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06.03.2007 General News

Renewing Faith In Our Independence

Today is exactly 50 years when we ceased to owe allegiance to the Union Jack and started singing our own national anthem.

March 6, 1957 gave us political independence and the freedom to determine our destiny.

It marked the beginning of a journey which, after 50 years, we need to pause, look back and reflect soberly as to whether we have achieved the dreams we nursed at independence or not.

Today, just as we have been doing every year since that historic day, we are going to march past the national flag at the magnificent Independence Square in Accra and at other parade grounds in the regional and district capitals throughout the country.

Events of the celebration, especially today's gathering of many Heads of State and other dignitaries at the Independence Square to witness the march past, will, no doubt, expose our country to international media attention, which is good for us at this time when we are making frantic efforts to re-assert our position as vanguards of Africa's emancipation and advancement into the 21st century.

There will be the clinching of glasses and proposing of toasts at the State Banquet which will follow in the evening.

We should expect diplomatic niceties to be said about our country by our guests, which are a normal ritual on such occasions.

To us as a people, the independence celebrations offer us the opportunity to reinvigorate our national vision and mission and to take a firm decision not to deviate from the path which will lead us to our developmental goals, as was the case in a greater part of the past 50 years.

It is a period which should inspire us to push for national reconciliation and reaffirm our commitment to national peace and unity, vital ingredients needed for our development and survival as a people.

Unfortunately, we have already started with some faltering steps which, if not corrected early, will lead us to damnation and leave a bitter taste in our mouths for years to come.

The first mistake we made was when we were composing the planning committee. Its national character was lost when we started categorising people into those in government and those in opposition.

A more all-inclusive committee, which would still be subject to government authority, should have looked like this: representatives of the following; all registered political parties, the National House of Chiefs, the Christian Council, the Muslim and Ahmadiyya missions, the hoteliers association and other major identifiable bodies which have a role to play in the celebration.

The same representation would then have been replicated in the regions. In that way, there would have been very few complaints from any quarter that they had been sidelined.

That opportunity to recognise the importance of all in the planning and the celebrations has been lost.

The second was the official invitation to former President J.J. Rawlings days after the celebration was launched. The invitation, no matter how well-intentioned, looked like an after-thought and that dims the spirit behind it.

The acrimony left behind is not healthy for a country which is still searching for national cohesion and total national development.

It is like the winner-takes-it-all syndrome which has characterised our politics over the years.

It is true that the government and the media are finding it difficult to lift the morale of the people to peak form for such an occasion.

The euphoria which welcomed our independence 50 years ago is substantially absent today, because when we come to do the comparisons, we find it difficult to go onto the streets to jubilate.

Last year, the euphoria was explosive, infectious and spontaneous because there was something to celebrate — the success of the Black Stars, the nation's football team, at the World Cup.

Today, apart from age, there is very little to celebrate when we compare ourselves with those who graduated with us.

So when people say they are not seeing any signs of the jubilee celebrations, they are only losing sight of the fact that you do not celebrate when there is nothing worth celebrating.

We even carried our failure as a nation into the celebrations by the way we approached the planning in a very hasty and unco-ordinated manner.

It was a clear evidence that we are yet to overcome the lethargy which has dominated our national efforts throughout the years.

To prove that we are yet to take full control of our independence, we took a rather sad decision to import the anniversary cloth and most of the souvenirs from China and other places.

The explanation that our local textile factories lack the capacity to produce the large volume of cloth required for the celebrations is only trying to find an excuse for failure, which we know how to do with distinction.

If, after 50 years, a country with a population of 20 million has to turn to a country with a population of 1.5 billion for its anniversary paraphernalia, then you ask, what are we celebrating?

I thought instead of parks for schoolchildren to march on for a day and be left to overgrow with weeds, we could have tackled some very important projects which have been left uncompleted for decades. These could have served as monuments of our Golden Jubilee.

For instance, none of the regional centres of culture has been fully completed and made operational. This has adversely affected the development and promotion of the arts and culture in the regions.

It would have been better that, thanks to our Golden Jubilee, all regions now have decent and respectable cultural centres.

These will be living monuments, instead of white-washed walls and vehicles which will vanish in no time.

There are many other projects which have been abandoned, some dating back to the First Republic which should have been tackled to symbolise our new vision and determination to gain grounds as a nation.

Who knows, such brilliant and rewarding ideas would have emerged if the national and regional committees were all-embracing and their mandate not limited to the entertainment and political aspects of the celebration.

We have spent a greater part of the last 50 years talking instead of acting. But there is no need crying over spilt milk.

It is better to recognise our failures and make the effort to avoid them than try to make a fresh attempt in an atmosphere of suspicion and rancour.

That is why the citizens of this country would like to appeal to our politicians on both sides of the divide to show maturity and tolerance from now onwards and endeavour to allow the national interest to override all other considerations in all their undertakings.

Article by Kofi Akordor