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03.07.2004 Feature Article

Ghana! A Failed Republic?

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Once again an already fragile national consciousness has been rattled, this time by the blunt remarks of a right wing US politician (Pat Buchanan) that describes the motherland as a 'failed state'. And once again, in typical fashion, the response by Ghanaians has ranged from 'shooting the messenger', through outright but pathetic denial, to the rendering of the problem along vulgar partisan lines. I am not concerned here with the pedigree of Mr. Buchanan; my interests lie in addressing the actual questions of Ghana as a failed state and a national psychoses fuelled by a myopic attitude to core questions of priority in issues of real economic development. The state, as a political entity, in modern times, has as its sacred and binding duty the provision of conditions for the security and prosperity of all its citizens. The success of a state in today's world lies in how far a state is able to fulfill or commit to this task, and it is against this binding duty alone that we must measure the success or failure of Ghana.

For those like Mr. Ivor Agyeman Dua, our President's praise singer, who deny the failure of the Ghanaian state, one wonders if their concept of Ghana extends beyond the few posh residential neighborhoods in Accra where a few Ghanaians live in conspicuous affluence? Or do they consider the adjoining areas in the capital city where many live in filth and squalor as part of the country? What about existence in the small towns and villages where the majority are caught in an economic maelstrom underpinned by subsistence and a slave mode of production. Have they considered the rate at which professionals have and continue to abandon the country in search of better economic conditions? Surely we cannot say with any confidence that the Ghanaian State has been able to provide the conditions for the security and prosperity of the majority of its people!

NPP pundits have blamed the failure of the Ghanaian State on 20 years of Rawlings rule. Die-hard Busia loyalists blame Nkrumah's 'socialist' experiment as the foundation of Ghana's failure. The NDC accuses the Kuffuor government of failing Ghanaians, and even Nkrumaists have chirped in with their tiresome refrain that Ghana was a progressive and successful state that was wrecked by subsequent governments after the Nkrumah regime. Even though, to my mind, these recriminations all wear a thread of truth – for indeed all our governments have precipitated the demise of the country – they evince a common deficiency, an inability to address specific issues of socio-economic action that will spur the successful development of the country. It is to such issues that I turn now.

To turn the tide of socio-economic failure in Ghana requires, nay, demands an act of national immolation, a paralysis of our conventional conceptions about the nature of the Ghanaian State. For the trials and tribulations that have plagued Ghana from her cradle until now and that will push her to the tomb of catastrophic disintegration started in the womb, in the conception of a Gold Coast or Ghanaian state by the British colonizers. Ghana was a failure even before independence!

Our founding fathers, riding a wave of an ephemeral national consciousness that hungered for independence accepted a state of conquered, disparate peoples saddled with a dependent economic imperative that ensured the underdevelopment of its peoples. Without considering fully the ramifications of the location of power after independence they adopted a crippling and oppressive political unitarism that like colonialism concentrated all power in the Castle and crippled the initiative of the mass of the people.

Further because this unitarism was, and still is dependent on the economy of primary production, the governments of Ghana since independence have inadvertently maintained and advanced that same economic imperative with only lip service or minimal commitment to a true attempt at industrialization. When all is said and done, the economy of Ghana, its imports and exports are much the same as they were 200 years ago with only very slight differences – the result of the fruits of other countries' development that have trickled down to us. Serious consideration of the failure of the Ghanaian state must question why after more than a century of being a world leader in cocoa production we are not world leaders in the much more lucrative cocoa products business; why after more than forty years of aluminum smelting we are not leaders in aluminum and alloyed products; why we do not have a fully integrated metallurgical industry and machine building capability even though we have substantial deposits of iron ore and manganese; why we do not possess a chemical industry based on our big salt deposits and the blessing of an ocean?

Those who like to trumpet Nkrumah's industrialization and development plans, if they give such serious consideration, will realize that they lacked the central ingredient of successful technology transfer. He merely imported whole factories and technicians, while he vigorously expanded the colonized education system that bore no organic relationship to the economic system. In the process he lay the foundation for the exodus of educated Ghanaians. Where Nkrumah possessed a large reserve fund to import his factories, Mr. Kyremateng, the Minister of Industry in the Kuffour government is frantically searching for foreign loans to finance a similar import substitution drive by importing machinery to process Ghanaian produce for export.

On the political front, under the guise of a decentralization program that ostensibly mitigates the rigors of an unyielding unitarism, Ghanaian districts are left on their own to seek funds from foreign organizations to finance schools, toilets and a clean water supply. And traditional leaders, guardians of a mode of production based on subsistence and slavery have begun to stray into the jurisdiction of the failed central governments by pursuing their own development assistance directly from multilateral donor agencies.

Obviously then, Ghana today stands as a failed state that is unable to provide the conditions for the security and prosperity of the majority of its citizens. No amounts of euphemisms parading in platitudes such as 'our newfound democracy' or Golden age of business' can erase this indelible fact. Yet unlike a person born with a fatal congenital condition, we can return to the foundations of the state as a political entity and re-erect it on a sturdier plinth. The new comer industrialized countries like Japan, Singapore, South Korea and also Germany are examples of committed and dynamic social engineering that have catapulted relatively backward nations into prosperity.

In modern times, even when a country is possessed of huge reserves of petroleum, industrialization has been the vehicle of socio-economic development, and Ghanaians must demand a viable industrialization program from our leaders. It must be one that is rooted in the development of an integrated metallurgical industry utilizing Ghanaian minerals and expertise to create machine-building capability for the country. Only then can Ghanaians achieve the increased value of labor that arises from true value added activity. The process of industrialization is no easy one. In Ghana, as in other countries, it must include a land reform process to alienate land and commercialize all agriculture, and a total reform of the educational system to make it more responsive to the countries' industrial needs. Finally an industrialization program will expose the limits of unitarism and show our castle-based autocrats totally incapable of real nation building.

The Republic of Ghana stands at the crossroads of history. To continue along our present path is to risk the catastrophic disintegration of our neighbors like Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Ivory Coast. We must as a nation, start now, to arrest the 50 years of collective ineptitude and pursue a program of action that will provide to all our peoples the conditions for their security and prosperity. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Kwesi Yeboah
Kwesi Yeboah, © 2004

The author has 34 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwesiYeboah

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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