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Opinions of Wednesday, 5 January 2005

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Bumps On The Road Ahead: A Jaded Constitution And The Intellectual

The New Year is here with us and one cannot help but wonder what looms in the horizon for mother Ghana, its people and all the well-wishers. Despite the worrywarts, we have been able to pull through an election with soaring success. The donnybrook they had hoped for did not materialize. Some sourpuss still clamor, in a heady way, that the election was either blatantly or surreptitiously rigged. The piquant canard they tried to sell was met with a steely rebuff by the good people of Ghana. I think most forwarding looking people should dismiss such rumor with the scorn it deserves. Every election comes with its warts and so did this one. Hopefully, we can learn from instances like the Alhaji Mobilla situation and avoid such in the future. Democracy, after all, is neither prescient, a puritanical sport nor fool proof. It is the belief in the system that counts not its perfections or semblance of such. Like any election, the real work of governance starts after the election is over. So where are we headed as a country? Can someone tell me exactly the kind of Ghana that we intend to create? Several times I posed this question and several times I got no reply. If anyone has a crystal clear view please let me know. I am one dewy-eyed optimist waiting to be initiated.

The question of governance provides a lot of food for thought. I want to focus on our constitution. We have a disjointed constitution that is in need of repair or replacement. The truculent P(NDC) inspired constitution was poorly structured. If looked at from a systems perspective, it foretells a litany of structural and interest conflicts to start with. It appears as if it was written to meet the political cravings of a coterie of idealists in a hurry to feed their insatiable political ego and protect their rear ends. What is more menacingly troublesome is the misguided and irresponsible attempt to fuse two different foreign political systems together and then, listen to this, impose it on a contumacious culture like ours. The objective conditions that exist in the lands where these presidential and parliamentary systems exist are not manifest in Ghana. There are so many different basic assumptions over there that makes it a far cry from our situation where members of parliament need, or should I say want, in certain instances, car loans they can?t afford.

First, let me say that these systems, presidential and parliamentary, evolved in the foreign lands where they are currently practiced. This means that, the system simmered along with the changing times and needs of the people that crafted them over a long time. We cannot replicate the same developmental tiptoe as theirs. Secondly, this evolution occurred with or under a totally different cultural mindset. The institutions that form the building blocks of these foreign systems rarely work in Ghana. Notice that the political systems as they stand in Britain and the United States were not imposed. Furthermore, population considerations and make up are totally different. The level of political maturity and commitment to the system in the home countries has been battle tested over time. Contrast that with our tribally motivated and economically strangled political system and misfit is the word that jogs in my mind. Do we have the best constitution that we can craft? Do we have a constitution that reflects our reality on the ground?

To sum it up, without trudging through all the nuances of such rote, religious, and fanatical importations, our current political system, has very little, if any, original political thinking. So we find ourselves once again defiantly trying to make something foreign and batty work for us. The ideological wars between socialism and capitalism, an inordinate waste of precious little time, characterize some of these pyrrhic political wars waged at the intellectual level but visibly absent at the grassroots. All our efforts are aimed at finding solutions within the intricately convoluted east and west construct. Notice also that, these are all foreign systems. Our intellectuals, in a deliberate way, have mastered the nooks and crannies of these foreign systems with unbridle intellectual rote befitting only the African intellectual. Put him or her in a Ghanaian situation and ask him to solve a problem, and it all comes crushing. How is Ghana?s situation similar to that of the US or Britain? Don?t get me wrong, I am not against copying. In some instances, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. However, I feel as though, this is one instance where we should have used our own political history and experiences to color significantly our political system, instead of striking a casual repose to a painfully important and critically invaluable issue. This therefore brings me right to the doorstep of our intellectuals or elite as some like to call them. Obviously, our farmers and peasants did not write the constitution. I wonder if they were even asked for any input whatsoever. Even if by the slightest calculation they chipped in, I am not sure if their ingredients made the political gumbo. So who masterminded this constitution and how did the followership approve of this systemically misaligned conundrum of a document? I am sure some will explain this in the light of fear and wanting a democracy so bad that they had to go along with the dictator in power at that time. Well, tactically, there maybe some validity to this line of thinking, for we have been able to shed this dictator and his cronies without any bloodshed. Yes, the dictator that said, ?hand over to whom?? However, that is in the past. So I ask again, what next? We?ve had an ok start with our constitution and now is the time to amend or upend. Ok let me get back to the intellectuals. Walai!

Folks, we have a serious problem. The problem is called the lack of original thought. What is it that beguiles the kind of education acquired by our arrant elite? I mean to the extent that, they are in most instances devoid of any originality? You see, currently, we have an eclectic crop of ?well educated? Ghanaians in various fields. They do extremely well when removed from the Ghanaian environment. Unlike fish out of water, these Ghanaian elites go to foreign lands and perform wonders. Some invent, others innovate and even average people like us are able to stay within the mainstream. So it begs the question, why do we perform better overseas than we do abroad? I am sure the excuses are as numerous as the theories and formulae that these folks have mastered. While some of these excuses may have fleeting relevance, I think the real problem why the Ghanaian intellectual is not able to function at home is that they are not trained to be original in thought when it comes to solving problems locally. It is as simple as that. Notice how we are not able to counter propose to organizations like the World Bank and IMF? We have no original ideas as to how to solve our own problems. Is it because we are made to think that everything African is bad?

Education that cannot be applied is useless. So when confronted with a situation, you will assume that the intellectual will try to find solutions through original and relevant ideas in the local environment. Listen to this, in India?s ITT, the students are trained to solve problems with their hands and minds not computers and overly advanced western models that are not applicable locally. They use crude implements for training to start with. So when placed in a far better environment, they perform wonders. Give a Ghanaian nutritionist a quiz about plantain and he will start talking about pizza. The push is to quickly jump onto western dictates, then abuse and tag anyone who is bold enough to either question or pop up an idea that makes the intellectual look silly. For far too long, we have deferred to this kind of jingoistic mentality and it is not getting the job done. Our intellectuals behave as if their minds are arranged in clear-cut bricks stuck on one another. Anything outside this arrangement or construct is the butt of misguided intellectual jokes and derision. Degrees and academic epaulets have replaced experience and good old commonsense. Since when did we become a nation of cognitive misers? We repose too much trust in the mentality of the intellectual only to be failed miserably. Something has to change if we want to right this ship.

Now let us get back to the constitution. What happened to our originality of thought when it came to our own constitution? Was it sycophancy that led to this flawed document? Was it our own sense of history? Did this happen by chance? Why did we try to fuse two variant systems together and impose it on ourselves without carefully weighing the implications? These systems, looked at individually, invoke headaches of Tsunami proportions for their patrons. So we, instead of finding creative ways to create a political system that works for us, that is what the Brits and Yankee did, decided to take on both? The US and British constitutions were not perfect at its inception. What it was though, was a stark reflection of their reality at that time. So, why is it hard for us to start with an ?imperfect? constitution, if that is what it takes, so long as it reflects our reality and experience? Why embrace partisan politics centrally and then no politics locally? No caps on the number of Supreme Court judges? MPs can be ministers at the same time? What else do we have that makes no sense ye constitutional hawks?

While it is fashionable to excoriate our leaders most of the time, I am sounding the alarm bells that, the followership need to wake up, organize and agitate. These rights are at least guaranteed in this constitution. You see, I am one who believes the followership has tremendous power but this power is dormant and has been for a while. Perhaps the culture of coups and nebbish political shenanigans is much a part of this political effluvium. If the languid electorate does not stand up and assert its voice, especially under the current system, we are doomed to straightjacket yellow intellectualism from the ?educated elite.? The best gift we can give to the electorate is to help them organize at the grassroots. My motto this year is, inform and agitate!! (Kyere mi, na pia mi). The response I want is ?Power wo mi mu or sumsum? (literally means power lies in me). Call your villages and get something going my friends! This is the only way out!

Keep in mind that, some of the key basic assumptions of the places, from where these foreign systems were transplanted, require that, the voters be well informed, believe in the system, be active and agitate. For these systems to work in Ghana, our electorate must embrace this level of sophistication now. If our electorate refuses to wake up and smell the coco, what nice aroma it has, we will forever be reduced to intellectualism (ability to follow the dictates of the west and east) and rote importation of foreign systems that have no real relevance to our local situation. All politics must be local. We need a radical revolution in original thought that goes outside the east west box and deeper into the roots and souls of African ingenuity. We must challenge our creativity and innovativeness. Now is the time to question and challenge those who continue to mislead and suppress our mentality. The next time you hear a so called intellectual talk, ask them to tell you how the problem can be solve with home grown wisdom and ingenuity. We need something real now. In cases where we have to copy, such fusion must be must be carefully weighed and the resulting adaptation should be flowered by serious local consideration. Viva Ghana!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman
(BA, MSc. Dip Public Admin. Graduate Cert in Instructional Design)
Organization Development Specialist/Mediator

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.