Corruption in the churches and palaces - Let’s halt them

BY: Ken Noonoo

In a country of 28 million multi-cultural and ethnic groupings, it is very ironic that without exception, almost to a man, we all complain daily about the negative effects of corruption and yet, we are non-committal when it comes to punishing those we know to be corrupt to root it out of society.

Ordinarily, it shouldn’t be impossible for us to at least single out some ethnic groups in Ghana and proudly project them as models of honesty, truthfulness, incorruptibility and transparency. But can any group of persons in Ghana say with Christ that “the son of man came to me and found no sin in me”?

I am submitting unremorsefully, that it is the greed in us that has fertilised the canker called corruption in our country. When siblings fight among themselves to the point of committing murder just to accede to stools and skins, we cannot describe it with bland euphemisms. You can’t convince anybody that such individuals are motivated by a desire to serve humanity or that they have a preponderance towards upholding good values in society; hence, their desire to become chiefs.

I respect tradition and in fact, there are great chiefs in this country who make us proud every time they open their mouths to speak; and they act with dignity as well, but others are mere apologies of our custom and traditions.
 
Misleadership

Many years ago, I happened to be part of a team of journalists who visited the palace of a chief in one of the towns near Accra. At the time of our visit, this chief had been accused of unilaterally taking money from sand winners and offering them free access to win sand in the community as they pleased. The winning sites had been left with gaping craters and people’s farms had been completely destroyed by marauding tipper trucks that worked in the community nearly 10 hours daily.

Upon reaching the home of the chief, I was saddened by what I saw. There he sat, with a demeanour of pomposity, and guess what? He dared anybody who felt bold enough to come to him personally and complain about his decision. On his compound were parked three salon cars, a pick-up, and a Four Wheel Japanese vehicle.

Here was a relatively enlightened chief who, instead of using his knowledge for the benefit of the people he was meant to serve, was rather amassing wealth for himself and his immediate family. His children, I was informed, upon enquiry, were studying abroad.

This is what is happening in many traditional areas across the country and we, collectively, are looking on ‘sheepishly’ not as citizens, but spectators and hoping that things would change for the better. This form of greedy ‘misleadership’ can thrive for decades if we don’t reform such obnoxious tendencies being perpetrated under the aegis of custom and tradition.

When custodians and trustees arrogate to themselves the power to ‘misappropriate’ resources meant for the dead, the living and future generations, we the living owe it to the unborn future to halt the dissipation and abuse by correcting the wrongs going on, otherwise our ancestors would have shed their blood in vain.

I can prophesy with my eyes open that a time is coming very soon when whole groups and societies will rise up against such rape of generational resources by misguided rulers for the benefit of their immediate families and the anger of the people will know no bounds. Tradition must be respected and revered, but when it is turned wrong side up, entire societies suffer grievously.

If the regional and national houses of chiefs in this country fail to self-regulate to curb such tendencies, the teeming youth who are unemployed and un-resourced will be driven by natural living instincts for survival to vent their anger the way they choose. It is called cause and effect.

Greed

It is greed, I say, that underlines the explosion of churches dotted across every community in this nation. Make no mistake, this is not a fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy (2:28) that “in the last days I shall pour out my spirit upon all flesh and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”

It is the quest for money that is driving half-baked so-called men and women of God to break away from their parent churches to set up personal ones so they could have absolute control over the resources and do what they please with them.       

It has been nearly two decades since I proposed the taxing of all religious organisations in the country for development and today I still believe we should look critically at it.

Why are our churches establishing universities and publishing all manner of materials without paying anything to the state?

If they can support (as they claim) efforts by our governments in the education sector through the establishment of schools and charge even more than the public universities, why can’t they do same by supporting the provision of public goods? I am convinced that if our churches contribute just five per cent of their annual earnings to the state, this country would never sit down with the Bretton Woods institutions for the next three decades.

When church leaders drive their vehicles on bad roads, don’t they complain about the road infrastructure deficit in the country? The churches in this country that have helped to produce the university graduates should also begin to think about supporting the state with the establishment of medium-scale factories in every region of the country.

The government alone cannot be made to take the flak when all the major churches in the country, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, SDA, Pentecost, Central Gospel, Action Chapel and a host of others, are all producing graduates.

Is it morally right to blame the government alone for the unemployment situation in the country? It is time to look beyond the monetary gains and the competition among the clergy and turn attention to finding solutions.

Ostentatious lifestyles

It is time to tell our bishops, prophets and evangelists to contribute to the welfare of the Ghanaian by chipping into the national kitty for development purposes. In that way, they would earn a right to confront the government when it misapplies our resources. After all, doesn’t the Bible admonish us not to just tell a brother, “God bless you,” and leave him? We are told to help those in need, feed them when we can, among many other admonishing.

It is time to tell our ‘venerable’ church leaders not to hide under the cloak of ‘touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm’ and rape the vulnerable in our society as they feed fat on the sweat of the struggling masses.

For most of them, their lifestyle is akin to Hophni and Phinehas, the recalcitrant sons of Eli who plundered the sanctuary in Shiloh and lived as though there was no judgement. I submit again that it is greed that informs such behaviour and if the Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Pentecostal Council lay back and do nothing, chances are the sheep they are supposed to be shepherding will drift out of the churches.

The salt of our country (the church) is fast losing its taste and men and women of spiritual substance must rise up to speak and act accordingly.