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Opinions of Friday, 19 January 2007

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Some Refinements On The Development Fronts

To advocates of opening, refining, and appropriating Ghanaian cultural values for development, there are gradually emerging talks in Ghana by some elites in this direction. From Health Minister, Courage Quashigah, to former President Jerry Rawlings to Dr Moses Adibo, former Director of Ghana Medical Services, to Chieftaincy Affairs and Culture Minister, Sampson Kwaku Boafo, there are signs that Ghanaian elites are gradually thinking about their country’s development process within their indigenous values first and any other second. A correction of a fatal error committed by earlier Ghanaian and African elites. From both the history and experiences throughout the world the thinking is that you cannot progress sustainably if some values within your cultural base inhibit your progress, no matter how rich you are endowed with natural resources. The strategy is to understand your yourself – that’s your environment or culture – first, then be convinced that certain values inhibit progress, then refine the values that cannot work in today’s development settings, then mix the refined and the already good values in the context of the on-going global development values in your progress.

This development thinking has come about because earlier Ghanaian and African elites, perhaps overwhelmed by getting independence from the European colonialists after protractedly long struggles, could not think holistically about their respective society’s development process in the context of their indigenous values first and the enabling aspects of their colonial and global values second. If they were to think in such approach it would have helped them not only get rid of some of the strong impurities within the culture that are counter-productive in today’s global development process climate but prominently open up their cultural values for policy-making in the overall development process.

Courage Quashigah’s admonition that Ghanaian elites should think more about refining the inhibitions within their culture as a way of opening up Ghana’s progress, once again, demonstrates the intense implications of the Ghanaian/African culture in the development process. Quashigah’s thinking comes on the heels of former President Jerry Rawlings giving insight into how juju does not work and how his military regime dealt this inhibiting issue by executing a juju priest involved in a ritual murder in the very village he committed the act to prove to gullible Ghanaians that juju and progress cannot go together in the development process. Dr. Adibo’s observation that Ghanaians of all stations of life are driven more by superstitious beliefs, which inform their believe that some diseases, such as convulsion, “are not supposed to be taken to hospital but to spiritual churches,” reveal the serious implications of the culture in Ghana’s progress.

The relevance of the Rawlings, Quashigah, and Dr. Adibo remark, which are heavily drawn from their experiences in their respective activities in the Ghanaian development process, are that they once again not only tell us the implications of the culture in progress but the fact that the elites, as directors of progress, have a long way to go in their attempts to develop Ghana. This new thinking has come about simply because the earlier elites, either because of colonial propaganda, for economic reasons, that African values are primitive or the education they had had which did not emphasis African values and experiences, had weak grasp about what is development, attempting fruitlessly to think within the values of foreign values and very, very less within their own indigenous values in the development process, especially when making policies.

It is in this sad atmosphere that in Ghana, as are other African states, the rich cultural values and experiences of the people are appropriated openly in policy making, and the lack of which have not enabled policy-makers and other elites to refine some of the inhibitions within the culture that stifle progress. It is this long-running lack of attempts to think within Ghanaian values for national progress that a large number of Ghanaians still think in 2006 “that the death of someone is always caused by an old lady," as Dr. Adibo is quoted by the Accra-based Ghanaian Times as saying. If asking questions help refine issues, then Dr. Adibo asked Ghanaians to ask themselves, "How come it is almost always an old lady" who cause death?

Of extreme relevance in this context is Rawlings’ current thinking, which will help brighten certain aspects of the Ghanaian/African values that have been inhibiting progress. Having ruled for almost 20 years and having heavily helped usher in the World Bank and the International Monetary Bank (IMF) programs, after years of disaster largely because of wrong development thinking, Rawlings has the remarkable leverage to think through Ghana’s development process holistically – revealing what worked, what didn’t work, and why this worked and why this didn’t work. More than any other Head of State, Rawlings exemplify some misunderstandings at Ghana’s development front. His initial revolution has come about because of some inhibitions within Ghana’s development process.

From his remarks of the implications of juju and other such thinking emanating from the Ghanaian culture, Rawlings reveal an equally weak grasp of the Ghana’s development process, as are large number of other elites. Rawlings’ long-running revolution, and later civilian democratic regimes, failed to hybridize Ghanaian indigenous values with the country’s colonial and global values, as happens in Canada. More seriously is Rawlings’s regimes, armed with military apparatuses to speed up progress, failures to help refine some of the serious inhibitions within the Ghanaian culture for progress. As a sign of confusion in the development fronts, from his initial socialist rantings to his remarkable marriage with the World Bank, the IMF, and other international development agencies, after dabbling in some socialism, and from his own utterances both as a private, retired President and as a high-profile public official, Rawlings has touted certain aspects of the culture such as dabbling in juju that are deemed to be irrational and unhealthy for progress.

Now there is about-turn in his development thinking. Maybe at that time he was immature and has not thought deeply about the implications of certain parts of the Ghanaian values in country’s progress before mounting his revolutions – a lot of Ghanaian elites fall within this rank in the context of Ghana’s progress. Today, Rawlings, matured, older, worldly-minded, much more reflective and meditative, could contemplate on pains of Ghana’s development process from his vast experiences, struggles, contacts, international exposure, and the Ghana’s development history, both locally and internationally, and help sow a better and much more genuine development thinking based first on Ghana’s indigenous values, her colonial legacies and the enabling aspects of global development values.



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