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Opinions of Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Military Training No Substitute for Cultural Re-Orientation

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Garden City, New York

August 14, 2014


That Ghana may be going through a traumatic period of moral and cultural decadence can definitely not be gainsaid. But the question of whether enforcing the military training of our youths, especially those undergoing their National Service stints, is necessarily bound to infuse a remarkable sense of discipline, whatever the latter may imply in the lexicon of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), is moot, to say the least. At best, the proposal poignantly underscores the acute desperation and moral dilemma in which the key NDC operatives find themselves, having seminally let the proverbial genie of crass and gross indiscipline out of the bottle (See "Okudzeto Supports Military Training for Service Personnel" The Chronicle / 8/14/14).

The last thing that any astute and/or expert social scientist would advocate is the systematic militarization of a society on the brink of becoming one of the most violent of its kind in the contemporary postcolonial polity. Perhaps the most instructive approach to the question of the exponential rise in the spate of indiscipline in present-day Ghanaian society, is to critically examine the role and contribution registered by the institution of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) in the perpetration, and perpetuation, of violence in Ghanaian society during the course of at least the last forty years.

And I am quite certain that once the balance sheet has been meticulously drawn, it would become indisputably clear that the last avenue from which to seek the massive infusion of moral and cultural discipline into Ghanaian society is the Armed Forces. And regarding the latter, I will include all the military academies and paramilitary establishments in postcolonial Africa. As far as I am concerned, and have been able to verify and ascertain, the Ghana Armed Forces is the single most violent institution in the country. And so, really, what we need to be seriously discussing, as a nation, is how to reconfigure the GAF from its traditional role of "a domestically alien occupation force" into an organic and socially responsible institution of sociocultural and political transformation, before we can wisely begin to think of introducing this hitherto destructive juggernaut into the fragile lives of our youths, the proverbial leaders of tomorrow.

I also don't know that a mere six months of military training for our National Service personnel will be adequate in radically transforming Ghanaian society, as the likes of Mr. Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, the Deputy Minister for Tertiary Education, appear to be fanatically pushing. Discipline is, strictly speaking, an attitude of the mind systematically cultured or induced over the greater part of the formative years of a human being, spanning anywhere between 5 and 19 years, depending on social circumstances. In our time, it has been theoretically infused into the school curriculum, that is from Pre-K through 12th Grade. By 18 years old, on average, when the trainee is deemed ready for college, the requisite moral and spiritual values, as well as cultural values, would have become firmly established in the psyche of the product of contemporary education.

Of course, there are also the extra-curricular aspects of this well-calibrated and formally structured experience. What irks me most when it comes to a serious discussion of the National Service Scheme, however, is the crassly dishonest omission of the name of the slain founder of the same. And it is all to be expected that the slayers of the immortalized Gen. I. K. Acheampong would find it utterly embarrassing, and even downright annoying, to invoke the name of, perhaps, the most humiliated political scapegoat in recent postcolonial Ghanaian history. And it is rather ironic, though quite predictable, that the proverbial stone which the destroyers cast down the ravine should become the foundational block of our national conversation on discipline, accountability, probity, transparency and justice.