A generation of Ghanaians who saw it all from the colonial era to the present have said that greed, laziness and “senseless military interventions” are responsible for the country's “present despair”.
Welcoming the country's 49th Independence Day celebration today, with extreme caution, the senior citizens said the only way out of the present despondency was for the new generation to appreciate hard work and discard the notion of any short route to success.
The senior citizens whom the Daily Graphic spoke to at the Help Age Ghana Social Centre in Osu, Accra also advised Ghanaians to do away with the politics of division and unite for the development of the country.
They further stressed the need for greater discipline in the society, especially among the youth, to enhance the development of the country.
Forty-nine years ago, Ghana's first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, proclaimed independence for the nation at the old Polo Grounds in Accra, after years of political struggle under British colonial rule.
Ghana thus became the first African country south of the Sahara to be independent.
The immediate post-independence era saw the launching of two Five-year Development plans and a Seven-Year Development Plan on March 11, 1964, which were to boost the country's infrastructure in education, agriculture, industry, health and agro-processing.
But on February 24, 1966, the Nkrumah government was toppled by a military junta which accused the First Republic of dictatorship and leading the country into economic chaos. Eighty-two year old veteran airforce officer, Mr A. O. Omaboe, was elated that he and his peers had paid their dues to mother Ghana and now the mantle was with the youth to continue.
“The duty of developing our country into a paradise we all cherish rests on the shoulders of Ghanaians and that can only be achieved through hard work, dedication, honesty and patriotism,” he added. Mr Omaboe urged Ghanaians to be vigilant and ensure that the democratic process was not derailed, pointing out that the country's development had slackened because of intermittent disruptions in governance by the military.
Mr Omaboe also observed that the determination, aggression and massive development drive by Dr Nkrumah after independence had ceased because of what he called “useless military interruptions”.
He advised Ghanaians, especially the youth, to refrain from alcoholism, hard drugs, promiscuity and other negative lifestyles in order to stay long and healthy. Mr E. S. Otchere, 79, who was a driver at Parliament during the declaration of independence, said the determination and zeal that Ghanaians had for the development of the country after independence had dwindled.
“Today, the youngmen are selfish, disrespectful, corrupt and greedy. They wouldn't mind killing for money just to finance their expensive lifestyles,” he added.
He said it was disheartening to see Ghanaians who evaded taxes in billions of cedis mustering courage to castigate the government for not providing them with amenities.
Mr Otchere urged Ghanaians not to antagonise each other because of their political, religious and ethnic differences. “We should use the celebration of the 49th anniversary of our independence to chart a new course for this country. We should resolve to march forward and never backward,” he added.
A 71-year old retired draughtsman, Mr Anum Annan, recalled that when Ghana attained independence, he had just completed school and was learning a vocation.
He said there was jubilation all over the country as Ghana's first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, declared independence at the Old Polo Grounds. He said Dr Nkrumah did extremely well for the country's development, by constructing the Accra-Tema Motorway, the Akosombo Dam and other projects.
Mr Annan, however, said what he didn't like about Dr Nkrumah was the way he detained his critics and political opponents, as well as his threat to eject the people of La from their abode.
He observed that since independence, the country had gone through various development processes and expressed the hope that more development projects would be initiated.
Ms Janet Hanson was full of praise for Dr Kwame Nkrumah for leading Ghanaians through the turbulent times to attain independence.
She called on Ghanaians to re-dedicate themselves to the ideals and visions of the founding fathers of the country and to work hard to ensure that they bequeathed a good legacy for the coming generation.
Madam Justina Johnson, an elderly woman, who could not tell her age, said independence brought enormous freedom to the entire nation. She, however, expressed concern about recent developments that had the potential to disturb the peace of the country and called for peace and tolerance among the people to move the nation forward.
Madam Johnson further underlined the need for unity and understanding among the people, adding that nobody should think evil about his or her neighbour. A retired Farm Manager of the Ghana State Farms at Assin Fosu in the Central Region, Mr Arnold Campbell, said independence day “is a special day for all to celebrate”.
He said, past governments had contributed their quota to the development of the country but expressed concern about the tendency of some governments to discontinue projects initiated by their predecessors.
Mr Campbell was also worried about the spate of indiscipline in the society, especially among the youth, and urged Ghanaians to be truthful, disciplined and law-abiding.
He advised Ghanaians to eschew negative politics that brought divisions and to love one another for the good of the nation.
The highlight of this year's anniversary celebration is a colourful parade of security services and schoolchildren at the Independence Square in Accra, this morning. Similar parades will take place in all the regional capitals.
The celebration, which is on the theme; “Developing and retaining quality human resource base: Key for accelerated national development”, will officially end on Tuesday, March 7, with a military open day in all garrisons for the general public.