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Opinions of Sunday, 2 September 2007

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Faith, Trust, and Prosperity

Is there a correlation between trust/faith and progress? Ghana’s Vice President Aliu Mahama thinks so, and if midwifed skillfully, can propel Ghana to greater prosperity. This will correct many an historical and material errors of yesteryears and cruise Ghana’s progress, fueled by its traditional norms and values. More attuned to the on-going thoughts about situating Ghana’s progress in its traditional values and the global sensibilities and research, Mr. Mahama, his ruling National Patriotic Party, the awakening policy-makers, bureaucrats and consultants are coming to the reality that progress starts from one’s foundational values. It is from this premise that any identified inhibitions within the traditional values are refined through matured policy-making, bureaucratizing and consultations.

Mr. Mahama’s tying of trust to progress is one. The newly floated National Orientation Programme, aimed at overturning “the notion that everything that was foreign was better than what was produced locally,” rolled out by Mrs. Oboshie Sai-Cofie, Information and National Orientation Ministry, is another. The attempts are to harmonize traditional and neo-liberal Ghana by re-engineering trust, faith, confidence, and dignity in the broader progress of Ghana. Despite indicating the emerging developmental maturity, here patriotism, a fertilizer for progress, will be genuinely watered by these traditional values for progress. Interactively, this also gives a peek into some of the foundational values that created the Ghana nation-state – prayers, fasting, sacredness, steadfastness, can-do spirit, patience, tolerance, balance, calmness, spirituality, confidence, self-reliance, and other inspirations from Ghanaians’ traditional cosmology.

>From Okomfo Anokye to Yaa Asantewaa to Kwame Gyateh Ayirebe Gyan to Na Gbewa, faith and trust, fired by the supernatural and sense of the sacred, not only created their various nations but the desire for prosperity – their “human rights, security and development.” Though most Ghanaians have not thought deeply about this in national development terms, just imagine what moved Okomfo Anokye and his associates, in the face of disparaging families, clans, tribes, ethnic groups and other hostile elements to create the Asante Empire. It was, and still are, faith, trust, confidence and unflinching patriotism flowing from their traditional norms and values. When Mrs. Sai-Cofie stated that “We have in our culture as Ghanaians unchanging and unchangeable ethical and moral precepts that all our people believe in” and Mr. Mahama said that "With faith, we can overcome the canker of indiscipline. With faith, we can generate the determination to persevere. With faith, we can renew our strength and (fly) up as eagles in the sky," they were, in effect, at a deeper thought, recalling the fundamental traditional norms and values of trust and faith that drove Okomfo Anokye, Na Gbewa and their associates to create their respective nations and, by extension, modern Ghana.

As Mr. Mahama’s observation show, it appears policy-makers and bureaucrats need to double up and appropriate the traditional values of these original Ghanaian Founders in order to re-focus on “development and self-empowerment” that will “grow this society with a sense of oneness, accepting and belonging to the grand idea called Ghana.” In this sense, the solutions to Ghana’s progress have been found; it largely rest with its core traditional norms and values, and it is from these values that the growth of faith and trust in the development process should be a constant reminder in the development game.

All societies progress from this premise. In “The End of History and the Last Man” American social scientist Francis Fukuyama indicates that you cannot explain the origin of Western progress without its spirituality, which basically flows from their indigenous faith and trust. In “Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity,” Fukuyama also demonstrates how prosperity at any human level is driven by trust, as a social capital, and glue, that bonds families, clans, societies and nation-states together to act voluntarily, driven by their traditional norms and values. The German sociologist Max Weber also reveals in “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” that the foundation of European development rests on their spirituality, trust and faith. Pretty much of the foundation of the United States is the same – almost all their Founding Fathers had strong metaphysical foundation, and this fired, like Okomfo Anokye and his associates, their faith and trust, mired in their traditional values, in their progress. Even within the United States’ civil rights movement key leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. convictions and campaigns was founded on strong metaphysical values of his society that enabled him to contain fearful and dreadful odds to open the floodgates for civil rights.

In the same vein, the same human instinct drawn from ones traditional values fired our Founding Fathers – Dr J.B. Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah, J. Tsiboe, Paa Grant, Akuffo Addo, William Ofori Atta, Ako Agyei, Dr Aggrey, George Ferguson, John Mensah Sarbah, King Ghartey IV of Winneba, Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh I and Obetsebi Lamptey – in the face of oddities to tackle Ghana’s freedom challenges in the 1940s to 1950s. Their success, despite the idiosyncrasies that faced them, was faith and trust that they drew from Ghanaian traditional values, to create modern Ghana.

The emerging Ghanaian thinkers and writers come in handy here – writing highly inspiring essays and biographies of “successful people to propel” Ghanaians, especially the rudderless youth, “to attain greater heights,” as Bishop Agyin Asare, of the Word Miracle Church, advises. From the American Thomas Pain’s groundbreaking “The Age of Reasoning” to the numerous biographies of their men and women who have helped uplift the United States of America, thinkers and writers have been part of the elements of the progress of the United States of America. The challenge for Ghanaian thinkers and writers is how to harness the faith, trust and confidence embedded in Ghanaian traditional values for progress so as to correct the historical and material blunders of the past.

The reason, as Mrs. Angelina Baiden-Amissah, the Deputy Minister of Education, explains is that the “curriculum being used in schools had not promoted cultural, political and patriotic awareness among the youth.” With the intellectual and developmental climate changing for the better, detailed and thoughtful national development planning, informed by traditional Ghanaian values, has produced “introduction of citizenship education in the curriculum of the new education reform to make the youth to be proud of the country's rich cultural heritage.” This will produce future elites who think from within Ghanaian traditional values first and take this up to the global level as all progressive thinkers globally do in their progress. The current situation is opposite.

>From Mrs. Angelina Baiden-Amissah to Mr. Aliu Mahama to Bishop Agyin Asare to Mrs. Oboshie Sai-Cofie to Professor George Payin Hagan, attempts to change the troubling colonial mentality in Ghana’s progress are feverishly on the table, backed by the emerging thinkers and writers who envision a Ghana which progress is driven simultaneously by its traditional values and the global neo-liberal ones. The attempt is to make the Ghanaian see his/her traditional values as good and as strong as that of any value in the world as Okomfo Anokye, Kwame Nkrumah and Obetsebi Lamptey thought. In this sense, the emerging thinking is to re-engineer Ghanaians’ faith, trust, confidence, and dignity from within their traditional norms and values for their progress, by skillfully opening Ghanaians’ traditional norms and values for policy-making, bureaucratizing and consultancies.


Staten Island, New York


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