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Ghana: The sad tale of a sinking country

By David Zekpah
Opinion Ghana: The sad tale of a sinking country
WED, 19 JUN 2024 LISTEN

The independence of Ghana is meaningless without the total liberation of the continent of Africa. Such a frontline leadership role is what Dr. Kwame Nkrumah envisaged and pursued. To use Ghana as an anchor state to show to fellow Africans and the world what is possible. That the black man, given the chance is capable of self-determination through self-governance. Truly, and given the chance, Ghana’s take-off was remarkable. With a change of mindset (the new African) and a massive push for industrialization, Ghana became the beacon of hope and the dream of many colonies in the region.

Foremost of Nkrumah’s agenda is a redefined African identity, mentality, and discipline. Then came the elements of development, i.e. industrialization, agriculture, education, healthcare, and global attractiveness. Nigeria, Africa’s giant, at the time suffered massive economic emigrations to Ghana. Clearly, Ghana was set on the highway to the promise of black self-determination.

In the beauty of all these and unbeknownst to the naked eye, the seeds of corruption and associated vices germinated and developed taproots. A canker that would eventually place the country under the guillotine. By the ‘70s, corruption, and the unbridled quest for power had plunged the country into a spate of coups d’états. About 6-7 successful coups in less than 15 years (’66-‘81). The consequent political instability gravely affected economic growth to the point of reverse osmosis where Ghanaians immigrated en masse to Nigeria for greener pastures. In less than 3 decades, the renaissance train had derailed. The vision became blurry and our eyes gazed upon a pathless future. Corruption in all forms was now widespread and endemic. From government officials through to market makers and traders who created artificial scarcity, hiked prices and profiteered indiscriminately (ref. kalabully days). All systems of control had broken down irreparably.

Clearly, Ghana needed redemption and possibly a reset to factory settings (Nkrumah’s vision). The last two coups d’états (’79 & ’81) attempted to achieve this. Rawlings’ intervention albeit well intended, was driven by enormous passion, verve and the naïve ambition to uproot the roots of corruption from society by weeding out the visibly corrupt The consequent military excesses were extremely grievous. To add salt to injury, corruption today is an organized crime featuring gangsterism and cronyism. Much worse than 45 years ago. Key among Rawlings’ efforts to reset Ghana was the decision to return to constitutional democracy and the rule of law in ’92. As expected, the last eight (8) years of democratic Rawlings saw steady economic growth. The once-foggy future slowly began to flash flickers of hope.

The most notable observations of this era were the prolonged political stability, the ideological shift towards free markets, the implementation of economic recovery and structural adjustment programme, and the return of donor agencies and multinational corporations (MNCs). It was also the time of the FCUBE policy which sought to make basic education both universal and compulsory, a VAT-sponsored GETFund, nationwide rural electrification, and urban road rehabilitation and asphalting. Thus, the foundation stones for a resurgent Ghana were laid again.

On the strength of these foundation stones, Ghana made significant leaps of progress with the historic change in government into the hands of the opposition NPP led by J.A. Kuffour. The next eight years was a dispensation of wider roads, new foreign banks, jobs, re-denomination of the cedi, and debt restructuring. Social intervention programmes such as the free basic school feeding, and free maternity care, which eventually metamorphosed into a full NHIS scheme were born. With such progressive outlook, Ghana again became a model state among its peers. Football glory was added on with our Stars’ impeccable performances at the AFCON and World Cup. It was such a good time to identify as Ghanaian abroad.

One would rightly imagine that this trajectory of steady growth and development would be a benchmark for future leaders and decision-makers. Yes, it was, and has been a source of inspiration and challenge to do better. However, as hard as we tried, corruption also grew steadily alongside our best efforts. Well-meaning Nigerians warned us of the ubiquity, and destructive venom of corruption. Taking cue from their own failed industrialization project of the 70s, they duly warned us of how corruption as a hydra-headed monster stunts growth and development. Whether we believe it or not, the Nigerian amber flashlights have all too soon become red headlights. A Nigerian academic, Dr. Obinna Udorri Nkwocha once quipped; Ghana does not have the resource endowment of Nigeria to be entertaining this level of corruption- it is just not sustainable! Now we have in charge, a CEO who sees corruption as a serpent to be fed and used as an instrument to avariciously amass wealth, create crony hegemony, and intimidate naysayers.

No wonder, My Ghana, as Kwame Nkrumah affectionately addressed her, now has a health system that cannot save lives. That we can shamelessly cap healthcare-designated funds (NHIS levies), and divert these funds for non-health purposes while there are no beds in hospitals, no NHIS medicines, and kidney patients die en masse due to unaffordable dialysis costs. GETFund and associated scholarships now sponsor the privileged in society when our children still school under trees, are served poverty-labeled meals at school, and our SHS education reduced to a stop-and-go traffic light. Is this Ghana? Outside inner-city Accra, a trip on our roads is a macabre dance from start to finish. Food price forecasts remain high due to the state of our roads and vehicular maintenance costs. The economy is scarily in tatters, with the Cedi ranked 4th among the WOSRT performing currencies GLOBALLY. From excess power production in 2016, mindboggling mismanagement of the energy supply chain means we now cannot find money to keep the lights on, though we still have excess installed capacity. Barefaced corruption is the order of the day. Corrupt officials find comradeship in corrupt officials. Cronyism shamelessly replaced patriotism. At the lower rungs of society, ethical and moral decay is rife. No one feels any responsibility towards the country. The clergy have lost their non-bias bearing. Inward-looking self-centeredness begins the first stanza of our new anthem – Me, Myself & I alone.

Sadly, rather than a straight progressive path to actualization, ours has been that of a sinusoidal curve. For a small country (i.e. < 35 million people), we have sufficient resources to be able to have a decent per capita income values. Ghana, a country founded in rich royal kente cloth is now a form of a banana republic seeking dry banana leaves to cover her shame – Take us the foxes…the little foxes that spoil the vine (Songs of Solomon 2:15)

BY DAVID ZEKPAH,
Executive Director.
The 1957 Group.

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