In one of My Takes, last year, I wrote about how our moral and cultural values had become endangered. I simply relied on law to tell the obvious story. Many, especially, friends in political leadership asked that I did more of that. The applause was genuine and I do not have to suspect the encouragement to keep a focus on such matters was partly intended to get me to shift from legal commentary that hurts politicians. I continue on the path of that counsel with the politician, unavoidably, at the centre.
They, unfortunately, dominate the Ghanaian media, and very many particularly the young populations look up to them for guidance, inspiration and mentorship. The sad reality, though, is that soon they realize that just too many of these politicians tell lies and swear in promising and defending things they never mean and believe in.
The danger in the kind of society these lying politicians continue to get support to build is an obvious disastrous country we cannot hope to end the canker of corruption which deprives it of real development. This is the very reason pregnant women are dying trying to cross a river to give birth in Nangruma.
In the Bible, people died for telling lies just as potent deities in the country have been known to kill lying and dishonest people. In fact, we did not only forbade such conduct in our Constitution but also criminalized it.
The directive principles of state policy containing the ideals we seek enjoin the state to “take steps to encourage the integration of appropriate customary values into the fabric of national life through formal and informal education and the conscious introduction of cultural dimensions to relevant aspects of national planning.” It instructs, for emphasis, the critical need for such “customary and cultural values [to be] adapted and developed as an integral part of the growing needs of the society as a whole.”
We then criminalized the lying and dishonest conduct by legislating that one is “guilty of perjury” if he tells lies or peddles falsehood on oath or swears “that he believes a thing which he does not in fact believe”. This is the case when it is done, among others, before a court, a committee, the President or a public officer. But the fact that it is punishable by up to ten years in jail (second degree felony) or in some circumstance by a lifetime in jail (first degree felony), should guide our conduct generally.
I have interacted with political leaders for about two decades now I can say without fear of contradiction that for some of them, this is a default functionality of conduct. I have said recently that a number of ministers, government and party spokespersons were engaged in pure lie-telling when they insisted that not a dime of public funds will be spent in the national cathedral project.
Some have not liked my use of the word “lies”, but I can’t be bothered. That’s just the problem! We can’t call thieves by that word except when those caught stealing are poor ordinary members of society. A couple of judges have cautioned me against using the word “lies” in court, and that’s what law students are taught to use the many diplomatic equivalences of such words.
I am running a series on how we are all failing this nation by not doing the duties assigned us by our Constitution in chapter six to build a country on sound customary, cultural and moral values in service to God in good conscience.
I demonstrate in this series how fidelity to half the ideals in this chapter of the Constitution will deliver to us a country to be proud of to the extent America and Europe will no longer be as attractive as to get citizens risk everything to migrate there.
Yes, he is my contribution to the civic education the NCCE is doing for a healthy Ghana.
Columnist: Samson Lardy ANYENINI