The law, the people and The Republic: The importance of ethics in a functioning democracy
The last few months have been colored by events in the beloved republic which demonstrate how ethically challenged we are as a nation. There is no perfect nation but when problems occur as they invariably do, in most places it is understood that the laws of the land simply go into effect without fear or favor. That is, no single person is bigger than the nation or its laws.
For those of us who have constantly highlighted the cost of ethical compromises to our society at many levels, the actions of persons in leadership when problems arise, can only be described as self – serving, ineffectual or at times sad and pathetic. The cost of not enforcing laws and regulations can found daily in lost lives, declining educational standards, unplanned development, and persistent poverty.
It is also well established that we are a poor country only as a result of our own choices and our failure to act decisively in enforcing our own laws from the district level all the way up the chain of authority. This has been the case right from the first republic and all the others in between. We have nurtured a culture of excuses, exceptions, delays, obfuscations and outright marginalization of our own laws and now the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost.
As long as our laws are compromised by political imperatives, Ghana will continue to fall short of her potential. The level of determination in leadership required to bring about this cultural transformation has eluded both our major political parties to the extent that neither has the moral standing to criticize the other. Now we have a case in “Woyomegate” in which both sides of the political aisle are dancing on the head of a pin, largely because of an apparent shared culpability. The situation calls for decisive leadership guided by the rule of law and not political expediency. It demands the political will necessary to take casualties for the greater good on both sides of the political divide. How long must we wait for principled leadership from Government? I use “government” in the true sense; including the governing party, the loyal (to the constitution) opposition, the executive branch, and the judiciary along with law enforcement agencies.
We should be reminded that the electorate votes with the expectation that leadership on difficult issues will be forthcoming as necessary. The courage to defend the constitution without fear or favor is crucial at this time. We will soon know if the Attorney – General's contribution to the discourse raises expectations to the appropriate level. In the final analysis, all of this is happening on President Mills' watch and decisive leadership rooted in the rule of law must come from him. He must take the initiative and lead the nation with total transparency, letting the chips fall where they may.
This case is occurring against a background of losses to the state, in the amount of about GHS 600 million, said to have been incurred by the erstwhile NPP government. This degree of liability, apparently from arbitrarily abrogated contracts, deserves a commission of inquiry which should result in prosecutions if crimes against the state have been committed. The people of Ghana have been gravely injured by their leaders and they should seek the appropriate legal remedy.
The situation also raises the question of a third party which might rise like a phoenix above this disturbing morass. The CPP won only 1.3% of the presidential vote in 2008. The new PPP under the leadership of Dr. Nduom has emerged from it and just as the CPP itself was born out of the UGCC. This development may mark a watershed event in Ghanaian politics. Given the steep climb required to succeed in 2012, the PPP has its work cut out for it but the coming months will determine whether the new party on the left will become a significant player in the politics of the future in which the rule of law should form the basis of Ghanaian life and national development.
There are so many issues begging for decisive action aided by a trustworthy legal process. Recent issues include the matter involving the chemical miracle of converting cocaine to baking soda in the Courts vs. the Police in which charges have finally been laid. There are also perennial problems of illegal buildings on proposed roads and drainage routes leading to lost lives and diminished productivity. Illegal encroachment of state lands continue without manifest interventions. Chiefs pervert land tenure aided by unscrupulous lawyers to thwart investors who create jobs in numerous communities. Foreigners are abusing our citizens in places of employment with impunity because they know that we do not respect and apply our own laws in Ghana. There are now neo- apartheid establishments in our country that have dared say Ghanaians need not enter. We have created the climate for such abuses to occur in our country. We are rapidly becoming a lawless society and the consequences will be destructive to the society and future generations.
Our failure to abide by our own regulations and laws has clouded all aspects of societal function. The education system is in a veritable crisis. Maternal mortality is unacceptably high and basic issues of sanitation are not addressed largely because of continued unpunished corruption and a clear lack of accountability even when lives are lost due to professional negligence and the failure of the state to provide for the basic needs of its citizens. Our leadership class must aspire to the highest levels of accountability to those they are elected to serve. Something has to give. Continuing in a culture where those who wish to abide by and apply the law are disparaged and threatened does not augur well for the future.
The seeds of true citizenship and are sown early within the formal educational experience and reinforced by life experiences. Ethical behavior is nurtured by the state. It does not develop in a vacuum. We are at a critical stage in our development where ethical conduct rather than oil should be the currency of the state. Ghana is ours to build or destroy and our future rests on the quality of our culture of leadership.
Prof. T. P. Manus Ulzen