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General News of Saturday, 6 May 2006

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Redefining Patriotism - Speech by Akufo-Addo


4TH MAY 2006

This is the second time that Grasag has recently offered me a platform to share some thoughts about the future of our nation with the youth of our country. The first was in Kumasi at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. The second is here. I am grateful to Grasag for the opportunity and feel very honoured by the confidence that Grasag is manifesting in my regard. Next year will witness the golden jubilee anniversary of Ghanaian independence, fifty years since great Nkrumah proclaimed at the Old Polo Ground in Accra our freedom from British colonial rule. It is a good moment for all of us to pause to see what we have done with our freedom, and perhaps, more significantly, to peer into the future to see where we want to be in the decades ahead. My topic, today, ?Redefining Patriotism?, is a personal contribution to this process of reflection. I say personal because I am not to be taken here as speaking in an official capacity, much as I am very proud of my membership of John Agyekum Kufuor?s NPP administration, which is performing so creditably to the satisfaction of the overwhelming majority of the Ghanaian people. The personal disclaimer is in order to establish the fact that deficiencies of presentation here are to be laid at my door, not at that of government.

Redefining Patriotism ? immediately, the topic of this short but hopefully thought-provoking address connotes the impression that patriotism as currently understood is not working, at least as it ought to work here in Ghana, our beloved country. It means there must be something vital missing in our recipe of patriotism. Perhaps, the spice that gingers us into action? Maybe the constant stir that keeps our multiethnic mix from curdling? Could it simply be that we fail to notice that like every piece of ingredient that makes up a sumptuous delicious meal, every individual citizen and their efforts are needed to make a nation either great or small?

Simply put, patriotism is a love of and loyalty to one?s country. A patriot is someone who loves, supports, and is prepared to serve their country. Patriotism has, thus, been defined as a love of one?s country, including connections to the land and people, their customs and traditions, pride in the country?s history, and devotion to its welfare.

To some, patriotism has connotations of self-sacrifice, implying that the individual should place the interests of the community above their personal interests, and in extreme cases their lives. But, in my humble view, patriotism is also strongly about self-preservation. Patriotism is positively self-serving. Would you, for instance, avoid the battlefield if the alternative is to stay at home and be swept away by enemy forces? Would you stand by and watch for your country to be impoverished by bad governance, greed, corruption, inefficiency and ineptitude? Would you turn away and mind your own business if the very foundation of your liberty is threatened by treasonable characters who attempt to destabilise your country?

Each generation has to define for itself the goal or object of patriotism. There was once upon a time on our shores when patriotism was best defined by the Asafo ? the great warriors of old ? who stood up against aggressors who threatened the sovereignty of the oman or traditional state. At that time, the scope of allegiance was easily determinable and homogeneously uncomplicated. Then the big European scramble for Africa ensued with the demarcation of the common colonial border across, through and around sovereign nations. This, in essence, redefined patriotism for our people. Patriotism then came in two kinds. The first category contained those who wanted to return to the pre-colonial order ? or those who wanted to re-assert the supremacy or at least preserve, if not the sovereignty, then the influence of traditional authority. Thus, you could be a patriot simply by ensuring that your first allegiance was to your traditional state.

The second category of the old patriots was the pioneering nationalists of the collective sovereignty. With this I mean those who wanted to eliminate colonialism and gain independence for that geo-political entity which in colonial times was called the Gold Coast, and which, thanks to Danquah?s scholarship, we came to call Ghana.

And, it is worthy to note that several of the pioneers of Ghanaian nationalism hailed from right here ? this great Central Region of intellectual richness. It was here that the Fante Confederation was formed in 1868 as a prelude to the nation-wide movement that was to later sweep the British out of our shores. It was here in Cape Coast that, on 4th August 1897, over 100 years ago, that the Aborigines Rights Protection Society, which was founded by the great John Mensah Sarbah, the first lawyer of our history, came into being. The Society was subsequently led by other great Ghanaians such as Kobina Sekyi and John Sey, both of Cape Coast. It was also from here that the great Pan-Africanist, Joseph Casely-Hayford, author of ?Ethiopia Unbound? and other seminal books, undertook in the early part of the 20th century his work, which included the foundation of the British West African National Congress, the first attempt at pan-african organization in our region.

Again, it was not far from here, at Saltpond, when, again, thanks to Danquah?s rich sense of historical symbolism that, on another fateful 4th August day in 1947, he, George Alfred ?Paa? Grant, and the others formed the United Gold Coast Convention of blessed memory. The date was deliberately chosen to underline the continuum between the efforts to protect and defend our patrimony, which had been so eloquently championed by the Aborigines Rights Protection Society, and which had made possible the defeat of the Crown Lands Bill of 1896, thereby saving us from the fate that befell our kith and kin in Southern and Eastern Africa, who saw their lands being sequestrated by the imperial power with all its tragic consequences, and the new demand for national independence and freedom which was first articulated by the United Gold Coast Convention. The emergence of the Big Six and, subsequently, of Kwame Nkrumah and the Convention Peoples Party are all part of this colourful history.

Until 130 years ago, Cape Coast was the capital of this country. But, this city has never lost its old glory. With the Adisadels, Holy Childs, Wesley Girls, St Augustines, Mfantsipims and others, this place remains probably the richest intellectual citadel in Africa in the area of training a country?s future generations. It, therefore, gives me maximum pleasure to be addressing Ghanaian youths on a significant topic such as patriotism and, especially, at the institution that sits at the zenith of this area?s intellectual mountain ? the University of Cape Coast. The Athens of Ghana, if not of all of Africa, indeed.

Here in Ghana, we are geographically in the centre of the world, a fact that our President never ceases to stress, the last occasion being at the State Banquet for the Japanese Prime Minister on Tuesday, much to the amusement and delight of our august visitor. Also, in the push for economic and social development, Ghana currently is at the centre of this all-important global effort. It was not for nothing that our sustained national effort of recent years to break ourselves free from the chains of endemic poverty was used as the persuasive case study for the poorer nations to win concessions on debt relief, more aid and fairer trade. The efforts of our President and the people of this country are acknowledged and appreciated worldwide. But, do we take note ourselves? Patriotism also means patting ourselves on the back when we do well.

This week the Japanese Prime Minister visited Ghana, the first ever such visit by a Japanese Prime Minister. Four years ago when President Kufuor visited Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Tokyo, he shared with our President what he thought was the underlining reason behind Japan?s rise to be the second largest economy in the world: education. Running through this pursuit of knowledge was the people?s unflinching sense of nationalism. The Japanese believed in themselves and used this belief to churn the machines of progress.

But, the major question that should occupy the thoughts of each and every one of us tonight and with the promise to self to seek answers to is this: how well do we, ourselves, acknowledge and appreciate our own efforts, especially as an incentive to spur us on to greater heights of collective and individual achievement?

The success of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and India, among other countries, was made possible by the relentless acquisition of knowledge, the zealous application of that knowledge and an ever present consciousness of who the drivers of that success were ? patriots with a cause. It is equally important to note that the successful transition from under-development to developing country and from developing to developed nation was achieved through a combined effort of patriots both at home and abroad.

I will, therefore, encourage you, the youth, to adopt a patriots-without-borders attitude from the moment you leave these university premises. Let it be the vanguard of the newly graduated, skilled youth to continue the tradition of Ghanaians since early Independence providing all manner of nations ? not to mention currently the United Nations itself ? with uniquely talent. But, let us consciously add another element to our outreach ? let us go out there with our degrees in our brief case wearing our badge of patriotism in our left chest.

There are several of you here, I believe, who are planning either to continue your education abroad or to travel to make a better living than you can presently envisage making here in Ghana. My advice to you is this: there is no place like Ghana. God put this land of ours in the centre of the universe for a good reason. How many countries can you think of that you can spit out a mango seed on the ground and a tree would grow?

I love Ghana more than any other country in this world. And, the good news is that I am absolutely sure that I am not alone. I am in wonderful company. There are hundreds in this room, thousands on this campus and million and millions beyond these gates who share this love that we have for the only place we can safely and comfortably call our homeland.

If you love your country just like I do ? let me hear you say ?I do!? If you love mother Ghana just like the person next to you let them hear you say ?I do!? If you love father Ghana like the rest of the country just say ?We all Do!?

She who loves her country best strives to give it her best. He who wants the best for his country wants the best for himself.

Those of you who may decide to stay home and those who may choose to go away can all be patriots in equal measure. In this era of patriots-without-borders the issue is the value of the contribution you make to your nation, whether near or afar. When Ghanaians living abroad make an estimated contribution valued at a third of our annual GDP, one can begin to appreciate the phrase patriots-without-borders. In my own personal experience, after completing an economics degree at the University of Ghana, I went back to England to study law, was called to the Bar and moved on to France where I practised for five years. But, I came back to the land of my birth, even during the era of the Acheampong regime which had overthrown the government of the Second Republic presided over by my father with Dr. Busia as Prime Minister, a government which held so much promise for this country. We stayed, we persevered in the face of military rule and today it has paid off. Sometimes the posture of the state can sap away the elements that feed patriotism. But, not this time. Not, for so long as the party that is aptly called the New Patriotic Party remains in power to serve. So as you all prepare yourselves with valuable knowledge to come out of this citadel of learning to pursue your various careers in life, please arm yourself with the all-powering weapon of patriotism. Whether you remain in Ghana or travel abroad ? please take Ghana with you wherever you go.

On Tuesday, just two days ago in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian medical students in Britain were urged by the country?s Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed to have a strong sense of nationalism and patriotism and should return home to serve the people and the government after completing their studies. He said that despite the lower financial reward in the government service, the students should be proud to serve the government, just like many other doctors who continued to be in the civil service although they could have opted for private practice.

?As a developing country, it is impossible for Malaysia to match the salaries of doctors in Britain. We don?t have such deep pockets. Money should not be everything,? he told about 100 Malaysian students in a dialogue organised by the Malaysian Students Department. The Minister was responding to a student?s query on last month?s survey by the UK Executive Council for Malaysian Students, which found that low pay and long working hours in government service were among the reasons Malaysian medical students were reluctant to return home after completing their studies in Britain.

Malaysia, even more so than Ghana, is a country that has an extensive deliberate policy to educate some of its youth abroad with the hope that they would come back home and serve after completion. Malaysia has a 12,000 student population in Britain alone. The Minister said he realised that money was a big incentive for the students abroad but it was not a bottomless pit and they must come back to their sense of nationalism and patriotism.

I will extend a similar message to you. The proper means of increasing the love we bear our native country is, as a 17th English poet said, to reside some time in a foreign one, but when you go out bring back what you learn to benefit your own!

Even though we owe a lot to Kwame Nkrumah?s Pan-African vision for the emergence of the African Personality, we should also learn from the attempt at the time to suppress differences as a unitary means of achieving patriotism.

As we prepare to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Ghana, one of the best ways to correct the unavoidable negatives of Ghana?s entry into the global economic arena is for the youth in particular ? the privileged and skilled youth, like this wonderful audience before me today, to reach out as a means of protection and defence of country and culture by influencing global civilisation. You can redress the links between Ghana and the developed world, which were once constituted by a master-servant relationship, by forging the innate leadership and entrepreneurial qualities that Ghanaians traditionally understand and bring abroad, creating a network and an economics of care that links the whole world with Ghana, with Ghana as the hub, which it is anyway geographically. We live in a global city, which needs masters of commerce and the genius of diplomacy to keep it working harmoniously. The world stage is becoming more like a city than it is a village ? with so many people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs living cheek by jowl, where heterogeneity is the norm, rather than uniformity and provinciality.

But, to be a self-serving and, at the same time, selfless actor in this global city, you must have a base and a base that you consciously carry with you. You must be a patriot. You must train yourself in patriotism and I can assure you that the government of John Agyekum Kufuor is ready to assist you in this crucial exercise. The state, we believe, has a role to play in engendering patriotism. For example, just last Friday, April 28, Japan?s cabinet approved a bill to make nurturing ?love of country? an aim of education. The revisions would make it a goal of education policy to cultivate ?an attitude that respects tradition and culture, loves the nation and the homeland that have fostered them, respects other nations, and contributes to peace and development of international society.?

It may interest you to know that among those keen on the change is Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, the current front-runner in the race to succeed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi when he steps down in September! Here in Ghana, last Thursday?s Cabinet reshuffle saw the creation of National Orientation as an addition to the Information Ministry. I see this as a very important political symbol to strengthen patriotism, which transmits the strong will of the New Patriotic Party to get the nation to educate itself toward stronger love and devotion for country.

You may ask: what is the link between cultivating a patriotic spirit and the new Ministry of Information and National Orientation? My answer to that is a question: How do we redefine patriotism in Ghana today? Perhaps the best platform for the kind of patriotism being referred to here was offered by an American statesman in the last century. Adlai Ewing Stevenson II observed: ?What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility ... a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.?

Patriotism should not allow you to acquiesce in the destruction of liberty and ignore the suppression of probity and accountability. Patriotism obliges you to question it, at least. Kwamena Bartels?s job as the new Minister of Information & National Orientation will include fashioning out a Citizen?s Charter which should ensure that institutions and individuals perform according to contract, be it a social or legal contract. The task is not to play down our remarkable efforts as a people to persevere against several odds to succeed. No. We are a hard working bunch. We are a committed lot. Nevertheless, there are some fundamental but surmountable question marks about us that need to be dealt with ? I call the attitude thing.

It takes patriots to fight corruption and resist the selfish lure of corruption. It needs state institutions with patriotic culture and personnel to throw the book at those who steal to deny the school child a table and chair; the driver a motorable road, the senior citizen access to free medical care and the economy the oxygen to grow for the greater happiness of the greatest number of our people. The true test of your patriotic character is to stand for the right thing even if it is unpopular or against your own perceived self-interest. You cannot be a patriot and yet continue to indulge in acts of indiscipline which cost the nation dearly. You cannot call yourself a patriot when you perform your assignments shoddily. You cannot expect to be hailed a patriot when you turn up at work late and leave work early. Patriotism requires equanimity in the face of criticism when it is well founded, and anger when the criticism is vicious and irresponsible.

The peace, unity and prosperity of this and coming generations of Ghana can be guaranteed only by our deeds and words of true patriotism, by which we must consciously and steadfastly abide.

Today, there are some destructive elements who are bent on whipping ethnic and other sectional sentiments to destroy the very nation they seek to lord over. Unlike those who sought to suppress our differences, the New Patriotic Party believes that what makes us great as a nation is our rich diversity. We are not unique in this, for there are many countries with pronounced ethnic mixes that have succeeded.

The opposite of patriotism consists of the corruption often referred to by such thinkers as Aristotle and Machiavelli, in which citizens are more concerned with their personal and group interests than with the common good of the political community as a whole.

We need to celebrate our shared differences and utilise that to get ourselves together as a cohesive unit of one people, one nation, one destiny. A lot, of course depends on those entrusted with leadership ? we have a strong responsibility not to encourage despondency but rather to help rebuild the spirit of national self-confidence. It is very difficult to be proud to be Ghanaian when your leaders don?t share that pride. Thankfully, this is not the case, for it is transparently clear that the President and his government are animated by nothing else than love of country.

But, I believe we need to be even more pro-active in spreading the word. Patriotism consists of a both rational and emotional support for the civic or political community. That we have a true, responsive democratic government today is a cause of patriotism. Ghanaians are inherently patriotic. It only requires a little tuning. It must be the mighty force of patriotism that has served as the greatest psychological barrier to civil war inside our borders. This is because that ancient feeling of duty common to all citizens, inherent in our customary constitutions, has given democratic politics a legitimacy that instability, tribal and sectarian politics cannot overcome.

?My country! When right keep it right; when wrong set it right!? This immemorial phrase often misquoted ?My country right or wrong!? was, ironically, said by Carl Shurz, a nineteenth century German revolutionary who later migrated to America! If you love your country then play an active role, however seemingly insignificant, to give it the best. Patriotism abhors the pull him down attitude. Patriotism celebrates success and denigrates failure. Would you consider yourself a patriot if you kept quiet whilst those entrusted with responsibility act irresponsibly? Would you be loving your country when you waste your talent? Would you be showing patriotism when you indulge in vicious and scurrilous attacks on public officials for no other reason than hatred and spite? Would you be showing devotion to your nation when you spend more of your time at school on matters that would not advance the purpose of your being here?

If so then let me encourage you to associate patriotism with the common good, with the aim of responding to conflicts and other difficulties in ways which ensure that everyone or at least the greatest number benefits. Associate patriotism with your own productive contribution to nation building.

You and I share moral duties to fellow members of our community ? however large or small. But, that moral duty is also rational because the concept of each one his brother?s keeper carries a strong vote of self-serving mechanism. The moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk. The immoral avarice that takes priority over our desire to render value for money services exposes how quick some of us are to push patriotism to the back seat in this critical drive for national and self development.

Let us all make patriotism one of the major spiritual backbones of Ghana. Patriotism is vital for preserving national unity and state security. It is equally vital for social and economic development. A great German thinker of the 20th century once said (excuse me ladies): ?Love of country is like love of woman ? he loves her best who seeks to bestow on her the highest good.?


Thank you and God bless our homeland Ghana, God bless our President and God bless us all!