much corruption is being blessed by those who should have known better not to. I am not surprised because that is at the core of Ghanaian politics. What irks me, though, is the pretentious and insulting behaviour of the NPP elements who see only the “evil” going on in other parties and the government while closing their minds to the beam in their own eyes.
And Ransford Gyampo (a political scientist at the University of Ghana) rightly summed it all up in his reaction, saying that he was disappointed in the NPP leader’s comment, adding, “that statement shouldn’t come from a high profile person like him”.
According to him, using money to influence voters, creates uneven playing field, sacrifices fair competition and creates rancour and bitterness for those disadvantaged by the lack of money. It also undermines internal democracy in the party and eventually negatively reflects on Ghanaian politics.
If charity cannot begin at home, where will it reach in the wider circumference of national politics? And if they spend so much money buying voters’ conscience, what won’t they do if voted into power to recoup their lot? And is politics for the money-bags or the level-headed people needed to solve national problems?
Obviously, the heaping of dirt on Ghanaian politics by corrupt politicians cannot be prevented for as long as the Jake Obetsebi-Lampteys give it their blessing. No wonder we have given power to those who are more interested in seeking their personal welfare than working to move the country forward. Sickening!
I shall return…