Feature Article of Sunday, 7 March 2010

Columnist: Essuman, Kow A.

The Independence of Ghana Is Still Meaningless Unless...

On the eve of independence, some 53 years ago, Dr. Nkrumah made one of the most inspirational speeches known in African and World politics. The speech is usually remembered for ‘the often referred to’ statement, “the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up to the total liberation of Africa”. This statement was true and relevant at the time it was made and is even more relevant in modern times albeit in a different context. Nkrumah had a blueprint for a united Africa and took steps to ensure that the foregoing statement became a reality. Although some of the steps he took towards achieving a united Africa were criticised, the man went to the extent of getting married to a non Ghanaian to demonstrate his commitment to this cause. I strongly believe when Nkrumah made that statement he was referring to the political and economic independence of Africa.

All African countries are now rid of their respective colonial masters with Africans controlling and governing the affairs of African countries. This was only a step in Nkrumah’s blueprint. The man wanted more than that. Political instability continues to trouble African countries. And it is understandable why that is so (at least in some cases). Tribalism plays a critical and very sensitive role in African politics. There are all sorts of power sharing agreements across the continent for various reasons. I am sure this was not the political independence Nkrumah visualised. However, all has not been lost. Some African countries have been able to build a political system that actually works. Botswana is a very good example but Ghana is a better example. Of course it is. If it was not, Obama would not have visited and praised Ghana’s good governance.
However, I am almost certain Nkrumah’s vision will not be realised any time soon because many African countries – if not all – are not economically independent. We depend on foreign aid and loans from developed countries and international financial institutions. More often than not, we are not in a position to negotiate the terms of these loan agreements and sign these agreements with absolute disregard for the long term effects on our development. Ghana is no exception.
In the past year, I have come across many ambitious young men who have expressed an interest in running for the office of president of Ghana. First of all, it is a good thing to know the youth is interested in the politics of their country. Secondly, it is an even better thing to know they all have development of the Ghana as an agenda. As I spoke with these ambitious young men, I realised they all had brilliant policies and ideas; that when implemented accordingly, will definitely move the country forward economically and politically.
My only problem with the policies and ideas these ambitious young men spoke of was that the policies and ideas were only with concerned the development of Ghana. This brings me back to the title of this short note – the independence of Ghana is still meaningless unless... Personally, I do not think a united Africa can be achieved. The continent is too large to make that a reality. Nonetheless, a strongly integrated region is not farfetched. If Ghana manages to become economically independent leaving its neighbours and fellow members of ECOWAS behind, a situation will be created whereby citizens of other ECOWAS countries will end up in Ghana seeking greener pastures. A burden will then be placed on the Ghanaian economy to the detriment of Ghanaians. Moreover, if any of the ECOWAS countries encounter severe political instability; their citizens will seek refuge in a politically stable Ghana – again, placing a burden on the Ghanaian economy.
I am not saying we should focus on integrating the region and concentrate less on our own development. Instead, the development of the region should be incidental to the development of Ghana. After all, we have nothing to lose if that happens. A strong regional body – similar to the EU – puts both the region and countries within the region at par when negotiating trade agreements and economic policies with the rest of the world. The concerns of the members of the region and the region as a whole will not only be heard but also taken into account. So on this 53rd Independence Day of Ghana, I reiterate Dr. Nkrumah’s statement with a slight modification – “the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up to the total economic liberation of West Africa”.
Happy Independence!!!

Written and Edited by:
Kow A. Essuman Esq.
LL.B. Hons (Westminster), PgDip (BPP), LL.M. (Cornell)
Barrister-at-Law (Lincoln's Inn)
Attorney and Counselor-at-Law (New York)

All comments, corrections and contributions should be sent to kaessuman@yahoo.com.

This note is based on the thoughts, observations and opinions of Kow A. Essuman Esq. Any attempt to reproduce all or any part of this article without the express permission of the above named person shall be an infringement of intellectual property laws; following which the author reserves the right to commence an action/suit against any such person(s) or body for breach of copyright and/or any other action/suit the author sees fit.