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Opinions of Friday, 24 August 2007

Columnist: Appeadu, Charles E.

Ghana's Development and Respect for our Citizens

In my previous posting published on July 4th, I singled out Corruption as a major cause of our predicament. I wish to continue the discussion by tackling a closely related issue – Lack of Respect for the Common Person. People should be judged on the basis of what they contribute to society and not on the basis of their titles per se! My personal opinion is that “when any group of people is not engaged in any productive work, there is no essence to which they can point to and, as such, titles and `appearances’ become the measuring stick!” This is the reason why a professor is offended when he is referred to simply as Dr. so and so; and a Dr. M is offended when he is called Mr. M. The only thing he can hold on to -- his title -- is being threatened! He has no other contribution to society he can rely on for a good name and if he has, the chances are that nobody will recognize it because the people are used to using titles and appearances to measure status. The behavior described above is bad by itself because it creates disrespect for those without titles but it is more than just morally bad ... it is economically destructive.

In what follows, I attempt to outline some of the critical areas where this behavior surfaces and its impact on the society.

At Home: The saying goes that “Charity begins at home”. We can borrow from this and say that “Respect begins at home”. In fact, the relationship between parents and children in the early years of a child’s life is a very important determinant of the child’s attitude towards authority in later years. A few decades ago, many children did not have any interaction with their father except when the children were being punished or when they needed money for school fees etc. I know that this has changed a lot in Ghana but I still think that much needs to be done. Parents, especially fathers, have to interact with their children more often and in a very friendly way. They should encourage the children to ask them questions and the parents should be prepared to answer those questions. One major side effect of the discouragement of children from asking their parents questions has been the lack of inquisitiveness on the part of many Africans. This stifles critical thinking and innovation. Respect should not flow only from children to parents but also from parents to children. When parents fault their children, they should be strong enough (yes, it is strength) to say “I am sorry for wronging you”. This doesn’t mean children should stop or would stop respecting parents. Many times, in the past, what we called respect was actually fear; unhealthy fear that deprived children of confidence and boldness. This is one of the reasons why subordinates in the office cannot ask questions of their bosses even when the bosses are obviously wrong. Parents should be interested in their children’s school work and ask them questions about their children’s school work etc.

At Work: The destructive behavior we are talking about follows the Ghanaian to Work. The general Ghanaian child learns the “importance of being in power” from home as he looks at his daddy and the absolute power he wields. The father is unaccountable to anyone, including his wife. After many years of being pushed under, the wife often considers it the easy road to travel to allow the man to do as he sees fit, right or wrong, to the detriment of the children’s well-being and her own well-being. Is it any wonder to you that when the child becomes a boss at work later in his life, he wields absolute power and that his subordinates help him establish this behavior? And that when the subordinate later becomes a boss himself, he continues the tradition? You see, if society were to work in the reverse, Ghana would be the most productive. But unfortunately, God made man such that the more talented you are or the greater the endowment you have, the greater your potential contribution. Thus it is expected that the boss be the one who contributes greatest to the well-being of the company. But if the boss is a typical Ghanaian boss in Ghana, then he goes to work latest and leaves earliest. He thinks that the work should be done by the subordinates....he should only enjoy the high salary and other pecuniary and non- pecuniary benefits. This is the surest recipe for the underdevelopment of any economy!! Again, I must say that some changes have taken place in Ghana in the last few decades. This is attributed mainly by the growth of the private sector in the economy, and the return of some Ghanaians who lived and worked outside Ghana, I believe. In Political Office: If the boss behaves as described above in the work place, where his sphere of domination is restricted only to the company, how do you think he will behave in political office? Are you kidding? How dare you talk back to him or monitor him in any way now that his name is in all the papers as the President or the Minister of so and so, or........ Here, more so than the home or the office, he is more likely to dictate and show disrespect to all others. Misbehavior in the political arena has the greatest negative effect but we should not treat this problem in politics in isolation. It is precisely because we have not developed a culture of respect for people in the entire social spectrum that these political corruptions can continue to flourish in our land. People are too scared to talk. They are too silent and their views don’t count.

In Churches: It is surprising that the same behavior we witness in the home and at the office prevails in the church. Many pastors don’t subject themselves to the kind of discipline expected of people in that crucial leadership role. They behave like the dictator father, the unscrupulous boss, and the corrupt politician described above. When they do wrong and someone points out that wrongdoing, they are quick to blurt out “don’t touch the Lord’s anointed”. They treat the Church as their personal business and misuse the money contributed by members of the church. The members sit by and let this go on because they grew up in the same Ghanaian homes where the father dictated, they go to work where the boss is never wrong, and they observe their politicians who are never punished for corruption.

Charles E. Appeadu, Ph.D., CFA

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