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Opinions of Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Columnist: Abdul-Yekin, Kofi Ali

Ghana Independence Commemoration, 2015

The independent Commemoration of Ghana falls on the 6th of March every year. On this day, we commemorate the anniversary of our existence as a sovereign modern entity, free to determine the course of our destiny. On this day, patriotic Ghanaians of all ages, troop to a spacious location, named the Black Star Squre, to candle up our vow in the existence of our great nation. Not every Ghanaian get the opportunity of being at this sacred location, for all sorts of reasons. I understand, most residents of Accra chose not to be at the location, simply because it is meaningless to them. The day is supposed to be our day of merriment, joy, pride in our achievements and hope of longing for better success in the years to come. The day is our nation's equivalent of Christmans Day to Christians and Id'l Al-Fithir for the Moslems. It is suppose to be a day for everyone, including our most vulnerable and mentally incapable citizens to over indulge themselves, regardless to whether they can afford it or not, at the expense of the state.
Our head of State, who is our commander in chief of our armed forces and the president of the Republic of Ghana, lead us all in this commemoration. Our students, our police forces, armed forces, fire services, foreign emissaries and embassies, past and present officials of the state, all join us at this square. The access to this location is freely open to all and sundry, and our population in all forms and situation, troop to the location.
I was born in Accra and as I grew in this great city. Attending Independence Day anniversary has been a privilege to me, and a rear opportunity that most Ghanaian youths never had. I have participated in the parade as a school child, marching with pride and joy, before countless heads of state and my fellow compatriots. I recalled the sound of gunboats fired from the sea as part of the event. I have seen aeroplanes fly overhead, as I stair into the clouds with pride, to catch the glimps of the acrobatic display of our airforces. I have not been able to continue this tradition at a point in my life, as I started travelling the world over, in search of a solution to what I believe to be a plague hampering our efforts, in building our great nation. I believe every Ghanaian, home and abroad, is searching for the solution to what is holding our nation back from joining "the committee of free nations", in what the expression truly connotes.
Being in Ghana on the 6th of March this year, 2015, I saw an opportunity to share with my son the experience of my childhood. All I have wanted, is to have my son grow into a proud Ghanaian like myself, and knowing those salient clues that shaped me into my perception of patroitic Ghanaian, I spare no opportunity in giving my son the same experience. Indeed I prepared my son for this day, couple of days before. The boy did look forward to it. We woke up early enough to prepare ourselve for the day and being a lucky person to have a car of my own, we drove to the location. I recalled we slept throughout the night without electricity. Money was not our problem, as we had more than enough to spend.
Arriving at the location, we parked at the Accra Sports Staduim and completed the remaining part of the journey on foot. As we got closer to the venue, I could not make up the sighting of armed men, with guns, pointing at us. I took a look at my four year old son, if he is doing anything wrong to attract such threats but, my son saw no threat at all. I saw in my son a sense of life of a goat, growing in an abatour and taking no note of the threats associated with the weapons of animal slaughter. It is a daily sight on the streets of Ghana, to see armed police officers everywhere, aiming at us. So who blame a child that sees this everyday, for not seeing anything wrong with such grievous hazards?
The closer we get to the venue of our national anniversary, the heavier the presence of armed men and women.
I asked myself for the reason to justify this heavy handedness and show of force. My answers were not adding up. I asked myself if this has anything to do with the threats of the demonstrators on the news, to destrupt the event. This still could not help. In fact, all the political party heads where at the event to grace it.
I then console myself with a reason that, the armed officers are members of the force that are participating in the event and might have chosen to sit among the crowed, while they wait for their turn to march. I however recalled in the past when armed officers have participated in this same event on countless occasions, but never saw these officers mingling with the crowd, aiming their heavy riffles and weapons at the public. I knew armed officers have been stationed in the environs of the Black Star Squre in the past, to serve in providing immediate response in case of any unexpected happen but never knew of this provocative attitude. It was not even so under military rule, when coup d'état, are staged at unexpected places and circumstances. Indeed I found such aggressive posture odd under a civilian authority.
Our president and every one arrived to get everything going. I stood up and joined thousands of my fellow compatriots to welcome our head of state, with loud noise and applause. This is an annual ritual as none of us held back, to ask themselves, if we are sane for applauding those who practically careless about us, by their actions? Like a common sight among subjects under an oppressive king, we like our president and are very happy to see him on this day, standing on an open top vehicle. Our president dressed so simple and down to earth, reflecting his compassion for our poor state of life. We saw our president inspect the parade and I could not miss it when my son said aloud "That is our President, Dady! I know him". I nearly replied with the question, "does the president care whether you go to school or eat?" But I thought it wiser to keep that question to myself, as every decent father in Ghana who knows the purpose of government, keeps this to himself.
The president delivered his address us. The students, members of the services forces, the army and the police, stood on their fleets, while we sat under the shaded platform to listen to the boring presidential message. Most Ghanaians are incapable of speaking or understanding the English language, but our president delivered his message in English anyway. We watch as those on the parade ground melt under the sun and collaps on their feets, to be lifted off the parade by our ambulance personnel.
Amidst this, I could not avoid noticing that most of my fellow compatriots attending the parade, are poorly fed, poorly clothed and definitely poorly housed, if house at all. I noticed the army of hawkers, carrying food items on their heads and moving from row to row, to sell them. I noticed under age children, heavily ladden with food items over their heads, right in from of armed police and army officers, as the president deliver his address of freedom and justice. I saw women with goods on their heads, scouting about for buyers, while children as citizens of Ghana, are strapped on their backs, on our Independence Day. I could not not convince myself that most of these girls are not slaving for the women in their company, as it is a common practice in our modern day independent Ghana. I saw Ghanaians with missing limbs and other body parts, begging to be fed. I saw the reason why the armed men and women, where so much in place.
I estimated the armed officers to be in a ration of 5:1, meaning for every five Ghanaians at the square, there is one armed person to subdue them, in the event of the unexpected. I saw all kinds of military costumes and weapons, involving all sexes. Almost all the armed persons had their faces coloured, like persons in a combat zones. Some even had their faces covered with black balaclaver that only exposes their eyes, nose and mouth. No one need to tell any other that these individuals will kill at the slightest provocation.
I continue to wonder where these forces came from? Do we live with these same people in Ghana and where are they stationed, as they never exist in our daily lives? I understand that our country is in seriouse national debt and government is no more employing workforce, because there is no money to pay salary. Does this mean our government has no money to provide basic needs for Ghanaians but have money to keep heavily armed persons, to suppress Ghanaians?
The last beat of the question did provide some clue to my strands of questions. Ghanaians are not happy with their plight and are suppress by force to pretend they are. This means those in the position of authority are aware of the state of things but have no solution to them. These individuals are aware that a population can tolerate poverty to a limited extent and can act unpredictably at any time. The use of force therefore indicate the preparedness of the state to assert itself by force, than providing for the basic needs for the populace. Clearly, our government does not trust us but do we trust anyone in the position of authority? Clearly, there is a threat and the threat is within Ghana, than we have made to believe that such threats live elsewhere. We are clearly the threat unto ourselves. We are the oppressors of our own people! We are the enemies of our progress and national development.
No nation grows on internal intimidation, internal suppression and internal distrust. Our faith are built on our trust that we build among ourselves. So if we are incapable of trusting our nation, where those in charge of managing the affairs of the nation are synonymous with the identity of the nation, how can we have faith in her?
The 6th of March, 2015 has come and gone. Most Ghanaian, who could have join us in the square to celeberate chose not to. They excused themselves because they claim to see nothing worthwhile their freedom and justice, to be celebrative about. We were there and saw it all.
Like other 6th of March, the day is becoming like other days of our lives, where some few privileged people have a reason to celebrate, while majority of Ghanaians remain indifferent. Freedom and justice in Ghana is now available to Ghanaians on the basis of the ability to pay, than the fact that we are all just Ghanaians. The education of our children is by the ability of the child to pay, than the willingness and ability of the child to learn. We cannot continue to have meaningless independent Ghana and that is what we are deciding from now on. We are tired of waiting and looking up to those who are claiming to have answers to our problems. We are no more going to continue with meaningless and suppressive Independence Day. We are stepping up for an independent day commemoration, in which Ghanaians celeberate like kings and queens.

Kofi Ali Abdul-Yekin
Chairman ECRA
(ECOWAS Citizens Right Advocate)
kofialiabdul@yahoo.co.uk
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