By Francis Kwarteng
“I cannot comment much but I think we are going to give it to charity. We are not going to use that car” (Bugri Naabu).
WHEN PUBLIC CORRUPTION AND CHARITY—PHILANTHROPY FALL IN LOVE
It is our humble submission that Bugri Naabu’s intention to donate the so-called “Mahama’s Bribe Vehicle” to charity is a commendable idea, yet a bold idea that we wish he could put on hold for in the interim pending the outcome of non-partisan investigation into these high-profile allegations of bribery of which, among other things, the vehicle in question remains an important material evidence.
This is a serious public matter that should have long drawn the sustained investigational scrutiny and attentions of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), of the Attorney General’s Office, and even of the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO).
But here in Ghana, unfortunately, extreme partisan politics tends to be the final arbiter of high-profile cases such as this one reportedly involving Bugri Naabu on the one hand and on the other hand, the Mahama family, its cronies, and possibly the leadership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
In our serial essays “Bugri Naabu Cries Out For Justice” and more particularly, in the essay “Bugri Naabu: The Only Thing I Fear Is The English Language,” we wrote the following without mincing words:
“Regardless, what we have are lame sensational allegations and the NDC’s inexcusable skirting the ‘substantive’ issues surrounding the allegations. NPP should pursue this matter to its logical conclusion if it wins the elections.
“The NDC should also pursue this same matter to its logical conclusion should it retain its incumbency. This is the only way we come to the truth and learn from it.
“Nevertheless a story half told requires uncompromising finality, a moral and political denouement in the political theatre.”
It appears this simple request failed to carry the intended political and moral weight it deserved then and now. Apparently our humble request may have fallen on deaf ears. This is really both awful and sad.
The fact is clear that unless and until we know the truth culled from intimate details of the allegations, we shall forever remain trapped and lost in the revolving cesspit of social injustice, political criminality, impunity, arrested development, and institutional corruption. It is high time we as a people needed to free ourselves from this paralyzing stench of moral and political doldrums—as a matter of course.
This is more so because we still do not know for sure if the said “Mahama’s Bribe Vehicle” was a direct personal gift from the Mahama family, say, or a gift of political inducement purchased on account of or credited to the public purse.
Again, and this is important and outrageously controversial, we still do not know for sure whether Akufo-Addo and the leadership of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), including Bugri Naabu himself, did, in fact, come up with the idea that the latter should approach ex-President Mahama and sell him on the attractive concept of his [Bugri Naabu’s] scandalizing the name and person of Akufo-Addo as a rabid ethnocentric hater of “northerners” in exchange for money and other material “gifts” which they could later use to both scandalize and soil the presidency itself—of which ex-President Mahama then represented—in the lead-up to the general elections.
Thus absent proper investigations conducted into these allegations, as it were aimed at teasing out and bringing categorical finality to what actually transpired amongst the presidency, Bugri Naabu and the Mahama family, it will be out of place to endorse this shameful idea of the so-called “Mahama’s Bribe Vehicle” being turned over to charity.
There is no doubt in our minds that this is going to set a bad precedent. It will also mean that some forms of corruption are morally and politically acceptable so long as they serve charitable causes. We should not be condoning such outrageous acts of moral depravity in the Ghanaian body politic.
Then again Ghanaians cannot continue to tolerate the likes of Bugri Naabu and President Mahama as untouchable agents of moral hazard. Concerning this particular scandal, whoever is eventually found to be wrong must be held accountable and forced to accept the consequences of his bad decision(s).
SOME CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES
Bugri Naabu shouts “bribe,” the Mahama family on the other hand screams “gift.” Is it a bribe or a gift?
Whose place is it to determine what is a bribe? And a gift? Could the two be the same concept though both are spelt and pronounced differently?
What are the Gonja and Konkomba words for “bribe” and “gift”? Do these words have their exact equivalents in Gonja and Konkomba? In other words what do the rich cultures of the Gonja and the Konkomba say about the concepts of “bribe” and “gift”?
But and for exactly what was Bugri Naabu given this “gift”? We will not venture into the other theoretical speculation—bribery—because that one is already public knowledge given the wide publicity it garnered in the national media and on social media.
In the end culture or no culture, Gonja or no Gonja, Konkomba or no Konkomba, this is a serious matter that cannot and should not be reduced to the specificity and parochialism of ethno-culture. It is simply a high-end question whose resolution fits the arbitration profile of a national character and non-partisan political contours of uncompromised finality, both streams of thoughtful agitation borne out of a strong, unvarnished language of political morality, fairness and justice.
Ideally, this language of political morality is the province of a competent jurisdiction and the intelligence community—and not of the compromised consciences of Bugri Naabu and the Mahama family. Anas Aremeyaw Anas’s investigative camera has demonstrably proven how this province itself is contaminated with the poison of institutional corruption and how the cork of truth is perverted to suit the selfish psychology of a certain stratum of people and political players.
Regardless, the cork of truth does not speak the romantic language of partisan politics, ethnicity, and unfairness. It speaks truth to power in a way that rallies the questioning and wakeful consciences of well-meaning citizens behind the complete seizure of the discourse of political morality in behalf of the national interest and the public good.
In other words the cork of truth represents an uncompromised projection of unvarnished reality in the public space. It is a prize deserving of the restless, grudging patience of Ghanaians and the world at large.
Let Bugri Naabu, Akufo-Addo and the Mahama family know they cannot take Ghanaians for granted. Ghanaians and the world at large for that matter deserve to know “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” in this matter of national disgrace.
The people have finally spoken!
“When political corruption puts its arm around charity and philanthropy, teachable moments emerge and we should all pay attention” (Rick Cohen).
Why must we support charitable and philanthropic causes on the basis of institutional or public corruption? Is morally right and even ethically acceptable to rob Peter to pay Paul? We are yet to know in any appreciable detail, for the sake of argument, what arrangements Bugri Naabu has made with his indented charity and if he stands to gain or not from these arrangements in the long run. Here some of the tax breaks persons and corporations can enjoy under Ghanaian laws (as per their Charitable Contributions):
- Contributions made to a charitable institution or fund approved by the government.
- Payments towards a scholarship scheme approved by the government for a technical, professional, or other course of study.
- Donations made for the purpose of any rural or urban area and approved by the government.
- Donations for the purpose of sports development approved by the government.
- Donations to the government for worthwhile government causes approved by the CG.
Under which of these categories of allowable tax deductions does Bugri Naabu’s charitable contribution fall?
The other point is, will be a good idea if a competent jurisdiction should decide the fate of this “Mahama’s Bribe Vehicle”? And whether it should be gifted to charity? What if this charity is affiliated with the NPP? With Akufo-Addo’s law firm? How do we avoid conflict of interest in this controversial matter? Why will Bugri Naabu not consider returning the vehicle in question to the Mahama family rather than giving it out to charity? These are therefore indispensable appendage questions Bugri Naabu must seek to fully address before going forward with the donation!
Even so, we could not have made our point any clearer than this. In our opinion, it is justifiably prudent for him to pursue this course of action. Yet, the point of the wait period between his receipt of the said “gifts” from the Mahama family and his eventual bringing of this alleged bribery scandal to public attention raises a number of interesting questions about his credibility and political motivations. We therefore cannot simply ignore the red flags this captivating dress of Bugri Naabu revelations raises in the public space. It is for the supreme interest of the state and fairness that we as a people must vigorously pursue this matter to its logical conclusion.
Rather also, in other words we should be asking the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), the Attorney General’s Office, and even the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) to investigate this matter and if in fact official culpability or malfeasance is eventually discovered in this matter, we will expect the Attorney General to refer any such investigational findings it to a competent jurisdiction for adjudication and prosecution.
We also expect Akufo-Addo to support this line of reasoning. With that said, this could be a test for the Office of the Independent Special Prosecutor. We have already said a mouthful to rest our case!
Nathan Gadugah. (January 25, 2017). “Bugri Naabu To Donate ‘Mahama's Bribe Vehicle’ To Charity.” Modernghana.
Ghana—Corporate Deductions. (December 1, 2016) Retrieved from http://taxsummaries.pwc.com/uk/taxsummaries/wwts.nsf/ID/Ghana-Corporate-Deductions