Two persons since the beginning of the year, have given us a lot to talk about, in no particular order, they are Dr. Mensah Otabil, General overseer of International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) and the disgraced ex-energy minister, Boakye Agyarko.
They have both made the headlines for all the wrong reasons; they can all and justifiably so, accused of causing financial loss to the state. In sane climes, these two would have been arraigned before court to answer for one charge or another.
Dr. Otabil is a household name; he has been coming to our homes via his Living Word series for as long as I can remember.
Boakye Agyarko, may have achieved his credentials outside this country, but in Ghana, he introduced himself to us through politics, which has become the shortest route to stardom and riches in this country.
This article, however, is about the uncompromising Mensa Otabil, the man of God, who decided to wear many hats, including politics and business.
Today, as many have done, I am lifting the veil of pastorhood and looking at Otabil, the banker.
In this country, we are jack of all trades, but masters of none, but in the case of Dr. Otabil, he is a master of motivational speaking.
If there is any one man in this country, who has the capacity to convince all of us that, we can walk on water and we will gladly do, irrespective of our faith, is Dr. Otabil.
So, imagine my surprise when I heard that, he was the Board Chairman of Capital bank.
When First Capital Savings and Loans became a universal bank, and it was revealed that Dr. Otabil was the Board Chairman, the rumour mongers went to town, saying that, the bank was for him, we all believed it because of our idiosyncrasies.
Like the proverbial dog president Akufo-Addo alluded to, we all hanged the man without the benefit of facts, but as we say in this country ‘na who cause am’.
Exactly a year this month, Capital and UT Bank collapsed. The Bank of Ghana which is the regulator stepped in and handed over both banks to the GCB bank.
The man of God, who is no stranger to words, kept quiet until a year later to find his voice. His statement explained away his role as the non-executive Board Chairman, but he ended up opening the can of worms, he avoided from day one.
You cannot eat your cake and still have it. The man of God, enter into the arena, where we take no prisoners.
He was lucky to have found members of his congregation, who do not see the damage his actions and inactions, have caused the lives of thousands of Ghanaians and they have declared to stand by him no matter what.
I will rather, they pray for or with Dr. Otabil in this situation than stand with him, because no one can stand where he stands.
The former Central Bank governor of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, delivered a speech after the collapse of some banks in Nigeria and this is what he had to say.
“In previous crisis, we said some banks had failed, a passive and complicit phrase that masked a gross irresponsibility and crass insensitivity. “The bank has failed”.
This is somewhat like coming across the corpse of a man whose throat was slit, or whose body was covered with knife wounds or riddled with bullets and saying “the man died”.
The man did not die. He was killed. He was murdered. And he did not kill himself. To use the term death instead of murder, excuses us from the responsibility of finding the killers and bringing them to book.
And that is exactly what happens when we refer to “failed banks” as if the bank itself, some impersonal structure made up of branches and computers, somehow collapsed on its own. By using-or-abusing the term “failed bank”, we are able to mask what is almost always a monumental fraud.
But it is a deliberate act of prestidigitation. Failed banks are handed over to NDIC. Insured depositors get paid N50,000 (later increased to N200,000).
Thousands of poor people, who have kept their life savings in the bank, lose it. Children’s school fees, savings for retirement, medical bills, gone into thin air. And who is to blame? No one really. Or maybe the poor people who were foolish enough to keep their money in a bank that “failed”.
How many people have died of heart attacks due to this tragedy? How many honest businessmen have been rendered bankrupt? How many people have committed suicide? How many have died because they were unable to pay medical bills as their monies were trapped in these institutions? How many children have dropped out of school? We do not know. Because we live in a society in which they do not matter.
They are anonymous. They are poor. What we do know is that we have today, among those parading themselves as role models in society, people who profited from failed banks. Owners and managers, who go on to become governors and senators. Bad debtors who are multi-billionaires, having taken the money belonging to those poor dead souls and not paid back.
So here is the reality. The owners and managers of banks, the rich borrowers and their clients in the political establishment are one and the same class of people protecting their interest and trampling underneath their feet the interest of the poor with impunity.
So this time, we turned the tables and said “enough is enough”. The banks did not fail. They were destroyed and brought to their knees by acts committed by identifiable people.
As a student in Ahmadu Bello University in the faculty of arts and Social Sciences (FASS), and later as a lecturer in the same faculty, one of my chief mentors was my uncle, the late Dr. Yussif Bala Usman. And one thing Bala taught us was we should never shy away from naming names and calling a spade a spade.
Do not say that government money, has been stolen. Name the thief. And so in keeping with that tradition, we do not say that banks had failed. We name human beings- the management that stole money in the name of borrowing, the gamblers that took depositors funds to speculate on the stock market and manipulates share prices, the billionaires and captains of industry whose wealth was money belonging to the poor”.
The banking crisis in Nigeria happened between 2008 and 2009; the central bank has had to inject 620 billion naira ($4.2 billion) to keep the country’s banks afloat.
Ghana, which had a robust banking sector at that time, failed to learn lessons from what happened to Ghana.
The Bank of Ghana, failed in its supervisory duty to ensure that, the right things and right structures are put in place to safeguard depositors’ funds, as well as security of workers in the collapsed seven banks.
Dr. Otabil, has no business sitting on a board of even a micro finance company, he does not have the expertise, experience and the exposure needed to run a bank.
So why not, in his own words, people who look like insult, will definitely insult him.