“Greed is the purest emotion.” — Junk Bond Trader Boesky
I have used this emblematic quotation before several epistles earlier. Remarkably, if my memory serves me right, junk bond trader Boesky was addressing graduating students of the University of California at Berkeley when he uttered these famous words to cheers from the students. But it has come in handy again today. Rapidly developing events on the political, social and economic scenes of our national life require we spend some time just observing the roots of personal corruption, institutional decay and general amorality in our country and its future.
I must say right at the onset that the major junkbond traders of the Reagan era were all prosecuted by the current lawyer of President Donald Trump of America, Rudolf Guiliani, and given ridiculous sentences. But they were all driven out of the senseless greed business as part of their punishment, and the determined national effort to clearing society of such predatory, extremely acquisitive individuals whose activities marked a low point of the Reagan presidency. My question is, are we experiencing similarly senseless greedy attitudes in our national life? Is the Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu going to be our Giuliani? Do you, the reader, have any such hope?
The subject for today has been germinating in my mind since the Anas expose of the corruption which had engulfed the Ghana Football Association. Ghanaians have grown apparently comfortable with the systematic destruction of the game of football organized from the very top of the controlling body, and depriving us of our midweek and weekend constant entertainment. The ease and comfort past and now exposed GFA leaders discussed and arranged obviously corrupt, illegal and immoral transactions proved that the perpetrators believed inwardly that they were entitled to act that way; for personal enrichment at the expense of the game itself and in flagrant breach of its rules and conventions which ensure fairness and integrity.
If we are no longer outraged by such open acts of dishonesty and corruption, and take actions which signal our disgust, then maybe we all have become immune to sin and its effects. It is no wonder much more serious acts of dishonesty and corruption seem to be our daily fare these days and ignored by our current justice system without so much as a whimper? Have we ordained personal greed as the only justifiable motive for public service? People rush to secure jobs in the political and social spheres solely to advance their personal comforts, and not as an opportunity to serve the wider community. It is worse when that position is offered by a relative or a current or previous crony; the sense of social responsibility vanishes replaced by personal loyalty and sycophancy. If a public appointment is equal to an expected crony placement, government becomes family and sanctions for bad behavior similarly evaporates.
The banking crisis we are facing now is a classic case in point. Why are directors and shareholders and Bank of Ghana officials responsible for regulation and oversight of the sector walking free? Don’t we care about the social and political effects of unemployment or the constricted productive space they create in the economy?
The headlong rush by our government to contract all sorts of economic arrangements with China in defiance of the mantra of Ghana Without Aid signals a deeper moral malaise dictated by greed and not service. The other day I saw Honourable Afenyo Markin attacking the Minority in Parliament for paying fees and commissions of around $300 million for a facility in the former President John Mahama regime which never materialized. No reason was given why similar engagements with the same regime in place in China will not meet similar fate. Is this sheer wastage of public funds a pastime? But our banking crisis, from all accounts, is just beginning. Thousands of Ghanaians have lost their daily bread without any prior notice and those responsible have not as yet been even tapped on the wrists in response.
It appears from all indications the financial house Menzgold would be the next to collapse, wiping out the daily bread of thousands of Ghanaians motivated solely by greed and the nonchalance of BOG and other regulatory officials who turned a blind eye to the crisis. Always, we hear some people have been referred to EOCO for never-ending investigations into puny sums while huge amounts are recorded daily as lost or endangered in other sectors. I know there are serious people in the ruling New Patriotic Party who believe religiously in the foolish Akan adage that you must sell your mother for power and once gained, use it to secure her release, completely oblivious of the simple fact that that mother may die or be killed in captivity and slavery rendering the power gained useless.
Maybe, just maybe, we are a failed state waiting for the final whistle to disintegrate into the laps of China as the absolutely crazy $50 billion bond is floated for willing takers of our sovereignty. It is crazy because this government came to power damning the focus on infrastructure as needless, the reliance on the fundamentals of the economy as proof of resilience a mirage, painted borrowing as a serious crime, and the reliance on official statistics itself as brazen falsehood trotted out to hoodwink everybody because we neither eat or pay our debts with figures, and fundamentals. What has changed? Moreover, no apologies are being offered to assuage the expectation that things would change.
Ghana without aid eloquently defended at Chatham House in the capital of our former colonial power last year by President Nana Akufo-Addo, has crashed with a humiliating whimper as descendants of leaders who claim to have done more for this country than those who actually fought and gained our independence, miss the opportunity to prove to us all their love for our country amidst, historical revisionism. Entitlement, dishonesty and personal greed have replaced public service and stewardship and the roots of social and political disintegration are being diligently sown just as surely as the various causes which necessitated political re-engineering in other societies.
The above quotation recalls the roaring corrupt era of the Ivan Boeskys, the Michael Milkens, the Keating Five and the savings and loans debacle in American politics in the time of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Walker Bush. The looming spectre of hopelessness in America then and in Ghana now as the financial institutions nearly succumb to the antics of greedy men and women thankfully always meets determined politicians patriotic enough to stem it in America. The establishment of government all over the world is to channel and control our base instincts for the public good, not legitimize them. That is the inescapable lesson of history.
In the 18th century, the American revolutionary Samuel Adams captured this in a timeless quotation very relevant to our times in this country. He said, ‘’if ever the time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.’’
By Ivan Boesky