Feature Article of Thursday, 9 August 2012

Columnist: Okofo-Dartey, Samuel

What Will You Be Remembered For?

The sudden demise of our president, John Evans Atta Mills, has really sent some shock waves among many in Ghana. Many were those who least expected death to deny him of precious breath when he was most needed by his family, close political associates and most importantly Ghanaians.
During his brief sojourn on earth, some of us knew only a bit of his person. It is indeed after his departure that certain aspects of his life are gradually unfolding. The sterling revelations about our dear president lately are without doubt outstanding. Several people fondly remember him as a man of peace hence, the unofficial title, ‘asomdwehene.’
Although I never had the opportunity of meeting the president one on one, a remarkable remark about his personality from those who knew him was his humility. We are told that he was able to relate well with people from all walks of life. And that through his daily interactions, one could smell the fragrance of his humility.
Despite all these compliments, as pertains to every human being, he had his low sides. His detractors perceived him a weak leader who could not keep some of his appointees in check. Perhaps this is not the right time to catalogue examples pointing to his perceived weak leadership. But on a personal note, what I consider a major flaw on his part was his inability to hit the ground running in ensuring the fruition of the much touted STX housing deal which never saw the light of day. Indeed, it will forever be a yoke around the necks of his party members.
As the entire country mourns his death, what keeps occupying my mind is an Akan proverb which is translated as, “it is at someone’s funeral that you are mourned.” This proverb never held so much sway over my life until our dear president ceased to be among the living. The reality of death as a universal phenomenon consumed my entire system to the extent that I had to pause for some time to think over my life again.
As the minutes run into hours and hours into days, the questions that I keep asking myself are, how and what will I be remembered for after my death? What can I do for mother Ghana that will place her among the crème of developed countries? Am I only to school myself, marry the most beautiful woman on earth, give birth, grow old and die without any glorious tributes and greater achievements? All these questions, I believe, point to one fact: our existence is an opportunity to seek the well being of mankind and inspire the generations unborn positively.
It is in the spirit of the forgone fact that I think Ghana can make giant economic strides if individuals and those entrusted with leadership positions become upright in their decisions other than being self seeking. In developed countries, it will be ridiculous to posit that bribery and corruption are totally uprooted.
But what I can safely assume despite the traces of corruption in that part of the world is, governments of these countries are careful to provide the basic needs of their citizens. No wonder some Ghanaians flock to these countries in search of greener pastures. It is, however, pathetic that in Ghana and for that matter Africa, what appears to reign supremely is not the provision of some of these basic needs but a popular political pestilence termed as the winner takes all.
Frankly, what appals me so much is the unrestrained zeal with which people clamour for positions without necessarily mapping out measures to ensure the well being of those they serve. If you have closely monitored some of our leaders right from the lowest to the highest offices in the country, you would not but agree with me that they demand worship and praises rather than meriting them through diligent service to mother Ghana. And I think this is where we can pat the late professor on the shoulder. His humility and selfless dedication to his work marks him out as unique.
It must be said that the bane of this country is not poverty. What is actually crippling this country apart from poor leadership is our negative attitudes. We know what is good for us but we will never do it. Those who will be bold enough to stand for what is virtuous are dealt with malice and incessant insults. Our selfishness has traded our royal robes for tattered clothes. So we are not certain of what tomorrow holds for our younger generation. If we really want to see positive change in the country, then Maya Angelou’s statement, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude” is perhaps a potent food for thought.
We must set our attitudes right and shun our eagerness to exploit our fellow men. It is rather shocking that despite the majority of Ghanaians being Christians with Muslims and traditionalists being in the minority, the positive transformations associated with these religions have not had the maximum impact in our lives. Most of our leaders enter the churches and the mosques and they exit unrepentant and still steeped in their arrogance and greed. How do I know this? My answer is, by their fruits you have seen or heard some of them speak.
I think if there is ever something the late president would want to see changed in Ghana, it may perhaps be our attitude. We should strive to emulate the good virtues surrounding his character and seek the good name that trails him. This is because a good name is better than riches. Yes I know not all Ghanaians liked him but you cannot hate a man and despise the virtues associated him altogether. It is just like throwing a baby away with the bath water.
In his memory, during the forthcoming elections, Ghanaians must replace politics of insults with politics of civility. Politics of violence must give room to politics of peace. This is because the cost of political violence can never be quantified since its devastating repercussions transcend generations.
The beauty of democracy is to save humanity from man-made atrocities. For man in his natural state without any form of moral, political or social codes evolves into a despicable object of scorn. Hence, why don’t we subscribe to the very tenets of democracy we have decided to practise?
Ghana is our homeland. There is no place you can call home other than where your fathers have built their walls. Nobody will develop Ghana for us if we don’t take the necessary steps to do so. And this, I think will materialise if we change from our negative attitudes right from the corridors of power to the neglected slums.
Finally, as we mourn our late president, we should not forget that in no distant future his fate will befall us and the question that we should be asking ourselves is, what legacy are we bequeathing to the next generation or what shall we be remembered for?

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