25.07.2008 Feature Article

The Dilemma of a People

The Dilemma of a People
25.07.2008 LISTEN

“Revolutions are brought about by men, by men who think as men of action and act as men of thought” Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah – First President of Ghana.

“Shall I go to Cape Coast, or to Elmina …”

Any one who has watched (or read, considering the decline in theatre in our country) Ama Ata Aidoo's “Dilema of a Ghost” will be very familiar with the above lines.

Interestingly, like the Ghost in Ama Ata Aidoo's book, Ghanaians this year find themselves at the crossroads, what the Akans call Nkwantananso. They find themselves singing another version of the Ghost's song “Shall we thumb on Cape Coast, or Elmina, or Abuakwa, or Nalerigu?” However unlike the Ghost who concludes that “I don't know oh I can't tell” I find many Ghanaians in a chorus singing “I don't care oh the Value is the Same!!” By this, they mean they care less who governs our country. It may as well be the grandfather of a he goat, they don't care. It does not matter how much our forbears fought to ensure that we became masters of our own land. Their only concern is to get some morsels into their stomach when day breaks, and to engage in unending banter about who drives the latest car, or saw the newest video in town.

Many of our kinsmen have decided that it is just not worth it to waste your time to vote, or even to comment on the business of governance. The popular refrain is that “they are all the same!” I often recall when Kofi Annan decided to return home after his tenure as Secretary General of UN, the then Minister of Information, Kwamena Bartels, was asked if he thought Kofi Annan would like to put himself up for the position of President of Ghana. His answer was that he did not think the man will “stoop that low.” Kwamena Bartels, himself also a politician, felt the office of the president of Ghana was too low a position for a man of the calibre of Kofi Annan to aspire to. The question that nags me then is, why have Ghanaians so lost hope in their leaders, and why have these leaders themselves, like Mr. Bartels, lost any sense of pride in themselves?

A Failed Generation?

One of the reasons that I attribute to this apathy of Ghanaians is a generation of failed leaders. Many Ghanaians below the age of 35 have only known Kufuor and Rawlings as their leaders, and have come to the conclusion that the leadership of the country just does not care what happens. They have seen a hope they had in 2000 whittled away by the government of President Kufuor.

In 1957 when Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah declared independence at the old Polo Grounds, he made an overwhelming statement (what seemed at the time to be an innocuous statement). Nkrumah said “We must prove to the world that the black man is capable of managing his own affairs”. This statement was profound, and for a while we seemed to be doing that. The first black captain of a ship, The Black Star Line with almost 15 ships, was a Ghanaian. We built a medical school in Ghana, we built the Akasanoma Radio Factory, Kade Match Factory, Ghana Glass Factory, A harbour and a township called Tema. We taught Malaysians how to cultivate the Palm Tree and the art of film making. At the UN, the address of our president meant a lot, and people listened. Then things began to change after the coup of 1966. Gradually, we proved to the world that the black man has no clue on how to manage his own affairs.

Today, we are ruled by a generation that has failed in every sense to justify the investments that this country has made in them. This is a generation who went on 'aluta' in the university because they were being served too much chicken for Free, and yet have failed to provide even a decent meal for a fee to the university student of today. This generation enjoyed free education up to the tertiary level, and today is implementing what they call cost sharing education. They often confuse the millennium development goals with an enslaving agreement they signed with the United States government called the Millennium Challenge Account. They were bequeathed with Ghana Airways and several other assets, and they managed to collapse them under the guise of privatization. They often reminisce with nostalgia how their first salary of 20 cedis was enough to buy a Portmanteau and cloth for the engagement of our mothers, and yet have failed to make our 5,000,000 cedis salary do a quarter of what their 20 did. Even when they decided to embark on an artificial weeding out of four zeros from the currency, they have failed to maintain the strength of our currency, and today, contrary to President Kufuor's assertion, the cedi is not one-to-one with the dollar. They were bequeathed with Akosombo Dam, and were clueless on how to augment our nation's power supply until today, when they are running back to Nkrumah's old plans. It is a generation that has spawned and reared criminals and armed robbers who are today terrorizing our country. The few of their children, who did not fall prey to their misguided directions, have either been made too lazy to think, or been disillusioned to the point of utter hopelessness. When you are trained and ruled by a generation of this sort, it is difficult not to lose hope.

A Failed Educational System

A recent paper I read on Ghana by the Citigroup referred to this country as the “perpetual reformer”. The Citibank Analyst quotes a 2005 report by the Financial Times as saying “for two decades” Ghana “has been a testing ground for economic reform” in Sub-Saharan Africa. But you see, it is not only our Economy that has been used as a guinea pig all this while, it is also our educational system. They first changed our educational system “to make it more vocational oriented” by adopting the JSS and SSS system. Rather than producing graduates who could start their own vocations, this system ended up with more school drop-outs who had no clue on how to survive and ended up as shoe shine boys and dog chain sellers. In any case, are we more interested in producing way side carpenters from our schools, or engineers who can contribute significantly to the development of technology in this country and dare I say the rest of the world? When other countries are thinking of how to get onto the sun, our leaders are crafting out educational systems to teach us how to build chairs. No wonder a huge percentage of graduates of this system are almost unemployable. These reforms have turned our schools into grounds for indoctrination, and students learn more European history than they know about their own country. We have succeeded, by the structure of the curriculum, to kill any sense of patriotism, national identity and creativity in our people to the extent that the majority of Ghanaians don't even know the national pledge. But can you blame them, when even ministers of state cannot remember the pledge?

I had the shock of my life, when a University student told me to the face: “nothing good can come out of Ghana”. This was when we were discussing the merits and demerits of the policy of privatization, and this university student thought Ghanaians did not have the capacity to manage anything well. I wonder then why we fought for independence. We may as well go begging the Queen of England to return to our shores and hear us sing “God save the Queen”.

In their attempt to improve the Educational system, the NPP government has also ended up with a sham of a reform, only succeeding in changing the name of the system to make it sound more American and increasing the number of years our students stay in school.

I am a product of this system, and can say without any fear of contradiction, that the problem is not the name, or the number of years. The problem is simply that the curriculum is warped, and the teaching is “waste”. That is what we need to tackle. Make the curriculum more meaningful, teach student to THINK and be more patriotic and we will not have to be prancing around not clear on what to do.

Too Much Politics

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that the majority of Ghanaians have lost all interest in government. That leaves a few who are interested and who we may have to trust to put things rights. Unfortunately, this few have become so politicized that it is even shameful. They will defend to death their party's position on every subject; forget about the merits or demerits. If today Kufuor says selling Ghana Telecom is the right move, they will defend with all they have. And the Rawlings faithful will oppose it with all their might, forgetting that a few years ago, they were also supporting that very same policy because Rawlings said they should. In all of this, I am comforted by people like P.C Appiah-Ofori who said on Joy FM “National interest first”. My hope is that all Ghanaians will see issues in this light, and put our political affiliations aside when discussing national issues. It should not matter who is in power. What should matter is how the policies will affect us, and generations unborn. Be it CPP, NDC, NPP or PNC, we should muster the courage and strength to make sure that they do what we expect them to do.

Politics of Vindictiveness

Sometimes it's hard to blame the over politicized people. A lot of the time they have no choice. The politics of vindictiveness being practiced by the two major political parties make it very difficult for any person to remain level headed in political discussions. It appears our leaders are using our mandate to prosecute their political opponents. When you are threatened with prosecution when the other party wins, how can you think straight and be fair on matters of national interest. Our leaders, especially those of the NDC and NPP, need to realize that the mandate we give them is to develop our country and make our lives better, not to torment the lives of their enemies. This also brings to question the amount of power that the president wields.

The New Dawn
The only way for us to save our country from the claws of this greedy generation of leaders is to rise and hold them to account. Their time on earth is almost spent, and in the next fifty years, it is the younger generation and our children yet unborn who will bear the brunt of our legacy of inaction and apathy. It is not enough to say you will only brighten you corner. We must take a keen interest on how our leaders are administering our land, and call them to order when required, whoever they may be. Remember Haile Selassie's counsel that “Throughout history it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph." We should define the directions for our leaders and sing with a chorus:
“We don't care who you are, this you must do!!!”

Credit: Abdul-Nasser Alidu [[email protected]]