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01.02.2004 Feature Article

Oguaanyi Cries With Hope - A Rejoinder

Oguaanyi Cries With Hope  - A Rejoinder
LISTEN FEB 1, 2004

Albion’s cries of hope also applies to many towns and villages all over the country. He talks about the cost of living beyond the pockets of many people, not only Oguaafo. When it comes to blame, it must be shared by all - from successive governments, through fellow Ghanaians in the Diaspora, to the Ghanaian back home – although to varying degrees. The fact that I am suggesting that all these three groups of our society are to blame means that our current predicament is either of our own making in terms of our cultural heritage or that they stem from our colonial past in which some way of life was imposed on us and that after being left to govern ourselves we are confused as to which way of life, in terms of governing, suits us.

I blame successive governments (civilian and military alike) because many have lacked total commitment. Although some may have started with good intentions, they have all too often been overtaken by the reality of running a nation, whether Westminster style or Military style. Some become overburdened by opposition harassment. Some may be looking over their shoulders wondering whether/when the Military are planning a move, etc. The end result is that the task of good governance becomes second or third priority as self-interests are pursued. Our dirty politics does not help, especially when parties when in opposition seem to want to critisize everything the government of the day does (I refer readers to one of your news items - 26 January 2004 - in which an MP in an opposition party is advising his colleagues not to undermine the Government).

I blame some Ghanaians in the Diaspora because, somehow we (myself included, of course) always talk of waiting until problems at home have been solved before going. That day will never come if we don’t go and join the problem solving process. We have not done enough to concentrate the minds of our children on our homeland.

I blame some Ghanaians back home because the attitude of many towards work is appalling. Often their excuse is that they are not well paid. Well if you don’t work hard you will not create the wealth to pay you more. Shortcuts, Kalabule, this is ‘Aban Edwuma’ (Government’s work), etc. These attitudes retard progress and development. Our mentality, such as ‘this boss is not strict so if I don’t complete this job he won’t take any action’ hinders development. We find it difficult to take instructions from fellow countrymen. ‘Look at Kwesi, we were all eating and drinking at the same bar; now that he is the boss he is issuing unnecessary instructions’. Such attitudes undermine efforts aimed at improving our standard of living.

Although I am mainly addressing Oguaafo, these attitudes are nation-wide. So who is the main culprit(s) among the three categories of Ghanaians I have outlined? You may decide for yourself. What can the Government do to help Oguaa? First of all, it is heartening and encouraging to learn that work on the Accra to Cape Coast road, which has claimed many lives, has started, although during my last visit to Cape Coast from Accra (in October 2003), I saw nothing, to indicate full-scale construction in progress. And since, as I understand it, this is being financed with foreign donation or grant, it is imperative that all costs be accounted for. The construction of such quality, almost maintenance-free road, will serve to encourage a lot of business and investment in the Central Region, not to mention the lives it will save.

Secondly, and very important, successive Governments have neglected Cape Coast for whatever reason(s), despite it being the cradle of education in Ghana even today. In your general news of 12 January 2004, you quoted the Daily Graphic as reporting that two schools in Cape Coast were among the top ten Schools in the Country, in the 2003 Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (SSCE), conducted by the West African Examinations Council. These days these Secondary Schools in Cape Coast are filled with very few students from Cape Coast itself. Why? Because many of their parents have no jobs and therefore cannot afford to send their children to Secondary Schools. The irony here is that whereas the town itself provides these education facilities, including the University and a lot of other schools, it cannot afford to educate its own sons and daughters.

Cape Coast has no big employer, no industrial base, no factory with, say, two or three shifts to employ a good number of the local people in areas like fishing, green produce (and their processing) and tourism. The History of Cape Coast lends the town to tourism. Here the Government can make tourism attractive enough for Ghanaians living abroad to invest in that industry. The Accra to Cape Coast road is crucial in this regard. They can also persuade Chiefs, through their District Assemblies, to release land for small-scale agriculture, like farming and poultry, and countless other businesses. I am pleading with the Government to concentrate on Tourism and, at the very least, establish one meaningful factory which (together with subsidiary private businesses which would supply it and/or take its products and produce), will provide work for the population of Cape Coast.

All these should come with security considerations for the protection of property of both the government and private sectors. Cape Coast desperately needs investment from small and medium businesses. What can Oguaafo in the Diaspora (or Ghanaians with Oguaa at heart) do to help? Yes there are a lot of Ghanaian professionals in the Diaspora. There are, equally, a lot of professional Ghanaians already in Ghana who, due to lack of resources, are unable to do much for their towns and country. A lot of Oguaafo migrate to the big cities and get bogged down with cost of living problems that they find it difficult to look after their own town. You will find that your fellow countrymen (and by implication, Oguaafo) are very intelligent and have good learning curves. You can work with them to reap the rewards of your investment. However you may take note of the attitude problems I have outlined at the beginning and also in the next section. You can make a lot of difference and most certainly enjoy a better lifestyle than you are used to now if your investment is successful. Any amount, invested in Ghana will go further than the same amount invested in the West or East, simply because of cheaper production costs. Can’t Cape Coast get some of the outsourcing business that is now growing in Ghana? Perhaps, most important of all one point that has been bothering some of us for quite some time, and which Albion made a case of, is our children’s attitudes towards mother Ghana. Do our children see themselves as Ghanaians and see Ghana as their home? With things as they are now many of them don’t. This genuine concern was expressed by President Kuffuor when, during the homecoming summit in 2001, he said that he once met a ‘Ghanaian girl’ in London and when he asked her where she was from, she replied ‘my parents are Ghanaians’ – implying that she was not a Ghanaian. These same children, however, once they embrace Ghana as their home, will show the sort of dedication which, to use Albion’s words, ‘can help take things to the next level’. It is not the children’s fault.

We must try and pass on the history, traditions and culture to our children, as Albion points out; we must make them feel Ghana is their home. After all they can enjoy a privileged dual citizenship as well. They can help us to invest in Ghana so that they can continue the process after us (their parents) and enjoy the fruits of their labour in Ghana and live wherever they choose to live. Such involvement of our children in the development of our country and towns will enable them to develop a great (if not the same) affinity for Ghana as us, their parents, who were born there. If we do not perform this natural duty, not only will the current levels of remittances to Ghana decline sharply in the not too distant future, generations of potential saviours of Ghana would also be lost to foreign lands. What can those at home do to help themselves? I don’t know how many people at home will be able to read my suggestions. However, it would help if those in authority, who are able to read this, could echo some of my suggestions in their rallies and meetings with the public, if they find these suggestions sensible and feasible/practical.

Historically our attitude (some of us) towards work at home, since the end of colonisation, has been one of not taking orders or instructions from our own people seriously when they are our bosses. Unless we move away from this attitude, we shall continue to pontificate for a long time on how to improve our standard of living and not get far.

We must treat our employer’s property with respect and not jealousy. That ‘Oh if I work hard he will make a lot of money and I won’t see much of it’ attitude will scare away potential saviours.

When a fellow Ghanaian, and for that matter Oguaanyi, who wants to invest at home entrusts you with their projects don’t abuse their trust and siphon their investment for your personal plans. These are some of the things that have been scaring away fellow Ghanaian investors.

When fellow Ghanaians who are eager to return home to start some business (and as a consequence employ a number of fellow Ghanaians), do actually come home don’t put obstacles in their way in the form of extortion, kalabule, etc. At the end of the day they will simply decide to stay abroad and ensure that they only build a house for their retirement, leaving you fuming. We Ghanaians are very intelligent people. Let us make use of this gift of God well.

Well, if I am suggesting all the above from the comfort of wherever I am What do I intend to do to help?

I have tried and I am still trying to invest back home, particularly in Cape Coast. I have put in a considerable level of resources in. I have encountered a number of extortionists. They can be very uncomfortable. In every case I have ‘fought’ them and tried to straighten their behaviour and on many occasions this stand off has ended in my discomfort. An example is when taking on a taxi driver who tries to extort money from you, simply because he realises you are a ‘foreign’ Ghanaian. If you ignore him his nearby colleagues might ignore you too. The result being that you will perhaps wait a lot longer than necessary to find a taxi driver who would charge you a fair fare. Take the case of a land owner who will double the price of his land when he realises the same as the taxi driver, or the person processing your land documents, … that you are a ‘foreign’ Ghanaian….. and the list goes on. I hope when I am up and running I will be able to demonstrate to my employees that I sweated for my resources to invest to help myself, fellow townspeople, my town and my country. That they can improve their living standards through hard work and loyalty; and that some of them could start their own businesses too.

I very much hope that through these discussions those of us in the Diaspora will turn our attention to our motherland and start putting our thoughts into practice. To echo Albion’s ‘Ketewa biara nnsua’ sentiment (that is, no contribution is too small), let us start something. Oguaa na Ghana beye yie. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Kodwo Nuamah
Kodwo Nuamah, © 2004

The author has 1 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: KodwoNuamah

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