Saturday, August 5, 2023.
“My experience is that when a Ghanaian says you are ‘a good person’ it means you use your position and power to help him or her at the expense of the general public. A person who invests in building systems that benefit the whole society would usually not be referred to by the typical Ghanaian as ‘a good person.’ To be ‘good,’ you must use your influence for only your friends, family or a few people. It does not matter whether the general society suffers.”
- Dr. Kofi Effah.
Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
This week on social media, I shared a shot of the ‘Daily Graphic’ of March 22, 1971 (52 years ago). Ghana’s Prime Minister at the time, Dr. K.A. Busia said the most difficult task facing him was how to eradicate bribery and corruption from the Ghanaian society. He said: “Bribery and corruption have eaten so deep into the fabric of society that when you put anybody in a position of trust, he or she uses that position to amass wealth.” He wondered how he could build the nation if the people continued to be selfish and dishonest.
Five decades on. The situation has not changed (maybe it is worse). Everybody complains. Things do not get better. Why?
The Ghanaian in a position of authority gets some ‘power’ they do not want to relinquish. When systems work well, people lose this ‘power.’ They don’t want this to happen.
Examples of this:
- One who has an emergency is more likely to get an ambulance when the person calls their member of parliament to get the ambulance for them than to call the ambulance service directly.
Someone who needs a referral to a tertiary centre is unlikely to get a bed in the tertiary centre unless the person calls ‘a senior person’ in the hospital or a politician.
If you get a promotion or go on retirement, to get the salary or benefits that are due you, you must ‘know someone’ to work things out for you at the Ministries or be prepared to pay bribes.
I can go on and on.
How do we change this?
We need people who, when they get to positions of power/authority, will make the systems work rather than ‘pull strings’ to help those they know – their friends and family members.
When you are a member of parliament and someone calls you that they need an ambulance, tell them to call the ambulance service. And make sure the system works.
When you are a ‘senior person’ in a hospital and someone calls you to get a bed for them in the hospital, give them a phone line they can call to get this done. And make sure it works.
If someone calls you that you should help them at the Ministries (or elsewhere) to get benefits they deserve, instead of using your power to help that person alone, use your power/authority to make sure systems run well at the Ministries (or wherever) for everybody, not just the person who called you, then ask the person to go through the processes because the system works well.
How many people can/will do these?
I have had many people in high positions in Ghana tell me they cannot let their mother, best friend, former teacher etc join the queue because they have to ‘reciprocate the good things these people did for them in the past or continue to do for them.’
These people forget that everybody is somebody’s best friend, mother, son, daughter, teacher… So we live in a society where there is no order. What happens to you (even in public institutions) depends on the discretion of those you meet. And I have mentioned many times that it is dangerous for a society to leave sensitive decisions at the discretion of selfish people.
Some of us have been called ‘weird’ because we have insisted that instead of using our power/authority to help only our friends and family members, we will try to create a system that is fair to all, that works for all, and then ask our friends and relatives to join the queue (or follow the processes) instead of jump the queue.
If this stance is considered ‘weird,’ my opinion is that for the country to become what we all hope for, we need a critical mass of ‘weird’ Ghanaians. We cannot have our cake and eat it. Change begins with you and me.