As usual, there will be pomp and pageantry. Security personnel and children will march past, to project to the world our image of ourselves, as a modern nation with vibrant institutions. We will congratulate ourselves on being a successful democracy - indeed, a shining example to Africa of how a democracy should work.
We will flaunt our credentials as a nation that lives by the rule of law. We will recount how far we have come in building a modern nation. We will assert vociferously how well-prepared we are for this 21st century and how we will lead Africa to make this the first African century.
We will recount how self-confident we have become as a nation in the last half-century.
We will brag about how vibrant and independent our media is and laud it for being a bastion of our democracy. These are very impressive claims that should make us feel good, but are they really true?
An American conservative, trying to distinguish conservatives from liberals said "LIBERALS SEE IT WHEN THEY BELIEVE IT WHILE CONSERVATIVES BELIEVE IT WHEN THEY SEE IT”
Do we see ourselves in the light of these claims because we believe we have come this far or do we believe we have come this far because the evidence is there for all to see?'
We are better off than many countries in Africa, but are we living up to our potential and to these claims we make for ourselves?
If Nkrumah and Danquah were taking a stroll in front of Parliament, from eternity and met Rawlings and Kufuor strolling in the opposite direction, and the four stopped for a candid review of our country, what would be their conclusion on how well we have done?
Are we really a vibrant democracy when changes in government are marked by political violence as we have witnessed during and after our elections in Agbobloshie, Tamale, parts of Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions, and other places, with gangster-style seizures of people's cars after a democratic change of government?
Do we live under the rule of law when in so many places, like Tamale, Bawku and Agbobloshie; violence can be visited on innocent citizens by others in the name of chieftaincy and politics, while the state looks on helplessly? Is this a nation that protects its citizens when we have all lost faith in the institutions that should protect us and invest a lot of money in building high walls and protective fences around our homes?
Are we really building a modern nation when we are drowning in garbage and so many perish daily in senseless carnage on our roads day-in and day-out?
Are we prepared for the 21ST Century when our educational system at all levels is in crisis? Only the heroic efforts of private schools are covering the scale of failure in our primary schools while even at the Universities, knowledgeable people wring their hands in anguish at the steady decline in the quality of our graduates.
How are we going to lead Africa when we lack jobs on one hand, and on the other hand have many unemployable people in our country? How are we self-sufficient when we consume so much of what we do not produce and produce so little of what we consume'! Are we really the proud self-reliant country we claim to be when we our national soccer coach is a foreigner whose interpreter earns more than his Ghanaian assistant? Mind you, this is the country that had won the Africa Cup of Nations Four times with Ghanaian coaches. Today, we are reluctant to hire Ghanaian coaches for our national teams and we call that progress.
How free and vibrant is our press when some state media leaders, known to be members of the opposition NPP are moving to please the new government before it has asked for any favours? When the NDC actually starts asking for favours as the government, the sycophancy will be a wonder to behold. Now the question is "Na who na what causam?
First, as a sage once put it "we have seen the enemy and he is us.” As a nation we have attitudinal challenges that hold us back. Amongst these are an inferiority complex that makes us treat foreigners and foreign things better than ourselves, a national inertia that protects the status-quo ferociously, and an absence of public candour that prevents us from honestly discussing our challenges.
From our worship of foreign consultants through our preference for foreign foods and manufactured foreign accents, to our obsession with foreign soccer leagues, we just want to be imitators of others rather than to make our own path. There is a national inertia that permits problems to outlast government after government even while we wring our hands helplessly. As a check, remind yourself of how long we have been concerned about garbage, corruption, accidents and chieftaincy disputes and what we have done about any of them. If you take any of these, can honestly say that we are better off than we were ten or twenty years ago? Some believe that these attitudinal problems are rooted in our history and culture. An anecdote here will illustrate this point.
It is said that in 1957, then Prime Minister Nkrumah, perhaps the most African of them asked then U.s. Vice-President Nixon, upon learning that the first US ambassador to Ghana was black." Are we not good enough to deserve a white?" Nkrumah later explained that the Americans would on1y send a white to an important country. This insight into the thinking of Nkrumah then appears to be typical of how we think half-a-century after independence.
The absence of candour can be seen in all sections of our society. There is a nauseating eagerness to agree with powerfu1 people. Party members are frowned upon when they deviate from the party line, church members are expelled when they raise concerns about church teachings or funding and promising University professors have their paths to advancement blocked by authorities for being "too known" etc.
Second, we lack systems for doing things with the result that too many things depend on individuals.
As a result, we keep coming back to the same problems again and again. Indeed, no elaboration here is necessary.
Third, there is too wide a gap between our talk and our deeds. As the first part of this piece suggest, we talk a good game. We promise to create jobs repeatedly but we do not.We pledge to tackle garbage but we do not. We reform our educational system once in every few years but nothing changes.
I asked a teacher what she thought about the last reforms when they were announced. She sighed and said "Doc, whatever they say, nothing will change!"
We swear frequently that we will be self-sufficient in food production and our imports keep increasing.
Fourth, the reason why these problems persist is that we lack leadership.
By leadership, I do not mean just political leadership. God knows we blame politicians enough for our problems. While political leadership is indispensable to our national revival, it is not enough.
We need leadership on our campuses, at all levels to produce the leaders of tomorrow.
We need leaders in our businesses to produce the jobs and wealth of tomorrow. We need leaders in our pulpits to rekindle our moral fibres and elevate our spirits as citizens and as a nation. We need leaders in our homes to produce the selfless workers of tomorrow who will produce here, competitively what we need and more for export.
We need leaders in journalism who will be fearless voices for our voiceless citizens.
We need leaders in the polling booths who will vote our nation's priorities instead of their ethnic or partisan sentiments.
And yes, we need political leaders who will put the next generation ahead of the next election, so that they can point our nation in the right direction. Politicians who will remind us that only we can build our country and that nobody else would do it for us. Politicians who will bring us together and not divide us, ethnic group from ethnic group, party from party and faith group against faith group.
While these tasks are very challenging, our first task is to admit that in that candid review by Danquah, Nkrumah, Kufuor and Rawlings, they will finally conclude that this is not the Ghana our FOUNDERS dreamt of. Danquah will recall the glories of the ancient kingdom whose name he gave to us. Nkrumah will recall how much the world expected from us and how far we have to go to meet those hopes. President Rawlings would lament how corrupt we still are and Kufuor would regret how few of us are part of the property-owning democracy he tried to build.
They will agree to pray for us and to hope that lNSHA AlLAH, we shall be nearer our dream in the next fifty years.
Let us move forward, together.
By Dr. Arthur Kobina Kennedy
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