VIP: Vagabonds in Power
“So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people. Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.” Barack Obama
If you are not hopping mad, you ought to be. News that some smart Alecks have, once again, taken Oma Ghana for a sweet ride is making the global news, making our dear land the laughing stock of the entire civilized world.
This is what happened: With all pomp and aplomb, our over-compensated government officials came out to tell us that by some dint of hard work, shrewd negotiation and sheer brilliance they have succeeded in offloading 70% of Ghana’s share in the VALCO Company and, in the process, made a hefty profit for the treasury. The Cynics among us immediately went to town dismissing the deal, while most of us adopt a ‘wait and see’ outlook.
Our well-paid officials stepped out of their 4-wheels to beat their chests and came out with all the trumpets blaring. They were all over the place huffing and puffing. The VALCO deal was the best ever for the nation, and it was executed with luminous brilliance whose dazzling light we shall all come to admire in no time at all. Alas, it was all a lie and a stupid one for that matter!
The empty boasts of the SOBs (kindly excuse my gutter language here) was to be rudely punctured few days later when news from Press Agencies started filtering in that it was all a sweet scam. Call it 419, if you like and you will be right on mark. 419 is the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code that deals with fraud and fraudulent offences. It is now identified with cyber and other Ponzi scams.
A report on CiTi FM confirmed the fear many of us harboured: Ghana has, once again, been made to look trashy and very ridiculous. No, this was not the first time some unconscionable con artists have taken us for a collective fool and our nation for a sweet ride. Do you remember the multi-billion IFC loan fiasco when our cheapo-cheapo politicians, with their begging mentality, dragged the nation into contracting a loan from a non-existing company? As then, our parliamentarians totally abdicated their constitutional responsibilities of oversight. If I understood it correctly eighteen (18) members of our 230-members Parliament approved the VALCO scam (what else to call it?)
That some of these parliamentarians still parade our streets as ‘honourables’ reveals the depth to which the morals of our society have sunk. That some of them could even attempt to rationalize away their utter stupidity shows the contempt they have for the rest of us. But there they were on the ether, doing mental gymnastics, in order, to justifiable the unpardonable.
I certainly hope that I am not the only one affronted by this gigantic slap in our faces. What exactly is wrong with us in Africa when people go into public service not to render any service but to gain access to our national patrimony? The pictures of Africans continue to adorn NGOs pamphlets on hunger, diseases and starvation, yet those that charge themselves with mis-ruling us continue to loot the paltry sums in our treasury! I refused to buy the argument that our corruption has to do with our level of poverty. Perhaps it is the other way around: our level of poverty is engendered by (in part) by the endemic, systemic and institutionalized corruption that has become a culture in our land. Corruption is seen in our society as just a way of life! Yet, like Ostriches we bury our heads in sand and hear no evil, and see no evil.
For crying out loud, we pay these people very good money and we do not ask them for the impossible. We honestly do not even ask for much in return from our so-called honourables. Anyone who has visited the Parliament and see our ‘honourables’ at work will know that they are not among the most hard-working Ghanaians. Our MPs cannot win a trophy for slaving for this country. Attired in their best Saville-Row suits, they speak GRAMMAR for two to three hours a day, the rest of the day they could abuse in chasing their part-time girl-friends around Accra and environs. And for that, they receive not only very decent salaries, but also good emoluments. And they take a car loan from the state, a 4-wheel drive jeep to boot.
And yet they cannot even perform the most rudimentary of checks on a wayward Executive! It is inexcusable that in this age and time, our Parliamentarians find it difficult to look things up, do a little research which, thanks to Google, is within anyone’s reach. And by their folly they exposed our dear land to global opprobrium! And yet, they’re expecting us to be gyrating with gratitude. Give me a decent break, please!
It would have taken any serious member of our parliament less than a quarter of an hour on the internet to check on the status of the Norwegian and Brazilian companies to which one of nation’s most strategic assets is being sold. Alas, the lazybones we have for parliamentarians were too busy enjoying the good things of life to bother with such chores. And this shameless bunch of otiose elite will have no compunction whatever to collect their salaries at the end of the month. They will feel absolutely no shame to show their faces in the House. And they will think nothing of going on air or appearing on our television to come and insult us with their stupid defenses!
This brings us to what you and I are doing about the sad state of affairs in our land! The limit of tyrants, Frederick Douglass warned, are prescribed by those whom they oppress. And Professor Wole Soyinka opined that: “The man died in the man who keeps silent in the face of tyranny.”
And for those who do not know it, our constitution makes it our duty to safeguard our nation’s integrity when it states that It is the duty of every citizen to: “promote the prestige and good name of Ghana and respect the symbols of the nation.” Directive Principles of state Policy, Articles 34-41, Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, 1992.)
The destiny of this nation is the responsibility of each and every one of us. Sadly, most of us do not even care enough to be apathetic! Most of us believe that it is the responsibility of someone else to chronicle the ills we all see around us. Most of us are so lethargic that our rulers feel that they could do anything and get away with it. They have more fear of their desert gods in the sky than they have for those that elected them.
In years gone by we could count on out students to vibrate with positive anger at governmental shenanigans. Today our students are too bust jiving that they no longer possess a social conscience. And sadly it is onto their shoulders the nation’s affairs will be entrusted in few years to come. Our trade Unionists are certainly no longer up to par. There used to be a time when the representatives of our nation’s workers take their role as societal watchdog very seriously. Not even under the military have our trade unionists appear more comatose.
The Press has also abdicated their responsibilities. We have to ask what our media practitioners were doing when our nation was made to feel so ridiculous. The Ghana Journalist Association (GJA) owe us an explanation why none of the fine men and women plying their trade as journalists in this blessed country fail to notice that our nation is appending her sovereign signature to a fraudulent contract. It took releases from the World Press Agencies before our Journalists woke up from their slumber.
To those who clamor for the repel of the Law of causing financial loss the state, I say wait a sec. My heart bleeds for Uncle Tsatsu , but I do not think that he should be the last to suffer (unduly in his case).This VALCO deal must be forensically scrutinized and those who put our nation to such global shame should be made to face the severest sanction of the law. And for President Kufuor who proclaimed a regime with zero tolerance for corruption, I say he must use the last days of his administration to help get to the bottom of this rotten deal. It is one deal too rotten to be allowed to fizzle out.
May I suggest that we borrow a leaf from our Anago cousins? On assuming power, former President Olusegun Obasanjo was so alarmed by the level of corruption in Nigeria that he set up the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). Corruption has not been banished from Nigeria but the EFCC has ensured state officials do not have the same impunity they used to enjoy in the past. I think that in Addition to CHIRAJ, we can sue a body like the EFCC in Ghana where today men and women, with no visible source of income, are tooling around town in designer cars with personalized number plates.