General News of Monday, 4 January 2016
A legal practitioner, Nana Obiri Boahen, has dismissed the view that Ghana’s decision to adopt democracy is the cause of rising corruption in the country.
According to him, democracy has enough checks and balances, which must be applied by the leader of any state to check graft, and, thus, cannot be blamed for national decadence.
Mr Boahen spoke with Accra News on New Year’s Day in reaction to comments made to the contrary by ex-President Jerry John Rawlings on the 34th anniversary of the December 31, 1981 coup that toppled Dr Hilla Limann in the Third Republic.
Addressing dignitaries during a brief ceremony to commemorate the putsch, Mr Rawlings said: “… From what I can see, it appears that the colour of this democracy is very different from the colour of the democracy we knew from 1982 to 1992 and also very different from the colour of the democracy we knew from the constitutional period of 1992 to 2000.
“The colour of these revolutions contained a strong element of justice, truthfulness and freedom and the spirit of defiance to contain wrongdoing. We should be asking ourselves what happened especially from the year 2000. The colour of the democracy, especially from the period of 2000, appears to lack the will, the capacity, and the ability to fight corruption. I keep harping on this issue and I will continue to do so.
“The colour of this democracy seems a little too different from what we used to know, from the spirit of defiance that could contain the greed, the selfishness that has given rise to so much corruption and pain in this country. I keep reminding ourselves of the colour of the revolution. It is extremely important that we do everything possible to capture that spirit before it becomes too late. I keep saying that the people of this country are peace-loving people and it is important that we do not take that peace loving nature of Ghanaians for granted.”
But the lawyer, who also doubles as the deputy general secretary of Ghana’s biggest opposition party disagreed, saying “the success of any democracy depends on those steering the affairs of state.”
“If the head of a democratic state looks on for such hefty payment (GHS3.6 million) to be made for a mere bus branding, it means the president is not decisive. The fault is not with democracy.”
He likened democracy, as a system of governance, to the different purposes a machete can serve in different hands. “Someone can buy a machete and grow maize and harvest a full bag thereof; another may use it for murder. Someone, too, may arm themselves with the implement in order to rob people of their possession. Yet, some other person may draw upon a machete to defend himself against snake bites. So, it is wrong for him to conclude that the problem is with the tool. The use to which the implement is put depends on who wields it; the usefulness of the knife also depends on the character of the one in whose hands it lies,” Mr Boahen argued.
“That is the same with democracy. So, the assertion that democracy is not good for us does not wash. It depends on the leadership. There are parts of the world where democracy thrives and yet things are going on well. Take Nigeria [with] Buhari, Cote d’Ivoire [with] Ouattara or Tanzania, things are going on well.
“Take Zimbabwe, things aren’t going on well, likewise Ghana and Equatorial Guinea.
“You can also go to some one-party states. Like North Korea. It is not a democracy but you cannot divert state resources for such things as bus branding and similar things. So, it depends on who is president. In this bus branding case, all they have asked the culprit to do is to refund the money. That is all. So, others, who intend to loot state funds, will have it at the back of their mind that: ‘I will only be asked to refund’. So, it is the one at the helm of affairs, who determines the quality of the democracy.”