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Opinions of Sunday, 21 March 2004

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Role Models And National Development

Following honours bestowed on Mr. Kofi Annan, the UN chief, and the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Kofi Akosah-Sarpong argues that they can be used as inspirations for national development

Nation building the world over is a complicated process, as West Africa?s experiences show. It can be one step forward, two steps backward. As a development process, national building is so an all-encompassing process that it can simply be put this way: it is a mix of the physical and the metaphysical elements of a society. In the metaphysical realm you need a lot of inspiration and sound encouragement, especially if you come from some parts of Africa where states have collapsed, politics is paralyzed, poverty is high, insecurity is prominent, and distress appears not to go away.

It is here that you need Mr. Kofi Annan and the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, to draw inspiration from, to draw encouragement, more so in an education system that is low in highlighting local personalities who have contributed significantly to the development process. You can say if these two men can surmount the courage to such heights in their differing parts but all leading to progress, then, any Ghanaian or African can do the same in their small little ways by drawing inspiration from them, by imaging them as developmental role models. The great American sociologist, Francis Fukuyama (of The End History fame), borrowing from Plato?s Republic, would say Mr. Annan and Otumfuo have thymos, part of the soul that drives us to do great things, that drive us to progressive causes. That Mr. Annan is great man is unarguable, and so is Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, who has brought dignity and respect to a traditionally ancient institution that has lost its clout because of varied reasons including slave trading, unproductive litigations, mindless corruption, impractical in the development process, and irrational in terms of massive dabbling in juju-marabou to the detriment of practical, rational bread-and-butter matters. As nation builders, what is refracted through Mr. Annan and Otumfuo, nationally and internationally, are their civic virtues of vision, struggle, empathy, fairness, humility, trust, truth, hard work, steadfastness, perseverance, discipline, good judgments and balance, good citizenship, togetherness, and compromise. These civic virtues may appear simple but they are difficult to practice in real life, and they are the key ingredients in the nation building process, in the development process.

Such virtues reflected in Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, saw him presented with an honourary doctorate degree by the University of Ghana for the ?recognition of his tremendous contribution to education, particularly in the setting up of the Otumfuo Education Fund, which has benefited several thousands of students through out the country? and for his efforts at revitalizing the chieftaincy institutions and bringing chieftaincy abreast with contemporary development and contribution to alternative dispute resolution? the Accra-based Evening News reported. In the Otumfuo the huge untapped reservoir of traditional values and experiences that have not been appropriated for long in national development are now on the ascendancy, demonstrating how not to go the Western world for solutions for Ghana, and by extension Africa?s, problems. In Otumfuo, Ghana?s Dr. George Ayittey?s coinage of African solution for African problems is rationalized and realized. Ghanaian and African traditional rulers can effortlessly drink deep from Otumfuo?s indigenous valued-based development process, especially in a West Africa mired in poverty, distresses, and security problems, a situation that is largely West Africans own making. In Otumfuo, Ghanaian and African traditional chieftaincy institutions are appropriated, as Fukuyama reasons, for ?directional historical change through progressive conquest of nature for the purpose of satisfying human desires, a project that we otherwise call economic development.?

If Otumfuo is a local development process magician, then Mr. Kofi Annan is an international one. Despite one being in Kumasi and the other being in New York their developmental actions converge. This week the huge University of Ottawa and Carleton University honoured Mr. Annan for his brilliant international development efforts by bestowing a joint Doctor of Philosophy on him. This is the first time in Canada?s (and Ghana?s) history that two universities have honoured a non-Canadian or Canadian at the same time in this way. Annan told Canadians and the world that it's hard to imagine the UN without Canada. A week before Mr. Annan?s Canada visit, a highly inspired Mr. Seth Awuku, an Ottawa-based immigration lawyer, at Ghana?s 47 independence celebration, remarked that, ?Today our home trained son, Mr. Kofi Annan, heads the United Nations and he is playing high stakes diplomacy at the United Nations in the Iraq crisis. Ladies and gentlemen, does not Mr. Kofi Annan make us proud as a nation. Does he make us feel cuddly, eh?? Mr. Awuku said with all the joy in his heart and a warm applause from the audience.

Mr. Annan, who has thorough grasp of the international development process, told Canadians in accepting not only his doctoral honours but interacting with Canadian students and big-wigs including Prime Minister Paul Martin that the world faces many challenges and Canada can lead other countries to tackle them. "Our first great task should be to restore the world's focus on development," Mr. Annan said with his ancestral Africa in mind. "What we need is a new global consensus?The decisions needed to make our organization more effective will require a high degree of political will among member states--the will to achieve necessary change, but also to make it possible by compromise. Here, too, Canada, with its long tradition of bridge-building among different international constituencies, can play an important role."

Since Mr. Annan and Otumfuo are West Africans, the poorest people in the world, their developmental successes become inspiration for West Africans to exploit to develop themselves. For the goal of role modeling a people under such strain of poverty and insecurity is to demonstrate how the local inspiration for development exist within the regional ethos. Ghana?s Centre for Civic Education and other such central/local government agencies, development organizations, and non-government organizations can emphasizes the developmental drive of the Annans and Otumfuos in national building.


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