By: Emmanuel Owusu
One of my favorite parts of the monthly Graduate Student Council Meetings is the “unofficial meeting” we have at the Last Defence Lounge (bar & restaurant) where we chat and argue over food and drinks. The place is run by the Grad Students Association so you can get the atmosphere. During this time, you get to meet reps from other faculties and nationalities with diverse opinions and views about other countries. Only a handful of them had heard the country Ghana or knew about it and those who knew got their information mostly because of the program they were reading at school.
I got engaged in a conversation with one guy who was pursuing a development related program. On hearing that I was from Ghana, he was quick to reveal to me the chunk of information he had about my country. I was very much impressed with his enthusiasm to prove that he knows a lot about my country. Obviously he got to know it from his coursework. He then went on a long journey of spewing information about Ghana from various reports authored?by Britton Wood institutions; the middle income status, mortality rate, outlook on business, the normal stuff from these international organisations. For once I was happy with the fact that here is someone painting Ghana and Africa in such glorious light. I really felt proud because everyone on the table was listening to him rant about Ghana’s successes. After his long lecture which got boring because I felt he was patronising in his praise, one question came to mind ?Is that the Ghana I Know, the one I grew up in, schooled and recently left, the one I read about on the various websites and hear on radio, the one I see Facebook posts from my friends about?? Admittedly the Ghana I grew up in is different from the one I left less than a year ago. Significant gains and strides have been made, I would be lying if I say otherwise. But the quantum of the gain does not match up to what my friend was portraying.
I have been asking myself this seemingly simple question “Do I know Ghana?” Off the cuff, my response will be “Yes, I do.” We had our independence on the 6th of March, 1957, first country in sub saharan Africa to do so. We’ve produced one of the greatest African leaders of the century in the person of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, we have numerous natural resources; gold, bauxite, oil. We have one of the stable democratic governments in Africa. I could give several information about Ghana. On a deeper reflection, I realised that what I knew about Ghana was very shallow, really shallow and superficial. It is this shallow information about our country that we take pride in, that makes us say with confidence that we are the gateway to Africa.
After much giving much thought to the question, I have decided to provide in general terms what I know about Ghana. I do not expect everyone to agree with me but I want to draw our attention to some issues. I cite only the negatives because I want to drive home how severe and dire the situation is. We turn to focus too much on our positives, this gets into our head and as a result we rest on our oars and do not take action.
1. We are a country of full of “talkers and complainers” who take little or no action on issues. We talk alot about our problems, posit a lot of solutions but take no action in implementing those solutions. Eg, For the past 20years we have complained about perennial flooding in Accra and offered numerous solutions?yet we still have problem with flooding in Accra during the raining season. Go to the north, we have complained about the flooding which occurs when Burkina Faso opens their dam yet there is no conclusive solution to that as of now. So for how long will we talk and complain, how long will we sit on radio and talk about our problems and have our technocrats, leaders and think tanks proffer solutions and yet still do little or virtually nothing. How long will we waste time and money in organising conferences, workshops and training programs and yet still not implement a single of the wonderful ideas arising out of those workshops. How long will we sit in our offices and complain about our ineffective things are and proffer solutions but end of conversations with “that’s how the system is so lets leave it like that.” If that’s how the system is and you want to leave it like that, then please don’t complain about how worse things are getting. Endure the constant power outages and water shortage, sit down and watch children grow up in a “bad” Ghana.
2. We are a country of corrupt and ineffective citizens. Our leaders are corrupt and the citizens (followers) are corrupt. That is why we seem okay with corruption and hide under the excuse that “if you don’t pay, things won’t be done.” Many of us have gone to public officials and offered them bribes on our own initiative with any direct or indirect request. Please don’t tell me the citizens are corrupt because our leaders are corrupt, I think the opposite. If Ghanaians or majority of us do the right thing and refuse to pay bribes our leaders would not ask anyone for bribes. One of the reasons they are corrupt is because we are willing to pay. If you do not pay, they won’t get anything. In this case I side with the school of thought that says what followers demand from their leader is what they get. If we take it upon ourselves to do the right thing and ensure the right thing is done, we will reduce corruption drastically. If you think this is impossible to achieve or unrealistic, you are part of the group of individuals who hide under the cloak of pessimism to perpetuate acts of corruption and I would have nothing to do with you. You are a disgrace to this nation and do not deserve to be called a Ghanaian. How many of us have bought a small copy of the 1992 constitution and how any of those who own one have bothered to read the Chapter on the Duties of a Citizen. We want our country to become like Malaysia yet we do not fulfill our duties right from paying taxes, to voting to demanding accountability from our leaders. Continue to shirk your responsibilities and duties but only demand for your rights and this country will become inhabitable for you and your generation to reside in. It is not negativity, it is a fact.
3.We are a country divided sharply along political and ethnic lines. We base our understanding on what is good for Ghana so long as it is being propagated by the political party we are affiliated to. The last time I checked Ghana is not the same as NDC,NPP,CPP,PPP, etc. Ghana is not a three letter acronym, it consists of five letters forming a word. So where from this attitude that what our political party says is what is good for Ghana. It is this skewed thought that is destroying this nation. Our decision to determine what is good and bad for this country based on our political affiliation is gradually destroying us and will send us into extinction one day. What is even killing us is the attitude of those who act as unbiased individuals but yet have full entrenched positions. Such folks sit on radio and project themselves as being objective yet they are pushing a particular view under the cloak of objectivity. You are killing this country, please stop it. If you think it would not affect you, just wait and see. As for ethnic divisions, we are sitting on a nuclear bomb waiting to explode and have effects worse than that of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.
4. We are a country whose youth have misplaced priorities, lack values and do not have personal worth. The older generation is fading gradually, majority of the young people expected to take over the helm of affairs are totally lost or are gradually losing their way. They are confused, bewitched with getting rich quick through foul means mostly and have no purpose for their lives. They are allowing themselves to be swept easily by some corrupted old folks to continue their legacy of corruption, nepotism, favoritism and tribalism. They have eschewed all notions of hardwork and have turned to fraud and praise singing to get their way to the top. They do not value themselves and would therefore do anything to get what they want notwithstanding the effects on themselves. This is the culture and attitude of majority of Ghana’s youth. They are lost and as a result they may eventually lead this country nowhere.
5. We are a country with many ineffective leaders. I believe in the sacred saying that “Leadership is cause and everything is effect.” The progress made by any organisation, business or nation is determined by the kind of leadership it has. We face most of the problems we have as a country because we have had and do have ineffective leaders. We have people in government called leaders but are actually not leaders. The Ghanaian leader is interested is interested in being worshiped and will bark and bite you if by accident to you forget to add the title “Hon” to his name. I heard a story that an MP in Ghana refused to get up and speak at a function because the MC forgot to add the title to his name. The MP in question sat down in his seat and never spoke and did not draw the attention of the MC to at least correct the error. If you think that’s a one off incident and does not describe how ineffective our leaders have been over the past 20years of our democracy, think about the worsening electricity situation which gets bad as new governments come and go or the current admission crises our universities will face this year and the fact that previous and present governments did not do anything substantial to solve the issue and are now providing a knee jerk solution (If you think the release of funds to get more infrastructure with less than two months to school reopening is a perfect solution then I do not know which planet you are from).
Think carefully about this country and where it was, is and is going and you will understand that we are in trouble. For those of us who are not satisfied with the status quo and want to change this country, it is important that we KNOW this country. You cannot change something you do not know. Sit down and think about what you know about Ghana. Based on this knowledge you can effect the change that you want. “Be the change you seek.”