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15.10.2004 Feature Article

We Can All Make a Difference - Big or Small.

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Even though in recent history, there is evidence that individuals make a difference, such as Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Nkrumah, and many others, this saying seems hard to get through in a lot of societies, especially those with authoritarian governments or those with young democracies, which to a greater extent, characterizes the political landscape of Africa.

In Ghana, where the population has endured several changes of government, each making promises which never came to fruition, or fell short of expectations, one is bound to sometimes understand the apathy and resignation of some of its citizens, with respect to how much control they perceive to have over their situation at any one time.

However, it may be unwise to fall victim to apathy or resignation, as we can draw from the case of the Nigeria's women's team, as shared on the BBC website, http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/africa/3726542.stm, that we can all make a difference. We see this in their actions to oblige the Nigerian Football Association to make good on a promise, using a peaceful approach, but one that yielded dividends for them.

You will not bored with the story, as it can be viewed on the BBC website and one can follow the trail to get a complete account of what transpired to date. The point that sticks out is this; here are a few citizens of a developing nation, who were motivated by a promise by their organization. They went out and did the job, only to be faced with conditionality, with respect to the promise made. Maybe, there are reasons for this, but the issue did not sit well the group and as such they decided to take action that was not violent but simply defiant and pressed on with their demands. Such an action could have had a couple of bad outcomes or results in the 'old' Africa. In the 'old' Africa, this action taken by the players to secure their bonus could generate no reaction on the part of the leadership of the organization, or a reaction which would be a non-responsive approach to the whole fiasco, which could be the use of repressive means, which could include some form of brutality and human rights abuse or a combination of either of the scenarios, to make sure that team members “were taught a lesson”.

Today, regardless of the work needed in governance with respect to the new democracies of the continent, people must accept the fact that many African countries are embarking on a new course with respect to governance. It is in its infancy and is a work in progress.

Going back to the actions of Nigeria's women's team, the real result or outcome of their civil disobedience actually should be seen as a triumph for all parties involved. The confidence of the team was won back, the promise was met, the players morale is up again and really they will forever respect the process that led to their demand being met, and to that extent, the organization that actually made all this happen should also receive similar compliment in making things happen the way it did, without incident. The Nigerian Football Association, with this experience should become a better outfit, as it may never want to be in this position again.

From the perspective of people/institutional development and to an extent as a way of reinforcing democratic principles and leadership, this act of the team needs to be used to reinforce and continue to instill the values such as risk taking, courage, assertiveness and tenacity, which should really come with everything we do, if we want anything that bad. From the Ghanaian or African perspective we have several wants and needs but how bad do we go out to get it?

From the team perspective, If any team members should have deviated from whatever plan they had, collectively they would have been losers and set a precedent that could have hurt sports at that level forever. They would have also forever given up a part of something they believed in and most importantly who they are. Simply put they would have compromised their beliefs. This is an important lesson especially where the strengths of teams are concerned, because as a team we need to know our strength is in our numbers, and numbers always count. It is also important in that a team is held by a common goal or objectives, but the team results come from the pooled outcomes of individual actions and this is what actually creates the success that comes from any such union.

In staying their course as a group, and securing their desired outcome, what this situation should teach us, especially as Africans, is to encourage us to believe that a new wind is blowing across the continent and each person can make a difference. However, change does not come with ease. There are times when discourse is needed to effectively serve as a catalyst for change, and people must look beyond the obvious or immediate risk. The attitude and response is both worthy of praise.

These young women, have something to share with society with respect to leadership, and we can use this personal experience, with African role models, to reshape minds and attitudes to help us all grow into less self-centered individuals.

This piece of history should not be buried but rather used in a practical sense to instill some of the needed values that will create our success as a continent, such as team work/brotherly (sisterly) love, stay committed to ones beliefs if one is truly convinced about them, act responsibly and in a civil manner even when faced with a personal challenge. Also communicate one's beliefs and be truly convinced that one person or any group of persons can make a difference. Be assertive.

To those who wish to extend their appreciation to the women for a good job both on and off the field, they should do so without guilt, as these young ladies deserve praise and should receive support after they have arrived in their native country.

For the current leadership of the continent (in public or private entities) there are also lessons to be learned from this situation. After years of deceit, abuse of power, and bad governance, mistrust is so widespread in all aspects of life, but especially on the political scene of the continent. This actually has had severe implications with respect to the development of our societies. Leaders of either public or private institutions must make every attempt to improve their relationship with the masses, and especially work harder to regain their trust, through effective communication. It is from such an improved trust position that one can embark on a solid development plan, with great support of its people, especially considering the difficult but necessary steps for developing our fragile economies. So if leaders are calling for change from the people, they must be out there doing the same with respect to how they govern and manage our economies. This shift in leadership attitude must be in abundance and not in isolated cases for the purpose of political gain.

If we use business parity in this situation, especially with respect to leadership and society, a company (any institution, public or private) that has no regard for its clients (constituents, staff, or customers) will definitely go out of business, sooner or later. Public figures will lose their trust and effectiveness with the people, should they not act responsively to the needs of their constituents (their clients) and as such will go out of business, where they will be voted out. In being responsive to the electorate's needs through effective communication, polls such as that presented in the story carried by the BBC website, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3736956.stm, should provide the guidance and direction, which governments and leaders of their respective societies need to address on behalf of their citizens.

Every individual counts, because even with the results of the polls (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3736956.stm), the composite or general picture presented comes from a collective of individual responses. We as individuals regardless of our current situations can effect change. We ought to believe that. Let us all think and act as change agents for a better future.

The issue of embarrassment to the nation of Nigeria, which could be a way the actions of these fine ladies could be perceived by some, should not factor into the equation because these young women executed with skill, the art of negotiations, which we as Africans, especially the leadership need to be coached on.

Let us put our egos to the side and see what is good in our everyday situations and people. Let us share such experiences and make the new aspirations of our continent, be one based on a continuous learning society, working towards a truly free, self sufficient and peaceful society. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Ako Folson
Ako Folson, © 2004

The author has 58 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: AkoFolson

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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