Last week Kwame and I had lunch with some friends. Kwame is my cousin, and after lunch, we passed by Kwame’s dad’s office to go over some construction drawings for a big contract.
As we were discussing the project, Kwame’s dad began one of his monologues on his favourite topic to discuss whenever I was around – “How architects in Ghana have made contractors in Ghana rich because they don’t do detailed specifications”… After asking me for about the thousandth time why I didn’t choose to do business in school., He leaned back and boasted about his latest big contract. He got the contract because of his friendship with a certain government official. The contract would be very simple to “execute” because he would be paid in full at the beginning and after giving 10% to his friend the government official, he would be free to go. No follow ups or anything. The government would simply announce that the contractor had run away and after some months and the process would start again with a different contractor.
Now, this wasn’t the first time we had heard that kind of story from Uncle Kweku. In fact, our usual reaction was to laugh and make comments like “It’s important to network in Ghana”, “Who you know”… etc..
This time, Kwame and I didn’t feel like laughing at all. We were weighed down with guilt and sadness. You see, Kwame and I pride ourselves on being part of the new vim movement of movers and shakers. The sort of people who constantly complain on Facebook and Twitter about our corrupt leaders and the absurdities of issues like the SADA fund disbursements and the GYEEDA report. And at the lunch meeting with our friends, one of our friends brought a friend that said some things that made us feel very uncomfortable. She (that annoying girl) had watched a historical documentary that traced the origins of the wealth of West Africa’s wealthiest family. Most of them were linked to political parties or governments.
The conversation at lunch wasn’t as cheerful and light as we expected, we all started thinking uncomfortable thoughts about our parents’ wealth. Even Awo (her father is a professor) who loudly and proudly proclaimed that her dad was not involved in any form of corruption, fell silent when Kwame reminded her about the grade she entered medical school with.
This is the story what my friend Kwame (not his/her real name) told me one night. He was in a sad, pensive mood and when he was done telling me, I felt the same way.
“Charley Kuukuwa, our hands are dirty.. all of us… I never thought about it that way, but we’ve benefited from corruption. What do we do? How do we live with that knowledge? There’s nothing like serious or mild corruption. We accuse our MP’s of taking bribes and kickbacks… We’ve forgotten what happens at home.”
What could I say? By this time, I was feeling very uncomfortable too. The next morning, after 5 very troubled hours of sleep, on my way to work, I tweeted the following..
I’m still in a sad and pensive mood. I’ll throw some of Kwame’s questions back to you.
What do we do?
How do we live with the fact that our parents, relatives…etc are involved in corruption too?