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06.05.2006 Feature Article

National Orientation

In exercise of his sole prerogative to appoint and disappoint, His Excellency President John Agyekum Kufuor has kept in line with the contents of his State of the Nation Address delivered on the floor of Parliament on January 31, 2006. The president on that occasion, “determined to strengthen the presidency and consequently government to achieve vigorous, purposeful and effective implementation of policies that government envisages”. He continued by stressing “as I speak, a restructuring of roles and responsibilities for streamlining…with the view to optimizing the performance of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government on time-action principle” was taking place. Clearly therefore, and unlike those who dismiss such important addresses as simple constitutional rituals, the major restructuring/ reshuffle of last week was nothing of a surprise for he had given every indication as to which path “my government” was to take in order to accelerate our development programme. This fits in and falls in line with hints that had been dropped in many speeches the president had made since the cabinet retreat at Akosombo I and II. The seriousness of his resolve for this writer was amply demonstrated by the reading of the budget before the end of the year 2005, a first in the history of this country since the return to constitutional rule in 1992. To all intent and purposes, it gave an indication that indeed “business as usual” would receive several jolts of high voltage presidential intervention if not unrelenting political volcanoes churning out the lava of mental agony and panic for some. Such is the lot of political office holders.

National Orientation

I was delightfully delighted to read of “national orientation” being part of the Information portfolio. My delight stems from (not what Bartels told us was his remit on Citi FM) the fact that the president has accepted in toto a memo written by a leading member of the NPP on the need for a “reorientation” in our body-politic and national psyche. This genius of a thinker from whom I have learnt a lot has had one complaint which some of us share with a passion: we have gotten certain things about the future of our country totally wrong. Most of these things account for my personal refusal to watch television save for the need to catch up on the news. Perhaps I should offer an explanation.

If the future of any country and especially Ghana for that matter is premised on the youth, then suffice it to assert that the preview/ prognosis is simply not good enough with gloom, despondency and despair staring us in the face. This is primarily because, we are inundated on a daily basis by scenes of either an Ofori Amponsah crooning about some unrequited love or a motley collection of hopefuls desperately trying to mimic western youth with spare time on such entertainment/reality shows like Big Brother or worse still, old widows fables and foibles as depicted by those discarded Mexican Telenovelas that have become the in thing in this land of mighty talents. At the risk of coming across as rather boring and harsh, it frightens me that TV does not give an indication or direction that reflects what we want to be in say the next 30 years. For reasons of maximizing profit, the media in general and TV in particular is more inclined to create space for some entertainment houses, aided by telephony partners to redirect the energies of our youth into a frenzied search for a non-existent golden fleece. Just check out the auditions for those programmes and you are sure to appreciate my drift. When the European Union (EU) for example if strenuously and vigorously pursuing its Erasmus and Socrates educational programmes among others to sharpen the skills and thinking capacities of their youth as part of the policy to make the EU the largest economy by 2010, we are cocooned here busily trying to find out who will be ejected and who remains on a set, all at the peril of our future. With all due respect, the future of Ghana's development is not premised on any aspect of entertainment, for even those in the field are already complaining not because they lack knowledge of what it takes but precisely because of our passion and preference for copied culture. How then do we unleash the mighty talents we are naturally endowed with?

As far as radio is concerned, the least spoken about it the better. Yours truly has now come to understand why a media guru like Harunna Attah has stopped participating in and listening to some radio programmes completely for of what benefit is it to a developing country to have over 100 radio stations that spend the productive hours between 6 and 10am on screaming matches calculated at lampooning Ghanaians and old friends alike simply because they belong to a different political persuasion? While some strive to show the listening public that they are closer to the president than both his wife and his Vice (no pun intended), others systematically initiate moves aimed at out-opposing the official opposition itself. You my dear reader can best determine the benefits that would accrue to this country if such fruitless and futile ventures are rather channeled into harnessing the collective energies of Ghanaians for the realization of our national aspirations. If we take the president's third plank of Human Resource Development for example, one can only imagine the impact we would make if airtime is devoted to focusing on that, teaching Ghanaians where to go and how to improve themselves and to which areas they can divert or deploy their skills instead of this weird and pathetic tendency to reify perceptions that serve no germane purpose than further divide us.

I submit that this country would not be built by how articulate a panelist is or who has more facts about a given issue: this country can only be built by a conscious and concerted effort at reorienting, redirecting and refocusing the thought processes and energies of our youth to a constant quest to improve their capacities, education and skill that will in turn enable them to weather the travails and challenges of the future. My delight at the concept of “national orientation” is in the final analysis, premised on the strong conviction that this is precisely whay Hon. Bartels is being charged to do. It is not to preach the message of why Ghanaians defecate in open drains; that is the job of the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) and its affiliates to undertake and Mr. Bartels would do well to facilitate that mandate and not usurp it. Besides, what is the point in screaming ourselves hoarse if and when we leave drains uncovered in certain areas that we are aware lack the requisite facilities? Your guess is as good as mine. The city of Abidjan, despite having rivers and lakes flowing through it does not stink like the Korle Lagoon or the Odaw River, why?

Practical Measures

I have focused on the youth within the context of national orientation as intoned above because that constituency is widely accepted as the future leaders of this country. Fortunately or unfortunately the destiny of the youth of this country would be shaped by the programmes and policies of elderly folks granted they even have, let alone share a vision of what Ghanaians should be in the next few decades. This is why the new Minister for Manpower and Youth together with his team would have to be several notches more proactive in contributing their quota in this reorientation business. I will not call for any national youth conference to collate views again; there are enough brilliant ideas gathering dust on files in that ministry. The thing to do is to implement, implement and implement till there is not implementation to be implemented.

So also should His Excellency the President deploy his rod into the National Youth Council (NYC) and the National Service Secretariat (NSS). Please Mr. President, the tendency for Canadian inclined Ghanaians to be sent to the NSS is killing this rather laudable concept. It is about time a substantive appointment is made for the NSS, preferably someone who understands what your national orientation idea with respect to the youth in both letter and spirit is, who also wields enough clout to implement it without fear or favour. As for the NYC, I humbly submit that you totally fumigate the place and send in a totally new group to promote your vision, one that is likely to become your legacy for the youth of this country. To place a new concept in the charge of old vessels is to guarantee a confused result. Old vessels as we rightly know are prone to resisting instead of promoting new ideas simply because they are not already common.

I end this piece by stating bad news that we shy away from but which can be reversed. The youth of this country have no confidence in Ghana. It is a tragedy we need to correct because a country which has lost the confidence of its youth is a country without a future. National orientation is key to addressing this problem. Can we muster the necessary will to do what we know we must? The youth continues to look on with hot imploring eyes.

Calus Von Brazi
Calus Von Brazi, © 2006

This author has authored 20 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: CalusVonBrazi

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