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Northern Incorruptibility Unmasked by Scandals


It is quite disheartening to make this observation.  And no, it is not a betrayal of the northern cause by any means. Rather, it is stating an uncomfortable truth; northerners in positions of authority have become irredeemably corrupt.  To put it bluntly, they have hitched a ride on the corruption bandwagon and enjoying every moment of it. But sadly,their financial shenanigans have peeled off the veneer of incorruptibility that once was an integral part of the northerner’s DNA.

For reasons steeped in a reluctance to slam a historically marginalized group and a fierce desire to foster national unity, criticism of financial malfeasance among prominent northerners in government has been –until now –muted. No one would broach the topic, not even the ever talkative Ghanaian commentariat in the broadcast and print media.

That Northerners now occupy prominent positions of authority and it is not by accident; it has bound to happen one way or the other. Northerners have come a long way, no doubt. There was once a time in our national history when our southern compatriots dominated every aspect of life in Ghana; they were the politicians, doctors, accountants, engineers, lawyers and teachers.

Not surprisingly, they exerted immense influence on official policy and governance. With time however, as other ethnic groups became better educated, southern presence and clout are less substantial. Northerners made inroads, thanks largely to the efforts of the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and others to make education accessible.

With the current political landscape dominated by northerners and allegations of corruption widespread, tongues have begun wagging,invariably giving birth to a narrative that has gained currency around the nation.  That there is a corrupt northern elite, safely ensconced in Accra, the nation’s capital, exerting undue influence on governance and business and seemingly detached from reality and oblivious of the grinding poverty that permeates the regions its members hail from.

Is there a northern elite. Of course, there is; let us be honest here; there is a northern elite in Accra and elsewhere in the country. It is an exclusive club and by no means an enviable one. To belong to this elite group of northerners, you must meet its stringent requirements — advanced education or immense personal wealth. In addition, you must also possess unfettered connections to the corridors of the nation’s political and financial power.

I have never been comfortable with the term—northern elite. It tends to conjure negative images of a privileged group of northerners, enjoying the good things in life to the exclusion of non-members.  The term has been bandied around and used disparagingly by political foes of President John Mahama to cast aspersions at his administration and to spread the falsehood that the northerner is irredeemably corrupt.

To bolster their argument, they point to recent scandals at GYEEDA, SADA and the National Service Secretariat, three government agencies once headed by northerners as irrefutable evidence of endemic corruption among elite northerners.  As further proof of northern corruption they constantly refer to the President’s siblings’ financial dealings.

Much as I would like to register my utter displeasure with these assertions, my response is constrained by a hard truth; there is evidence that northerners can no longer be trusted to be honest, or  at least to demonstrate the qualities that once distinguished them from their southern compatriots.

Not so long ago, it was common knowledge that the northerner, much unlike the southerner compatriot, was less likely to succumb to temptation. Honest to a fault, and a repository of unbending principles, he embodied everything that was decent and honorable. But times have changed, and with it the admirable character traits that once defined the northerner; strength of character, warmth, charm and sincerity.

Let’s take a hard look at corruption. Whether you pay attention to it or not, corruption affects us all. It is like a malignant cancer. Left untreated it spreads to the rest of the body, resulting in death.  Societies, especially those in the developing world have been destroyed by high levels of corruption among government officials. Progress and development are stymied; schools, hospitals, roads and bridges are neglected nor built. Resources meant for the general good of the people are siphoned off to the bank accounts of a few. Ultimately the poor masses suffer.

I am not making this up; it is on record that African countries exhibit relatively high levels of corruption which means that a major constraint is put on accelerating growth in order to achieve internationally and nationally mandated development goals.

Corruption among Northern bigwigs is entrenched because we encourage them to steal from the national coffers. Ours is a culture that encourages a display of affluence without regard as to how the wealth is obtained. Consumed by materialism and a keen desire to outdo their peers, northern “big men” have transformed their offices into dens of financial improprieties.

The corruption scandals at Gyeeda, SADA and the National Service Secretariat though perpetrated by a few misguided northern bureaucrats, have done irreparable harm to our once scrupulously clean image. The long term implications of these scandals are too numerous to list here, but one thing is clear — our chances of dominating national politics again is gone for the foreseeable future.



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