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Opinions of Sunday, 16 November 2008

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Completing the Ghanaian Project

By electing Akufo-Addo, Ghanaian voters can finally reconcile the country’s contending neo-liberal and traditional values

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

It’s been 51 years since Ghana was founded by the British colonialist by bringing together 56 ethnic groups. Britain ruled with its neo-liberal values and structures with some very limited traditional values of the 56 ethnic groups that form Ghana.

With Ghanaian elites unable to mix the two values as the Southeast Asians have done, that set in the long-running contending values that have dogged Ghana’s progress, creating in its wake psychological and confidence challenges in Ghana’s progress.

Since March 6, 1957, the grand challenge, for historical and psychological reasons, has been how to harmonize the global (colonial) neo-liberal values with Ghanaian traditional values not only as development gauge but also as a confidence concern in Ghana’s development process. Part of the psychology and confidence building challenges is that Ghana/Africa is the only region in the world where its development process is dominated by foreign development paradigm. This has affected Ghana/Africa’s progress badly. In the new The Post-America World, Farred Zakaria (an editor of the US-based Newsweek) explains that to thrive in the 21st century, China is developing its own distinctive cultural blend by mixing parts Eastern and some parts of Western values in its development process.

Despite Ghana priding itself as the “Black Star of Africa,” a mantra that should have seen Ghana float grand development paradigms drawn from within African traditional values, as the Zakaria says of China, Ghana hasn’t. Through such grand scheme, too, Ghana, as the hotbed of “Pan Africanism” and “African Personality” thoughts, should have hatched magnificent pan-African development philosophy skillfully minted from within African cultural values and the global development ideals for greater African progress.

Gradually, as events show, Ghanaian elites and politicians are reconciling their rich traditional values with the global neo-liberal ideals for the necessary confidence and the psychology needed to motor Ghana’s progress. While Ghana (and most parts of Africa) might had been closed off for genuine development thinking by long-running senseless military juntas and imperially frightening one-party regimes, the on-going 16-year-old Ghanaian democratic dispensation is progressively releasing the long-stifled freedom energy needed for broader thinking to drive the direction of Ghana’s progress.

In Nana Akufo-Addo, the presidential candidate of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) for the December 7 general elections, Ghana is drawing from its “African Personality” ideals by audaciously floating affirmations to exploit the global neo-liberal ideals (more through further deepening of the on-going decentralization processes) to mix with Ghanaian traditional values for progress. In this sense, an Akufo-Addo victory on December 7 would close the loop between traditional Ghana and its neo-liberal values and expiate the strong global view that African elites cannot think well, more seriously from within their traditional values.

If elected President, Akufo-Addo is to establish an Institute of Chieftaincy “to train potential and new chiefs in conflict resolution, administration and ethics, and the provision of the necessary funding to improve the capacities of the traditional authorities and the Regional Houses of Chiefs.” The Institute of Chieftaincy, as part of Akufo-Addo’s broader confidence building project to accelerate Ghana’s progress, will be a perfect laboratory to cook Ghanaian traditional values with that of the neo-liberal ideals for progress. The Institute of Chieftaincy, once again, could be a think-tank, a new progress template and a sounding board for national policy shaping in concert with the National House of Chiefs and the national bureaucracy.

As a serious development issue, Akufo-Addo thinks the “time has come to give chieftaincy more resources, a more significant role in governance and more accountability. My administration will restore a role in the supervising and receiving of revenue from markets in their traditional areas…further seek consultation with the appropriate stakeholders to introduce a legislation that will dedicate a certain portion of revenues accruing to chiefs for development of the area, for education and for posterity.”

That will be a historical milestone (correcting the past errors of the Nkrumahs, Ankrahs, Afrifas, Busias, Acheampongs, Akufos, Rawlings’, and Kufours), where Ghanaians will be inspired, their confidence in their long-demeaned traditional values in the eyes of the world raised, their freedom released, their hope restored, the imperfections in their democracy corrected, and their long lost real traditional civil liberties refurbished.

Akufo-Addo’s thinking and the broader Ghanaian feelings reflect Ghana’s greater collective redemption on the cusp of symbolic completion of reconciling traditional Ghanaian values with the global neo-liberal ideals. If Akufo-Addo wins, I hope his critics won’t squander the moment with catcalls of “arrogance” and “elitist,” as he attempts to complete the Ghanaian project by confidently touting traditional Ghana in Ghana’s development process.