The ills in our society

While the debate about whether or not the action being taken by the current Accra Mayor, Dr Vanderpuije, to decongest the streets of our Capital City is appropriate, the situation raises a fundamental concern about our society's negative attitude towards several efforts being made by well-meaning Ghanaians to find solutions to our country's developmental challenges. This attitude does not only dampen the spirit and enthusiasm of those who make such efforts, but it also discourages others with similar and even better intentions.

With the three years I have stayed in the UK, I have leant that we have many potentials back home to accelerate our country's development. Therefore, the question I keep pondering over is why is it that our elite in all walks of life, most of whom I believe have had similar experiences, have not been able to exploit these potentials to arrest our country's developmental challenges? Have they tried and failed or others' failure deters them? I believe they tried but failed because the society did not cooperate with them since there are countless examples to support my assertion. These include the likes of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Dr Kofi Busia, Dr Hilla Limann, Professor Kwesi Yankah (remember his famous series, “the woes of the kwatriot”), Adjiri Blankson and currently Dr Alfred Vanderpuije. I do not intend to veer into arguments regarding what some of them might have done wrongly that warranted society's lack of cooperation with them because that debate is endless. They are humans and are liable to mistakes. The point I am making is that our society's refusal to sacrifice for a better future has cost our nation dearly and until we change that attitude, we may as well forget about moving our country forward because that will take us nowhere.

Almost everybody in Ghana today, especially the youth, appears to be in a hurry for what reason your guess is best (the get-rich-quick syndrome). This is what is being translated into recent illicit drug menace, internet fraud (“sakawa”), armed robbery, indiscriminate killings and indiscipline all over the place. In such situations, all what we think about is our right to survival. Little do we ponder on the implications of these actions even on our very persons. For instance, because people want to make a living, they think it is their right to do it anywhere including blocking pavements and streets, which obstruct pedestrian and vehicular movements. It is everybody's right to make a living, but one's right to live should not deprive another person's right to free movement. By blocking the pavement, street hawkers forget that fewer pedestrians will patronise their wares because not many people will be able or even like to pass there.

Sadly enough, the whole society is to blame for this. Hawkers will hawk anywhere if their wares are patronised. They definitely do not hawk in a jungle, they do that among humans. I do not think it should take an Accra Mayor to sack hawkers from the streets. If you and I (society) refuse to buy from them and rather buy from organised shopping areas, they will simply flee the streets. Unfortunately, we do not do it because all of us appear to be in a rush - a situation that does take us anywhere. “More haste, it is said, less speed”!

Indiscipline has assumed alarming proportion in our society today that negativism is celebrated rather than abhorred to the extent that when one tries to correct wrongdoing, there is the tendency for them to be condemned than praised. Do attempt in a public transport, for instance, to challenge a reckless driver to drive responsibly and you will be shock to the marrow the sorts of insult the rest of the passengers will yell at you for committing no crime either than your quest to save lives. We are unnecessarily sympathetic and do not want to subject people to disciplinary action. Yet, we are quick to pinpoint accusing fingers at others (often political leadership) for being responsible for our woes. We are not responsible for any wrongdoing as ordinary citizens. As if we appear to forget that it is we who become or make (elect) political leaders. Are we sure we can shun all that we condemn others about if we are in their position? Shall we wait to get there before we change? Definitely not, because it would have been too late as the old adage has it: “you cannot bend a dry stick without breaking it”. Therefore, the right time to change our negative attitudes is now or never.

Fellow citizens, let us rise up and fight these ills that are fast eating away the very fabric of our society. Some of us blame authority for lacking the political will to punish wrongdoing including sacking hawkers from the streets. Yet, when some authorities find this will, we chastise them. Although it is said that “the law is an ass”, it does not apply to asses: it applies to humans who cannot be treated like asses. What I mean simply is that if Dr Vanderpuije and his likes appeal to hawkers' senses to vacate the streets and they refuse, he cannot 'beat' them like asses, even animals such as asses have rights these days. What is needed, in my view, is attitudinal change by society as whole.

It is also high time we realise that no single person or group of persons have the solution to our developmental challenges. Therefore, when we see the need to sack hawkers from the streets and when we see the need to punish reckless drivers, let us all give it a blessing: whether we are doing it as NPP or NDC and vice versa. If some of us do it and others condemn it, we will condemn it when they do it (of course, I am not by this encouraging retaliation, I am only trying to reflect the realism in our society). This is what makes it difficult for us to agree on issues that affect us as a nation. Think of the political football that is being played about our SHS policy (the forth and backward changes of the number of years for SHS) by the two leading political parties. The same can be said about our country's development policy where Vision 2020 was altered to GPRS I and II (Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy and Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy respectively) and current talks about the return to Vision 2020 as was reported by IMANI Ghana at the beginning of this year. Vision 2020, for instance, set the year 2020 as the target for the country to reach a middle income status, but the GPRS revised it to year 2015. It appears it may be revised to 2020 again if IMANI Ghana's concern was anything to go by.

How do we accelerate development if we do not have clear cut vision that all of us adhere to? We need to change this attitude as a nation. It is for this reason that the recent initiative by Joy FM and others to organise debate on the need for a national development agenda is commendable. Sadly, however, the key issue that emerged from the debate was whether or not the president is corruptible. Those of us who could not listen to a live broadcast of the programme because Joy FM was offline within that period, our only source of Joy FM, could not get any detailed information on the debate except this trivial issue that was magnified by the media.

Let us sit up fellow country men and women. Let us sacrifice a little today for a better tomorrow. Let us shun all negative tendencies including ostentatious lifestyle. Consider, for instance, the sort of vehicles some of us use in Ghana today. The Hammers, the Jaguars, the Limousines and what have you. Those of us who are privileged to live in the countries where these vehicles are manufactured can testify that their citizens hardly use them. It is not because they cannot afford, they can, not even one! Because they have jobs that pay well, they have smaller families who in most cases the state caters for since they have free education and state welfare systems. Why are we ostentatious when we have large families, when we do not have well paid jobs and no state welfare system?

Let us all sacrifice if and only if we want to move Ghana, our Motherland forward, for there is no place like home! Those of us outside the country know this – please listen to Nana Tuffuor's “Obibini” if you have not. Let us support people with good initiatives even if our interests are negatively affected in the short-term. There is no easy way out of difficult situations. After all, the food that we are encouraged to eat, in order to live longer, is often the most tasteless, while the one that kills fastest is the sweetest! Let us take the bitter pill today for a better future!

Many thanks for reading.
Credit: S. A. Achanso, UK.
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Disclaimer: "The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article." © S. A. Achanso, Ph.D..

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By: Charles de Leusse