Anti-Corruption Must Not Create Hardship – Rawlings
Ghana’s former President, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, has in an address in Nigeria called for a paradigm shift in the fight against corruption to ensure that it does not create undue hardship on the people.
Mr. Rawlings, speaking with particular reference to Nigeria, said corruption had eaten so deep into the fabric of society that the quest to clean up seems to rather create hardship instead of reducing the cost of living.
“A new way may have to be devised to fight this kind of corruption without creating undue hardship for our people,” the former President said, when he delivered keynote remarks at a lecture organized by the University of Ibadan Alumni Association (UIAA), at the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti in Nigeria on Tuesday.
Many Nigerians have baulked against the anti-corruption drive of President Muhammadu Buhari because of the austerity measures taken to curb the menace.
Former President Rawlings said good leadership could be sustained and preserved if we continue to use the power of our vote wisely. Both the people of Ghana and Nigeria, he noted, had shown a clear inclination to serve notice to leaders that if they fail to protect the interest of the people they will not be allowed to stay in power to perpetuate that disservice.
Dr. Makanjuola Owolabi, a renowned aviator, consultant physician, human factors instructor, farmer and retired Senior Nigerian Air Force officer delivered the lecture on the theme, ‘Leadership with Character’.
Flt. Lt. Rawlings also charged Nigerians to check the dangerous corruption of ethnicity that appears to be rearing its head in their country.
“Let’s find a way out of this dark trap. Stop threatening each other on tribal grounds. Let’s learn to accommodate each other. The continent needs you strong and united,” he urged.
The former President also questioned the quality of some of the personalities who ascend to political leadership positions on the continent.
He said: “The culture of the wealthy by any means becoming leaders is problematic. Unfortunately we have under the guise of democracy allowed the rich to purchase our power of choice. Leadership is no longer about desirable traits such as honesty, hard work, empathy and courage but simply a position for the highest bidder.
“Today to be a successful politician all one needs is a pocket large enough to sway the conscience of the vulnerable in society. The watchdog role of the media has slowly been eroded. Gradually we are losing focus on the things that are important like proper qualification and character,” the former President said.
Flt Lt. Rawlings said he was inspired by the defiance of the people of Ada when they prevented a sub-chief from paying homage to the paramount chief during the annual Asafotufiam festival last Saturday. He said the people felt the sub-chief was not qualified to legitimize his title by paying homage to the paramount chief.
The former President also charged the continent to wean itself off the apron strings of the West and charged Africa to let its voice be heard on global issues.
“We need to self-identify as a continent where our development is no longer dependent on the West. We need to start helping our communities. It is unfair that when there is a crisis in Somalia, Africa responds only when the West has taken the initiative. Lately the narrative is changing as we saw in The Gambia not too long ago. ECOWAS and the African Union found their lost teeth and supported the Gambian people to restore the change they had voted for.”
Please find below the full text of the former President’s address:
REMARKS BY H. E. JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS,
FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN ALUMNI ASSOCIATION ANNUAL LECTURE
VENUE: FEDERAL POLYTECHNIC, ADO-EKITI
DATE: TUESDAY, AUGUST 8, 2017
Dr. Kemi Emina, National President of UIAA,
Rector of The Federal Polytechnic, Dr. Taiwo Akande,
Ghana’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Alhaji Rashid Bawa,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Please join me in congratulating Dr. Makanjuola Owolabi for doing exceptional justice to the topic for today, ‘Leadership with Character’. It is interesting to note that in selecting a Guest Lecturer for the topic, the University of Ibadan Alumni Association chose one of their own who is not only accomplished in multiple fields of endeavour but is an exceptional example of Leadership with Character.
The record of Dr. MAO as you affectionately call him is awe-inspiring and a grand example of what we are all capable of achieving when we put our minds to the challenge.
Africa’s challenge has no doubt been one of leadership lacking in character. The continent abounds with personalities who have good leadership credentials but in a few too many cases seem to lack the character that makes leadership complete. And by character I do not limit us to one’s reputation but distinctive qualities and values that ensure that their leadership overcomes the challenges facing our various countries, constituencies, communities and organisations.
The African continent is plagued with several challenges. We struggle with agriculture; we struggle with deforestation and pollution, we struggle with economic deprivation, and we struggle rather tragically with the aftermath of years of colonization. Our belief structures, health, education, governance and institutional development are all major problems we confront daily.
To compound all these challenges are the corruption indices that do us no good. Transparency International’s current figures show countries in the Sub-Saharan region fail to address corruption. A more disturbing trend is the recent recognition of the private sector, which has been touted as the engine of growth in many of our young democracies as most corrupt. Ghana and Nigeria sit at the bottom of the rankings as far as the corruption perception indices are concerned. The problem has largely been linked to the lack of political will to confront corruption. Some leaders have the will but not the strength of character to pursue the anti-corruption objective. They crumble after a few months of office and find themselves incapable of rising out of the corruption swamp.
Amidst the challenges, Mr. Chairman, there are glimpses of hope that we have to speak about – Glimpses of hope in Nigeria and glimpses of hope in Ghana. Change is coming in varied forms but the challenge is real and persistence is key. Let me share an interesting one I encountered just last Saturday when I joined the people of Ada in the Greater Accra region of Ghana to celebrate the annual Asafotufiam festival. The festival celebrates the annual blessings from the gods.
During these festivals, all sub-chiefs are made to swear an oath of allegiance to the paramount chief. Like previous celebrations the procession began and the chiefs filed away to pay their respect to the paramount chief. One group was however stopped mid-way because the people felt the sub-chief was not qualified to endorse his legitimacy by swearing allegiance to the paramount chief. The community rose in unison and ejected him from the premises. According to them, this was an individual that had no business in leadership or honour with reference to his character. The men and women who shared the same community with him knew him well enough to stand against his becoming a leader. The strength of the people and their community is what is important in leadership today.
The culture of the wealthy by any means becoming leaders by any means is problematic. Unfortunately we have under the guise of democracy allowed the rich to purchase our power of choice. Leadership is no longer about desirable traits such as honesty, hard work, empathy and courage but simply a position for the highest bidder.
Today to be a successful politician all one needs is a pocket large enough to sway the conscience of the vulnerable in society. The watchdog role of the media has slowly been eroded. Gradually we are all losing focus on the things that are important like proper qualification and character. I was inspired by the defiance of the people of Ada to preserve their leadership role for people of character. They gave me joy and pointed to a challenge to aspiring African leaders that the people seek personalities with character and honour to lead them; not individuals with political clout built with money and simple aristocratic discourse.
Both the people of Ghana and Nigeria have in the past 24 months shown a clear inclination to serve notice to leaders that leadership that is perceived not to be protecting the interest of the people cannot be allowed to stay in power to perpetuate that disservice. We can sustain and preserve good leadership if we continue to use the power of our thumb, our vote, wisely. Leadership of character is created or destroyed by our actions or inactions.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
There is no doubt that keeping promises once you assume a leadership role can be a daunting task. These challenges notwithstanding, a leader with character must have integrity. Integrity is the value of a person’s character. Integrity is the base that teaches people to do their possible best in truth and in a just manner.
A leader with character must understand the full grasp of their authority and the influence, which they possess, in order to understand how to lead the people or the kind of leadership that will become the fulcrum around which the people’s development will evolve. Leaders therefore need to have empathy. The wellness of the people must always be the priority of the government.
Empathy would advise leaders to also adopt policies that will afford the entire populace the opportunity to live a life of dignity and a life that is not humiliating. The focus here is that whether or not a state is capitalist, socialist or whichever economic and political system it ascribes to, it should be conscious in ensuring that there is equal access to the very basic of needs – provision of food, provision of shelter, provision of potable drinking water, provision of access to healthcare facilities, provision of affordable accommodation and access to education and information.
Ladies and gentlemen; the provision of basic needs by leaders of countries and communities transforms into the creation of a comfortable life and the pursuit and guarantee of fundamental human rights. Leadership with character is one that recognizes the power of government through the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary and ensures that that power is applied with equity and a sense of fairness without recourse to partisan considerations.
The success of the above and indeed in every facet of leadership is strong communication with the people. Government cannot survive in vacuum. In many of our countries, governments do not explain the rationale behind their decisions and actions. The primary focus of successful leadership should be communication. The people must feel responsible for actions taken by government and that means views have to be sought and leadership’s actions must be a reflection of a permanent state of consensus with the people.
During my tenure as Head of State I had a difficult situation involving a unit of the armed forces. There was some tension because members of a particular unit were unhappy with a certain development. Having heard of their discontent and the fact that a lack of explanation will lead to disaffection, I nominated some senior officers to arrange a meeting at the crack of dawn to discuss the matter. The meeting was successful and the issue that had the potential of blowing out of proportion was diffused. In most of our communities very important matters are discussed in the wee hours of the morning when all is calm and the challenges of the day have not arisen. I simply followed the wisdom of our elders and achieved the desired result.
Ladies and gentlemen; leadership without discipline lacks character. Leaders must be exemplary in their discipline. They must be earnest and sincere and be a symbol of the people’s aspirations. When people have someone to look up to, they are persuaded into a culture of honesty, interaction and discipline.
A leader with character also embraces innovation. Dynamism is the best tonic for development in all spheres of leadership. I have seen in my two decades as head of state that as an individual I can only grab so much, I can only understand so much. I owe it to my people to examine every innovative idea that comes about and ask questions to see what would be beneficial. It takes strong courage and sense of character to embrace new ideas. The bravery of a man with respect to his ignorance can never be overlooked like the bravery of a man who speaks strongly of what he knows because that ignorance if not admitted and removed could become the burden onto which a nation is plunked into poverty.
Leadership with character does not take advantage of legalities to oppress the people. Examples abound of situations where the constitution becomes a tool for oppressing people and eradication of certain rights. It is okay, when a country declares a state of emergency and limits the movement of people when the very security and survival of the people depends on it. It is one of the ways where we have stopped ourselves from regressing into anarchy but emergency situations that deliberately erode rights and causes constitutional disenfranchisement for selfish expediency does not show good leadership character.
We need to self-identify as a continent where our development is no longer dependent on the West. We need to start helping our communities. It is unfair that when there is a crisis in Somalia, Africa responds only when the West has taken the initiative. Lately the narrative is changing as we saw in The Gambia not too long ago. ECOWAS and the African Union found their lost teeth and supported the Gambian people to restore the change they had voted for.
Leadership of character involves making ourselves relevant globally. Our leaders converge in Addis Ababa twice a year to deliberate on matters of continental concern. Rarely do we focus on the injustices and equities of the global political climate. It is a travesty to realize that millions are suffering in Yemen due to the abuse of the country’s freedoms by Saudi Arabia. Yet this same country is accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism and has imposed sanctions in a bid to cripple the small oil-rich country. Even Al-Jazeera news which has since its inception been the alternative outlet to vent the untold stories of the oppressed has become a target. Cholera is spiraling out of control in Yemen because hospitals that treated victims of war have been destroyed by Saudi air strikes and over 300,000 people are at risk of dying from a preventable disease. Almost half of the victims are children and over 1000 people have died since April 2017.
Africa’s voice has to be heard on some of these injustices. The voice of reason knows no continental boundaries. The voice of conscience has no borders. Leadership with character means leadership that recognizes injustice everywhere.
Leadership with character is simply one that has a sense and strength of purpose, one that is focused on the ideals that will ensure real development, one that observes the mood of the populace and respects it and one that values communication and consultation.
Corruption has eaten so deep into the fabric of our nation that the quest to clean up seems to be rather creating hardship instead of reducing the cost of living.
A new way may have to be devised to fight this kind of corruption without creating undue hardship for our people.
The dangerous corruption of ethnicity appears to be rearing its head to dangerous levels again. Let’s find a way out of this dark trap – it’s a slaughterhouse.
Mr. Chairman, Excellences, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen; thank you once again for the opportunity to visit your country. My gratitude goes to the entire membership of the University of Ibadan Alumni Association, to our Chairman Rt. Reverend Dr. Christopher Omotunde, our host Dr. Taiwo Akande and all who have in diverse ways helped to make this lecture a success. It is my hope that today’s exercise will help to shape the leadership direction of not only the Nigerian community but on the continent and beyond.
Thank you and Good Luck!