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14.09.2002 Feature Article

Ghana, A Fertile Land of Slogans, Mottos and Shibboleths

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Since the middle of the 1940's Gold Coast, now Ghana has been bombarded with a cacophony of well intentioned but unfulfilled slogans, mottos and shibboleths. If the number and the poignancy of slogans assess the greatness of a nation, our beloved country, Ghana would be unrivalled. Most of the slogans and shibboleths have political connotation. The much-maligned imperialists, however, bequeathed us with non-political slogan: 'grow more food'. How apt and relevant has been this slogan? One could write a whole thesis on the slogans of Ghana from 1948 to 2002. The first of the slogans that the writer remembers is 'self government in our life time'. This was the slogan of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) before Nkrumah returned to Ghana. With the formation of the Convention Peoples' Party (CPP), Nkrumah changed the slogan to 'self government now'. To the writer, this seems to be the only slogan, whose objective had been met. The CPP adopted 'Freedom' as a slogan. United Party (UP), the first nation-wide political party to oppose the CPP chose 'Justice' as its own. These were appropriate, given that the nation's motto was 'Freedom and Justice'. Unfortunately, Ghanaians experienced neither freedom nor justice in the First Republic. Indeed, as a country and a society, we obtained independence from the British, but as citizens, we did not have any freedom. We did not have freedom of speech, we did not have freedom of association, we did not have freedom of worship, and we did not have freedom of expression. In case of justice, the least said about it the better with the pervasive security men all over and detention without trial being the norms. With the ushering of the Republican form of government and subsequent introduction of one-party state, the floodgates of the slogan machinery were opened wide. 'The Party Is Supreme', 'the Welfare of the People Is the Supreme Law' and 'Work and Happiness' were few memorable ones that readily come to mind. The face-glaring facts are that the supremacy of the party was a mirage. The welfare of the people was never the supreme law as politicians then as now were amassing wealth while the masses were living in abject poverty. We were promised then that with the Seven Year Developed Program, the average Ghanaian would be able to spend 2 shillings on daily meal. We had the landscape being littered with state enterprises that served to provide jobs for the party fanatics but produced shoddy goods that were forced down the throat of the masses. We had a host batakari-clad and quasi socialists leeches propounding Marxism-Lenism-Nkrumanism theories. The transitory NLC regime that replaced the CPP regime because of the first military take over in Ghana did not spare Ghanaians with its own inspired slogan. On the inception of Center for Civic Education (CCE) 'Unexamined Life is not Worth Living' became their contribution to the slogan galore. The year 1969 brought in the Progress Party (PP) under leadership of K. A. Busia to power. The slogan of the PP was 'Sure'. As it turned out, the only thing the Busia Administration was sure of was eviction of undocumented aliens from Ghana and unprecedented massive devaluation of the cedi. Having been a pillar in the UP some of us thought the Professor would lead Ghana on the principles of 'Justice'. The Sallah Case shattered our hopes. Puppet-like, our prime minister, in a fit of emotional tantrum went on national television to bang tables and shouted the famous or infamous 'no court...' words. It was indeed a sad day for liberal democrats in Ghana. On the foreign affairs front, like his mentors Houphet Boigny of Cote d'Ivoire and Hasting Banda of Malawi, the Professor foisted on us 'Dialogue' with the Boer racist government of South Africa. Ghana, the country that had been the vanguard of the African Revolution under Kwame Nkrumah went to bed with the likes of Boigny, Banda! and Vorster. To the Professor's monumental credit, he introduced 'Discipline' slogan. We were encouraged and passionately enjoined not only to discipline our selves in mundane issues but to discipline our waists as well. The end came swiftly. The student leaders asked members of the PP dominated parliament to declare their assets as stipulated in the Constitution, a document that was their brainchild. The leadership of the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) was invited to parliament. They were pilloried. This writer still remembers R. R. Amponsah a right hand man of K. A. Busia contemptuously referring to us as people with 'little minds'. A veteran of February 24, 1966 military take over, Ocran supported the students. A relentless campaign of character assassination was unleashed. The end came swiftly Kutu Acheampong ended that nightmare by terminating the ephemeral PP government. With Kutu, we had the following slogans: 'Yentua'; 'Operation Feed Yourself'; 'Capturing the Commanding Heights of the Economy' and lastly the amorphous, ill-starred and discredited concept of 'Union Government'. The writer is unable to remember any slogan of the Limann Administration. May be he would go in history as the most pathetic and tragic leader. He is our Jimmy Carter. 'Walayi', 'Accountability', 'Integrity' are some of the slogans that Rawlings rule preached. With the indictment and conviction of Selormey at least one can safely say that Rawlings did not practice what he preached. Time would tell whether Selormey's conviction is an isolated case or just the genesis. The year 2000 ushered in not only a new millennium but also the current administration to contribute its quota to the ever-flowing stream of cacophony of slogans. We have 'zero tolerance of corruption', 'golden age of business' and like their grand parents the recycling of 'Discipline'. One wishes the President would discipline his urge for globetrotting. As indicated above, none of the slogans, poignant though they have been, made any measurable impact on the welfare of the Ghanaian. Our leaders have intentionally or otherwise paid lip services to the very ideas that the slogans were intended to portray. It is the fervent hope of this writer that the NPP Administration would be the exception. Nikoi Kotey 341 Middle Road Hazlet NJ 07730-2340 By:


Nikoi Kotey
Nikoi Kotey, © 2002

The author has 23 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: NikoiKotey

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