Whether we score A+ or B- in our fight against corruption will depend on how we treat these high-profile accusations and counteraccusations; claims and counterclaims. Do you remember that deputy minister of yesteryear who claimed that a cabinet minister had gone to see certain judges on the morning of August 29, 2013, before judgement was delivered in the landmark Presidential Election Petition?
That was serious; wasn’t it? But nothing was done about her stunning allegation or to her, as she descended into oblivion after being dropped in a ministerial reshuffle. There are one or two MPs who can say the dandiest thing and still get away with it. You are so sure, this one, he is not covered by parliamentary immunity; and yet, he keeps moving about freely – spitting even more fire. Who doesn’t know that ex-President who asserted that those behind the killing of 34 women in 2008 had been made senior cabinet ministers in 2009, but, who was never invited to show proof – even though the nation was spending millions of Cedis to find clues to the murder mystery?
One of the tricks that won the then opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) the 2008 election was its claim that appointees of the regime, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), had staggering accounts at the Prudential Bank; and also that the country’s gold bars had been plundered and sold by the NPP. Hold the claimants to strict proof and all they had to say was that they saw and picked the stuff from the internet. For ‘setting the records straight’ in such a horrific manner, the propagandists were given top ministerial positions that they would mismanage with equal deceit.
Still talking about corruption, there are the group of people on the other hand that – even when they have been convicted in a court of competent jurisdiction of looting millions of Cedis from state coffers – are only asked to give terms they can pay parts of the money back on. If they are even luckier, they are allowed to go chop the millions of Cedis free of charge. In this part of heaven, if you stole plantain, hen or mobile phone; you could go to Nsawam, Ankaful or Akuse for up to 40 years. In this society, if you are law-abiding and hardworking you die a pauper; if you break the law but know which party to belong to at every given time; your bread is buttered lavishly.
One against four
It is in this milieu that the Yaa Tiwaa/A-Plus tango should be given all the seriousness it deserves. Police Criminal Investigations Department Deputy Director General, Yaa Tiwaa Addo-Danquah, has accused musician-cum-oil dealer, Kwame Asare Obeng (A-Plus), of doctoring a conversation she had with him. That is an audio recording that made the rounds last week on social media to the effect that the report on the President’s two deputy Chiefs of Staff – Samuel Abu Jinapor and Francis Asenso-Boakye – had been cooked and doctored by A-Plus, with the intention of damaging the detective capo’s image. The police officer was quoted by Daily Guide as saying that the police establishment had reached an agreement with A-Plus that an allegation he made against Jinapor and Asenso-Boakye was completely baseless, without merit and lacked credibility.
Whereas Assistant Commissioner, Tiwaa Addo-Danquah, purported that a telephone conversation she held with Mr. Asare Obeng had been adulterated to make it look like the two government employees had indeed engaged in corrupt practices as earlier alleged by him, Obeng; the accuser said he was unaware of any such recording – not to talk about doctoring it. While the police officer says A-Plus had come round to accepting his claims were baseless; the accuser denied such concession, standing by his accusation. A-Plus had alleged that the two deputy chiefs of staff were engaged in thievery and corruption at Government House, citing a deal that happened at Ghana’s premier teaching hospital, Korle-Bu. Subsequent to investigations at the behest of no less a person than President Akufo-Addo, substantive CID Director General, Bright Oduro, signed a statement to the effect that A-Plus’s accusation was baseless and unsubstantiated. Roles Messrs Jinapor and Asenso-Boakye played in the deal alluded to amounted to an intervention “transparent, borne out of the protection of public interest and consistent with their duties as Chiefs of Staff,” the Daily Heritage of September 29, reported Oduro as determining.
With equal obstinacy, A-Plus, retorted that he had doctored no tape, daring the police to arrest him. “They said the allegation was baseless and I have kept quiet; now they want to sacrifice me. If you move one step, I will move two,” he fumed.
Is it true that the Police Administration did a phony investigation to – as it were – whitewash Jinapor and Asenso-Boakye? If that were true, shouldn’t the heads of the duo, as well as all those who sat on the police investigative committee’s roll? Wouldn’t it be necessary for those indicted to be thrown into gaol to serve as a deterrent? That may not be true; but that leads us inevitably to the flipside: Asare Obeng maligning the deputy chiefs and the police officers unpardonably. If that were true, wouldn’t the otherwise popular musician be equally liable for stern prosecution and incarceration? Deterrence is what we need after 60 years of galloping corruption. Setting examples of high-class offenders is the surest way to attain the much-needed prevention.
If A-Plus is to be believed; doesn’t it mean that President Akufo-Addo’s avowal to defeat corruption and make the use of public office for self-gain unattractive is being shot in the foot at the very get-go?
Canker of corruption
In the maiden edition of Ghana Today early January, I made a brief recollection of corruption in our previous governments thus: “When Lt. Col. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong formed the National Redemption Council after toppling Busia’s Progress Party regime in 1972, the NLC members soon earned the admiration of Ghanaians by riding in inexpensive VW Beetle cars. By the time Acheampong was elbowed out in a palace coup in 1978, corruption had become so rife in his junta that he was regularly teased for giving out VW Golf cars to young women in return for sexual favours. Jerry John Rawlings shot his way to power on 31 December, 1981 accusing Sir Hilla Limann and his People’s National Party of corruption and insensitivity to the plight of the suffering masses. John Agyekum Kufuor rode on the wings of ‘Zero Tolerance for Corruption’ to end the 19-year rule of the Provisional National Defence Council and National Democratic Congress (PNDC) regimes led by Mr. Rawlings in December 2000.
“Have you forgotten the barrage of accusations heaped on the Kufuor administration, which resulted in the narrow defeat of his NPP and its Presidential Candidate, Akufo-Addo, in 2008? The regime was accused of looting state coffers and collapsing the economy in 2007/8, after admirable recovery and growth from 2001…”
Corruption is so important a problem in our politics that our leaders must tackle it far, far more seriously than each of them have done over the last 60 years. Using public office for self-gain collapses economies and blight the opportunities of whole generations. The current and subsequent leaders had better sat up. Perception of corruption and outright lies that corruption is being perpetrated are worse crimes that can throw our dear nation into senseless battles, as our recent electioneering has threatened to do. The police, the courts and the general public should prevent and avoid that.
To score a real A-plus in our fight against corruption, Government and Ghanaians had better girded our loins to begin a real crusade. Corruption must be severely punished. Unfair corruption allegations should be mercilessly penalised. Else, we could score marks worse than B-.
…with A. C. Ohene