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Opinions of Saturday, 18 June 2016

Columnist: Charles Lwanga Siewobr

Sense of Urgency: A tool for national development

‘Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value’ (Jim Rohn). However, I contend that without sense of urgency, a nation loses out in this fast-paced terraqueous globe. Not only that, such a nation stagnates in its quest towards extricating its nationals from the shackles of poverty, deprivation and squalor.

Ghana is one nation that does not place a premium on urgency. It is no respecter of time. This lassitude manifests in the way we carry out our duties both in the private and the public sectors.

Ghana is endowed with very talented and skilled human resource. Our failure to respect time and perform our duties according to timelines has always been our bane. Most Ghanaians do not exercise urgency in their dealings with others.

The worst culprits are those who work in the public sector. For instance, obtaining a simple document from any institution will take hundreds of days. We are often quick to blame the system for how things are done.

But the question is: who are running this system? This blame on the system while failing to acknowledge our own weaknesses and tackling same with the legerity it deserves serves as the breeding grounds for corruption (as monies will change hands) and its concomitant effects on national development.

The public servant who is paid by the sweat of the hoi polloi will not discharge the duties for which they are paid. They would rather waste your time with unnecessary delays and excuses. The excuses range from ‘the person to approve your request is not around’ to ‘our printers have run out of toners or cartridges’. This is simply unfathomable.

We are often quick to lay the blame at the doorstep of the system as though the system was operated by robots, and not humans. Those working in this system deliberately stymie the progress of work which could be done within a day with the hope that any individual or organisation which needs to be urgent attention will grease their palms to get things done.

Last year, I went to the Registrar General’s Department to have my company re-registered. It took me five solid months (December 2015 to April 2016) to get simple company re-registration, which ordinarily should not take more than thirty minutes, completed. We have come to accept this as the standard practice in Ghana. This is how we drive away foreign investors but turn around to blame unfavourable economic conditions.

This canker cuts across all facets of our national life. At national functions, the ‘big man’ or ‘big woman’ is always the last to arrive. To make things worse, he or she will not arrive at the scheduled time. These ‘big persons’ will take additional twenty to thirty minutes to arrive, that is if you are lucky. He or she wants to be seen by all and sundry and further offered standing ovation on arrival. It is, therefore, apposite for these persons to be the last to arrive to achieve this phantom goal.

These ‘big men’ or ‘big women’ who should be setting good examples for all to follow are usually the last persons to arrive and without shame make long speeches. Many are times when functions have to delay starting because the ‘big man’ or ‘big woman’ failed to show up at the appointed time. Meanwhile, these same people, after they have wasted everybody’s time with their late arrival and long stale speeches, will be the first to leave the function. How pathetic can we be as a nation?

We have never been exact with time. It is not surprising to hear expressions such as: ‘The meeting or function is scheduled to commence around 8:00 am’. What time is around 8:00 am? It is the same attitude with which we approach our duties, both in private and public life.

I am jolted to put this piece together following the delay in the publication of opinion pieces I submitted to one of the leading online news portals in Ghana. It has been the trademark of this news portal to publish articles submitted to it very late. Note that these articles or opinion pieces do not get edited when they are published eventually. So I ask: why the delay in the publication?

It is time we valued our own time and that of others. Time lost cannot be regained, so the cliché goes. It is only when we do the right thing at the right time and at the right place that we can collectively take and move our dear country, Ghana, out of the woods in which we currently find ourselves.