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07.08.2005 Feature Article

The Ghanaian Mentality

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Ladies and Gentlemen: Hypocrisy I am standing right in front of the gutter and on the brink of delving into the sewer. I can smell real stench and noxious air. I am so peeved about the way Ghanaians think as a people. Well, I am generalizing this issue because the only way for us to move forward as a people is for us to be true to ourselves and know who we really are as a group, and as individuals. In this way, we may be able to change our thought process and build a better nation. We pride ourselves with such bogus slogans as:

“A typical Ghanaian hospitality”.

“African Friendly Airline” Now defunct.

“The Ghanaian Humility”. To name but a few. But seriously, how hospitable, friendly, and humble are we towards each other? (Mind you, I am not excluding myself from this. I am a part of the group). Time and again, I hear Ghanaians padding ourselves on the back and shoulder with words like: “A Ghanaian or Ghanaians will never do this or that” “This will never happen in Ghana” “This can't possibly be a Ghanaian”. Yet, at the core of all these claims, deep down within our souls and conscience, we may be terrible and worse than the very people we are putting down or accusing. A Ghanaian will rather give a total stranger or foreigner an opportunity than to his/her own fellow citizen.

…. You want to chop big, big slices of national cake? Politics Lets take politics as an example. I mean democratically elected politicians. The other guy not in power will always go the length to discredit the guy in power. This is good for democracy, though many times in Ghana, the person lashing out the criticism will more than likely do the very exact thing (if not worse than what) the opponent is doing. A case in point, I remember watching our current president, Kuffour on the then GBC program, Talking Point, and vehemently accusing the then government of the day, (P) NDC, for imposing hardship on the people through heavy taxes on petrol. This happened between the late 80s and early 90s. Karma may have played a trick on Mr. Kuffour recently. You would think the NDC would learn from this (because they stand a very good chance of winning the next election) but no, the Ghanaian in them will never allow this to happen. It is pay back time. The result is the numerous WAHALA protests they organized quite recently. If the NDC comes into power, and world petrol prices climb, they will be compelled to increase domestic petrol prices. (Remember, we don't even control how we present our own national budget. It requires the approval of the powers that be). The NPP and the others not in power will bundle together like glue, and go on demonstrations. In the end, it is the ordinary citizens, those who will walk, trot, and run miles on end that will suffer. Those who are always used by the politicians for their selfish gains will get the short end of the stick.

Another issue is the customs, excise, VAT, NHIL, and all other outrageous charges a person incurs at the port when bringing in goods from outside Ghana. The opposition always sees something bad with it, yet the moment they come in power, they suddenly realize that “government generates about 75% of revenue” from that operation. When an opposition political wing tells you “the masses” are suffering, know very well that “the masses” are not you or I. Rather, the suffering “masses” are the would be “honorables” and “dishonables”. After all, the economic fate of ordinary Ghanaians generally do not change under any political party. It is the politicians whose prosperity or otherwise is always proportional to whether or not their party is in power.

Mental enslavement Another mental malfunction that really is killing Ghana is tribal prejudice and hatred. This is one cancer that Ghanaians need to let go; yet we don't seem to find a cure. Our lifestyle and very existence are intertwined with this cancer to the extent that getting employed; getting favors, or even living, depends on tribe. I remember in the 80s and 90s, the outcry was that if one does not say “nye Bro”, one could not get a job, scholarship, or ahead in Ghana. Now, the tide has turned. The cry is “only the Asante people” are getting the jobs and connections. The present government is being accused of playing nepotism, favoritism, and sheer tribalism. You visit the Say It Loud page of the Ghana Website, and tribalism slaps you in the face. It is all about which tribe can insult the other the most. I have been a party to this unfortunate incident. I am guilty. The question that I want to ask is why are we so much angry at each other? Why are we so fast to apportion blame when it comes to a member of a tribe that is not our own? Of course, in every human environment, there is bound to be a misunderstanding and conflict. But the way Ghanaians have been programmed through this silly, unpleasant, and horrible tribal instigation is appalling. We will be the losers in the end.

Personal Accounts

When the present government won their first election in 2000, many were those who celebrated the occasion. To these people, the time for positive change had come, and somebody who is not called Rawlings from a party not called NDC was in power. Things may change after all. As it turned out, the state of our country could be compared to a room with its furniture infested with bed bugs. The owners call for help to get rid of the problem. Many “experts” bid for the job, and the seemingly capable one is chosen. The “expert” comes into the room to get rid of the problem. After many hours, the “expert” announces that the work is done. The owners realize to their astonishment that the so-called “expert” only re-arranged the furniture in the room. Nothing was done to address the pest problem. This is Ghana's situation now. Management changed, but the same principles are applied to the nation's governance. This brings me to my nagging question: why is it that whenever someone (a Ghanaian) is not in a certain position, they seem to know all the strategies, answers, and ways to efficiently run that position, yet as soon as they get the chance, everything seem disappear from their skulls?

I believe it is selfishness and lack of national honor. We as Ghanaians do not put our national pride first. Rather, we seem to always think about what we can get from our positions instead of actually performing our duties. The excuse has always been “my pay is not good enough” and “everybody chops around his/her job”. Take our police officers, custom officials, public servants, and even trotro drivers and mates. Everyone “chops” around their various professions, yet when somebody else does it in politics, all hell breaks lose. We seem to forget that these politicians used to be in our midst and were also “chopping” around their jobs before they deceived us to elect them into power. How honest and truthful are we to ourselves as a people? If you take bribes in your current position or steal your employer's asset, what makes you think that you can stop when you get to a bigger position? The funny thing about our mentality is that we seem to think that the only corrupt or greedy people are those that are stupid or “unfortunate” enough to be caught. You are doing fine as long as you don't get caught. That is a shame.

…. Who is a Professor, and what does he profess to do? This is a quote from a Nigerian playwright. This line belongs to a senator who was asked about his thoughts on an ongoing strike by university lecturers because of salary dispute with the government. I am bringing this issue here because no matter which party is in power, the politicians always think about themselves first, not the nation or anyone else. Ghanaian politicians will easily and quickly pass into law the approval for them to get huge loans from banks to support their lifestyles and comfort zones, yet everyone else should go to hell. How do you a note for a car that costs way more than your purported salary? If you make $500 a month, can you possibly pay the note of a car that costs $25,000 in four years? But before we start wagging fingers, lets remember, these politicians are a subset of a universal group. That tells me that something is wrong with us. As long as I am ok, the rest can go to hell. Did you realize how both the opposition and the present government became bedfellows to approve for their car loans? The opposition is angry with the present government because “connections and contracts” are bypassing them in commercial quantities. I bet you, if they could get just a little bit of the pie, everybody will be happy. It is not about how the average Ghanaian is faring. It is all about what can they (the politicians) can get out of a deal for themselves. If we were wiser, the present government will not put itself into the funk it is in right now.

This brings me back to the lecturers, doctors, and other professionals in Ghana. People are always worrying about an exodus of doctors, lecturers, nurses, etc, but tell me, why would they not seek greener pasture elsewhere? You work your butt off in this Ghanaian heat, are told to tighten your belt, but only to see that a colleague who chose politics is building mansions and doing extremely well without even working half as hard. There is always the case of a former TEWU lady to draw examples from.

Seriously, what do our parliamentarians do? They are supposed to be lawmakers, right? How often do they follow or obey our laws? What really gets me is that most of them do not do anything besides reciting “Ye, Ye” or “Nay, Nay”. Who deserves to be treated well? Our “honorable” politicians who abuse and disobey our laws or the doctors, teachers, and nurses who nurture our well-being and cognitive abilities?

The answer rest on our individual believes and conscience but until we as Ghanaians stop being selfish, hypocritical, and childish. Until we stop hating ourselves because this tribe has done this and that, our country's prosperity, wealth and health will forever be in perpetual state of a “fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained”

Kwaku Duah Berchie Atlanta, GA Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Kwaku Duah Berchie
Kwaku Duah Berchie, © 2005

The author has 15 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwakuDuahBerchie

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