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Opinions of Friday, 18 August 2017

Columnist: Samuel Alesu Dordzi

60 years on and still irresponsible

The Flagstaff House The Flagstaff House

Somewhere in May, the President proclaimed: Ghana will work again. Ghana will not beg for alms from well-transformed countries. His word to Ghanaians.

A lot of people lauded him for it. If polls had been conducted then, the President’s rating may have been around 70 per cent, if not more. He was saying the right things.

Remember the May Day speech? That was also fantastic. It was probably one of the finest speeches I have heard in recent times. Once again, he had lots of applauds from people all over. He was spot on in his diagnosis of the challenges with the public sector.

But would his actions be consistent with the many things he has said? For now, let’s settle on the question of Ghana ceasing to be a nation of beggars.

I was not too sure of how to feel when I saw the President standing together with India’s Minister of External Affairs. It was hard to tell whether the President was smiling or not. But it was not hard to tell what he had in his hands. A cheque. It was a gift. It was from the Indian government. It was to the tune of USD1 million.

The money is meant for the renovation of the flagstaff house or Jubilee House. And I am sure you know that is the official seat of government.

I took a deep sigh. The only thought on my mind was: 60 years on and we are still irresponsible as a nation. Don’t get me wrong. This opinion has nothing to do with an aversion to borrowing.

I have seen enough to know that it is not possible to meet our infrastructural needs without external assistance. This has everything to do with us. The fact that we have learnt our way into becoming a nation of alms seekers. It doesn’t matter what the President says.

Borrowing for infrastructure is fine. Borrowing for business is great. Being given a grant for the renovation of the official seat of government is shameful. We are supposed to be a proud nation.

This nation was built with toil and struggle. It was built on the desire that we become self-sufficient. We were the black star of Africa. We were the first country south of the Sahara to hoist an independent flag. We had excess pride which spilt over into other countries. We were the trailblazers.

This nation attracted pilgrims from all over to learn of our way to independence. We could not be ignored. When we spoke, at least, the continent listened. We were at the forefront.

But here we are. To seek a grant for the renovation of the official seat of government is not the kind of thing we should be talking about.

Remember the flagstaff house was built with the assistance of the Indian government? If we were responsible, that is where the story would have ended. We would have found our own ways of financing the maintenance of the building.

Are we saying that had the Indian government not step in, we would not have found a way of renovating the flagstaff house? Should its maintenance not be a matter of priority?

Charity begins at home. We must master the small things first. Then we can seek to exercise dominion over the big things. We should be able to take care of ourselves. We should be able to maintain our roads, buildings and structures. We should be capable of holding on to our own.

If it had to take external assistance to get the flagstaff house into shape, then we should not be surprised at the stage of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

The President meant a lot when he said that we were no longer going to be a nation of beggars. It meant digging deep into our pocket. It meant maximising our resources to make up for any shortfall in revenue. It meant plugging the loopholes in the system. And it certainly means saying “I am really in need, but thanks no thanks I am going to fund this initiative myself.” If that was not what the President meant, then he should not have said that in the first place.

For years, we have been comfortable living at the mercy and expense of others. It would, therefore, take more than mere rhetoric to shake off the beggar mentality from our body politic. To that extent, we need strong will and bold actions. Being truly independent first starts from the mind.

Let us own the things we have. Let us invest our own resources into improving the things we have. When our first President, Kwame Nkrumah stated that the Blackman was capable of managing his own affairs, he meant it in every sense of the word. So should we also.