IF WE MAKE THE EFFORT WE CAN ALSO JOIN IN THE GLOBAL RACE”
Text of Keynote Speech on the Occasion of the 49th Anniversary of Ghana's Independ-ence, to the Ghanaian Association of Seattle, WA; March 18th 2006.
By Kwaku Mensah
Let me begin by sharing with you an incident that I observed while I was in my home town of Sunyani during a visit to Ghana three years ago. I had been in Ghana for close to a month and had had plenty of time to be totally confounded and frustrated by the all too obvious state of general stagnation, and in some cases, actual decline. One of the situa-tions that had become a pet peeve of mine was the deplorable conditions of most of the side roads. In Sunyani the Capital of the Brong-Ahafo region vehicular traffic was not as bad it was in Kumasi and Accra but quite remarkably none of the roads leading to the many new residential areas were developed; and neither were the streets.
The Catholic Church of Ghana four years ago decided to establish a new private Univer-sity, Ghana and they chose Sunyani for the site. The temporary quarters of the University has been established in a pastoral center belonging to the Church. The roughly one mile long road from one of the main streets in Sunyani to the Pastoral center is an undeveloped gravel road and as one might expect suffers the same fate as all the other side roads in Sunyani. My classmate from high school works as the chief Finance Officer for the Uni-versity and so I spent quite a lot of time visiting with him on the campus.
It was clear to me as I maneuvered my way through the deep ruts and pot holes each day to visit my old pal that all that needed to be done to maintain the gravel road was to peri-odically grade it and provide appropriate simple drainage ditches to keep the road from becoming as completely gutted as it was.
Then it was announced that the official inauguration of the University would take place on a Saturday. The ceremony would bring the President of Ghana, whose wife inciden-tally is from Sunyani and members of the Diplomatic community of Ghana as well as the Chiefs and traditional Elders of the region to Sunyani.. So guess what I saw when I went to visit my friend on the Friday afternoon on the eve of the inauguration? The road had been graded and all the pot holes were filled in!
Now while one might say the repair of the road in anticipation of an important event is par for the course I maintain that as bad as the road had been for so long it didn't need a 'presidential event', so to speak, to fix. That it took the special event to undertake the much needed repair is a symptomatic of what I maintain ails Sunyani, Ghana and Africa.
A Bit of History:
We are gathered here tonight to celebrate the independence of Ghana. As most of you are aware the actual anniversary date is March 6th.1957. Why March 6th? It was on March 6th one hundred and sixty-two years ago that some chiefs of the central coastal regions, within the boundaries of present day 'Central Region', signed an agreement between them and British traders on the coast. The agreement gave the British merchants trading rights in return for providing the coastal tribes much needed protection from the bellicose Asantes further inland. The date was March 6th 1844 and the agreement which came to be known as The Bond of 1844 in colonial times, has been described as a Magna Carta and viewed generally as the beginning of the de facto colonization of the Gold Coast. by the British
At the time of the signing of the agreement the British traders had been operating in the region for close to two hundred years (since 1662) but they were relative new comers having been preceded there by first the Portuguese, then the Spanish, the Dutch, Danes, French, Swedes and Germans in that order. By 1844 however they and the Dutch were the only European traders still operating on the Gold Coast. The Dutch had acquired El Mina Castle from the Portuguese and the British had acquired Cape Coast Castle from the Swedes.
In their trade dealings with the coastal tribes the British had had a chance to witness the pesky nature of the Asantes up north and had been forced to take sides in some major bat-tles between the Asantes and the coastal tribes. In one such battle fought in 1831 the Ashanti were routed by a combined force made up of the Gas, Fantes Denkyiras, Akyems and Akwamus supported by a small reserve of British troops equipped with Congreve rockets. After their defeat a peace treaty was concluded between the Asantes on one hand and the British and their coastal allies on the other. It was during the period of the relative calm following the signing of this peace treaty that the Bond of 1844 came to be signed
Also at the time of the signing of this initial bond the British merchants on the coast had morphed from purely private enterprises into quasi national (British) commercial institu-tions that enjoyed the full overt protection of the Crown back in England. Governors were being appointed routinely to oversee British possessions which at this time com-prised solely of the forts and castles and the lands on which those structures stood. As a matter of fact one of the signatories of the Bond of 1844 was His Excellency the Lieuten-ant Governor in his official residence at the Cape Coast Castle. To emphasize a point, let me say that in spite of the significance given to the Bond of 1844 as the document which somehow ushered in the era of colonization of the Gold Coast, nothing in the Bond itself implied or even hinted at what was about to happen to the people of that region known as Ghana today. In fact the preamble to the Bond made the following disclaimer
“..There is no intention to grant the Crown any territorial sovereignty or suzerainty, nor is there any authority beyond that of enforcing compliance with the orders of the court.”
As the history of Ghana (Gold Coast) shows once the British realized that there was a prevailing conflict between the various ethnic groups in the region they quickly learned how to capitalize on the situation while advancing their own commercial and later na-tional interests. So in spite of their own ambivalence about the notion of annexation, the decision was made on July 24 1874, thirty years after the signing of the bond unilaterally, to annex the region under the British Crown and call it the Gold Coast Colony. A month later an Order in Council was issued by the Colonial Office. It empowered the establish-ment of a Legislative Council for the new Colony with the duty of drawing up and exe-cuting new laws for the Colony by ordinance, 'subject to royal right of disallowance'. It should be pointed out here that at this time the only properties the British had consisted of Cape Coast Castles and two or three other Forts in the general vicinity. There had been no formal transfer of control of any lands or territories from the people of the region to them. So the “New Colony” for which a Legislative council was being established existed only on paper and in the schemes of the British. Certainly none of the local tribal heads and rulers in the region was party to the decision.
The British had gone from merchants, whose commodities, at one time, included slaves, to become colonists in the Gold Coast in a process not unlike what happened in North America. Once the die was cast and there appeared to be no objection the British set about to take care of the business of bringing the fierce Asantes under control if they were going to extend their reign beyond the narrow confines of the lands on which their possessions stood. This they did by waging two major wars against the Asantes. Suffice it to say without going into details that the Asantes were defeated finally in December 1901. By January 1st 1902 the British issued three new Orders in Council, one each for the coastal region officially called The Gold Coast Colony, the Ashanti region immedi-ately above the Coastal region and the rest of the land above the Volta River described as The Northern Territories Protectorate.
Traditionalism, Modernism, Nationalism, Economic Imperialism and Cultural Im-perialism
George Bernard Shaw once said “We learn from history that we learn nothing from his-tory”. A casual observation of the events in the course of human history would tend to agree with the cynical view of the world by the great Irish playwright. Upon second thought however we cannot dismiss history if we hope to survive as a species. The prob-lem is not that history fails to teach us anything; the problem is that we chose to ignore the lessons of history. History brings us to the trough but does not compel us to drink. It is our choice.
So my reason for recounting a bit of the history of the country we call Ghana was to give us a snapshot of where we've been in the 162 years since the course of our destiny as a people was intercepted by the actions of an alien group of people out in search of their own destiny. I am of the humble opinion that it is only by knowing where we've been and understanding what has happened to us and, more importantly, understanding our role in what has happened to us that we can hope to make any progress in the journey of life.
While all human societies must, for their own good heed the lessons of history, it is my conviction that it is most imperative that societies in modern Africa particularly heed the lessons of history. History for Africans should not be a mere academic exercise consist-ing of the assimilation of biased facts to be regurgitated at examination times. History and its deeper lessons should serve as a blue print for life. The collective histories of all the African societies should serve as a giant blueprint that could catapult Africa into the mainstream of global affairs, from which Africa to day appears to be barred.
Traditionalism: A common theme in the folklore of all cultures is the telling of stories about the origins of the various inhabitants of our planet. Amazingly most accounts of the origins of people from all regions of our world include the assertion that they were either the first people in their region to appear there or they were the first people to inhabit the earth. Another fea-ture of our world, common to all its inhabitants and social groups is the immense diver-sity, in language, beliefs, customs and rituals. In other words our world is populated by several million tribes. Tribes and tribal customs are not the unique features of just Afri-can countries. They only appear so mainly because for the most part African societies have not deviated too far from the cultural norms that form the underlying themes of their folklores. In the relatively young and new nations like America, Canada and Australia the concept of tribes and tribalism has been lost thanks to policies and programs that have effectively rendered the Native peoples of these nations almost invisible and irrelevant
Whatever stories about their origins that the pilgrims brought with them to North Amer-ica would not have the same significance in the New World because such stories lacked the important ingredient of being associated with the origins of the people in the new land. Confinement of the Native Tribes of North America in Reservations and effectively denying their role in crafting what 'We proudly hail as the United Sates' fortunately or unfortunately frees Americans from attachment to ancestral and tribal icons
The United States - minus the Native Tribes- in many ways behaves like a nation without a tribal history and therefore no cultural or traditional beliefs. At least one does not hear of or see the type of cultural beliefs that carry the aura of mysticism so rampant in the beliefs among truly traditional societies. Not being hampered, as it were, by such societal dos and don'ts is sometimes very beneficial. For example one outcome of America's non attachment to ancient norms is the extreme mobility of her citizens. Not being attached spiritually to one's ancestral place of birth has profound implications for facilitating a culture of mobility which in turn stokes the engine of growth.
European nations are not like the United States and Canada. Europe like the rest of the old world has a history of tribal communities and tribalism has been and to some extent still exists in a subdued capacity in some Europeans nations. In the very highly advanced nations of Europe overt tribalism rarely manifests itself in the day to day functions of the communities. For political expediency these ultra-modern societies have learned to mold themselves into cohesive unions characterized typically by the speaking of a common language. Even where 'tribes' in these nations used to speak different languages they have learned to communicate in one language and allowed the other languages to die or be subordinated. Thus in the United Kingdom, made up of tribes that used to speak Celtic, Welsh, Cornish and English among others, they have agreed in the interest of building a truly united nation to all learn to speak English.
But giving up the speaking of their native tribal tongues did not make the Irish and the Scots and the Welsh and the Cornish people any less valued members of the United Kingdom. On the other hand because of the unity of purpose they espouse at home the tiny nation of England was able to spread her influence, at one time around the world, building a vast Empire on which the sun never used to set. To become the nation they called Great Britain the British had to adapt them-selves from a tribalistic, traditionalist society to a modernistic one. Traditionalism for all its vaunted and revered status in a people's culture can be, and often times is, a formidable impediment to the development of the type of modernistic attitudes and programs needed in nation building.
Let me hasten to add here that I am not implying that we must jettison all our traditional beliefs that have sustained us through mankind's history. What I am suggesting is that in the course of our evolution as social animals we need to be critically discriminating and astute enough to recognize when it serves us best to either modify or let go of certain tra-ditions that hamper our growth and well being as a community.
Societies that are very traditional are those in which certain norms of behavior in all as-pects of life are not only expected but sometimes are demanded of its members. Of course all societies have behavioral expectations of their members. In highly modernized societies many of such expectations have been codified into laws which members learn to abide by or pay penalties for violating them. In the strictly traditional societies members' behavior is not usually prescribed by legal canons but by a set of beliefs that over millen-nia evolve as the community's ethos, distinguishing it from other communities. If one does or says something that runs contrary to expectations one is instantly judged by one's own conscience, a more powerful deterrent than a formal court of law. The penalty for breaking a traditional norm of behavior is not a fine instead it is the opprobrium that one senses for violating the norms of one's community.
The Gold Coast Colony which Britain finally annexed to her Crown in 1902 was a land comprising of an extremely diverse group of people with entrenched traditional and cul-tural beliefs. Based on the many languages and dialects alone the country was an im-mense melting pot. It goes without saying that there was nothing remotely monolithic about the people. By 1902 I am sure the British had already made this assessment. After all they had been in the territory for about 260 years and they had had plenty of time to learn a very important principle; namely it is easy to rule a divided people.
The strategy of divide and rule became the modus operandi of the entire colonial opera-tion in the Gold Coast as it was in all the colonies (British, French, Portuguese and Span-ish) throughout Africa. The implications of the effect of this policy on the lives of the people of Colonial and Post-colonial Africa are huge. One of the most glaring effects of the Divide and Rule policy on the lives of the people of Africa became evident in the 1960s during the heyday of the decolonization and emancipation of Africa. The eruption of civil conflicts in country after country usually along ethnic or regional lines laid bare the fact that after hundreds of years of existence geographically as countries, sub-Saharan African countries were, nationally and attitudinally speaking, very fragmented.
The post-independence conflicts on the continent exposed the soft underbelly, the Achil-les heel of the continent, tribal and ethnic loyalties. On a continent with so much poten-tial for greatness, based on the abundance of her natural wealth, one is at a loss to explain the apparent inability of her people, to rise up to their true potential. Africa appears to be spiraling downward, towards chaos and decay. Sadly one of the reasons for the deplor-able state of affairs is the fragmentation within countries and among countries on one hand and on the other, our attachment to traditionalism in an age where the world around us is screaming nationalism! modernism! Without doubt the most damnable legacy of colonialism in Africa was the legacy of entrenched fragmentation- a natural outcome of the 'divide and rule' policy. And what makes it doubly painful and sad is that for the most part the current leadership on the continent has no clue as to the cause of the malady and therefore no clue as how to cure it. There is also the very distinct possibility that cur-rent leadership has no will to change the status quo.
Africa may have broken off the chains of colonialism but her people do not seem to know how to get out of jail. The conditioning of her people during centuries of colonial subju-gation has made us apparently unable to distinguish between the 'fresh air' of genuine freedom and the 'conditioned air' of neo-colonialism. We have made the symbolic transi-tion from being subjects of colonial powers to sovereign nations. In some instances we have changed our names as a symbolic indication of our having assumed a new identity. We have taken over all the former structures and institutions of the colonial era and staffed them with our own people. We have ambassadors and other official representa-tives in key international stations to ensure that we are not totally in the dark when deal-ing with the rest of the world. Unfortunately nothing seems to be working. We are not making any progress and in fact, on the aggregate, we are regressing. Why? My view is that we are spinning our wheels because we are caught up in a post-colonial time warp, a twilight zone in which the true meaning of our freedom has not sank in as yet. We have changed our spots but deep down in our tribal souls we remain leopards still
How do we escape the twilight zone? In a word Modernize! . Modernism: One does not have to be an Anthropologist or a Social Scientist to have the awareness that mankind has evolved from primitive beginnings as hunter-gatherers into communi-ties with very complex social structures. The impressive technological achievements of our times bear eloquent testimony to what modern societies can accomplish. Lest I be mistaken for implying that scientific and technological achievements alone constitute the hallmark of greatness let me let me hasten to say that such achievements by themselves do not equate to greatness. In a universe populated by spiritual beings who share a com-mon bond with all other living and non-living things nothing could be further from the ultimate truth, than the notion that technology alone is supreme. It is however true that in the routine pursuit of 'a more perfect union' of any group of people for the purpose of enabling the equitable pursuit of 'life, liberty, and happiness', technology can and does help.
The signs of our times clearly show that the societies in parts of the world where the in-habitants strongly believe in the concept of “One Nation Indivisible” are more likely to develop a healthy sense of nationalism. Evidence also abounds to the fact that nations whose citizens have a wholesome attitude about nationalism and national pride, free from tribalistic or strident patriotic jingoism are the best models for human development. The ability for a people who share the same geographic space, to give up some personal and/or tribal preferences for the sake of promoting the welfare of the larger community is an essential requirement for successful nation building. It is no accident then that some of the most dramatic advancements, in our time have been made in societies that are largely monolithic, at least administratively, and are not bogged down by the trappings of tradi-tion, culture and the competing private agendas of satellite members.
Such societies tend to be modernistic in their approach to life. A defining criterion of modernism seems to be the commitment to the search for and promotion of programs and technologies that benefit the community at large. Building roads to facilitate transporta-tion and trade or building water treatment plants to ensure that every member in the community can have ready access to the life sustaining element are examples of projects we would expect to see in a modern community.
The attitude that members of a community must embrace in order to flourish as a mod-ernized community requires them to eschew certain inclinations borne out of our tribal past or at least subjugate such inclinations to the community based thinking. Any com-munity, be it a village, a town, a huge metropolis, a country or a continent can only thrive as one only if the notion of promoting the common good in order to achieve the individ-ual good is understood and faithfully followed by all. If at some point it is decided to or-ganize the individual elements within its boundaries into a union of sorts the disparate units being pooled together must be willing to forgo bits of their own identities and goals, particularly where those private goals conflict with the greater goals of the new commu-nity.
Another aspect of a modern society is that all members of the society have equal chance of ascending to any of the leadership roles within the community. Unlike leaders in truly traditional societies leadership roles in modern societies do not necessarily confer on holders of such positions, in theory, any special privileges. In fact leaders in modern so-cieties are, truly speaking, the servants of the people they lead and are therefore beholden to them. Finally modern societies have no special place or recognition for elders or elder-ship, the exact opposite is true in traditional societies. The wisdom of elders, in modern societies, is not sought as a matter of national policy, when confronted with matters of national importance. Experts and appointed leaders are the ones who must deal with all matters of national importance and if they fail to discharge their duties to the satisfaction of their constituencies they are usually replaced.
What else do the more advance modern societies have in common? They almost always have a common language or a lingua franca that is spoken by a substantial majority of the people. The literacy rate in the more successful modern nations is, as a rule, very high. Having a common medium of expression it turns out goes a long way to unite a people behind any cause, including the cause of democracy. There is no more formidable barrier to unity and a sense national identity than mutually unintelligible languages spoken by a group of people living within any geographical community. Fragmentation is made more stark when language barriers exist.
Facts About Ghana:
Ghana's population as estimated in 2005 is 21,029,853. 51% of the population is female and 49% male. Data from the National Population and Housing Census of 2001 shows that 49.9% of the adult population 15 years or older is totally illiterate. Life expectancy is 56years. 91 % of people living in urban centers have access to safe drinking water as compared to 64% for those in rural areas. Armed with those facts let's see how Ghana compares globally.
The UN Human Development Index (HDI) is a comparative measure of poverty, literacy, education, life expectancy and other factors for countries worldwide. It uses an ingenious formula developed by a Pakistani economist in 1990. It has been accepted as the standard for measuring the well being and the overall livability in a country. Every year countries are ranked on a descending scale of 1- 192, based on the number of countries that make up the United Nations. Ghana's rankings are as follow: GNP ( $390.0) 150th Life expectancy (60yrs ) 139th Literacy (66%) 145th Infant mortality (66/1000) 143rd Human Dev. Index 133rd Folks those numbers give us cause for sober reflection. What is even more sobering is that the bottom ten countries on the UN's HDI list are all in Sub-Saharan Africa. While the top ten countries with the exception of Australia (3), Canada (5) and The United States (10) are from Europe. A footnote in the 2005 HDI report contained this statement:
“...in general, the HDI for countries around the world is improving, with two major ex-ceptions: Post Soviet States and Sub-Saharan Africa, both of which show a steady de-cline..”
Another foot note to the report mentions the fact that even the highest scoring Sub-Saharan country, South Africa, was at 120th position.
More About Ghana:
So what else do we know about Ghana? In order for people brought up in Western de-mocracies like the US to fully understand and so appreciate the quirky and sometimes turbulent nature of political events in country like Ghana people need to look deeply to get a more complete picture of the mosaic fabric that represents the country. For starters one must be made aware that the Gold Coast Colony which later became Ghana may have been founded in 1844 or 1874 or 1902 depending upon which historical event suits you, but the people who became the unwitting consenters to their own subjugation had been living there for centuries before.
A most remarkable aspect of colonial rule in Ghana is the fact that for all its positive and negative effects on the subject people, colonialism did not change how the indigenous people felt about their ancestral homes. It most certainly did nothing to alter their belief in their spiritual connection to the actual place of birth. The Gold Coast Colony with clearly defined boundaries became a reality after 1902 as one of the countries of a British West African. In reality the Gold Coast Colony of 1902 through 1957 was several 'coun-tries' within a country. For a while the Ghana that rose out of the ashes of the Gold Coast appeared to be moving towards forging a common national identity for all its inhabitants. Sadly that effort has fizzled as of late.
The people who colonized the Gold Coast, unlike the pilgrims who landed in Plymouth Mass., did not leave England to settle in a foreign land. In West Africa if the white man had any hidden agenda of a permanent settlement he was quickly disabused of the notion by the mosquito. So from the time of the official colonization decree to the day of final relinquishing of power in 1957 the British maintained a delicate balancing act of wielding supreme power over the people of Gold Coast. The trick was establishing oneself as a supreme ruler, and a dictator and not letting the people feel the weight of one's foot on the backs of the oppressed.
There were no treaties that forced native tribes from their homes into reservations and there were no attempts to set up any institutions that would appear to challenge the tradi-tional and cultural practices of the people. The people were left to largely to occupy the same ancestral lands and homes of their forebears. When the Rulers built institutions like schools, hospitals, police stations and other public structures they came to be identified with the Colonial Administration and were designated as 'Government Buildings or Insti-tutions'. Government institutions and structures that housed them in the minds of colonial Africans meant properties belonging to the alien rulers. They were not seen as public properties belonging to the people!! All the public institutions and agencies so created were carefully tailored in their scope to meet the administrative needs of the colonial government. For instance the schools were never intended to achieve anything like uni-versal education. They were only meant to be the breeding ground, so to speak, for just the minimum number of local clerical talent needed to staff the administrative institutions and posts.
Civil servants were seen as working for the government. Working for the government meant you had certain unwritten power over people. The policeman was working for the government and not there for the people. The postal clerk, doctors and nurses, down to the janitors were all government employees and all were held in high esteem. School teachers, sanitary workers, etc. etc. were never seen as public servants. They were gov-ernment people they were to be respected and even feared. They were never seen as ser-vants of the people! In that regard The Gold Coast in 1902 through 1957 would not qual-ify as a modern country.
The Case for Nationalism: (Civic Pride?) So what are we to make of this bit of history about how the Gold Coast came to be ruled by Britain?. More importantly how does the manner in which the country was created, unilaterally, with no input or cooperation from the indigenous people, affect how the people relate to the concept of being citizens of one 'Nation Indivisible'; and how do modern day denizens of Ghana relate to the same concepts of citizenship, nationalism, civic pride, ownership and accountability that people in the United States, for example, by and large, feel? It is my humble opinion that in the aggregate we the citizens of Ghana do not as yet have the same sense of citizenship, of civic pride and of belonging to a group with a shared destiny. I further submit that we have a far greater affinity and loy-alty to our ethnic identities than we do to our national identity. We live together within a land mass called Ghana but upon ca closer look one sees and feels and hears us as As-antes. Brongs. Gas, Bulis Dagombas, Ewes, Fantes Mamprulis and Frafras etc. etc.
Based on the number of languages and dialects spoken in Ghana today it is generally be-lieved that there are at least two hundred distinct ethnic groups in Ghana. More impor-tantly I maintain that there are perhaps an equal number of views and attitudes about what it means to be a Ghanaian. As a cultural trait Africans generally have a strong spiri-tual attachment to the actual place of birth, the ancestral home. Literally this is the village where ones Mother's or Father's forebears were born. Deep inside the spiritual psyche of most traditional Africans lurks this overpowering sense of allegiance to his/her place of birth, so powerful that it transcends any other allegiance. In order to forge a new national identity for ourselves, and develop the all important sense of civic consciousness that in turn engenders a healthy brand of nationalism we must find a way to encourage Ghana-ians to learn to develop allegiance to the Nation of Ghana
For whatever reason the colonial administration chose not to do anything to affect the cultural diversity of the people of the Gold Coast even when it set about to make it into a country, or did they? No doubt there are perfectly sound but arguable positions on either side of the debate “Should an attempt have been made by the colonial governments to make the Gold Coast, administratively speaking, more monolithic?” There are those of us who think the fact that nothing was done to mold some sense of a uniform national iden-tity was a deliberate and conscious ploy which served the policy of divide and rule very well. Rather than strive to achieve a kind of an “E Pluribus Unum” community the colo-nialists chose to leave well enough alone. Instead they created a brand new 'tribe' in the Gold Coast; the educated tribe. In the Akan language the new tribe came to be known as Krakye.
For the colonial administration whose prime objective in The Gold Coast could not be described as a 'nation building adventure' by any stretch of the imagination the idea of molding people of such diverse cultural orientations within its geographical boundaries into a cohesive unit was the last thing on their mind. Furthermore any policy that could lead to the development of any nationalistic sentiments within the citizens of the colony would have been counter productive to the goals of a colonial power. Rather than develop any nationalistic feelings about the country of their birth it is best to get them, at least the members of the new “Krakye' tribe to think of themselves as citizens of an already exist-ing glorious country, Great Britain, the United Kingdom. A 'tribe' identifiable by the new language they could write and speak, and not confined to any ancestral home was just what was needed.
Ostensibly when the Gold Coast ceased to be, forty-nine years ago and Ghana was born the significance of that momentous event, beyond the euphoric symbolism usually asso-ciated with it, was that a New Nation has been created. What has happened since seems to suggest that in the euphoric atmosphere of the celebration the true essence of what we had just inherited from Britain was lost on all of us; all except perhaps Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the architect and real hero of the whole independence movement. Nkrumah's prophetic statement shortly after independence that 'the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it could be linked with the total liberation of the continent of Africa clearly shows he was on the ball.
Economic Imperialism and Cultural Imperialism:
My purpose in dwelling so much upon our recent and past history is at first to share with you my view of who we are, as Ghanaians, in essence. Secondly I hope to encourage you to see the lessons that our historical past teaches us and finally I trust that I can instill in you the desire to learn those lessons and a determination to do what you can to help change things for the sake of a better Ghana and a better Africa.
So we inherited a fragmented country and not a united country and clearly it is not thriv-ing like we would like it. But we do not have to live with the non-functioning model. We can change it. The key to changing the fragmented model we inherited lies within us. We must transform us. We must look deep within us and find what about us that we can adapt in order to transform us into modern day world citizens. Those of us Ghanaians and other Africans currently living outside have an a better opportunity to develop an unbiased view of what ails our continent and if we act with honesty and true objectivity we will be able to affect the course of Africa's immediate future.
I have a few suggestions. First and foremost it must be patently clear that colonialism and its attendant implications of cultural and economic imperialism is as alive today in Africa as it was in the 19th century. The countries of Africa are just as dependent today upon the colonial powers of yore as they were in the past. The failure of the current crop of leader-ship on the continent to realize that they are operating with the exact same colonial mod-els they inherited is the principal source of our problem.
The colonial models were designed to benefit the colonizers at the expense of the colo-nized. Its modus operandi as we have said was divide and rule and everything that was done was done solely in the interest of the colonizing power. Never was any policy or program or project ever carried out with an expressed purpose of benefiting the people in the colony. Until leaders figure this out they will never be able to do anything to alter the course of events in Africa. What does it take to figure out what is going on. Coup d'etats won't do it. Ethnic riots won't do it. Forgiving of debts won't do it. IMF loans and struc-tural adjustments won't do it and even remitting money home from abroad to help our families in the villages won't help. The only thing that is guaranteed to help what ails our continent now is education.
Education as the Elixir
Until elementary and secondary schools become free and compulsory throughout Africa we will never escape the shackles of colonialism and its residual maladies of economic and cultural imperialism. And when I talk about education I am not speaking about sim-ply repeating the models left us by the colonial masters. First of all it must be very clear to all that no modern country can expect to involve all its adult citizens in the business of governance if only half of the population can read and write! All the talk and platitudes about promoting democracy, transparency and accountability is empty talk by a privi-leged class as long as only they can read and understand the fine print. Universal free education, in my humble opinion is the first and most important step in transforming our population from inherent tribal enclaves into a large metropolis inhab-ited by people who can talk to each other. With an educated populace we will be in a po-sition to teach our children about civic consciousness. We will develop a national iden-tity. This is the message I hope we can bring to our leaders.
A Call to the Youth of Africa.
My appeal tonight is to the youth among you and by extension to the youth of Africa. It is obvious we can not count on current leadership on the continent. The reason we can not count on current leadership and the educated class is that they don't see the problem. The double-edged nature of the blessings of colonialism in Africa is such that the educated class which stepped in to fill the vacuum left by the departing colonists has unfortunately become the apologists for preserving the status quo. Unfortunately the real struggle to free Africa and set her up for real progress and upliftment of her people has become a class struggle between those described as having a colonial mentality' and the true na-tionalists. In this class struggle sadly the indigenous people who have had no formal edu-cation but who are nonetheless capable of making useful contributions to the debate, if they were consulted, are sidelined and ignored. This is one of the sad legacies of colonial-ism
To change this situation Africa needs to organize its self into a truly self-serving eco-nomic bloc capable of demanding attention from Europe and America representing the west and from the eastern economies of Asia and South East Asia. The only way to do this effectively is for African Nations to do what Nkrumah advocated in 1963, UNITE A United States of Africa, as unrealistic as it may sound is the only hope Africa has of realizing the continent's true potential as a global economic power which the rest of the world's superpowers will not be able to ignore so openly while propping up their own economies with African resources.
On the eve of Ghana's independence, 49 years ago, the founder of our Nation Dr. Kwame Nkrumah declared that the independence of Ghana was meaningless unless it was seen as being linked to the total liberation of the continent. With profound apologies to the great visionary, the Father of our Nation, I submit that the total liberation of the continent as symbolized by the formal transfer of power from European rulers to African rulers is equally meaningless unless and until it can be demonstrated that Africans believe and act like they believe that they are indeed free and able to pursue those inalienable rights of life, freedom, justice and happiness. Until then the concept of a liberated continent is merely a figment of our imagination, a platitudinous phrase and an empty rhetoric.
Let me end by reading you the lyrics of the song that Ephraim Amu composed in 1927. It is called Yaanom Abibi Mma (Hail Ye Youth of Africa)
Yaanom Abibi mma ee! (Hail ye youth of Africa) (Calling Africa) Yee! (Yes!) Asem ben Asem ben Asem bem? (What is the mater what is the matter) Mo ntee nea aba yi ara ana? Have you not heard what has happened? Mo nhuu nea aba yi ara ana? (Have you not seen what has happened? Yete o yehu o yefa ho adwene o! We hear we see and we are pondering it
Aman Nyibaa reko agya yen o! All nations are moving on without us Aman Nyinaa rehu agya yean o! All nations are learning ahead of us Se ye tu yen nan a tebeko bi o! If we take steps we can join them Se Yesua ho nyansa a ye behu bi o! If we figure the trick we can also learn
Yaanon Abibi mma ee! (Hail Ye youth of Africa!) Yee! Yes!
Mo nyere mo ho o! Gird yourselves for action Yeyere no biara We will do that Anim guase mfata Abibi mma Shamefulness does not become an African Yeyer ye ho dodo mman reko a If we try hard we can join the other nations Yafra mu bi o! as they move on.
Abibri mma e! Abibri mma e! Ye youth of Africa, ye youth of Africa