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Opinions of Monday, 5 June 2017

Columnist: Augustine Akwasi Appiah

Read John Mahama's book before you pick Obama's ‘Charity Begins at Home’

Not long ago, one afternoon, I realised the harm I have inflicted on myself. It saddened me. In fact, it caused me terrible pains. It was an inexcusable anguish because I had allowed it to happen. It was avoidable but, hey, obstruction played a role. And what sort of obstruction was that? You might be wondering about this obstacle without even knowing the harm; it is not the corollary of a topic that is necessarily sort after, the chief, subject matter is the priority, hence, let me walk you through something which is very revealing.

I am interested in telling you what was once my personal shortfall. The same thing I considered a harm. I am not interested in just telling you, or perhaps, attempting to solicit your help, but I am motivated to share it because I think it might also be yours too. And perhaps, you may do a reconsideration. This is a harm I have no doubt some of you have, very contemptuous, but indeed, nearly everyone has once been guilty of pre-emption based on perception. Again, pre-emptious. It is a harm caused by an inaction.

And when did I realise that I have this shortfall? That which if I am able to overcome, will broaden my gamut of appreciation, but “This will not give you money," a friend retorted when I once brought up the topic. The friend told me "Man, this is not the era for these things. It is the time to make money. Achieve fame. You need power to be influential in society. You will be respected if you chase what modern society values. Better, find a way to be influential. Forget about this your so-called personal shortfall. Nobody knows. Many have it. Pretend it doesn't exist, what is valuable about this? Concern yourself with living a 'good life'." He might have meant well.

When did I realise this shortfall? In 2016. And it is very unfortunate that many years have been wasted. It indicts my intuitive ability, for want of a better expression. So this harm was painful; it challenged my quest to seek knowledge.

The assessment and evaluation of my knows and know-nots, and for the purpose of this write-up, it is the know-nots, did not dawn on me in my couch or on a bed. Not even on any of my quiet moments. It happened to me in a filling station mart! Just last year, 2016.

Here is the process that led to the realisation. I had entered the filling station mart to do business for the company I was working for. After the business, I sighted a book authored by Lee Kuan Yew, the Founder of Singapore. I knew excerpts from the book because I had read in the development literature. But I hadn’t seen the book itself. I am talking about From Third World to First, The Singapore Story, 1965-2000. This is a book written by the doyen of Singapore's development.

Now, as I am flipping through the pages of the book, I knew beforehand the reason I am interested in it. I am encouraged by the desire for different perspectives on issues. My other self quizzed: to the extent of getting in-depth knowledge about Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore and his development strategies? My curious self retorted "yes" because the man is a great person and second, Ghana envies Singapore. It is true.

Truly, often times, discussants on Radio/TV station programmes sparingly cite the great strides that have been achieved by countries that attained Self Rule in the same period Britain's colonialism ended in Ghana. Again, they mention the development status of countries that achieved independence years after Ghana had started determining its own destiny. The major element that forces panellists to do the comparison is informed by the slow pace of development in Ghana, underlined by, inter alia, institutional malaise. Singapore is one of the many specimen in the development comparative analysis. There are several mind-boggling debates about this aspect of development in comparative politics. This is just by the way, I will flag a discussion on that for another time, but for now let us revert to the focus of this piece.

As I was perusing the book, suddenly, it befell on me the harm I want to talk about. It struck like this: "Ghana is also an envy of many countries?" I said "Yes." Then another leg of the question, "There are Founding Fathers/Leaders of Ghana who have autobiographies and authored books about countries, which of them have I read?" Recalling the names of Our Great Leaders, including The Post-1992 Leaders; I went dumb and numb. "None" was the obvious answer to my own question.

On that afternoon, in my soliloquy, it was revealed to me that I have not read any book authored by The Founders/Leaders of Our Motherland. That is the harm I want to illustrate to you. The Harm and Shortfall of not Reading the Books written by the Founders/Leaders of Ghana. And why should I be fixated with reading them? Then a thought dropped suddenly like a coin: that it is because I have only come across snippets of information about them from speeches, and books by other authors. And of course, what I have been taught in school about them and Ghana. So on that day, I was hurt by the ineptitude of not reading directly from the Founders/Leaders of Ghana.

In 2009, I remember the eagerness and enthusiasm with which I read The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. Meanwhile, it had not occurred to me to read Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah.

As a Ghanaian, I should know the philosophies, values and the worldview of Dr. J. B Danquah as espoused in his books. Likewise, President Nkrumah. And sure, the Big Six, among others but it is not enough for the readings to be in piecemeal or excerpts. I must know about their works at full length as far as the books exist, the more reason there is an axiom that a tongue does not die.

Getting first-hand information directly but not only reported forms from the Leaders of our great nation is very important because acquainting with and comprehending their philosophies, actions, achievements, values systems and their policy recommendations for Our Motherland is an education in itself.

Imagine a scenario where you are on board an aeroplane, seated beside a non-Ghanaian. He opens up a conversation with you and it is about Ghana. I know you will relish the idea of talking about your country with a foreigner who seems so interested in the history and affairs of Ghana. Then to buttress a point, he states a statement from a book by Dr. Nkrumah. He enquires if you are aware and you sincerely tell him that you don't know about the book or the statement. In the course of the conversation, he mentions several books by Ghanaian Leaders, including My First Coup D'etat by the ex-President, John Mahama, to inform the discussions. You accepted and he realised you don't know about your own Great Leaders whom you are so proud of.

This is the personal shortfall I disdain so much.

In my view, the manner and effort Our Great Leaders unleash their industry into building Ghana must be understood. How they become who they are should be appreciated. One must not just be elated by the paltriness that the Leader comes from her hometown, attended the same alma mater or he emerged as a Leader from her political party. For me, we should not comfortably close the pages on Our Leaders with such rudimentary assertions.

President J. A kuffuor is a stateman loved by all and sundry, hence if he has authored a book, get it and voyage with him on his worldview.

On my journey to understand Our Great Leaders, I started with a random select of Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonisation, by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. It is an interesting work by our statesman. You can do a great analysis of the persona of Dr. Nkrumah if you read the book. It sums up his mindset. He was a scholar. To have leverage to channel out his philosophies, he coined the term, Consciencism. In the book, one encounters Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as a very fine Philosopher who theorises the practical foundation of his political life. President Nkrumah was not an Osagyefo who descended from the gossamer heaven. He was a learned Philosopher who practised his theories.

It has been reported that former President J. J. Rawlings is expected to release a memoir on his 70th Birthday.
And it falls on this month, June 2017. The book will chronicle his life and you will be able to do a critical account of him based on it vis-a-vis other sources.

In the end, I want to emphasise the widely quoted maxim that charity begins at home by inspiring Ghanaians not to read only what others have written about Our Leaders but to make it a responsibility to understand them from their own narrations as well. This is the rock upon which you would stand a better chance to be more insightful about your leaders and country.

God bless our Motherland Ghana.
Thanks for reading and good bye.


Augustine Akwasi Appiah

augustine.appiah.a@gmail.com