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Opinions of Friday, 23 November 2007

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

The Land Of Discontent: Are Things Falling Apart?

HOW OPTIMISTIC OR PESSIMISTIC ARE YOU ABOUT LIFE IN GHANA?

ALL OUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ARE STORES OF LIFE EXPERIENCES THAT WE GO THROUGH AT ONE TIME OR THE OTHER. THESE EXPERIENCES ARE REFLECTIONS OF THE VOLUME OF CONSCIOUSNESS THAT WE BUILD AS WE GROW ALONG LIFE. THAT CONSCIOUSNESS WAS AND IS THE PRODUCT OF WHAT EVER WE BELIEVE TO BE “REAL”.

If you were to interview people in Ghana chances are you would not find more than one in hundred who would tell you that he or she was happy with life as a citizen of a land that otherwise should have been of flourished life and hope. Each would describe his or her financial burdens, the spate of insecurity that has engulfed the country. Particularly, you will hear soaring unemployment rate, unprecedented magnitude of armed- robbery with modus operandi that is quite alien to the Ghanaian society, constant power interruptions--thank Onyakropon- Twedeampon, for sending down the rains to fill our dried barrels at Akosombo and Kpong---and the stories of rising prices, gross economic mismanagement and non- existence of official regret for ineptitude by elected men and women who have disappointed their electorates. The lazy ones who do not want to get their foreheads lit with sweat expect mother Ghana and its systems to cater for them. They are so quick to get angry when the system and mother Ghana do not recognize their existence.

You can also find those with gross arrogance and zero amount of humility. These ones are those with the view that their positions are so indispensable. They are so obsessed with this wrong thinking until they find out one day that no position is after all permanent. .

Even the rich and famous among us have their share of Ghana’s complex ever growing problems. This category of Ghanaians, in fact their wealth notwithstanding, neither enjoy life nor freedom. The encumbrance of their wealth added to the obsessive fears that they are about losing their wealth destroys the joy that ought to be part of their lives. These people also sometimes complain that the next generation will be worse off than the current one. The rich in Ghana also have little hope in the future for their children.

Despite the stable government we have and all its political trimmings, most Ghanaians today are more pessimistic about the country’s leaders’ ability to solve problems than they were years ago. Majority of Ghanaians cannot see nor feel the so-called the “wind of freedom and opportunities” blowing across the country.

The only very small group which is relatively happy is made up of Shakers and Movers. By their very nature, they move faster, taking more risks literally and figuratively and investing more in their world than their less active counterparts. They are very shrewd.

WHY PEOPLE FEEL SO HAPLESS AND HOPELESS: First of all, there are three main reasons why only very few people see the changes taken place in Ghana. I agree that some are politically motivated.

1) Interestingly, most of us (this writer included) suffer from the “Quietism syndrome.” Quietism is the far-out way of viewing the universe. In a more specific term, it is the belief that the past, present and future are all illusions of our consciousness, and that, in reality; the past, present and the future are one if not the same. The adherences of this belief are of the view that nothing can be changed by God or humankind. With Quietism mind-set there is no reason to try to better one’s existence because there is no future----I wonder why!

2) To be economically and emotionally successful in today’s real world, one needs to be part of “the game”. The reason is that wealth is a game. To be part of that game one needs a good communication and reliable information. Unfortunately, the institutions which control the flow of information to the people—be it in churches, mosques, electronic and print media, schools and colleges or bureaucracy—give wrong information about events around the world and in our own backyards. With this misinformation Ghana has bred a society which constantly is restless and wants more, regardless of the fact that no means are made available for the acquisition of such sudden change and taste. Strangely enough, no one is teaching how to generate the money to meet that change. Lack of proper knowledge also creates fear, uncertainties, anger, hopelessness and haplessness.

3) Our culture and belief systems in Ghana have contributed to our perception of freedom and opportunities. Our culture and belief systems sometimes impair our ability to make a head way in life. Look at our chieftaincy institution and its associated disputes and its inability to choose qualified candidates for the various vacant thrones. There is also a relationship between our religiosity and economic status. The poorer we are, the more likely we become religious. Or is it the more religious we’re the poorer we become?

On the social front, how many perfect- healthy friends and family members do you know in Ghana who have done absolutely nothing since they left (JSS) junior secondary school? Their mind-set is so low that they have no expectations in life, let alone to make the effort. A good number of them have given up on life so soon that trying to help them is as difficult as trying to revive a dead body at the Korle- Bu Mortuary. If you think I am exaggerating just talk to a fellow Ghanaian you meet-- be it inside or outside Ghana, and you will get closer to this view of mine.

Yes, things are hard, but there are people who against all odds were able to recover and pick themselves up. Being responsible and working hard are not things that come naturally to anyone. One has to work for it.

I am sure you know quite a few successful people in Ghana---I do not mean cocaine dealers or “connection men and women” or “419 agents.” I am talking about the old –fashioned success--which was gotten through hard work in dignity. These Successful men and women in our society in the past---and present--- were not coned men and women. They never traded in illicit drugs nor were they “cheaters”. Most of them never had any special talent or education, but whatever they turned their hands on became gold.

Some Asantes had to migrate to Western Ghana to engage in cocoa cultivating. You would find some Akwapims and Ewes in Central and Western Regions seriously engaged in the cultivation of cocoa and other cash crops. Those who inherited rich forest lands like Brongs and Sefwis, Akyems and rich gold sand like Wassaws, Denkyiras and Adansis produced very prominent rich men and women. The sweat of these men and women built our leading universities and countless number of schools, the sea ports that we have failed to expand, many factories that collapsed in our time and perhaps the best roads that we have in the country, to mention only these few. The answer lays not so much in what they do or did, but so much in what they feel or felt and think or thought, of themselves and their potentials.

Unfortunately, we are taught to be victims of fate. This has been a self-fulfilling prophecy, which does no one any good except the politicians who enjoy the status quo so as to take our minds off from the real issues. I will like to advise that under no circumstance should the Ghanaian look up to the politician as a savior. They cannot provide better schools because they can afford to pay for private schools or send their children abroad to colleges.

They cannot give you security but they can engage very active guards to protect them while they sleep. The sad side of this greediness is that Policemen and women who police these politicians 24/7 were trained by the tax payer, clothed by the tax payer and paid by the same tax payer. The security demand of these politicians have put an unprecedented pressure on the Police High Command such that the Ghana Police is unable to get the number for other essential police services needed by Ghanaian people.

Even the “East -Legonites” are no exception to this discontent and apprehension. The evident is that, the happiness gap is waning very fast among these people. They are very scared at the high level of insecurity that has engulfed the city. In fact one is not very sure of who will be the next victim of this violent and deadly crime.

Interestingly, there is a small coalition of people who think that we live in incredibly heroic times in Ghana. To them, there is more creativity than before: There are more opportunities, more intellectual capital to tap into and more actions than before. There is more choice of food than ever before. The truth is the Ghanaian has never been sicker and medically hungry than this before. Our society is increasingly driven by measures of “financial success”--by any means necessary. Unfortunately, this has created a level of unprecedented stress. Medically, this also has linked to many chronic health conditions. So if you are a physician you can be up to your armpits in people who need your attention. If you are into finances and other pecuniary business, there is money flying around for a sound investment. “All you have to do is to convince people to invest in you and your ideas.”

They also talk about “freedom and opportunities.” Freedom and opportunities have been used to mean many things at one time or the other. Some meanings are even confusing. But, certain aspects of freedom and opportunities are common to all. It all depends on who is doing the counting.

Those with optimistic views feel there is hope. If your interest is music there are more record companies and recording studios than you can ever get around to it. You don’t even have to know how to write or sing a song to put out a CD. If your interest is acting then you can Agya-Koo your dreams, and laugh all the way to the bank. There are more wealth creativity and resources in Ghana that we can ever use-up. The sun shines on our lands and grants us vast richness.

When it comes to communication we now have smart cell phones which do not require the user to be smart any more. One does not have to remember his or her own phone numbers let alone that of friends, but as long as one can send and receive messages no cause for alarm. There is no need to remember anything—not even directions to ones own village—any more. We will soon have GPS phones. We shall sooner than later “Yahoo and Google” our way around every issue with no sweat. Welcome to civilization, Ghanaian -style.

For our politicians, I want to state the above mentioned sentiments are no indicators for your success as managers of our national resources. In fact you have no hands in the acquisition of these by individuals. I see politics as a theater, the audience’s reaction or inaction to the events is an indication for how they feel by those who performed on the stage. It is therefore not expected that you the politician will drum around town that you have done “A, B, C and even Z.” The truth is that, people are losing confidence in the political system very fast. Majority of the people think the government is very wasteful and inefficient. They are so cynical about the leaders and they are unwilling to trust them with anything to do with money, freedom, security, tranquility, life and health.

We deceive ourselves if we deny the fact that there are very dangerous social, economic and political indicators in the country. There are many enclaves of tribal and chieftaincy conflicts. There are so many unemployed, unemployables and underemployed. The danger is, until these people are taken care of, our society is likely to create a class of people who think society owes them as such they must make life unbearable for others in order to make a living. They are likely to express their anger and hate in forms such as armed robbery, rape and other deadly violent circumstances.

Sometimes, the messages and information our leaders put up tell the society to look after the “number one” and care less about the larger Ghanaian society. A typical example is the mad rush for presidential candidacy and lunatic display of cash by some NPP aspirants. The impression is created as if each of them has his or her own Central Bank. You can now understand why the mad ones among us will direct their frustration to secure a meal a day at haves in our society. Of course, this view alone does not explain the cause of crime. In addition, I am not by any means trying to condone violence but the point is that people are getting fed up with lousy and corrupt officials who have mismanaged the system so much so that there is absolutely no hope for the generation to come.

We inherited a great land but this has been totally mismanaged. I am humbly calling on our politicians, community leaders, policy makers and all Ghanaians--- both at home and abroad, successful and unsuccessful, rich and poor, talented and untalented, to join forces so that we can together lift up the nation to its glory. This is the time and there should be no excuses because it is not about party politics. It is about the future of Ghana and its sons and daughters. I am crying out loud because it is almost an election year and the electorates are going to be told lies for votes----dear Lord!

To make any headway as a nation and as people we have to be “abnormal”. Simply put, we have to operate in a reality that separates us from the status quo. Being abnormal means we have to be responsible and committed to something greater than our own imaginations. Nothing happens until something moves. So we need action -oriented visionaries to move Ghana forward.

Speaking of action, I wonder how many people a reliable railway network in Ghana could employ. The employment potential— would include but not limited to: engineers, conductors, ticket agents, security personnel, maintenance crew, food and goods vendors and news paper sellers. Won’t the rail system alone employ very many people?

The railway transportation will not only be a major employment generator but it will also be a relief for our congested and dangerous road network. A trip across Ghana from Takoradi to Bolga by railway could be full of fun. It would be extraordinary way to get around and see other part of the country with less stress and less risk. The freight on the railway from the North can reach the South with less hassle than road. Road accidents could be reduced so that we can take a break from too many funeral activities----Ah! Those selective hands of Road accident.

My point is that, the Ghanaians are not looking for a welfare or free money from the government. They need a hand-up but not a hand-out. They want fair treatment and opportunities that will make them feed their families, give better education to their kids, have a decent roof over their heads, live in tranquility, have a stable amount of electricity supply and be able to sleep at night without any fear, able to go to the hospital and be assisted by enthusiastic nurse and able to knock on the door of a police station and can be sure that he or she will meet a friendly police officer. In other words, the Ghanaian wants the same life essentials the politicians take for granted.

The least we need from our leaders is for them to replace our anger, frustration, despair and haplessness with real hope, to enable us to fulfill our purposes on this planet.

Are these too many to ask from the nation and its leadership? It’s an awesome question we have to contemplate as we’re getting ready to election our new leaders.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi NJ, USA * The writer is a social commentator and the founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment, Educational and Apprenticeship Foundation, to help the youth of Asuom, in the Kwaebibriem District, E/R.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.