What Rawlings said at Centre for Freedom & Accuracy Power lecture
Continue from Friday,
October 26,2012 issue
The advent of talk radio has led to all sorts of characters with no capacity to discuss issues of national importance being given the opportunity to shout hoarse on our airwaves, throwing abuse and insults and feeding us with shallow arguments that further misinform our society.
Given that we are looking for ways to combat corruption it is imperative that machinery is put in place to raise the standards of our media practice and also tighten disciplinary procedures (through the Ghana Journalists Association and the National Media Commission).
The Media Commission should be equipped to operate like the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) in the United Kingdom. The PCC operates on the basis of an editors’ code of practice, resolves disputes between media and members of the public, sanctions media personnel when they break the code and ensures that the highest standards are maintained at all times.
I commend those media people who still maintain the standards and do not allow petty influences to cloud their judgement as far as news dissemination is concerned. The height of excellent journalism is when you can report what is newsworthy without having to consider a third party whose influence may compel you to twist the facts. And when the general public is better informed it drives national developmental initiatives.
Ladies and gentlemen, we speak of leadership by example, implying that a leader, whether at the national or local level, must not merely talk about truth, integrity and accountability but must demonstrate those qualities in his or her daily life.
However, a leader may be a person of impeccable probity and honesty and yet this alone is not enough.
Around every leader there are people who will try to work themselves into the leader’s confidence in order to enjoy their own little piece of importance and influence. If they succeed, they will wrap the leader in a defensive wall, controlling the flow of information, which reaches him and blocking access to anyone whom they perceive as a threat to their position. They become manipulators, using the ‘leader’ to preserve their own positions and influence.
Ironically, the easiest target for such parasites is the ‘good’ leader – affable, tolerant, unwilling to believe ill of others until it is too late.
If corruption is not to creep in and become institutionalised at the higher levels of government, the leader in addition to personal integrity requires the courage to deal firmly with the first signs of unprincipled behaviour among his supporters.
Ladies and gentlemen, zero tolerance must begin at home, whether home is the family unit or the corridors of power. We all spend too much time discussing the faults, crimes, commissions and omissions of opponents and supposed enemies and not enough time acting to correct the seeds of corruption within our own communities, organisations, parties and governments.
Fellow countrymen; corruption is theft. It is a crime. But what of perceptions of corruption which may or not be true?
Visitors to our cities are astonished by the mansions, which have sprung up like mushrooms and luxurious new vehicles, which clog our roads. They ask, “Where is all the money coming from?” To the average worker who lives with his wife and children, struggling to pay his bills and children’s fees, it seems that Ghana is made up of two different worlds. It is hardly surprising many ordinary Ghanaians assume that all the opulence around them is the fruit of corruption when in a good number of cases it is the result of hard and honest work.
Ladies and gentlemen, corruption is and has caused a lot of harm to our institutional framework to the point that our political process has been so monetized people see election periods as harvest season or cocoa season as some call it.
Our democracy and national development cannot progress if we do not counter this cancerous growth. Right from constituency primaries for party executives to regional and national executives and even the election of presidential candidates huge monetary and material inducement of offensive proportions are employed to sway elections in favour of the highest bidder. How can we then elect genuine, incorruptible leaders if right from the grassroots we have introduced influences over and beyond the competence and integrity of candidates?
Prior to the 2008 elections I am told a survey at one of the universities on what role graduates will prefer to play after school elicited a majority response – political party delegate. These students having hosted party events in their auditoriums had witnessed firsthand the sheer abundance of financial influence during party congresses and were yearning to be quick beneficiaries.
Our dear parliamentarians have awarded themselves salary increases with retrospective effect from 2009. But what do they think the electorate is saying in the streets?
Some MPs have tried to justify it by referring to the many who besiege them daily, asking for help with school fees, medical bills, jobs and even the basic, money for meals.
I know the feeling, Mr. Chairman. For over 30 years, my office has had to deal with a steady stream of petitioners. Whilst we each do what we can, the real solution does not lie in charity but in ensuring that the institutions established to provide health, education, security, and other social needs work more efficiently, effectively and transparently. This is where our MPs should concentrate their efforts both in their constituencies and nationally to build sustainable systems so that people do not have to rely on random acts of charity.
Ladies and gentlemen, our democracy is threatened if it is not founded on truth, integrity and transparency. If we look on as our political process is abused with monetary and material inducement as the basis of determining who wins elections at even the grassroots level wherein lies the basis for the sacrifices many made with their lives to guarantee a decent political development for Ghana?
Chief Justice Georgina Wood at a lecture earlier this month hit the nail right on the head when she called for a stop to the infusion of money into politics. She said we must ensure that every citizen’s vote “is a clean vote cast in good conscience and not affected by any improper considerations”.
She added: “The youth must constructively challenge the leadership of political parties and governance institutions to perform better. We must assist in the creation of a democratic society of integrity by being courageous and sincere in our criticism of those we have reason to believe are corrupt.”
The biggest threat to democracy is the ‘Monetization of the Electoral Process’. Mr. Chairman, the practice of using money and other resources to entice voters are worst forms of threat to the social and economic development of Ghana.
Mr. Chairman, how can we ensure development if most District Assembly members are elected because they are able to provide money and drinks to the community leaders beyond what tradition demands?
How can we ensure that competent candidates have been elected when money is used to buy votes? For example: Primaries are being held in a strong hold of political Party A. Delegates are selected to vote and represent the people. A particular candidate manages to camp the delegates and provide each delegate with 300 Ghana Cedis and a full piece of cloth. At the end of the day he spends a huge sum of money. He is elected and ultimately wins the elections to become a Member of Parliament. His opponent who may be more competent is unable to make it based on the fact that he did not have the resources to influence voters. The winner goes to Parliament and performs abysmally as Legislator. His MPs Common Fund goes to contracts won by his financiers. Where are we leading the constituents?
Situations such as above are happening at some levels of the political leadership. Mr. Chairman, the people’s will and interest cannot always be suppressed. These are the real threats to democracy and development. Unfortunately, civil society and other interest groups appear to be indifferent.
Mr. Chairman, one other significant threat to democracy and development is the perpetuity of corruption and injustice, from one administration to the other. Ghana’s continuous development will suffer if the wrongs in previous administrations are not diligently identified and punished. ‘Scratch my back, I scratch your back’ can only be for some of the people some of the time but not all the people all the time.
To conclude, Mr. Chairman, we must all work had to fight corruption at all levels of the society. The people’s power and anger cannot be under rated. We must not provide incentive for the disruption of democracy. Vigilance is significant. Dismissive attitude and indifference to the complaints and concerns of the masses can be expensive.
Combating corruption is not beyond us. Imagine the effect on our nation and our future if for just a few months, all decent Ghanaians would put aside their own convenience, apathy and faint-heartedness and challenge every corruption, no matter how petty, which comes their way.
Imagine the effect if we began to realize that instead of looking to government, the religious bodies or some other authority to “do something” about corruption, we must all, as individuals take responsible action.
Only then can integrity and probity become the norm. Only then can corruption shrink and become treated as a social aberration.
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen: Thank you once again to the Centre for Freedom and Accuracy for creating the opportunity for this lecture.
Thank you to all present and do have a good evening.
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