You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2009 03 01Article 158400

Opinions of Sunday, 1 March 2009

Columnist: Mensah, Richard Obeng

What Legacy are we leaving behind for Posterity?

'In the name of the Almighty God we the people of Ghana . In the exercise of our natural and inalienable right to establish a framework of government which shall secure for ourselves and posterity the blessings of liberty, equality of opportunity and posterity - Preamble of the 1992 Constitution.

 During my elementary education, we were made to learn and recite ‘The National Pledge’ virtually everyday at general assembly. The part of the pledge that most fascinates me reads: ' I promise to hold in high esteem, our heritage (legacy) won for us through the blood and toil of our fathers Undoubtedly, our late great fathers left us some mammoth legacies: spirit of nationalism, farsighted visions, selfless and sacrificial lifestyle. They placed the interest of Ghana above their personal or political pursuits in order to secure a liberal and fair society for the countless generations yet unborn. Today, most of us, to be fair to our predecessors, are beneficiaries of some of the seeds they inseminated on our behalf. But what are we doing for posterity?

Most governments usually credit and extol themselves for massive infrastructural developments and other sound economic policies in their bid to indicate what they have done for their people and posterity. Interestingly, most of these structures and policies may last only for some few years. Roads and certain buildings may, for instance, be reconstructed to meet modern trends and demands. But there is one thing that is so enduring which all societies in any generation yearn for. Leading exemplary lifestyle, in words and in deeds and instilling the sense of positive attitudes and positive character traits in member of any society is the most lasting heritage. It is not enough to preach “the Good News and perform unprecedented miracles,” but it is equally important to lead exemplary lives by living ‘the Good News’ to demonstrate our sincerity and seriousness.

Children learn from their immediate environment. They are particularly influenced by what their parents, siblings and other adult neighbours say and do. By extension, such children are more likely to mimic any poor behaviour by their parents and other adults. ‘Like the father like the son’ is one of the banal expressions used in everyday interactions. This expressing has indeed proved to be right since living things can reproduce only their own kinds. So we can only produce or raise nationalistic and responsible future leaders by doing same. It goes without saying that our ‘future leaders’ will, most probably, be a facsimile of today’s leaders.

It is a sad commentary that the youth of today seem to be growing in a polluted environment. This is because the attitude of some adults, especially some of our political leaders leaves so much to be desired. Their conduct, both in words and in deeds, most often do not befit their status. They seem to place their political and parochial interests above issues of national concern and the need to lead exemplary lives. To this end, certain comments are passed and some unbecoming conducts are portrayed all in the name of promoting and defending their political agenda. The ‘future leaders’ may therefore end up replicating some negative conducts from these so-called leaders. We often lose sight of the fact that the youth are taking after us. They are listening to our comments and watching our conducts as well.

It is worth noting, however, that among the best legacies we can leave for posterity is by demonstrating that we are people of integrity and that character is a very vital tool for our development. Admiral Charles R. Larson, Ex-Superintendent of the US Naval Academy, offers us this useful advice: “Good leaders are accountable for organizational standards through what they say and don’t say and through what they do and don’t do…the best leaders comply with laws and policies not because they worry about getting caught but because their conscience, their moral fiber, forbids them from doing what is wrong…exemplary leaders honor promises as a matter of principle, not prudence”. Max De Pree on his part says, “Real leaders and people of strong character generate and sustain trust”.

The brightness of our future does not necessarily depend on the fact that we have valuable natural resources such as timber, cocoa, gold, diamond, bauxite, manganese and oil. Without positive attitudes and sense of nationalism on the part of our leaders and the citizenry in general, these enviable resources will make very minimal contribution insofar as taping them to transform our economy is concerned. Mother Ghana has been pregnant with all these resources since time immemorial but our negative conducts are preventing her from really giving birth to and nurturing these resources to reflect our living conditions.

Indeed, the first step of any serious forward movement is attitudinal change. We cannot move forward in the needed direction if we lack cardinal virtues such as: discretion, temperance, justice, fortitude and so forth. In fact, we need to live out the six pillars of character which are: trustworthiness, evenhandedness, respect for all, responsible life, caring for fellow men and the sense of nationalism, if we truly want to secure for ourselves and posterity a society with a framework of government that actually offers us blessings of liberty, equality of opportunity, probity and accountability. Arise! Oh Ghana .

Richard Obeng Mensah; The author is with the Faculty of Law, KNUST and Centre for Human Rights and Advanced Legal Research (CHRALER), Ku