25.10.2002 Feature Article

The Destination

The Destination
25.10.2002 LISTEN

Assessing the response to my first article “where are we going?”. Ghanaians in general are decidedly not comfortable with where our country is heading. The consensus is we have to make a conscious effort to redirect our destination. For far too long we have placed our destiny in the hands of our governments alone. We cannot stand idle bbefore we end in ruins. We have to demand free compulsory education for the younger generation, at least up to the senior secondary school level. It is a painful fact that the younger generation has deteriorated academically. This is because education has become the product of a person's family financial and political status. The days when the best brained children went to the best schools have been wiped out. A significant number of families cannot afford the school fees charged from elementary to university levels. The result is a degeneration of our total human resources and skills. Invariably, we have always talked about how peaceful and stable Ghana has been over the years. We have been spared the countless tribal and political upheavals that have ravaged the continent. Even in the midst of our worst political days, Ghanaians talk about next election instead of taking up guns and machetes. This is no accident. Our past educational foundation has been the major reason we have survived this long without any catastrophic political and or social quakes. Our educational system must be made accessible to all Ghanaians so that we could maximize our natural human talent. This will also nip in the bud the ever-increasing young ones resorting to crime instead of using their talent to be inventive and bolster the economy and society. Last year (2001), a 13 year old girl died at the Police Hospital because, the family could not come up quickly enough with the money needed, to put down a deposit for her dialysis machine to save her life. That should have been the last straw of the ignominious “cash & carry” system. The “cash and carry” system is very un-African. Even the traditional man or herbalist did not demand payment before treatment. In spite of some of the bad events in our history, our ancestors were very compassionate. Compassion should always be an important part of our national character. It has to be one of our main goals. It should not be that the affluent just throw crumbs at the poor but make a sincere effort to help make their lives more human. It is startling to note that doctors in Ghana make malaria prescription for example, based on the financial background of the patient. Need I say more? This brings to my mind why our governments have not spent a few million cedis on the “tankase – town council” who used to spray the backyards and little ponds in the towns and villages to eliminate the mosquitoes. I have not observed any government make any serious attempt at prevention. This is not a nostalgia trip but a real fact. Anyone who goes to Ghana knows that malaria is perhaps the biggest health threat and a drain on our limited resources. The next stop on our journey is the ever-bulging cost of utilities. In the 60's and 70's, utility costs were negligible. However they have progressively become a big burden on the average family. I concede that we cannot go back to those days. The population of Ghana has tripled since our independence. We have to control and conserve our water and other natural resources. Access to clean water should however be a fundamental right of every Ghanaian citizen. Our government should make every effort to improve our water supply. Selling the Ghana Water Corporation (GWC) to a multinational for profit is a disgrace. The next big step is electricity. Electricity is not as life and death matter as water. Instead of the government privatizing electricity, she could run the Volta River Authority (VRA) and Electricity Corporation of Ghana (ECG) more efficiently so that they could make them affordable to the ordinary man. I am very disturbed by the constant call for foreign investors. This indicates the government's lack of faith in her own people. Our government must realize that foreign investors are coming to make money. The biggest problem we have in Ghana is not lack of skills and resources but lack of integrity and a genuine desire of the politicians to build the nation instead of lining their pockets. Our government officials should hone their skills in contracts and must be aware that there are large pools of skilled Ghanaians who can efficiently negotiate contracts and run our public corporations like Bank of Ghana, ECG, VRA and GWC. These are our national assets. Not only will their profits supply much needed capital for education and health but also boost our national confidence and pride. I have not heard of any self-help effort. Our government should not be in the business of collecting taxes and revenue only. The government must help her citizens develop a spirit of self-reliance and love for our country. In our present state we need national emotions. We should be fanatical Ghanaians. We need the "Tweneboa Koduas”. Over successive years, our strong nationalism declined when we developed the spirit of each one for himself. We used to live in-groups, shared joys and sorrows together. We are now increasingly living in apartments – everyone apart. These sounds like theories but my brothers and sisters, we have been gradually weaned away from our cultures and tradition and we are paying the price. Our leaders must take the cue from the Americans. When President Bush …… the elections, Al Gore and the democrats fought back furiously. When they realized their national interest was at stake, they closed their ranks and are waiting for the next election. No matter how much we agree or disagree with the NPP and President Kuffour, we should make sure his term runs its course. We need to build back those days when we were all very proud Ghanaians. When Kwame Nkrumah asked us to say; “I solemnly promise to be faithful to Ghana, my motherland”, he was branded a communist. Did anyone notice how “the pledge of allegiance” quickly became very important to the Americans after September 11 (9/11)? Could we imagine the impact on a public official who from childhood had continuously said: “I solemnly promise to be faithful to Ghana, my motherland”, from class one or grade one until he/she had finished his/her degree or secondary education? We have to consciously learn to put our national interest first. I feel very strongly that if our leadership makes a sincere effort to ease the burden of school and medical fees, the Ghanaian will eventually be less pressured to be corrupt. This is no apology for corruption but it is a reality. We did not lose our integrity or love for our country overnight. The present condition in Ghana has been the cumulative effect of bad leadership, callousness and lack of empathy for the ordinary Ghanaian. It is the desire of every human being to live in a relatively crime free society. The armed robbers are making their utmost to deny every Ghanaian that right. It seems the present government is trying to control the escalating brutal crime rate .However the high degree of brutality the armed robbers and criminals inflict on their victims need to be matched by the government's response. These criminals are enjoying the freedom of the justice system of getting bail and lawyers while denying the Ghanaian the freedom of not being haunted by vicious crimes. The government must tighten up the screws on the criminals. Social freedom is as important as political freedom. We cannot forget those who steal from the state. A public official who conspires with a contractor to build a shoddy road that leads to accidents is also a criminal. The ministry of health official who goes to buy expired drugs is also a criminal. We should not accept the culture of everybody “ chops” While we are pointing our fingers at our leaders, we have to turn them back at ourselves. Ghanaians as a group have done very badly. We don't even trust each other. We do not honor our promises. We lie to each other. We cannot work together and so as a group we are weak in spite of our individual strength. We can count on our fingers how many business partnerships that have succeeded in Ghana. We try to out-smart each other instead of binding together to confront external forces. I am a Fanti and my forebears teamed up with the British to fight the Ashantis. This should never have happened. I am not condemning the Fantis but I want to point out that we have to realize we are all one people with one destiny. Individuals survive temporarily but a group's success becomes cemented for generations. We have to start giving each other the benefit of the doubt at least. Our individual successes cannot outweigh our group failures. I can say that we want to go to a country where there is compassion. For sure, we cannot all get equal share of our national assets. We definitely don't want to go to a country where some live in houses like cruise ships and others in rat holes. We do not want to live in a country where some have 4, 5 cars and some don't even have shoes to wear. We want to live in a country where the ordinary Ghanaian would not be afraid of being helpless when he gets sick. We want to live in a society where we are not afraid of being attacked in our own homes and killed in front of our children. We want to have the freedom of traveling and not be afraid of being assaulted and robbed. After reading this article, please sit down for 5mins and think about what you can do for Ghana and “just do it”. Your “little” individual effort will have a “large” long lasting cumulative impact. May God Bless Us All and Our Dear Ghana.

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