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Opinions of Friday, 7 June 2013

Columnist: Ayaric, Ghanatta

Long Walk to Freedom!

“The several tribes within the Protectorate have been at peace. The Colony has within it all the essentials for prosperity. Rich in gold, in valuable timber, in soil, which will produce almost any commodity of trade value, it is already attracting the attention of capitalists, and with finances and trade in a satisfactory state, there is no reason why it should not advance in material prosperity and bring wealth to English merchants and native producers and workers”.(Gold Coast annual colonial report, 1895). Thanks to my friend Manasseh Azure Awuni for posting this on Facebook!

Yes, given Ghana’s abundant mineral, natural and human resources, it’s mind-boggling that we still haven’t been able to bring about the kind of material prosperity that should give the majority of Ghanaians access to the basic necessities of life and comforts of civilization! We live in the 21st Century, in an age of advanced technology and extremely remarkable human feats which the Neanderthals would have betted on their protective animal skin coats as being absolutely impossible. And they were right! I wouldn’t bet on my winter coat that Ghana will have adequate drinking water and uninterrupted power supply in the immediate future, lest to mention first class highways, railways, airports, schools, universities, hospitals and functioning institutions!

Why, because our finances, trade and general attitude towards nation-building are nothing to write home about. Foreign aid and loans don’t develop a nation neither do paper qualifications and lip-service to democratic ideals! Grabbing, looting and robbing have become the order of the day. Hardly a day passes without reports of avoidable waste and mismanagement making the news. From SADA, GYEEDA, GFA, judgment debts to ex-gratia benefits, the list of our malpractices and misplaced priorities is long! It’s the same old story! We don’t get it, and we just don’t care! Ghanaians, Time has left the Stone Age far and long behind it!

If democracy is to have any meaning at all, then it should be seen in the context of the extent to which political leadership and the citizenry are able to sustain the process and make it function as an instrument of meaningful socio-economic change, change in which development is evenly spread across the country and making it possible for people to live decent lives while laying a solid foundation for coming generations. We are not in this life for eternity! The passage is shorter than we think. It’s “one big road with lots of signs, so when you are riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind…/… put your vision to reality”, to re-echo the words of the Right Honourable Robert Nesta Marley in his song, “Wake up and live.”

Like blind people left alone in a labyrinth, we seem to have lost focus on the essentials of nation-building and material prosperity. If things have not already fallen apart, they are on the verge of doing so. And again, why? Simply because we are still groping aimlessly in our self-constructed maze of economic rot and political narrow-mindedness which are fast taking root as the accepted norm. And in all that, there is no Moses in sight! I’m still looking forward to the birth of Ayi Kwei Armah’s beautiful ones, and full of hope that if they are ever conceived, the system won’t kill them in a womb in which the umbilical cord has taken the form and condition of our roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, and state institutions. If those yet to be born are to make the difference in their beauty, but have to go through the ordeal the ordinary Ghanaian has been experiencing over the years, I solemnly pray the Most High to change the genetic formula and provide them with genes that are unlike those in their parents, genes that should equip them with brains and hearts that would make them loathe our current suicidal tendencies, amongst many; greed, bribery and corruption, political opportunism, ethnic extremism, civic and social irresponsibility, bureaucratic sluggishness and the attitude of reaping where one has sown no seed or wiped a brow!

Indeed, Ghana has all the “essentials for prosperity”, but in themselves the “essentials” will not bring the desired prosperity. On the contrary, they seem to have become a living curse, breeding greed and causing insatiable hunger in those who have the power to turn things around and make them benefit the majority, not just themselves and their families and cronies or their die-hard and heartless capitalist partners both at home and abroad. Today, we are shouting all over the country from North to South and East to West about this and that, reducing everything to partisan politics and tribal affiliation; NPP, NDC, PPP, PNC and what not, Ewes, Ashantis, Akyems, Northerners and whatever, as if we came out of our mothers’ wombs with an order from the Creator that unless we defend these man-made labels tooth and nail, we would be made to answer for the negligence on Judgment Day!

We may choose to belong to the one or other political party, but we need to let reason and understanding prevail in the choice and guide our dealings with regard to national duty and nation-building. Anything short of this is not worth propagating the political doctrines we are busy copying and using to hoodwink the electorate. Reducing poverty to the minimum cum the welfare of the majority is the only political ideology worth defending and dying for. And come to think of the apparent extremist attitudes clogging inter-ethnic dialogue in our country, one is tempted to ask the rather silly but pertinent question; which single Ghanaian ever chose to be born an Ashanti, Ewe, Adangbe, or a Ga, Dagomba, Brong, Bulsa, Frafra, Kusasi, Fanti, Mamprusi, Nabdan, Komkomba, Dagarti or as a member of any of the unmentioned linguistic groups here that populate our country, and which we burden with the label “tribe”? Are we really that different? When Shylock the Jew was always being humiliated by the Christians in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice as a “misbeliever”, “cut-throat” and “dog”, he sharply retorted by asking; “…hath not a Jew eyes…hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is?” Yes, show me the Dagomba, Ga, Ashanti, Bulsa, Ewe, Kassena or Brong who is an exception in this context and I’d regret having been created a human being and not a rat or cockroach!

It is suicidal not to see our diversity in language and culture as a source of beauty and strength, but as a cudgel with which to smite those who are not members of our individual socio-linguistic groups. Can we afford to abandon the positive aspects of diversity, the potential to gather inputs from various parts and perspectives and mould them into a common rhythm, direction and harmony? Using the keys of the piano as an image in a lecture he delivered in South Africa in the 1920s, Dr. Kwegir Aggrey, one of the most famous educated Ghanaians at the time, and who became the first Ghanaian Vice-Principal of Achimota School, made the following observation:

“I don’t care what you know; show me what you can do. Many of my people who get educated don’t work, but take to drink. They see white people drink, so they think they must drink too. They imitate the weakness of the white people, but not their greatness. They won’t imitate a white man working hard... If you play only the white notes on a piano you get only sharps; if only the black keys you get flats; but if you play the two together you get harmony and beautiful music.” (Wikipedia)

Dr. Aggrey’s message here is clear enough to demand further commentary in this write up. Suffice it to remark that it sums up our negative mindset with regard to our ethnic diversity and also hints at the reasons that now largely explain why material prosperity for the majority has eluded us despite our country’s potential wealth. Yes, we excel in imitating “the weakness of white people, but not their greatness.” And our own greatness, the wisdom of our ancestors and the thriving kingdoms of the past, has become nothing but a nostalgic figment of our warped minds! It is a miracle that the putrid stench of the self-made rot has not suffocated us till now!

But all is not lost. There is hope in Ghana’s Youth, in the no-nonsense flames of defiance against the killing of your dreams that I see in your eyes and read in your minds! I’m convinced that you will rise up to the task of cleaning the stables otherwise the stench will kill you, kill your children and kill your children’s children! The rot is raging wild, like the sporadic fire outbreaks reported in various parts of the country in the past few months, weeks and days, and it is threatening to stifle or cut short in the prime of your lives the dream of a decent and peaceful life, as evident in the case of Raphael Tagoe, the 22 year-old electrician and resident of Lartebiokorshie, Accra, who hanged himself about a week ago. His heartbreaking last words could be coming from your lips: “I am shattered, frustrated and depressed. I do not know what to do with my life again and have decided to end it all…” (Boy, 22, commits suicide / Ghanaweb, 1/07/2013).

The youth can, should and will make the positive difference that my generation has woefully failed to bring about. But firstly, you need to eschew tribalism and partisan politicking among others! Above all, believe in yourselves, hard work, knowledge, understanding, and in Ghana, a real better Ghana built on the ideals of freedom, justice and happiness! God bless our homeland!

Ghanatta Ayaric, Hamburg, Germany

Email: ghanattaa@gmail.com