?Rejoinder: Are There Scientists In Ghana?
On independence eve, Nkrumah made a thought provoking proclamation at the climax of soaring rhetoric that the black man is capable of managing his own affairs. Well, the crowd lapped up those words with deafening cheers and glee. In less than a decade that statement will come back to haunt us like a hellish nightmare. By the time he was overthrown, the handsome balance sheet inherited from the British had been depleted completely. The NLC government had to run to the IMF to stabilise the economy. As the wheels of the golden boy of Africa began to come off, the blame culture entered our consciousness and took hold of our imagination. Prior to that, a template had already been cleverly contrived by the work of Nkrumah ? Neo-colonialism: the last stage of imperialism. Our colonial masters became the target of our illegitimate anger. Then the pendulum shifted, but imperceptibly, to our leaders. With time the realisation dawn that the leaders are just a reflection of ourselves. As the autopsy continued, we came across a lot of cancerous tumours in different parts of the body: corruption, mismanagement, coup d??tat and what have you ? it?s a messy ongoing post-mortem.
Our lack of development is a festering sore that bothers a lot of our intellectuals. And they are not alone. I do personally experience uncomfortable moments when images of helpless scrawny disease ridden infants are splashed on television sets in the presence of my white colleagues. And when you come to think about the fact that similar cauldron is wasting away the lives of Ghanaians in the midst of plenty it becomes very hard to swallow. We do legitimately ask the questions why, but the identity of the root cause is what leaves much to be desired. We find ourselves in the presence of radioactive and destructive conducts like corruption and mismanagement and we accuse certain organs in the body as the main culprits. Is it because those organs are susceptible to cancer?
A couple of days ago I read a two part series on ghanaweb entitled: Are There Scientists In Ghana? It is a well written piece full of impressive adjectives and semantics; capturing from the beauty to the sublime, right down to beliefs and witchcraft. Though, I was shock by the praise of this poisonous diatribe, I recommend it for intellectual exercise. The following is the link: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/artikel.php?ID=321249, and the second part can be accessed through the columnist?s archive. This is not the first time I am countering this headline grabbing article. They come in many shades. The last time I wrote something on a similar theme was in responds to an article entitled: Ghanaian Engineers and Scientists: Do they have low IQs? I see those articles as an unofficial objection to our social and economic status quo. It is good; but their line of argument and their conclusions are light years away from the mark. We need solutions to our self inflicted socio-economic problems, but most of the people who have had the privilege to develop their intellect and power of reason fail woefully to identify the root cause.
Before I pieced these words together, I went fishing around to understand the mindset of the author. What forms the ethos of his beliefs and drives his thinking. As far as I am concerned the two part series is the same old blame culture worded with ultra sophistication. I wouldn?t have written this rebuttal if the article was penned by some half educated pretender. The fact that it was written by someone who believes in the concept of private property sent shivers down my spine. Besides, he is a trained lawyer who has the power of rhetoric and definitely schooled to look at problems from multiple perspectives.
According to Mr Samuel Adjei Sarfo, it appears Ghanaian scientists don?t exist, because they have not been able to come up with solutions to solve our numerous problems, and questions the justification for the investment sank into their training. If you are blinkered or myopic in your thinking you will buy his line of argument and side with his conclusion, which is completely off the mark. We can equally pose the same question to encompass other professionals in other discipline. Are there economists in Ghana? Well, it will not be a silly question if we analyse our poor economic fundamentals. Similarly, we can also query: are there teachers in Ghana if we subject the recent poor school results under the microscope. The list is limitless.
Before a plant flowers, it needs good nutrients and water without which stunted growth sets in. Even when a stunted crop finally flowers they are not copious, and they may fall off without bearing fruits. Human culture, in our case a nation, is akin to a plant. Scientific achievements and breakthrough are the flowering of a culture, and they can also be severely stunted when there is economic atrophy. You cannot expect the flowering of our scientists when we have chosen the wrong system for the allocation of scarce resources. The allocation of scarce resources is equivalent to the nutrients that percolate into plants.
The engineers and scientists in Ghana are also trying to survive. They want to be able to put food on their table and educate their children the best as they could. ?The Greek philosophers he referred to tangentially, their poster boy, Socrates, was deemed by his wife, Xanthippe, as a good for nothing idler who brought his family more notoriety than bread. When the economic conditions are stretching their brains beyond the limits of human endurance how do you expect them to come up with anything of substance. Nkrumah bastardised one of the sayings of Jesus that seek ye first the political kingdom and everything shall be added unto you. I will say seek ye first the economic kingdom rather than the political. And since this is not an economic treatise, I am not going to attempt to open a vista on that.
The economic conditions in the country, since the mid sixties, are what manifest in every discipline of lives, especially our scientists. From independence till date we have lacked the appropriate mechanisms to serve as a catalyst for the flourishing of scientific talents. The foregone argument was described by Mr Sarfo as foolishness. For him, it is an excuse not worth a dime. However, it is similar to starving an athlete then releasing him to race against Usain Bolt. He sees it as foolishness, because he cannot make the connection between stable economic environment and scientific growth. In the midst of the chaotic economic milieu, it is just like being on the Titanic and you blame an onboard engineer for not being innovative enough to rescue a doomed ship. The Titanic sank because the captain made a conscious decision to put the liner on a full throttle when conditions dictated otherwise.
It is only a conducive environment that allows the flourishing of talents. The internet has unleashed a bevy of writers. Ghanaweb, for example, sometimes carry as many as 17 feature articles a day ? a feat that could not have been accomplished with printed news paper. It has given opportunity to many writers who otherwise would have been stillborn columnists. The concept of economics that he blindly left out of the equation has been vividly explored and subjected under the electron microscope in the largest homo sapiens experiment in the annals of human history. Just study North Korea and South Korea, and after that spend a little time on East and West Germany before the disintegration of the communist empire. The catch is East and West Germany were the same group of people and so is North and South Korea, but the difference is the economic system they adopted.
Hitler used to denigrate the British as a nation of shop keepers. However, they theorise so much, and only came up with few scientific practical inventions. It is the commercial instincts of the Brits that led them to come up with most of the world changing inventions. You cannot just invent. The commercial viability of the invention is paramount. And that can only be achieved when the national economy is on consistent upward trajectory and this is what Mr Sarfo stubbornly refuse to connect. For example, the Brits made a fatal calculation in 1945 and they paid dearly. They first coined the term brain drain to capture their anguish when their scientists and best professors began leaving in droves to America and Canada for greener pastures, because of the flawed economic policies the labour party was pursuing.
Prosperity and scientific development all go in tandem. The Chinese, for example, have got excellent engineers and scientists. But the internecine struggle that plagued them between 1921 and 49 stifled them. And from 49 to 76, it appeared they never existed. The reason is the adoption of the evil economic system of communism, which kept them poor for a generation. It literally incinerated every brain cell that had the guts to break free. The human mind does not work at the point of a gun. The Chinese scientists emerged when they gave up that dreadful economic system and embraced capitalism, though they kept the communist political structure. Besides, what inventions of world repute has the Russians brought to the table?? They built their empire through brutality, death and copying the achievement of the free world ? America, Britain and the rest.
The swipe he took at religion is the cheapest of all his rants. According the Aristotelian universe the earth occupied the centre of the universe. That is what the Christian authorities held on to for 1400 years. However, a Polish Monk, Nicolaus Copernicus, looking through his telescope saw otherwise. Of course, people believe weird things and it?s not only Ghanaian scientists who believe, and there is nothing wrong with it. After all, they are a product of a culture.? Most of the scientists of the middle ages were devout Christians. Some believed in ridiculous occult sciences such as alchemy and astrology. The greatest of them all, Isaac Newton, was a believer who even wrote a commentary on the book of Daniel. Nevertheless, that did not stop him from coming up with his discoveries. So is Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Blaise Pascal etc., and in our era John Polkinghorne and many more. Besides, there are atheists who, for example, believe in strange things such as aliens, which go against the grain of their methodology. They believe evidential rationalisation of existence. And currently, there is no evidence to suggest that aliens exist.
No amount of guidance can save a self destructive life style, unless the victim is prepared to make amend and change his life. He claimed that Ghanaian scientists are not leading the pack for advancement. The Greek philosophers he referred to them with flourish, Socrates was one of them. The Athenian mob he was supposed to be leading did not subscribe to his advice on democracy and he was forced to drink the hemlock. The periodic devastating crash of the capitalist economic system have been analysed thoroughly and recommendations proffered by economists, but the people who control the system do not take those advice.
In our under developed economy the difficult task of statesmanship is to get underway accumulative process of economic development. For once a certain momentum is achieved further advances appears to follow more or less automatically. Most Ghanaian scientists are employed in government establishment where there is nothing significant to gain when they burn the midnight candle. In an economy where scientific innovations can only be financed by government resources cronyism trumps everything. Development is a collective effort and it cannot happen in isolation.
Scientists sometimes come up with bizarre and stupid ideas and inventions. Let?s assume hypothetically they come up with something viable. On the other hand, with the statist economy that we pursue there is every possibility that it might not be endorsed by our leaders. It is the private sector that drives development in all spheres of life both socio economic and scientific. And we have had only a semblance of it during the eight year term of Kufuor. Our predicament is a collective responsibility. Until we embrace capitalism whole heartedly we will continue to ask these futile questions.
Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr.