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Opinions of Saturday, 6 March 2004

Columnist: Adomako, Appiah Kusi

47 Years Of Nationhood: Where Do We Go From Here?

..At long last the battle has ended; Ghana our beloved country is free forever.

These were the words proclaimed by Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah at the Old Polo Grounds on the eve of Ghana?s independence on 6th March, 1957.

Ghana was the first country south of the Sahara to break lose from the shackles of colonialism. Our peaceful path to independence became a great beacon of hope to many other African nations in their struggle against colonial masters. Just after three years colonialism disinteregrated massively from the soils of Africa when many nations got their independence from European hegemony.

With a population hovering around six million, Ghana under the leadership of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah initiated programmes to make Ghana a strong and powerful nation so as to lead other toddling African nations. Ambitious projects and programs were put into were initiated. Among these were the construction of the Tema Harbour, the establishment of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology to train Ghanaian and African scientists to solve African problems. The main reasons for these were to break Ghana from depending on the Western nations for our survival. Ghana began independence in much better economic shape than most African countries. It had a relatively well developed infrastructure, large amounts of foreign exchange, and a civil service generally recognised as one of the best in Africa. It is startling to note that in 1957, Ghana had the same per capita income as South Korea. However, in the 28 years after independence, successive governments in Ghana adopted policies that caused the average person to be significantly poorer in 1982 than he or she had been in 1957. During the same period, the South Koreans quintupled their per capita income. This was where we were.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

In order to answer the question where do we as a nation go from here we must honestly ask ourselves where we are now. In our 47 years of existence the gun has ruled us for nearly twenty years. Poverty, diseases, high rate of unemployment, corruption, inadequate tertiary schools to absorb secondary school products, just to name few, is where we are. Governments after government has never been able to bridge the cleave between promise and fulfilment.

Access to post secondary and tertiary education is still national problem. Limited places at the country?s tertiary institutions has caused many S.S.S graduates to stay home and rewrite subjects which they did not get grade F. Consider an S.S.S girl who had aggregate 19 and wanted to attend university she had to stay home and rewrite some of her subjects again. The cost in terms of time and money is obvious.

Those whom the country has used its little resources to train at the polytechnics and at the universities, the country cannot find job placement for them. We keep on haemorrhaging our professionals to United Kingdom and United States day by day, month by month and year by year. Nearly 90% of all Ghanaian graduates have attempted at one point or the other to travel abroad. Nationalism and national pride in us a nation has tragically ebbed low. We appear not to appreciate whatever is made in Ghana. We do not accept ourselves as Ghanaians. Our shoemakers having designed and made good shoes and sandals label it: MADE IN ITALY for the fear that should it be labelled as MADE IN GHANA it will not get the required market. Our rice import is around one hundred million dollars which is more than the total budgetary allocation to Ministry of Food and Agriculture. It appears no one is listening to Dan Lartey?s concept of domestication.

For forty seven years in existence our reliance on foreign support continues to grow in strength. Massive doses of foreign assistance has been given to us in the form of loans, grants and technical assistance has brought to us its undesirable conditions. This continual over dependence has caused us to condition our psyche that without the white man?s assistance the plant of growth cannot even grow bud and not even to talk about flower. We look back in the year 2000 when the total donor support for the fiscal year fell below the anticipated level, caused the economy to wallow in a valley of despair. Ethnic conflicts have littered some parts of the country particularly the northern part of the country. Tribal acrimony seethes in our nation. We spend more time and money on the dead than the living.

Day by day, week after week we spend millions of cedis organising seminars and workshops and we fail to implement recommendations from such gatherings. Our per capita income is $410. That of our contemporaries-Singapore is $ 21,810, that of Malaysia $ 3,480, South Korea $ 8,680 respectively. What were we doing? Did we go on hibernation? Did we sleep as Rip Van Winkle?

WHERE WE ARE GOING

This is where we as nation we are. There is an Akan proverb that goes that the success of a market can be predicted right from the onset.

Ghana is dreaming to achieve a per capita income of $ 1000 by the year 2010 among others. This noble dream will not be achieved on silver platter. The success of GHANA POVERTY REDUCTION STRATEGY will come when all Ghanaians from the president at the Christianborg Castle to the street sweeper at Suhum central market do their part as it is expected us. The quest for national building is a communal enterprise and the not the burden of some selected few. Over the years the meaning of government to majority of Ghanaians means the people in helm of affairs-the president and his ministers. This has contributed to the way we handle government properties. Many state own enterprises later became a liability to the state. We steal, misuse and abuse state properties. In Akan dictum we say ?aban agyapade}?. The flagrant abuse of state properties, time at our work places are all just a few examples of how we treat our mother Ghana.

At 47 years of nationhood there is nothing like consistency in our national policy. Our politics has become polytricks. At the legislative halls of Ghana?s parliament the only time the majority and the minority agree in unison on issue is when they are talking of car loans. The N.P.P used every ounce of its strength to thwart the N.D.C?s government VAT Amendment Bill 1997. The N.D.C on the other hand did not agree with the incumbent N.P.P government National Health Insurance Bill and opposed the bill. Why didn?t the N.P.P repeal the VAT from our statues books? Whatever is good for the majority is bad for the minority.

The former National Democratic Congress regime had a document called GHANA?S VISION 2020. This document seems to make Ghana a middle income earning country by the year 2020. This document had a series of programs to be implemented. This document was thrown overboard by the N.P.P when it assumed power.

The present government also has GHANA POVERTY REDUCTION STRATEGY, a variant of the N.D.C Vision 2020. Should another government come after the N.P.P that government will come with its own strategy in moving the country forward in economic terms. I doubt whether that regime will follow it irrespective of how noble it is. For eg the N.D.C government called it National Economic Forum and the N. P.P calls it National Economic Dialogue. May be we may have a future government that will also call it National Economic Discussion. It appears what is to be good to Regime A is bad to Regime B. This is where we are. We have carried our politics to the extremes and no intersection point. Two different parties have dissimilar ways of addressing nation. The U.S.A invasion of Cuba-Bay of Pigs was planned by Republican President Dwight David Eisenhower and was implemented by succeeding Democratic President John F. Kennedy.

If Ghana is poised to take its rightful place in God?s universe, then are some certain things that we should that will grant us all safe passage into the city of self actualization. Many years ago a great philosopher by the name John Stuart Mills said when society requires to be rebuilt there is no use in attempting to rebuild it on the old plan. The rebuilding of our nation cannot be carried on the wheels of military adventurism, poor attitude toward work, corruption, ethnic and tribal tensions and unhealthy political rivalry. The solution to our nation problem is within our reach. No prodigious thunderbolt from heaven will blast away corruption and economic decline and increase our foreign exchange reserves and shoot per capita income to say $ 4000. We the people of Ghana must commit ourselves to the desired change. National goal of economic prosperity and Ghana becoming the gateway of West Africa will not roll on the wheels of inevitability. For less than forty years Asian countries like Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia have been able to move their economy forward from Third World to First World. We have caused the average Ghanaian to be poorer now that he had been in 1960. We have wasted time as nation.

Freedom lays more emphasis on responsibilities than slavery. When the people of God were in Egypt under the crippling yoke of oppression and slavery. The Egyptians were thinking and making decisions for the Israelites. When they decided for emancipation, they had to walk through the wilderness for forty years and endure ordeals. Nevertheless, these people came to the promised of freedom and decided to build a nation. Now that we call ourselves a free nation then we must endure the pain and ordeals of emancipation and still move on with a firm sense of responsibilities. I have heard many times people saying Ghana would have better by now if the whites were still ruling us. Have we forgotten what happened in South Africa during the apartheid? This period of marking our forty seven years of nation, there is no time to engage in a luxury of romantic illusion and empty philosophical debate and merry making. This is time for us to look back and take stock of the past so that we can make projection. This is the time for reflection and meditation.

This piece will not be complete if I do not come out with the specific things that we need to do as nation if we want to go forward.

First, we should love our nation. Ephraim Amu reminds us in the National Anthem that Yen Ara Asaasi Yi. Most Ghanaians are unpatriotic. Take for instance our attitude to national service. University graduates finish university and do not even do their national service and leave for U.K and the U.S. This is even worse with medical and pharmacy students. Politicians are also not insulated against this unpatriotic behaviours. They divert funds meant for development programmes and stash them into their bank accounts. Corruption is still a national cancer on our body politics. The N.P.P zero tolerance for corruption is appearing to be a political catch phrase. We see many cases of corruption not investigated. Alhaji Bamba still walks with a halo of dignity.

Individuals, companies and business are earning millions of cedis monthly and yet they do not pay tax to the state. The tax burden in this country is negatively skewed against some few people in the formal sector and the cocoa farmers. Custom officers for the sake of their pockets will allow a tanker loaded with petrol cross to Cote D? Iviore or Burkina Faso where petrol sells relatively higher than in Ghana. Contractors are doing shoddy work. People who are not working for the state still have their names on the government payroll. Nobody cares about anybody. We increase prices of goods and services with doing any proper cost analysis. When we enter the corridors of power, we get with the intention of making wealth. If we do not change, we as nation will be destroyed not by an external invasion but rather an internal decay.

On Fridays government officials go and fill to the brim their vehicles and use for their private errands. This always swells government expenditure. This corrupt practice has been institutionalised.

Out of the fullness of patriotism and nationalism that people like Sergeant Odartey, Corporal Attiopoe and Sergeant Adjetty offered their lives that you and I will have freedom. Out of generosity of nationalism and patriotism that Kwame Nkrumah, J. B Danquah, Ofori Atta, Arko Adjei, Obsetebi Lamptey and Akuffo Addo stood and challenged the colonial masters in their bid for independence for you and I.

Secondary, we must see ourselves as one people of one destiny. Ghana belongs to us all. An Akan saying that if a false prophet prophesise the doom of a town, he also is part of the town. Another great historian and writer by the name Arnold Toynbee said that some twenty-seven civilisations have risen upon the face of the earth. Almost all of them have descended into the junk heaps of destruction. The decline and fall of these civilisations, according to Toynbee, was not caused by an external invasions but rather internal decay. If we fail to live together as one people, a feature historian will say that a great nation died because it lacked the soul and the commitment to live together. Like a colour, a every tribe is important on God?s mosaic.

Thirdly, we must strengthen our educational system and move it from the present state of theory oriented to practical oriented. The Educational Reform Programme set to do this has not done much. There is a still a high blood pressure of creeds and anaemia of deeds. We have more in the head than we do not translate it with the hand.

People are finishing junior secondary school and they cannot even write their names and not even to construct a simple sentence. The government policy on education is noble but does it yield the desired results?

The growing gap between university research findings and that of industries is a still a worry. Project works, thesis and research findings that people have spent time and money to prepare gather dust at the universities. If we want to succeed in our national goal then never should we allow intellectual properties goes untapped. Can a developing nation afford this luxury! We cannot!! And Never!!!

As I conclude this let me share something from the great book. One night in the bible, a great man came to Jesus and wanted to find out how he could get eternal life. Jesus did not look a Nicodemus and say the isolated approach of what do and what not to do. He realized that if a man can still he would kill. If a man can kill he would lie. Jesus did not tell Nicodemus you must stop drinking liquor if you are doing so excessively. He did not say that Nicodemus you must not commit adultery. Instead, he said something altogether different Nicodemus you must be born again. In a sense your whole structure should be changed. If Jesus were to address us at this period of nationhood celebration he would have echoed the same words Ghana you must be born again.

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us sometime bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The ?tide in the affairs of men? does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. There is an invisible book that faithfully records our vigilance or neglect. The good thing is that it is not too late for us. At forty-seven we can start over with new attitude towards building the nation. The paraphrase words of former U.S President John Fitzgerald Kennedy still remains us strong that: we should not ask what Ghana can for us but what we can do Ghana

Ghana, at this period of nationhood celebration must be born again. It must start from you and me. We must change for the better and make this nation the true black star that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah dreamt about. God bless our homeland and make it great and strong.

Appiah Kusi Adomako is a freelance writer, an educationist and freelance moralist. He also works with an NGO called ?LEADERS OF TOMORROW as an administrator. He can be contacted on Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation, P.O. BOX. KS 13640. Kumasi-Ghana, West Africa.
Tel 027-740-2467
Email: appiahkusiy2k@yahoo.com
www.interconection.org/lotfound

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