Monday, March 8, 2021

“Politics, power and leadership” – revisiting Professor Prempeh’s analysis

“It has been said that most revolutions are not caused by revolutionaries in the first place, but by the stupidity and brutality of governments …..At the center of many of the world’s oppressed cultures stands the figure of the ‘trickster hero.’ In legend and songs, he appears in the form of a seemingly innocuous animal that triumphs over others much larger than himself through cunning and guile”.

I am currently reading Malcolm Gladwell; David and Goliath:Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. Sharing Gladwell’s analysis with a distinguished Professor friend of mine, this is what he had to say. “You can read all the books in the world Thabo and you will still not understand it. It is when you are convinced you understand it that you have been successfully fooled. You can only respect the vastness of the world and your insignificance”. Well I disagreed and argued that the right mind of the world is a metaphor, for the world represent local environment: office, family, friends, bosses etc. I acknowledged that some books and readings can be used to brainwash, but I am tempted to believe that a good education is one that empowers the learner with the ability to think critically.

I have also read Professor Prempeh outcry about how corruption is keeping intelligent people from politics in Ghana. Prempeh is a distinguished professor of Law in Ghana. I am tempted to share his suggestion. The onus is on you, dear reader to join in the dots; agree or disagree and make an assessment as to whether this is an over exaggeration or not. Does this really hold in the case of Botswana or not? This is what Professor Prempeh stated about the art and state of politics in Ghana.

“Politics is now business in Ghana, and has indirectly side-lined persons with intelligence and ability to govern, and replaced with substandard leaders. Running a country is now a business, therefore persons who are appointed into positions should have contributed financially or through any unscrupulous means.” Speaking at the second Occupy Ghana forum in Accra he said this could probably explain the quality of persons in ministerial and other questionable positions. “So important offices of state, ministerial positions that should go to men and women of talent, and of integrity and devotion to the national project are given as rewards to persons who made contributions,” he opined.

Therefore, he indicated, instead of public officers seeing their office as a place of trust where intelligent people go to serve, Ghanaian politicians see it as a place to solve their earthly material problems and opportunity to correct financial deficit. The cancer of people ascending to political office to amass wealth could be cured, Prof. Prempeh said, if Ghanaians become assertive and demand accountability from politicians who have taken advantage of their sanctimonious stance to perpetuate corruption.

Dissecting the issue further, he noted regrettably that anytime there is an upsurge in corruption, a growing religiosity of the Ghanaian is witnessed. He could not understand why some Ghanaians take religious programmes serious and yet are engulfed by corruption. “We have indeed perfected the act of serving God and mammon,” he said.

He said the larger society appears to accept corruption in the sense that persons who become wealthy suddenly and inexplicably are welcomed, and persons who do not take advantage of their positions to enrich themselves are rather mocked and given religious titles, thus turning morality upside down. One is not judged by ones diligent work but how they become financially successful, stressing that society and personalities involved in corruption are “collectively, morally culpable” as all “contribute to the epidemic that begins to scare us”.

Unfortunately, he remarked, Ghana’s much touted democracy has now become an opportunity for corruption. He said the popular definition of democracy ÔÇô government of the people, by the people and for the people ÔÇô has turned into government of the politician, by the politician and for the politician. Now people see politics as business where people spend their time, money and efforts in expectation of securing power and profiting from their plan in the shortest possible term, he said.

The issue of who finances political parties in Ghana should be a major concern to all citizens, Prof. Prempeh stated. He advocated that the prescriptions in the constitution on how a party can be funded should be strictly followed, and the process should be opened. But since politics is now a business, politicians are not actually interested in members’ dues but the few who can shoulder everything and catapult them into power.

“A few money bags would fund the party, they have made an investment, they become shareholders of the party…shareholders get dividends when the company does well and declares dividends…party financiers want to reap dividends from their investments…those without money ÔÇô silver nor gold ÔÇô can contribute a substantial amount of foot soldier talent, you can contribute your recruitment, campaign expertise, hooliganism, your violence, all these currencies are accepted in our politicians who become petty shareholders when their party comes to power.

So when the party comes to power, that is the time for the investments to be recouped. And it should be recouped in the shortest possible time upon gaining power because the tenure is uncertain and life is also short. “Patronage appointment, sole source contracts, these are the means the investments that were made in kind and in cash are to be recouped. So important offices of state, ministerial positions that should go to men and women of talent, and of integrity and devotion to the national project are given as rewards to persons who made contributions.

“That is partly the reason you see the quality you see in some of our ministerial offices, is still why you have MPs sitting on boards they are supposed to oversee, still why foot-soldiers sit on boards, still why you have judgment debt uncollected.” Prof. Prempeh cited abuse of incumbency as also a means to recoup investment thereby turning democracy on its head. Rise in corruption has been fuelled by a monopoly of power, absolute power, as well as low risk of detection, he identified. He also condemned instances where people in power are not willing to subject their own to accountability, resulting in selective justice.

Prof. Prempeh also demanded that public officers be made to obey the constitutional provision by declaring their assets, insisting the declaration should be made transparent. Though he noted that corruption is not limited to politicians ÔÇô there is also bureaucratic corruption ÔÇô people should be worried about political corruption because a disciplined politician would supervise and eradicate corruption with bureaucrats. He also described abuse of incumbency as a real danger to democracy as public officers usually dip their hands into public coffers.

“Political corruption also hurts us because it actually distorts our politics in a very bad way; it’s very counter meritocratic; it’s repels many, many good men and women from entering political life and from entering public office, because it taints public office with a certain stigma that those who think that they are men and women of integrity; and who want to remain so, feel that this is not something for them.

“And if this continues then our development as a country will suffer. We will continue to see a lowering of standards in the quality of people in our public life as ministers, as deputy ministers, as members of Parliament and this I will submit, has a lot to do with corruption and the form it gets recycled into our public life, so we should take these things seriously.”

Having read Prempeh I am left with more questions than answers, does this really hold in the case of Botswana? “Politicians think about protecting their seat, Leaders protect the unborn.

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