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Opinions of Sunday, 6 May 2007

Columnist: Baffour, Robert A.

The True Meaning of Independence: The Case of the Aveyime Rice Project

Ghana is fifty. Long live Ghana. Since the colorful celebration of the 50th independence anniversary , I have been thinking of the true meaning of the word independence. At the very least, independence should reflect the true meaning of the word which includes self governance. Self-governance includes making your own decisions and controlling your own destiny. We all know that the destiny of Ghana is not in the hands of Ghanaians.

What does 50 years of independence mean? What are we independent of? What does an average Ghanaian need, political independence, job independence, financial independence, social independence? Are we better off today than we were 50 years ago? 10 years ago? 4 year ago? Wow! In the true meaning of the word, can a nation under despotic rule from one of their own claim independence? Did we have independence during the AFRC, NDC, and the PNDC regimes? Do we have independence now? Perhaps we need to look at the word independence again. How can we claim 50 years of independence if the average Ghanaian cannot have three good meals in a day, the energy situation is horrible, Engineering graduates are teaching math and science in high schools, to survive means to steal, and many more.

While some countries like Malaysia took the independence baton and run, we are still moving in a roundabout with corruption at the center. Corruption is everywhere in the world but when it becomes the center of affairs in a nations dealings, it becomes poison. Today, countries like Malaysia, China, Turkey, are scrambling for Africa as seen in places like Nigeria, Ghana and Sudan. A Ghanaian contractor needs to beg a Chinese contractor in Ghana to get some little sub contracting work. Engineers in Ghana sign off on dangerous roads that will not be approved in any country (including the contractor’s own country) by international standards all because of corruption. The sad thing is when you try to provide help even free of charge, the leaders will refuse for fear of looking into their corrupt practices.

Ghana is one of a few countries that is fortunate to have a strong literate pool both in and out of the country. Apart from the constant transfer of money that the government always refer to, there has not been any good push to harness the brain power of Ghanaians abroad. Our leaders seem to be looking at something besides developing the nation. Many have tried to provide support either by way of teaching or technology transfer, but the issue has always been frustration by the people in Ghana. What are our leaders afraid of? That they will loose all the crooked deals and get the country on the right path? That they will not have the stolen money to support the artificial lifestyle they have created?

One of the issues that prompted me to write this piece is the issue of the Aveyime Rice Project. If our system is not so corrupt, what is so big about mechanized rice farming? Are we saying that given the equipment and the financial resource all the good Agric science graduates from our good universities and colleges cannot produce food to feed the nation. All our Agric science teachers are teaching science and biology is some rural secondary schools. It is preposterous that the government is struggling to make a decision on who wins the bid to produce rice for Ghana. How can the government even pause to think when out of the two top candidates for the Aveyime Rice project, one is a Ghanaian firm. For God sake even if they are at 50% capacity compared to their counterpart foreign firm, give the job to them and provide the support. Mandate them to use our graduates, our labor, everything to set the ball rolling. Mr. president, as Americans will say, “this is a no brainier”, let our people get the opportunity to help build their own nation. If out of all these corrupt screening, one Ghana company has survived. That is your choice. Give them the opportunity to set the example pathway of self dependency and that is INDEPENDENCE. How many Ghanaian firms get to compete on projects at the international level?

Leaders of Ghana, please do not think of what will come to your individual pockets but rather think of what will come to the collective pockets of all Ghanaians, that way we can all get something to eat, drink and sleep and peace will prevail in Ghana.

Long live Ghana (or should I say Gold Coast)

Dr. Robert A. Baffour

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