Statement by Star-Ghana Programme Manager at the premiere of “Soul Takers”

Your Excellency President John Mahama,
Mr Chairman, His Grace Palmer-Buckle, Archbishop of Accra
Ministers and Officers of State
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Friends from the media,

I will like to start my brief remarks with two quotes which in my view encapsulate the dilemmas that confront us in fighting bribery and corruption in high and low places.

The first is by one Mr Frank Serpico, a former New York Police Commissioner. I quote, “The fight for justice against corruption is never easy. It never has been and never will be. It exacts a toll on our self, our families, our friends, and especially our children. In the end, I believe, as in my case, the price we pay is worth it to hold on to our dignity”

The second is an anonymous quote and says To oppose corruption in high and low places is the highest obligation of a citizen of any country.

Your Excellency, Mr Chairman, We have gathered here today for the following related reasons; first, to be presented once again with evidence from another trail-blazing effort by Anas Aremayaw Anas and his Tiger Eye Team; second, to begin the dialogue between citizens and government and amongst citizens on how we can sustainably fight the scourge and canker of bribery and corruption in our national life; and last but not the least, to honor by our presence here today, an amazing citizen who is teaching us by deed that no citizen is too small to contribute in the fight against corruption.

Corruption is a universal occurrence. It harms national development efforts, affecting the poor and marginalized communities more than others; it corrupts the moral fibre of the nation, and by undermining the norms, laws and rules that are expected to guide our behaviour and relationships as citizens, has the potential to lead to the collapse of state institutions and erode the legitimacy of state authority. Fighting it is therefore not an option, it is obligatory on us as a nation.

Traditionally, we have looked up to the government to tackle corruption but what Anas has done is to demonstrate that beyond government and state institutions, citizens too can—and must-find a way to get involved in the fight not necessarily as private investigators but as people who through their individual actions and deeds can help reduce corruption.

The effectiveness of citizen actions, such as those by Anas, have been constrained by a number of factors, including weak follow-up by the state intuitions and the media and the lack of a critical mass of citizens engaging with their MPs and with government for relevant action to be taken.

Your Excellency, Mr Chairman, this is where STAR-Ghana comes in. We have pledged to support Anas and the Tiger Eye team over the next one year with the necessary resources to enable them take the work they have initiated with this film to its necessary conclusion. This will include strengthening Tiger Eye’s engagements with the media to keep the issue alive and on the front burner and supporting follow-up actions by Tiger Eye, including periodic feedback reports to citizens, to ensure that state officials and agencies deliver on the promises and commitments they will be making to address the issues raised by this film.

As we celebrate Anas and his team, let us remember that the changes needed to transform this country will only come about if we support a million more Anas’ to bloom; if all citizens see it as an obligation to take action, individually and in concert with others, against corruption and become the changes they wish to see in the wider society; if our media move from being partisan political vuvuzelas and begin to use their exceptional influence and privilege to speak truth to power and fulfil the obligations placed on them by Article 162 of our constitution and if state institutions are resourced and held accountable to fulfil their mandates.

Mr President, fellow citizens, corruption is essentially a “crime of opportunity”. Corruption happens when we entrust responsibility, power and discretion to a person but fail to install appropriate safeguards to ensure that the “opportunity” vested in that person to use his power and discretion for the public good will not be diverted for private gain. When you leave even morally good people—people who do not miss mosque on Friday or church on Sunday—with too much discretion and power and leave them to exercise such power without transparency or accountability, corruption is likely to be the result. This is why, as a country, we keep changing the people and faces in charge of our public institutions without making a significant dent in the corruption problem. We focus too much on the person, and not enough on the systems within which they must operate.

In our view, the appropriate response to the work of Anas is not simply to fire or transfer the individuals exposed by his investigations. It is to examine the gaps and loopholes, the lack of systems for transparency and accountability, that create the opportunities for corruption, and to address these omissions with appropriate reforms and measures.

Finally, Your Excellency and Mr Chairman, a few words on Anas.

We believe that Anas represents a different kind of “voice”—the kind that causes us to reflect and examine ourselves and our ways of doing things and to compel us to institute change. Anas represents the kind of citizen-journalist our democracy needs to thrive and move beyond the obsession with elections for elections sake. Our Constitution states in Article 162 that, “All agencies of the mass media shall . . . uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people of Ghana.” This is the charge and the duty that we have placed on our journalists and media. And we believe that Anas is one journalist who has demonstrated that he indeed understands this duty and takes it seriously. He and other citizens doing similar work deserve our support.

STAR-Ghana will work in concert with all stakeholders to ensure that this support is provided.

Thank You and God bless our homeland Ghana.

Credit: STAR-Ghana

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