“There is no use screaming about how independent you are by driving away colonialists if you do not make independence meaningful.” – Ama Ata Aidoo
Imagine, fellow Ghanaians, what a society it would be. A society where the people are sound in their consciousness. A society where logic brings the tools and resource endowments together to produce this or that. One where the health and wealth of the people are jealously and zealously catered for.
I also wish I belong to that society; where electricity, food, water, clothes, shelter and security among other human wants and needs, are in adequate supply to its people. An ideal society. We can build one for ourselves because men are sometimes masters of their own destiny.
All too soon, another Independence Day has come. As usual, there is celebration of that historic and momentous March 6, 1957 event. Radio and TV waves re-echo those revolutionary events that took place in Ghana, the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. Newspapers show pictures of those heroes - Mr Archie Casley-Hayford, Mr K A. Gbedemah, Mr. N.A. Welbeck, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Mr Kojo Botsio, Mr Krobo Edusei, and many more.
Schoolchildren wear well-Starched school uniforms and socks to give their best at the march past. Teachers, police, military officers, administrators, veterans, farmers join the parade to observe or participate in the celebration. Other programmes include school debates, quizzes, games, etc.
The struggle and final proclamation of independence by Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah at the old Polo grounds has become indelible, at least in history books. He declared, "Ghana, our beloved country is free forever."
That is independence. It ushered in a new hope of a nation without exploitation, colonialism and neo-colonialism. What was more joyous than a state of liberty in which our black fellows, no more white men, formed the government?
Just as we have days declared for national prayer, national thanksgiving, national this or that, can we have one for national retrospection? We could find workable solutions to questions such as: Is it enough to say we are independent by forming a black government? What were the dreams of our forefathers in the struggle to build this Ghana? What does this year's anniversary theme, "Unity and Peace, Pillars for National Development" seek to offer? Is Ghana really independent?
The word 'independence' has more than one meaning. Its usage in relation to nations, e.g. Independence of the USA, Independence of Ghana, etc. connotes freedom from the control, influence, support or help of others (World Book Dictionary). Other reference books may use different words but the general theme, especially fit for this context is the idea of freedom. Freedom, I suppose, politically, religiously, culturally and economically.
It is a fact that the Whiteman (colonialist) was successfully dethroned. Kudos Ghana! But it is equally true that independence goes beyond the mere dethronement of a colonialist. What about that?
I remember those days in Yendi Secondary School. My SSS days when I read this interesting George Orwell prose titled "Animal Farm". Those thought-provoking deeds of Napoleon, Squealer, Snowball, etc. still linger in my memory as I reflect this day. So scornful in their struggle against Mr Jones, the animals successfully achieved a state of freedom. That is a mark of patriotism.
With Napoleon as leader, the animals began their celebration, drafted their own constitution and started hard work. At that moment, their independence had started very well and they could manage their own circumstances better than Mr Jones. But it failed to deliver their hopes in the end. In fact some felt they were better under Man.
From Nkrumah to John Agyekum Kufuor (Mills omitted because he has just started) similar events found their routes through Ghana, covertly or overtly. After independence what was next? Tyranny, elitism, deportation, hypocrisy, victimisation, vindictiveness, insinuation, corruption, among other ugly deeds, dilute our good intentions as if both were emblematic of every independence.
After 52 years of independence, one may justify our actions by enumerating the good things that independence has brought. But well-meaning Ghanaians could also be concerned with the: Mismanagement of our state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Our enterprises seem to only perform reasonably under private ownership or public-private partnerships.
Importation of almost everything, even toothpick, paste, although we equally produce some of them.
Direct or indirect control or manipulation of our policies and economy, a type of neo-colonialism which comes first through foreign aids and investments.
Perpetual indebtedness to these same people we chased away which is caused partly by our lavishness, corruption.
There are still masses of poverty stricken malnourished groups in our cities and villages.
Our offices and homes are rather full of Western gadgets. Even Ghanaians are westernised in their thoughts, clothes, etc.
After 52 years of independence we do not even qualify for a middle-income status. Our GDP figure still hovers around 6.2.
If these and many more scores remain unsettled, can we say we are also independent just like the Japanese, Americans, Koreans, Germans, British, etc.? Even the Malaysians are now performing better than Ghanaians.
Do we observe once again, in the proper ceremonies of independence anniversary, without having to pause and ponder, at least a little, over this mimic independence euphoria? That would be a blooming puzzling confusion because there cannot be independence without independent policies, norms, cultures and institutions.
Conscious of the political imperfection in the liberty of individual isolated states, Dr Kwame Nkrumah did not mince words in saying that the independence of Ghana "is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa". This was a prophetic perspective. But I still wonder if this dream of Nkrumah will ever be realised in Africa till time ends.
I am not by this article saying we have failed as a people, like the animals in the Animal Farm. I am only hammering on the odds which make us move forward at a rather slow pace. After all, we are discerning beings who are conscious of events around us which animals lack. We can use this intelligence to delete these negatives like computer viruses and build a better Ghana.
Of course, we have good reasons to be proud of our progress so far. After all, a wise Dagbani proverb says “gbib wolisira sola kong wolisira” (which literally means that it is better to have and struggle with it than to struggle to get it).
The solutions are not far-fetched. Corruption, loitering, laziness, pilfering, poor maintenance of state properties, and many more make this independent Ghana move slowly. Many of the problems are rooted in our culture. The other day, I drew close to a crying four-year-old boy only to be told; "My mom bought waakye for me but I want polish rice".
Don't even propose more seminars, workshops, board meetings, and many of those our 52 years of independence has seen. Sitting allowances do not ensure implementation of plans. We need action.
It is not the business of the NDC government alone but of all well-meaning Ghanaians. I am sure logic alone persuades us that these schoolchildren, police, veterans, teachers and all those Ghanaians who salute His Excellency President Atta Mills today, deserve better transportation, accommodation, security, electricity, schools, water and those goodies that will make Ghana a really enviable independent state. Minus that, the independence of Ghana is meaningless.
Long live independent Ghana.
Long live Africa.
Written by Abubakari Is-haq Z
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."
Reproduction is authorised provided the author's permission is granted.