Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko has posed 10 questions to Ghanaian investigative Journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas about his principles used in investigating.
In a post on his Facebook wall, he described Anas’ videos as sensational, especially the promos; likening them to how the Romans got enthralled watching the Gladiators butcher each other.
“His videos are sensational, especially the promos. We go to the theatre to watch them like how the Romans would get enthralled watching the Gladiators butcher each other. Are these blockbusters really helping us in the fight against corruption? Historically, has government used the “shocking” revelations from Anas’ videos to reprimand enough the individuals culpable and reform enough the institutions involved? I ask these questions with the hope that we will look back critically to help us move forward better”, he said in the post.
See below the 10 questions asked
1. First, can Anas share with us his success rate in all his attempts to entrap bad nuts?
Why: In other words, of all the people he has targeted, as an agent provocateur, he must tell us how many Ghanaians were able to resist the lure of the “free cash” he determinedly threw at them. It is obvious that he sets out determined to trap those he targets. If the success rate is extremely high, then one can argue that it is not just the individuals who are bad but that it is the society itself that is rotten to the core.
2. Is it not fundamentally the case that patronage and gift-giving are very much acceptable customs in our society in general and that it is this custom that has been misapplied under contemporary settings?
Why: It seems that in our transition from traditional authority through colonial authority and beyond to this day, we effortlessly and conveniently migrated the custom of taking gifts to the chief’s palace, to the office of the modern day public servant. One leader who sought to consciously preach against this wrong cultural cooption but didn’t hang around long enough to have the required impact was the anthropologist prime minister, Dr K A Busia. According to Busia, the normal situation under traditional setting was that a “Chief was wealthy in terms of the services he received, but he could not accumulate capital for his own personal use.” R S Rattray also details the various sanctions that could be applied against officials and chiefs who abused their office. It seems, therefore, that the custom of gift-taking was migrated into the post-traditional setting without the accompanying sanctions. Military rule could not destroy the distorted custom. Successive governments have been unable to curb it. Press freedom appears to be doing more in sensationalizing it. In downplaying this critical distorted cultural overhang throughout the generations, gift offering, as either an incentive or a show of gratitude, has become very much the norm in the eyes and minds of, ironically, the very society that would show anger and disgust from watching cash changing hands in Anas’ videos.
3. Is it not time to have a cultural conversation, or if you like, revolution, on ethics, at our homes, schools, places of worship, etc., deliberately designed as a national curriculum to change this seemingly established culture of bribery?
Why: Punishment alone may not be enough if the evidence is such that only a very tiny few get caught and, principally, the vast majority of Ghanaians, if pushed, just may accept a bribe if they feel they can get away with it. In the varicose veins of the matter is that, arguably, Ghanaians have been brought up in a society where it seems to be acceptable to give or take bribes or gifts. How did tiny Singapore do it? The same way an effective remedy can be infectious; accepting bribes is equally infectious, if not more so. I recall the ease with which police officers at checkpoints will call out my name, recognizing me as a lawyer and a journalist, and yet go ahead to demand a tip. I used to find it all so discouraging until I, unfortunately, also got used to the harassment.
4. Do we know or even care to know the difference between a gift and a bribe?
5. Is the public sector conscious of this important difference and are there really any established, sanctionable, observable institutional codes to guide strictly, public servants in their daily official dealings?
Ref: A slogan established by the Centre for Civic Education set up in 1967 and headed by Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia. It said simply: “Don’t accept gifts; they are bribes. Don’t accept bribes, they corrupt”.
6. If the Anas principle were to be applied broadly and indiscriminately across every area of professional activity in Ghana what percentage of Ghanaians would escape the trap?
7. Can we confidently say that things have improved in the places that Anas’ previous investigative work named and shamed?
8. If not, then apart from naming and shaming the few who are caught by it, what good is he doing or what good are we doing with the good he is doing?
9. Can the very journalists critical to winning this fight against corruption say they themselves are not caught in this enduring distorted culture that blurs the lines of gifts and bribes?
Why: When a journalist, who is on the payroll of his employer, covers a programme and is offered an envelope with cash by the programme organiser before the reporter goes back to file his story, is that a bribe or an acceptable appreciation gift? Better still, does the journalist who accept the “soli” see it as a bribe? Or, is it EXCUSABLE because journalists are known not to be paid well and, therefore, rely on “solidarity” envelopes to supplement their meager income?
10. Finally, has Anas and his Tiger Eye become but merely a major blockbuster feature in our national entertainment calendar?