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Feature: Corruption, a hidden force in mother Ghana

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Bribery and Corruption, a problem from which no society on earth is free, is decried by most of the world’s countries. In countries where grand corruption has taken hold, corruption has become not simply an individual matter but a culture in itself. This may be Mother Ghana’s situation now with corruption. Ghana has been judged to be one of the steadiest countries in West Africa.

Nevertheless, corruption rears its ugly head in the day to day undertakings of the ordinary Ghanaian as well as the top Ghanaian officials and even in the house of God. Hence widespread corruption exists in Ghana since independence, it is not a new phenomenon.

Even though corruption levels in Ghana remain lower compared to other African countries, it is a major obstacle to development. All the same, corruption in Ghana is deemed illegal, and both agent and principal are liable – regardless of the nationality of the person who is bribing or being bribed (Global Integrity 2011; Parliament of the Republic of Ghana 2012; GAN Integrity 2018).

A succinct definition of corruption, used by the World Bank, is the abuse of public office for private gain. But today it goes beyond those parameters. Sectors worst affected by corruption in Ghana include the police, judiciary, politicians, business companies, electricity and water services, the Pastors, and even the ordinary kenkey seller on the streets.

The Christians and Corruption

Most of these politicians, businessmen, members of parliament, judiciary, police and so on are Christians. Who then are the possible perpetrators of the bribery and corruption? It is said that Ghana has a Christian population of more than 70% who are professing membership with various Christian denominations, and those on social media and “trotros” (pubic buses). Why would Ghana with so many Christians today in government experience so much prevalence of corruption? Talk of every sphere, nook and cranny of this country you would find a Christian either heading a department or a member of the team of that department; talk of the education sector, Health, sports, security, business, transport sector and politics. How many Christians challenge one another when it comes to corruption and other related vices? And finally, how many Christians are even aware or believe corruption is a sin?

Christ teaches that the Christian is the light of the world and therefore should be the light in the darkness of corruption and be the yeast to infiltrate every dark corner of Mother Ghana and thereby bear witness as exemplary leaders and ordinary citizens. Christians should be the tools that can transform and clean the dirt of corruption off society and live according to the tenets of Christianity. The truth of the matter is, that many Christians today treat Christianity as an association or an avenue where one can only seek something from God and not a “way of life”. Christianity has been reduced to mere business, where Christ’s name is used as a cover to extort money from people.

It is gradually reduced to a mere show, where God is literally forced to perform a miracle by hook or crook. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I love your Christ but not Christianity. Christians are so unlike Christ”. Gandhi was spot on at his time and what he said many years ago still stands tall today.

Visit a typical market and a Christian seller will either sell a rotten or expired product to you. Send your car to a mechanic and he will either change your car spare parts with a worn-out spare part or at best drain your fuel and bring you an empty fuel tank. Visit the teacher in a school or a nurse at the hospital and they are on social media the whole time. Call on the pastor and he will literally sell God’s blessing to you. Speak with the security about a crime and everything will be nipped in the bud in exchange for money.

Interestingly, these are the same people who throng to church every Sunday. It is true Jesus said in Luke chapter 5: 32 that “I did not come because of the righteous but sinners”, however, in the same Luke chapter 15: 7 it is also true that there is more joy in heaven to see a sinner changing his ways or at least make an effort to live by the values of Christ’s teachings. With the overwhelming number of Christians in the country, one will expert a “Christ-like” behaviour which pre-empts truthfulness, justice, fairness, love and so on.

Combating Corruption

Integrity, public and private, is vital for normal interaction in the future of any society. Sadly, we live with the knowledge that the scourge of corruption in many parts of the world is a disease striking at the heart of society. Even so, people too often want to step round the issue of corruption as being too difficult to tackle. So long as it does not affect them personally, they say in effect, so what! Sometimes we might wonder if anything can be done about it, or ask “Corruption, who cares?” it behoves on all of us to make a personal commitment to rigorous integrity, making restitution for any past errors, as a first step in answering corruption. Any system, however well designed, is only as effective as the people who operate it.

In the final analysis, the only effective and durable answer to corruption is incorruptible men and women. For integrity to prevail, we need action not only on the political, legal and investigative fronts, but also on the human level.

The most sophisticated security systems and dedicated personnel are useless if undermined from the inside by a simple act of corruption-the fact is that the strongest fortress will crumble if built upon sand. There needs to be a passion for a corruption-free society in both the leaders of society and the people at large. In the fight against corruption, MPs are important as individuals because they will only be able to require personal integrity of others if their own is without blemish.

Corruption requires a national culture which rejects corruption and supports integrity. What is most important is that there should be political will from the top. This political will enables us to investigate independently without fear or favour and also provides adequate resources for the work.

Even with rigorous police work, an impartial and independent judiciary, well paid public servants and political will at the top, there is still the unpredictable factor of human nature, its motivations and temptations. Thirty pieces of silver turned Judas Iscariot into the betrayer of Jesus, although bribery was contrary to Jewish law, religious teaching and culture. Laws, institutions and the culture of society as a whole can strengthen people in their resolve, but the personal choice, however difficult, has to be made.

Those usually accused of breaches are alleged to have compromised what should have been their professional ethics and accepted deals and signed documents when they shouldn’t have. We have seen too many such breaches, when professionals compromised their ethics because they were hungry for riches or scared of losing their Porsches.

These are human failings, but the whole point is that ethics and objectivity should surmount emotion. Both senior and junior executives need an injection of ethics in their backbones.

Corruption is a two-way street, both parties have to decide to be corrupt. Integrity is a one-way street: only one-person need makes the decision. Faced with corruption a person can decide against it. Be they politicians, business people or ordinary voting citizens etc. the integrity of individuals can help empower a nation’s conscience and maginalise corruption. Sometimes we give the lie to the fear that corruption is inevitable. But we can illustrate what boldness and integrity can achieve in testing circumstances.

By this we demonstrate that not only can an individual or business resist corruption but also that corruption’s whole culture and modus operandi can be brought under attack and defeated.

There are still millions of people in all nations whose ‘no’ to corruption and yes to honesty is clear and uncompromising. They can be the basis on which a world of integrity may be fashioned. Zero tolerance of corruption and making a stand for integrity, however do not come easily. The honest person does not always defeat corruption the first time or even the second. It requires resolution. As we deal with major corruption we must avoid petty corruption.

As the saying goes, to cook a big fish well, you have to know how to cook a small one well. If enough people are seized by the vision of a world based on integrity and are ready to pay the price to realise it, it is achievable in the decades ahead. The choice is before all.

Source: Nicholas Nibetol Aazine, SVD
(Coordinator for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, Ghana-Liberia Province)
Divine Word Missionaries: A Catholic Missionary Society
justiceandpeaceint@gmail.com or nicholasbetol@gmail.com

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