State investigative bodies, perceived dangerous mistrust
What is minimally becoming the ‘Cecilia Abena Dapaah Gate’ is revealing many things, some of which ought to be critically looked at in the interest of our young democracy.
That, for me, is the public perception of the investigative institutions of the State.
It will be recalled that when news broke out about the alleged theft of huge sums of money in the former Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, Cecilia Abena Dapaah’s residence by her house girls, many called for her arrest, resignation and dismissal, among others.
Fortunately, the needful was done; she resigned. Now the real issue popped up, the Office of Special Prosecutor (OSP) waded into the matter and that again was not the issue.
The real issue was/is the public reaction on social media, in particular, which created the impression that the ongoing investigation into the matter is much ado about nothing. There is even the claim that when the police visited the residence, no money was found and when the OSP did, huge sums of money which took investigators hours to count, were found. Again, this is telling even if it is untrue, in view of the power of perception.
In fact, the seeming consensus before the case could be concluded is that it will amount to nothing; she will be exonerated. This sends a dangerous signal that our institutions are not working; yet, we know that she could possibly have genuinely earned the money. If this is true, we have a case to deal with. Similarly, we have a case to deal with if these perceptions are meritorious. If for nothing, both send a negative signal to the investor community, which could deny the state many investors.
Rome, they say was not built in a day. Yes, it certainly was not. Could it be that an accumulated public mistrust of our justice system has reached its peak? Could it also be that the public does not appreciate the workings of the justice system; hence, this impression? Is it also the case that the justice system has actually demonstrated partiality all these years? Well, if the latter is true, then the Chief Justice, the Inspector General of Police, the Office of the Special Prosecutor, the Attorney-General Department, and related institutions need to revise their notes. This revision does not suggest that they are doing something diabolically wrong. It could as well mean that they have not conscientise the public about their workings.
Our democracy could be backsliding through their actions and inactions. They must work against the real or perceived impression that they are inside the pockets of the ruling political elites or the bourgeoisie class.
Sustenance of democracy
Democracy is about the people; hence, the people must be carried along all the time. The frontline actors of our body politic must know that they hold the key to the sustenance of our democracy. They must also appreciate the fact that the collective interest of the State is superior to any individual, religious, ethnic or ideological persuasion.
After 30 years of sustained democracy under the fourth Republican Constitution and having successfully earned the accolade of being the beacon of hope in Africa, sub of the Sahara, as far as democracy is concerned, Ghana has to up its game. Certainly, if it emerges that even independent institutions of the state are under the whims and caprices of the politician, then we are in for a long haul. Of what use is expertise in specialised institutions with competently trained individuals when a phone call can make all the expertise useless? Surely, there is a question to answer.
Swimming against the tide is surely a herculean task but the end, they say, justifies the means. Yes, we know that it takes courageous individuals to undo wrongs in society. The state must continuously take an interest in investigating the source of the money of public and private individuals. It is the case that many people in Ghana do many things, including the acquisition of property without a clear indication of the source of their wealth. This is critical because every money earned and used for transactions benefits the state in the form of taxes.
Let us not create the impression that the law works but that, it largely, depends on your status in society. The OSP is encouraged to use the cases pending to dissuade the wrong perception that the big fishes are untouchable.
The masses should also be optimistic that things can be done right tomorrow even if they were done in the wrong way yesterday. We have no choice but to work with our state institutions. They surely, like all of us, have shortcomings, but perfection can be attained with our collective support and measured criticisms.
The writer is a lecturer at the Department of Political Science, University of Education, Winneba