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The corrupt state of African politics

Let’s revisit a 2014 presentation by a Ghanaian Professor of Law, Kwasi Prempeh when he lamented the corrupt state of African politics. “Politics is now business in Ghana and the rest of Africa, and has indirectly side-lined persons with intelligence and ability to govern, and replaced with substandard leaders”, Prof. Prempeh observed.

Prempeh decries that running a country in Africa is now a business, therefore persons who are appointed into positions should have contributed financially or through any unscrupulous means.

 He said this could probably explain the quality of persons in influential positions across the African continent. “So important offices of state, that should go to people of talent, integrity and devotion to the national project are given as rewards to persons who made contributions”.  Instead of public officers seeing their office as a place of trust where intelligent people go to serve, politicians see it as a place to solve their earthly material problems and opportunity to correct financial deficit”.

 He is right in saying that the canker of people ascending to political office to amass wealth could be cured, if ordinary people become assertive and demand accountability from politicians who have taken advantage of their sanctimonious stance to perpetuate corruption.   

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 thus turning morality upside down.

 He decried that African countries such as Ghana’s much touted democracy has now become an opportunity for corruption and popular definition of democracy; government of the people, by the people and for the people, 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 opined.  He stated that the issue of who finances political parties in Africa should be a major concern to all citizens and advocated that the prescriptions in the constitution on how a party can be funded should be strictly followed, and the process should be opened.

 It is indeed true that since politics in Africa 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, that’s  an investment, they become shareholders of the party, get dividends when the company does well and declares dividends, party financiers want to reap dividends from their investments, those without money  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” remarked Prempeh.

 Interestingly he

notes that when the party comes to power that is the time for the investments to be recouped and should be recouped in the shortest possible time upon gaining power because the tenure is uncertain and life is also short.   Shockingly he says that patronage appointment and sole source contracts are the means the investments that were made in kind and in cash are to be recouped. So important offices of state that should go to people of talent, and of integrity and devotion to the national project are given as rewards to persons who made contributions.

 Prempeh cited abuse of incumbency as a means to recoup investment thereby turning democracy on its head.  Definitely he is spot on by saying the rise in corruption has been fuelled by a monopoly of power, absolute power, as well as low risk of detection. He also condemned instances where people in power are not willing to subject their own to accountability, resulting in selective justice.

 Prempeh rightly demands that public officers should 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, there is also bureaucratic corruption and people should be worried about political corruption because a disciplined politician would supervise and eradicate corruption with bureaucrats.

He described abuse of incumbency as a real danger to democracy as public officers usually dip their hands into public coffers. This is the reason why after every election in Africa there is fiscal imbalance, and nations find it difficult to recover from a previous election.

“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 good people 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 people of integrity; and who want to remain so, feel that this is not something for them”. He averred rhetorically.

 He gave a parting shot by saying “and if this continues then our development as a continent 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 has a lot to do with corruption and the form it gets recycled into our public life, so we should take these things seriously.” So Africans stand up and digest these words from Prof Prempeh.

Catch Solly Rakgomo @73904141 

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