Article: Thieves and beggars in uniform

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Since the nineties that I first saw how the world operate; how the sun rises and how it sets, how a day begins and how it ends. I have seen governments operate and how citizens react. In those days, thieves were seen to be in conflict with the general order of the society. A thief was not given a smile in the Ghanaian society I saw when growing up. Of course, there were beggars in the society I saw when growing up. From Asesewa to Mankessim, Makola to Kejetia, I saw beggars begging for alms. They were all over our markets and streets. One thing I was sure of was that, those beggars were not in any unique uniform or were they?

 

Well, today I see a lot of thieves as well as beggars who have been given unique uniforms to operate. Some wear the black uniform even in the hot sun. While others wear the white with their green verse. I call them thieves. They are strategically positioned on our highways. They have created their own checkpoints and steal from innocent passers. They come in the name of ensuring order, providing security that is backed by the law. So are they backed by the law to steal and beg? Does the law really spell out that, beggars and thieves should now be in uniform?

 

In the pre-colonial era, men were recruited from local communities to perform such roles as ensuring order and peace in the societies. The local militia went for wars. They combined the roles of the armed forces protecting our lands, people and properties. This era saw nothing like security forces begging and stealing from innocent people. When the ‘white masters’ came, they gave a new-lift to our local militia. The “Asafo Company” was transformed. Colonial soldiers and forces were recruited from communities and given a common uniform with arms to protect the ‘whites’ and their vicinities. Even in those days, history never talked about them being thieves and beggars.

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Today, men and women who have been recruited to protect the society are rather stealing from us. The Ghana Police Service (GPS) and their sub unit; the Motor Transport and Traffic Unit (MTTU) has now turned to a begging institution: an institution generally accepted by the average Ghanaian to be corrupt. When you talk about corruption, a little child will first mention the GPS and the MTTU. Of course, that is what an average Ghanaian child has seen.  On our highways and roads, you see these men and women holding their weapons. They use these weapons in robbing innocent drivers. The radar; an instrument used in measuring the speed of a vehicle from a distance has now turned into a robbing tool. Immediately it is raised, the ignorant driver panic and goes by whatever the men in uniform say. Sometimes, these drivers don’t know what actually is right and wrong because they are ignorant about the law. Illiteracy is killing Ghanaians. Literacy is now a tool for robbery. They always talk about strengthening our institutions to work but these same institutions are using literacy as a tool for robbing innocent citizens.

 

I initially thought, the ignorance of drivers is the cause of all these mess, but my assertion was not entirely true. There is a new format. Some drivers are now smarter than before and so the police come in the form of beggars. Yes! They actually beg for cedis from drivers.

 

I was sitting on a front seat: just beside the driver on a trip to Elmina from Winneba. At their so called checkpoint, where they are strategically positioned like scarecrows, I heard some passengers murmuring. The passengers were already aware that, the men in black were stationed and will definitely ‘take it’.

There was a short beautiful lady in the police uniform. She was fair in complexion and looked nice in her uniform. I was very happy to see such a beautiful lady being part of those who ensure peace and order. As a gender student, I am always enthused when I see women being integrated into our services especially those perceived by most people as being for men.

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This beautiful lady raised her hand directing our bus for a pack. She came closer to our bus. Our driver was well dressed, literate and had everything in order. She requested for the driver license from the driver of the bus. The right question our driver asked was, why do you need the license? She asked the driver to come down from the bus. Initially, he hesitated but later got down. I decided to also get down with the impression of having a little stretch but that wasn’t it. Deep within me, I wanted to know what actually the lady in black will say to the driver. She checked entirely everything but found no fault. I saw her smiling with the driver. She asked the driver to ‘get her something small for pure water’. I was shocked to see the uniformed lady begging for few cedis. The driver was very courageous and I salute him for his boldness. Well, that was my first time of hearing a thing like that. Before, I knew men and women in black and others in white and green were just to bully ignorant drivers by taking bribes. Begging was new to me. The bus driver wasn’t ready to give anything to the she security officer. Some few minutes passed and the passengers started complaining of delay. With laughter and smiles, the driver came in asking if any of the passengers has one Ghana Cedi note. Nay! The driver disappointed me and other passengers. He gave the officer the One Ghana Cedi note and we had our way true.

 

And so from the checkpoint at Biriwa, I engaged the driver and some other passengers in a conversation about the begging nature of the officers. Well, I got to know that, it was their new strategy when all their checks prove positive for the drivers but in real sense, negative for them. The driver told me, sometimes, they go to the extent of even asking passengers for coins. I was surprised.

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Indeed, our institutions are not working. They look for their personal gains rather than the national gains. These corrupt acts must stop. It is not only in the Ghana Police Service and their sub-units but in all other government agencies and departments. From the top hierarchy to the labourers in public services. Politicians, the judiciary, civil and public service workers are all engaged in this mess. The surprising thing about corruption is that, those very institutions responsible for dealing with them are condoning to it. Begging in the Custom Service is even worse. Robbing and Begging on the part of men and women in uniform must stop. If it stops with them, they can deal with those that are not in uniforms. I entreat citizens, especially drivers and passengers to help curb this mess. If they are beggars, let them get to the markets and streets; they can’t beg in our national pride and uniform. If they are thieves, let the right institutions deal with them. But funny to know that, the institution to deal with thieves is also a thief. How can a thief arrest and deal with a fellow thief? Hmmmm, we are doomed if we don’t work hard to maintain the pride in the security service. Do your best, my dear ready! Let us stop this mess!

 

PRINCE ESSIAW

DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY EDUCATION

LEVEL 400

UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION, WINNEBA



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