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Opinions of Thursday, 7 March 2013

Columnist: Ashong, Nii Tettey

56 years out of their gold coast


On the 20th day of April, when Dr. Nkrumah issued a government white paper containing the proposals for independence, I believe he was issuing a promissory cheque that should eventually cash into the vaults of our nation, a new paradigm of hope; that the Ghanaian is not just capable of handling his own affairs but solving many of his teething problems by himself. 56years down the line, can we say same about our nation, or the cheque Nkrumah issued has returned with the inscription “no funds available”? Exactly my reflections, as Ghana goes gay once again over its independence apparently won 56 years ago.

There are those who argue that Ghana has had one of the most checkered history of independence struggle; one that cannot be necessarily limited to the event at Old Polo Grounds on 6th March 1957, when the same Dr. Nkrumah in his usual penchant, casted aspersions on our independence that “the independence of Ghana is meaningless…unless it is linked to the total liberation of Africa”. That didn’t come as a surprise; at least every student of political history knows how obsessed the good Nkrumah was, in creating a united state of Africa over which he intended to be President. Let me confess in the first place that my ideological indoctrination does not countenance the illusion of a continental government as a solution to Africa’s challenges, a view many contemporary praise singers of Nkrumah still hold. I love Nkrumah for a few things, and though I think he was a great chap, he could have done a few things right. “That was just an aside”. Beyond Nkrumah’s own dynamism with his CPP, the signing of the Bond of 1844 -which some historians perceive arguably as Ghana’s own version of the Magna Carter - the nationalist agitations, the formation of the U.G.C.C in August 1947 as the first political movement in Ghana which invited the young Nkrumah to be secretary and the 1948 riots amongst others are for me very significant pillars of our independence attainment’s trajectory.

Ghana has come a long way since the historic overthrow of the man entitled “Osagyefo” (saviour). In fact it’s been a little over a decade since he passed on. Politics and governance have gone through tumultuous times; interspersed with both military and civilian characters until today when in the fourth republic, we have “another John” as president. It is 56 years of independence and coincidentally, there are new challenges that we could have dealt with 56years ago. How meaningful has the independence of Ghana been in solving our age old challenges? Or by dwelling on Nkrumah’s logic, we can say that the independence of Ghana remains meaningless because it wasn’t or until now has not been linked to the total liberation of Africa” emphasis on “total liberation of Africa” (emphasis mine). Well, I would leave that argument for the cynics lest I step on toes. Unfortunately, every African country has had its own challenges, and Ghana is no exception after 56years of setting the tone for a so called liberation of Africa. At least just 22 years or so since I was born, I can still talk about same problems of Ghana which unfortunately my father may have talked about several years ago. On this historic occasion of 56years of our nation, I have decided to break the monotonous ritual of “wishing ourselves well” by cataloguing many of our most pressing challenges as a country. Ordinarily, I would have talked about at least “56 things that don’t work in Ghana” since we are 56years; except that the editor might not be generous to find space for me on this website and I hope that readers would bear me out. Hence in my analysis, I would wish to employ the soul of wit; what Shakespeare calls Brevity.

First of all, I heard the president talk about partnership as a major driver to nation building. Then I thought that it’s one thing that has eluded us in a long while and no wonder our nation has recorded a stunted growth. Partnerships don’t work in Ghana. By partnerships, I mean all the major key players of our developmental struggle, i.e. government, opposition parties, private businessmen, civil society and the entire citizenry coming together to first of all understand the source of our challenges and find solutions to them in a corporate reconciliatory spirit. Everybody in this country seems to have his own opinion, his own agenda or his own understanding of what Ghana’s challenges are. The best we do is to talk and talk, disagree, fight then we go back to sleep. Our political parties have demonstrated this very well, and when private businessmen and concerned citizens seek to come in to assist, they are tagged as being on one or the other side of the partisan divide depending on where the accuser stands. In national business, almost all our public private partnership deals have “kick-backs” riding on their backs. In fact, each time we have ignorantly set out to sell off our own assets or buy and do something new, they have reeked of corruption. The only persons who benefit are those who sign the deals and those who bring the deals. Today, several government functionaries trumpet the cliché that “the private sector is the engine of growth”. May be its true, only if this engine is well fueled and oiled to become robust enough to drive the growth we all desire. That leads me to the next problem- economic resilience. After 56 years of independence, is there anything like economic independence in Ghana? So that too, doesn’t work. We have a country that cannot finance its own budget. What many perceive to be the necessary-evil of the neo-liberal economic paradigm at the heart of which is the World Bank and I.M.F to whom we have mortgaged our economic fate is something that may get Nkrumah and the rest, turning in their graves. Our country is poor; poor in thought and poor in coffers, yet we have sat aloof whilst they literally loot our resources away to develop their economies, even our latest discoveries are not spared. 56 years down the line, we wait to celebrate the olive branches being extended to us from elsewhere. What a shame!

In the midst of our economic mess, even consensus-building doesn’t work in this country. The renaissance of democracy in the early years of 1992 led once again to the phenomenon of partisan plurality. Unfortunately many of these parties are remnants or splinter groups of the Danquah- Nkrumah ideological factionalism that existed prior to independence. Like it or not in Ghana today, it’s either the U.P tradition lodged under the belly of the ash elephant under the caption NPP or the Nkrumahists conveniently spread across the shades of the umbrella and the red cockerel which cannot crow well as it used to. Socialists or social democrats they call themselves and believe it or not, the NDC is gradually becoming “the CPP that would never be”. As for the others, the least talked about them the better. These developments coupled with the zero-sum nature of our politics have introduced a sharp partisan rivalry in our de-facto two party state with its own issues of ethnicity. One side booms and the other side boo. That’s what our fourth republic particularly has become; apparently no national agenda, no particular focus and poor vision. Why won’t we shuffle an ordinary duration for high school between three and four years just in a matter of a change in government? Coming down gradually, I would hit on the politician and say without any fear or favour that our politicians don’t work; they just don’t work and because they don’t, our industries too don’t work, our educational system doesn’t work, the least talked about the Ghanaian civil servant, the better. Talking about institutions, there is one that has been bashed by Ghanaians recently. I talk about the good old Electricity Company of Ghana. There are Ghanaians who think it’s the most useless institution in Ghana, though I concede that they are so unreliable most of the times, I think it boils down to the wider issue of the management of energy as a resource in this country. Thanks to the good old Akosombo Dam which the Nkrumahists particularly take pride in, maybe Ghana would be the hottest place to call country. But the truth is that, many people in our countryside still live in darkness whilst the remaining energy resources cannot serve the whole country, we have had to ration our electricity supply every year. In fact this country is not in the best of times at all with the current dum-s) crisis. I can bet that there would be about 56 power outages alone in some parts of the country by the end of our Independence Day commemoration. That’s how far we have come as a country because our systems don’t work whilst successive governments have failed to plan. The few additional energy resources have not proven to solve our energy crisis because we fail to plan in the long term as a country. Ordinary water is rationed and still served in tots even after its privatization, the housing deficit keeps building up, we still build on water ways, throw rubbish about, defecate in water bodies and to think that Ghana would work in this mess, I leave that to the woods.

Additionally, we claim to have a democracy, when in actual sense we practice a kleptocracy. There are no proper checks and balances, our members of Parliament and ministers rub each other’s back every day and make a fool out of us by tactically stealing our money into their pockets with the help of their party after we elect them. Whilst we have a constitution that gives so much power to the executive, we still create jobs for boys and pride ourselves with it as reforms, give them free cars, free fuel, free houses, free food and make life a haven for them whilst our children waste away on our streets without going to school, if there are decent schools in Ghana. There are people in our country who can’t make a decent living not because they can’t think, but because our society lacks the basic opportunities that would keep their heads together in finding what to do. What’s happening to the long talked about gap that exists between the North and south? Where is the pragmatism of our nationalists? Where is Paa Grant’s resourcefulness? Where is Danquah’s patriotism? Where is Nkrumah’s dynamism? Where is the elegance of the big six in our national struggle? Where’s the result of the blood of the men whose lives we have lost just to make Ghana work. After 56years, why must industrialization remain a dream, why must mosquitoes still give us diseases and kill our people? Why can’t we still train our own doctors? Why doesn’t every community have a clinic? Why are very important roads still unmotorable? Why do people still live thinking that government should be the one solving all their problems? What has happened to Agriculture? Why is our economy still agrarian? Who must work? Who must be blamed? Is Ghana the land of birth worth pledging our toil? I hope I never get tired of writing my biases and appraising my ignorance because after 56years, I can conveniently say that we have not come to the place for which our fathers sighed. We need more reflections than talk.

God bless our fathers! And God help this Ghana we call a country.

Nii Tettey Ashong