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10.01.2003 Feature Article

The Need For New Thinking In Ghana

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As Ghana embarks on the most serious effort yet to develop socially, politically, and economically, the most serious threat to us is not a gun-totting revolutionist, an armed robber, or even a corrupt government official. The most serious threat to our quest is our way of thinking. Radical thinking has taken quite a beating in mostly socially conservative societies because the majority of people either prefer, or find it easier to limit their thinking to within the box. That has to change if we are going to be successful as a nation. For example, in Ghana, ‘enye whee’ is a favorite stopper to many issues that need to be adequately addressed. When time is needed to hear all pros and cons of an issue, here comes ‘enye whee.’ When a terrible deed needs to be punished, here comes our favorite phrase. Then we wonder why terrible deeds continue, and the loudmouths always get their way, and the wrong ideas get implemented. That favorite phrase ranks right up there with our favorite belief that the adult is always right. Is it not interesting to imagine how many brilliant ideas may have been muffled because a ‘child’ ended up at a gathering where ‘adults’ were talking. Likewise, a new member of a group has to hold his or her tongue before he or she has to answer the question ‘do you know how long we have been doing this?’ If that had been the dominant culture in United States, Clinton would not dare run for president in 1992. The number of Democrats who had more ‘qualification’ and ‘experience’ is larger than the population of St Lucia. Yet we all know what his presidency meant to the United States. Another favorite misconception of ours is ‘peace.’ Peace at all cost is no peace at all because you end up with a lopsided peace. ‘Peace’ is the reason we had to endure 20 years of misrule. ‘Peace’ is the reason why, despite bending over backwards to accommodate, a sitting president can be disrespected on several occasions by a former president. It has been suggested that the two should try and get along. That is fine if the effort towards getting along is equitable, which is an attribute of the more desirable mutual respect. If it is not, I would rather my president spend his time doing what he was hired to do, which is running the country. If he does a great job running the country, it matters less if he gets along with Joe or Jane Blow. On religion, for fear of being misinterpreted, I would just refer to the trend in the country today as alarming. When Church patrons who bus themselves to Church, and who are unsure of where their next meal is coming from, readily contribute their meager resources towards the purchase of a Lexus automobile for the Priest, something is wrong in our way of thinking. More so if, on the way to Church, they passed by several disabled people, who are reduced to begging for food by their handicap, but did not give them anything. It makes you wonder who needs the donation the most. After reading this article, you will probably agree with most of the points made, or you will not. Either way, that is wonderful. While I would feel better if majority of people agree with me, no one knows and accepts the prospect of having very passionate disagreement to my points than myself. In fact, Former New York Mayor Ed Koch once said: “if I am running for office and you agree with most of what I say, vote for me; if you, however, agree with all of what I say, see a psychiatrist.” It is clear that we will disagree over many things as we pursue our current national development. What is distasteful is the vilification of our ideological opponents. We tend to equate differences in opinion to enmity. Yes, members of NPP and NDC are ideological opponents. But if the environment is such that they cannot share a beer after a hot debate in Parliament, they can at least respect one another, and not vilify each other. The key words here are: ‘like’, ‘respect’, and ‘hate’. The minimum is ‘respect’, the ideal is ‘like’, but there is no room for ‘hate’. Finally, there is our preference for instant gratification. We all know what state of affairs our nation was in January, 2001. For me, The Castle, which is the seat of our government was what shocked me the most. Its condition, more than anything else, reflected the utter neglect of the vital needs of our country during the past couple of decades. What is equally shocking to me is that we pay lip service to our willingness to wait for a reasonable length of time for things to get better. Anyone who lived in Ghana in 1981 and saw conditions then, lived around to 2001 and saw the conditions then is utterly unrealistic if he or she thinks there can be visible improvements within two or even four years. Of course, this administration can borrow more money to build new roads and import many foreign commodities into the country, and pretty much guarantee re-election in 2004. Believe me, President Kufuor knows that. But we have to tip our hats to a president who cares more about laying proper foundations than about creating visible, but short-lived ‘development’. If all of the above leaves you with the impression that I think this administration is perfect, pardon me. It has some huge areas of opportunities. One key area is the subtle alienation of Ghanaians abroad, a practice that admittedly begun before January 2001. One of the first calls President Kufuor made was for Ghanaians abroad to come home and help. While there is no doubt that he believed in what he was saying, enough evidence exists to support the suspicion that just a layer below him, not too many believe in the call he made. Democracy is a complicated concept. From the outside, it looks easy while it is anything but. One has to actually live it to understand it; you cannot, repeat, cannot grasp it through a textbook. Many mistake it for openness, complete freedom, and equality, to name a few, which it is not. If it meant openness, then the president will hold his cabinet meetings on television. If it meant complete freedom, then people should be free to demand a meeting with the president with a gun on their hip. If it meant equality, then the pregnant woman holding the same position with a young man should both lift up the heavy table that the boss wants moved. Democracy is simply a government by the people, of the people, and for the people. What this means is that if we have signed on to embark on a democratic system of government, those of us who have actually lived as well as studied it should be able to contribute political ideas and not be constantly told it will not work here. In fact, that very statement assumes Ghanaians are less sophisticated than other people, and knowing Ghanaians and Americans very well, nothing could be farther from the truth. When we bring in enough money to place third in foreign exchange earnings for the country, the intellectuals talk about brain drain, and how Ghana needs our brains more. When we bring in brains or ideas, the politicians tell us Ghana has enough ideas, and that we need money to implement them. In the end you wonder what Ghana really needs. Could it be a new way of thinking?

Jermaine Nkrumah
Jermaine Nkrumah, © 2003

The author has 27 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: JermaineNkrumah

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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