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Opinions of Sunday, 6 November 2005

Columnist: Abdullai Ahmed

Ghana: what is the way forward?

In my article entitled ?The Ghanaian Brain-Drain: who is to blame?? (GhanaWeb: 12-08-2004), I argued that until our Big Men (politicians, diplomats, chiefs, and so on) are able to recruit and retain Ghanaian professionals and intellectuals residing in the Diaspora, the development of the Republic will be almost nil. I cited and backed my argument with few ideas presented by patriotic individuals, whose articles were also posted on GhanaWeb.

I must say the response I received from those who read my article were very encouraging. Indeed, that article?among others?prompted many Ghanaian students and professionals to also consider the brain drain topic in subsequent debates (formal and informal) aimed at finding viable solutions to the various political, economic and social problems of Ghana.

The question I wish to ask now is: Why do our leaders have to wait for international entities?as World Bank or IMF?to tell them about the negative impact of brain drain in Ghana? Since many of our political and economic thinkers in government have some type of Western education, why are they so silent on the issue?

Fellow country men and women, we can talk and write much about the brain drain issue, but until our leaders begin to establish the necessary policies and systems to ensure the conditions that will allow all Ghanaian students and professionals to realize their full potentials, the brain drain will continue to slow down our national development at all levels. To summarize my point, here is what Mr. Jah Josiah (a Ghanaian in Norway, I believe) had to say in response to a recent article on brain drain posted on GhanaWeb:

?When there is no moral in society and corruption has assumed the seat of leadership, no honest man will stay in that. I cannot sell my integrity and conscience just because I want to be patriotic and keep licking the [?] of people, who may have no technical ideas but call themselves politicians. If the corruption stops and there is opportunity for us to work without interruptions, we will come back home.?

I share Mr. Josiah?s pain, as I will not go the extra mile to render my service to the nation under the leadership of individuals who have no respect for human right, and no concrete vision as to ?where Ghana has come? and ?where it intends to go.? Likewise, I will not work with leaders who draft their plans and make decisions along tribal or ethnic lines. The nation is greater than any single tribe. Let me add (for I know some readers are quick at drawing negative conclusions) that I am not accusing any Ghanaian leader of tribalism. However, I do think our leaders owe it to themselves?and to the nation?to build a united Ghana devoid of tribalism and illiteracy in any attempt to turn the brain drain into brain gain. We cannot afford to ignore tribalism in the developmental process. I urge those who argue that tribalism is not a major problem in Ghana to visit some of our fine secondary schools and universities to draw some lessons out of the behaviors of the youth.

Furthermore, it is one thing for our leaders to listen to the Chinese, American and British investors and policy makers as they attempt to develop the nation. It is a different thing to sell the basic rights and integrity of the good people of Ghana in the name of business.

So, what we need in Ghana is responsible leadership: from the top down to the bottom. What we need is government that will listen more and more to the people, recruit and retain the right leaders at all levels, and execute the necessary programs or systems that will not only solve national problems, but also ensure a level playing-field between domestic and international partners.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) combined cannot reverse the brain drain. This is not to say these two political parties have no leadership or cannot be trusted. Indeed, reversing the brain drain is a task bigger than any political party or any single institution in Ghana.

In fact, with the right policies and steps it will take some time to convince, for instance, Ghanaian doctors working in New York or London, to return home and serve their people. Equally speaking, it will take some time for government to ensure that our Ghanaian students and graduates are given the necessary tools and training close or equal to international standards that will enable them to remain home and work for decent salary. In any case, the necessary systems must be put in place to ensure that the right people are recruited and paid for the right professions.

We all know about the crippling health sector (the exodus of Ghanaian doctors and nurses to the West). But what are the concrete steps taken so far by the present administration to deal with the problem?

All in all, no Ghanaian leader in his or her right mind will dispute the fact that government must do more to reverse the brain drain. Nevertheless, while government is doing its best, we Ghanaians in the Diaspora also need to do our part. We need to organize and show more interest in returning home to serve the nation as we pursue our individual objectives. We need to mobilize and speak with one voice about the brain drain issue. Above all, we need to cut all the tribal strings that often serve as the basis of our group-objectives, as we all know about the various tribal associations with no concrete vision for the nation as whole.

I believe the good people of Ghana don?t necessary need people from other nations to give them direction as to ?where to go? in terms of political and socio-economic development. What is missing is a certain network of ideas, experiences and aspirations by all Ghanaian students and professionals (home and abroad) who are determine to move the nation forward.

Fellow Ghanaians, allow me to use this opportunity to call upon you to JOIN Save Ghana Now Association (SAGNA). It is a non-profit organization that?among other initiatives?aims to organize a united group of Ghanaians who are ready to serve the nation. I am convinced that SAGNA is a right step in the struggle to reverse the brain drain and build a united Ghana devoid of tribalism, corruption and socio-economic injustices. It is time for new thinking, new debates, and new steps in the right direction for a better Ghana.

Thank you for your attention. God bless the Republic of Ghana.

For more information, visit Save Ghana Now Association online: Author?s Full Name: Abdullai Ahmed, Student, Fordham University (New York) Member: Save Ghana Now Association; Former Webmaster, Student World Assembly?Fordham University Chapter.
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