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Letta to Osagyefo - Power corrupts and power can overcome corruption as well

Posted by Nwia on Fri, 06/20/2008 - 07:02

Hey Osagyefo,

Please don't put me into your bad books due to this long silence. I have been thinking about you but I was preoccupied with thinking about my classes rather than dedicating time to preparing a letter to you. After all, no one is paying me to do this, but my classes are supposed to get me paid in the future. Eventually. So appreciate my efforts, Kwame, I am not being corrupted. I surely don't need any brown envelopes to share my thoughts on our beloved nation. Now think of those who are actually supposed to serve our nation. It's their job to do it. They are the ones whose jobs have been clouded in the controversy called corruption. It's a canker, but what can we do about it?

Corruption has become part and parcel of our culture that it is easy to overlook it. I was trying to think of corrupt practices I witnessed or engaged in when I was back home in Ghana and it took me awhile to count a few. The most popular culprits are the lawmakers themselves. If it's not the Christmas present you are handing out then it's the little widow's mite to the police for 'taking care' of us. If it's not the few cedis you are paying to save wasting a few minutes of going to the police station, it is the on-the-spot fine for speeding. But is there a spot fine for overspeeding? What are the rules on traffic offences? Ghanaians are not educated about road traffic rules but we complain about the bribery, corruption and punishments nonetheless.

A friend told me just the other day that I should prepare to go home and get one of those government contracts. "We for chop the money some". It seems the corruption is here to stay and you are better off putting yourself in a position to benefit than to complain about it. Is that how it worked in your time, Osagyefo? Was there any transparency in how contracts were awarded? Is it a crime to be friends with those who create the opportunities? In Uncle Sam's country, it is called networking. The processes are as transparent as they come but in the end, everyone hires someone he/she trusts. Maybe in Ghana, people hire those they trust where the trust is built on friendships, and family ties. What am I missing here?

People say the black man is corrupt. The white man buys into it as well. Power can corrupt anyone, even if/when the person who does not wield the power. I was at an African business conference the other day and the issue of corruption came up. We love these foreign businesses that try to get a presence in Ghana. They claim to fight corruption by not budging to the various demands but am sure they balance the books and look at the numbers, and eventually give in. As a result, we have low quality projects going up around Ghana and instead of building infrastructure, we are stuck with improving existing ones.

While we discuss how to prevent people from being corrupt and being corrupted, let's seek to fish out how to build our economies and industries more efficiently and effectively. There is too much disorganization in various public setups in Ghana to control wrongdoing. Kwame, we need discipline, first and foremost. When you have systems that don't work and require so much creativity to get by day in and day out, people will take advantage of the cracks in the system. The sad thing is, the richer are the ones primed to do so, in addition to those who are friends with the elite, and this does not bode well for national development and wealth creation.

Corruption seems to be the biggest deterrent for people who want to invest in Ghana. Ghanaians abroad know more about this than anyone. When they visit Ogyakrom, it is one of the first things they realise, it is unlike what they see in Western countries. This is the group that should be leading the charge against indiscipline, disorganization and corruption. Ghanaians abroad should not only be seeking to take advantage of government contracts; it would not solve the problems. We should give power to the common citizen, the entrepreneur and the hard worker. Power here represents opportunity, capital and resources.

Kwame, it is easier written than done. The highest position in the land seems to go to the highest bidder. How much did you bid in the run up to 1957? But like I said, no one is corrupting me to discuss corruption. Someone just gave me an opportunity. Thou shall give corruption no daylight. Thou should send some small cash though, there is nothing corrupt about that.

Yours truly,
Maximus.