When I was in Secondary School (1992-1994), a literature teacher whose name I can remember only as Mr. Annan used to say that: ‘’The only honest man in the world is he who has no chance to cheat’’. Even though I was not a Literature student, I liked Literature. I particularly liked this saying, but I didn’t fully understand it until now. Perhaps, because my mental faculty was not fully developed enough to understand such wise sayings.
Mr. Annan’s saying is what has characterised our national politics. When our politicians are in opposition, they appear to like the nation more than the ruling party. They claim they will fight corruption when they come to power. They seem to have the nation’s interest at heart even more than those ruling.
And yet, when they get power, the angels in opposition suddenly metamorphosize into “devils”. They engage in all acts of corruption ranging from obscure to most glaring. Now this is what I call hypocrisy. No wonder Wes Fesler says: “Hypocrisy is the audacity to preach integrity from a den of corruption.”
At first, it was Bus Branding. Now it is about Earth Moving Machines seized from illegal miners vanishing into thin air. You may refer to the campaign platforms of the ruling government when they were in opposition. They called the then ruling government names. And yet, when they got power, worse things are happening under their nose.
The question now is, is it just the case of “not having the chance to cheat’’ or a clear case of dishonesty? Maybe a more appropriate question to ask is what happen to them (politicians) when they get power? They say one thing whilst in opposition and do the worse when they win power.
Now the same people who were engaged in the Bus Branding saga are now in opposition. Once again, they have now become the angels. They are now doing the name calling. Those who were once angels are now the devil himself. This is dishonesty at its peak. It is not corruption. In my view, dishonesty is more dangerous than corruption. Indeed, it is dishonesty that gives birth to corruption.
The fight is no longer about who is not corrupt. Rather, it is about who is more corrupt.
Perhaps, even more disturbing is the fact that the citizens are more dishonest and far more corrupt than the Ghanaian politician. If it was the opposite, there will be no cause for alarm. However, for citizens to be more corrupt than politicians there are no signs of recovery.
In March 2011, a Tsunami occurred in Japan and washed away people, houses, safes, cars and other properties. The GUARDIAN of 18th August, 2011 reports that:
“After the waves tore into their homes and sent them fleeing for their lives, many of the survivors of Japan's tsunami must have thought they had lost everything. Yet in the months since the 11 March disaster thousands of people have been reunited with cash totaling 3.7bn yen (£29m), along with other valuables.”
It states further that, “Of the 2.36bn yen retrieved from 5,700 safes, all found in the three worst affected prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, 96% had been returned to its owners by mid-July, according to the national police agency. In addition, 1.3bn yen in loose cash has been recovered from handbags and purses, along with credit cards. Police said about 85% had been returned to its rightful owners, adding that the hunt would continue until all of the money had been accounted for.”
Contrast this with the incident in Kwame Nkrumah Circle a year later. The DAILY GUIDE of 17th March, 2012 reports as follows:
“A BULLION van belonging to Gocrest Security Services, carrying a large amount of money suspected to belong to the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) was yesterday looted after it was involved in a motor accident at about 2pm.”
The report states that, “A mob besieged the accident scene and looted cash stashed in the van with registration number GW 1847 S moments after it was hit by a Kumasi-bound VIP Yutong bus on the driver's side.”
It continues that, “According to an eyewitness, the bullion van somersaulted four times before landing on the other side of the road, leaving it open with some of the money- bundles of GH¢50 notes- scattered on the streets. This attracted onlookers to scramble for the cash.”
Two countries, two similar situations involving money, two different reactions by the respective citizens. The citizens of one country returns money to victims of a disaster. And the citizens of the other country loots and of course, retain the money.
So what account for this vast difference in behaviour? There is only one answer. It is that the people of Japan are more honest than the people of Ghana. Not honesty in speech, but honesty in deeds. After all, integrity they say is what you do when no one is watching you. If we must grow and develop as a country, we need the character of the Japanese.
Unfortunately, we are going even deeper into the abyss. Just last month, a businessman went to Zenith Bank (Tema Municipal Assembly Branch) to withdraw about GH¢100,000.00. When he came out of the bank, armed robbers trailed him, immobilised his car and robbed him of the money.
The police gave the robbers a hot chase, which resulted in exchange of fire between the police and the robbers. In the process, the money scattered. There was a scramble for the cash. The exchange left the two robbers dead, but the police could only recover GH¢2,500.00 out of the about GH¢100,000.00. The public picked close to GH¢100,000.00. Once again, not to return it to the owner, but to retain it for their use.
When there is an upward review of fuel prices, the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) are quick to adjust the prices. However, when there is a reduction in prices, they are reluctant to do the adjustment.
Some Civil servants go to work late and close early. And they have the guts to ask for salary increment. In some departments, a file can disappear and reappear in minutes, if you do the ‘right thing’ ( pay a bribe).
Businessmen don’t want to pay withholding taxes. So they factor it into their pricing. Contracts are no longer awarded to those who can deliver per se, but those who can pay kickbacks. I could go on and on. What a nation?
In fact, I thought with the advent of the novel Corona Virus Pandemic, our fellow citizens would learn some lessons and begin to change. However, the attitude is even worst now.
Tomatoes that used to sell for GH¢10.00 jumped to GH¢25.00. This is a 150 per cent increase. Yam, Okro, Gari, Onion and many other food items have seen similar astronomical increment. Just when we thought people would realise the difficulty of their fellow citizens and at least maintain prices; we rather saw exploitation from our own brothers and sisters.
In a Youtube video on the effects of the corona virus on the prices of items, a woman remarked that: “The exploitation should be condemned. We should be each other’s keeper. So don’t be selfish and jubilate whilst others suffer.”
An anonymous quote says: “Be a reflection of what you would like to see in others. If you want love, give love, if you want honesty, give honesty, if you want respect, give respect. You get in return what you give.”
Whilst our fellow citizens were busy increasing prices, they forget that what goes round comes around. If you increase the price of Gari to make short term gains, the meat seller will increase his, the mason will increase his daily wage, the trotro diver will increase his fare and so on. Workers will agitate for salary increment. This will result in inflation. Hence, your gari increment will end up in a ripple of increments that cancels your gain.
I must state that we still have very honest people in our dear nation. The likes of Justice Emile Short, Yaw Domelevo and Martin Amidu. My fear though is that their effect is watered down by the dishonest majority. This notwithstanding, I still think there is more room for improvement.
The saying goes that when nobody cares everyone suffers. It is high time we embraced honesty and integrity in our daily lives, our businesses, our jobs, our politics, and so on. It is time we trained our children the virtues of honesty and commend them when they show acts of honesty. Once we do these things, our honesty will increase. Our level of corruption will reduce significantly, and our nation Ghana will develop. God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and honest!