Sat, 14 Mar 2015 Feature Article

David Cameron’s Caravan Theory is our best Cure for Corruption

David Cameron’s Caravan Theory is our best Cure for Corruption

I have learnt not to jump queues, especially when the other people in the line are patient to wait for their turn. It is common sense, isn't it? With smart and brisk service, the nicely dressed and polite Tim Horton's girls serve you coffee or cappuccino with so much professional etiquette you might think their next meal depends on how best they serve you. And indeed, their next meal depends on the customer feedback box tucked into a small corner in the shop. In cosmopolitan Ottawa where you encounter a different face every day, you would hardly remember the faces you meet in a coffee shop. How would I ever have known that the ordinary looking white gentleman who always said good morning whenever he joined the queue was the Major of Ottawa?

He would order coffee and his favourite Boston cream doughnut and file out quietly. Tim Horton's is affordable coffee for the ordinary man in Canada. Starbucks is quite pricy but the common man can afford it. When you have a good date, Starbucks was a better place, at least for starters. The socialization process in black Africa is different; we are taught to distinguish ourselves when we are able to add a penny more to our wages. Suddenly, there is a social expectation to measure up and claim your position among the distinguished few. Over here, caravans do not move through the forest; the moment you make more money than the man next door or get a position in government, you must quickly jump out of the common caravan and buy your own, because the forest is a common space for ordinary tribunes.

British PM David Cameron is admired for his conservative understanding of the middle class as people who are just as important as the privileged few. He does not see a dividing line if a caravan moves through the forest and all of us were on board that caravan. Even though he is Eton and Oxford trained, his own ascension to the heights of power in Britain is a bit of a caravan story, too. David Davis was the favourite at the last Tory leadership conference until Cameron stunned everybody with a phenomenal one hour speech delivered from his head, not from a script. There, the conference jumped onto one common caravan to support a young inexperienced politician. These things do not happen in Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana. In these jurisdictions, the patricians are preserved and urged to consolidate their space. Here, it is difficult to join in if you were already out. And once you are out, there is no coming in because those already in do not see themselves in the common majority.

I have chosen to parry away the many corruption stories that greet us every day. Sometimes I wonder as I wander through the many reported cases of graft and sleaze, and fear whether there will be anything left for my children to build on when this corrupt generation of their father is gone. There are ghosts who jump queues in public banks to receive money on behalf of the living. Another invents thousands of names and assigns them celestial identities to pump more than GH80 million into his pocket. Just a few metres away, you would find another official who would be happy to help the fellow steal some more if the consultation is well executed to cater for his special interests. Where does it stop? It becomes a crucible where only those who would be willing to break the cycle are those who would he hanged, like John Proctor.

I didn't know what to say when a journalist asked my opinion after a High Court last week acquitted and discharged businessman Alfred Agbesi Woyome for charges of defrauding the state. I told the journalist that my worry is neither the acquittal nor the discharge; I am concerned about some 200 young men and women who have been duped lots of money because they wanted to join the police service to serve their nation. They have been told that joining the police is not like buying groundnuts by the roadside. Some of the victims had sold family lands and other properties to raise the inducement money demanded by the fraudsters. As for Mr. Woyome, he has succeeded in proving to Ghanaians that the law is supreme and those who know how law works could be victors any day. Whoever said the law was an ass didn't consider the size of the donkey in judgment debt payments, especially from phantom contracts.

The Ghanaian public is angry about the outcome of the Woyome case. The Attorney General is most unhappy. Former President J.J. Rawlings is also very angry, calling Woyome a thief and fuming that if this is how we intend to fight corruption in this country, then “we are not serious.” If post judgement legal analyses of the Woyome case have any merits, then the witnesses vital to the case, all of whom are alive, must be called to exhume the carcass of the matter for a whole new trial in the interest of the nation. At one point, Mr. Woyome was entitled to the GH 51 Million because a commercial court awarded him the payment while an Attorney General had entered a Noelle Prosequi. At other level, the man is not supposed to have been paid a farthing because of glaring and biting lapses in the whole Waterville-Woyome contractual process. It's very complex. Where is the money?

Corruption in Ghana did not start with Mr. Woyome, and it will not end because we succeeded in making a veritable Golgotha of Mr. Alfred Woyome. It is a vote for institutional arrogance and impunity, as senior journalist Kwaku Baako describes the Woyome victory. After Woyome, there would bigger scandals if we continue to build a society that separates and preserves the proletarians while the public caravan is grounded in the forest. Let's hope we have some strong people to wheel it back home safely. And once it is home, let's have Mr. Woyome give us a jolly good ride.

Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin
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