In the 60 years of our history as a people, March 6 has been a day of great significance. Celebrated annually since 1957 as the day that the then Gold Coast attained independence from Britain, it brings a lot of pleasant memories that we would love to frequently revert to.
It evokes moments of self-doubt as well due to lost opportunities. Over one million of our population living today, including this scribe, did witness the birth of Ghana and do express these feelings in many ways. We are the true witnesses of history as opposed to those who merely read the history from the pens of writers.
We marched on March 6, 1957 after weeks of practising to sing the new National Anthem and learning to recite the National Pledge. We saluted the new flag in red, yellow and green which was hoisted to replace the Union Jack. The representative of the district commissioner or some government representative, who took the salute, read a speech about the significance of the day. What he said was no different from what the Information Services Department vans had earlier told us: Ghana was free forever. We would manage our own affairs without any meddling from Britain. Great things were in the horizon. To us, independence was about Nkrumah and his stalwarts who fought an election from prison, where they had been incarcerated, and won. Independence was the story of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) as well.
Those were heady days full of expectations which indeed started materialising: Tema Harbour, Akosombo Dam and many roads and factories sprang up. So did the state farms, the University of Science and Technology, the University and the Educational Trust schools under the policy of Compulsory and Free Education. New hospitals were built and the GNTC chain of trading outlets came into being. It was an age which, translated in 2017 terms, could be summarised as “Greening fields of crops and raw materials to feed our belching factories manned by well-paid workers to produce goods to stock glitzy shopping malls to satisfy our consumer cravings.” It was all work and happiness and the conveyors of production did not cease to roll.
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Regrettably, the vehicle which we boarded and had started moving towards fulfilment at a cracking pace slowed down; it threatened to move in the reverse. Most of the “State-This-and-That” began to rot and were abandoned because the new wave of thinking said socialism had passed its zenith and was no longer good for us. So to capitalism and private ownership we turned and later to a blend of the two. Today, the greatest private investor activity is construction of shopping malls that are stocked with foreign goods. The great factories for packing meat, manufacturing chocolate/cocoa butter and canning tomatoes have either packed up or are in perpetual stop-start-stop tango. They are severely starved of power and local raw materials. Worst, our taste for locally manufactured goods has diminished. Scarcity has become the ruler of our lives and we vent our frustrations on our heads of state.
Starting from 1966 when Nkrumah was deposed through a military coup d’état, this nation has endured – and I offer no apology for the use of that word – 11 heads of state, including a couple of adventurers in uniform who seemed to march the nation on the beat, “Mess, mess and mess more.” We seem stranded. Quo vadis?
Nations that at one time had lagged behind us in development have overtaken us because with discipline to authority as the backbone of their culture, they have learned to focus. And they have enjoyed appreciable periods of political stability. Currently we scramble for goods from Singapore, Brazil and Malaysia, while many of our factory gates are sealed by cobwebs. We have sown indiscipline, on many occasions, tacitly encouraged by our leaders through their poor examples. Unemployment is our harvest. Look at all that throng of able-bodied men and women who, for lack of something else to do, pretend to be hawking on our pavements and lorry stations!
We have cultivated wrong attitudes. We see wrongdoing in our leaders, not in our individual acts of omission and commission. Very few are prepared to perform their duty. The chief director to whom lateness and absenteeism is a virtue, who deliberately neglects to acknowledge, let alone act on petitions sent to his office; the finance director who refuses to pay contractors leading to litigations and judgement debt; the so-called policy advisors who give the leaders self-serving advice; the court messengers who routinely hide files; the school teacher who abandons the classroom for his private farm in the village - well, we all are to blame because nothing gets done on time, and correctly.
In every situation, God gives a people
With overwhelming endorsement by the Ghanaian populace, President Nana Akufo-Addo has been installed as our new Head of State. As he leads us today to revive the dream of 1957, let us cast off the kuntukuni of lamentations and self-doubt and the habit of pointing out the mole in other people’s eyes. Let us remember and admit that we have messed up our affairs through indiscipline which comes in many forms.
The first and foremost of our wrong attitudes shows up in our unbridled exercise of what we believe as “our rights.” Let us not be ashamed to ask ourselves why countries such as Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew, Rwanda and Ethiopia, under Paul Kagame and Meles Zinewi, respectively, are now standing economically tall among nations. They apply all their laws no matter the culprit’s circumstance in society. They are countries where at every opportunity wrongdoers do not run to court to test the limits of the law. The second negative attitude is the obsession of spicing up every issue with divisive politics to the extent that if the rains fail to come on time it is either NDC’s or NPP’s fault. As for internecine party divisions, the current state of disarray of the CPP, Nkrumah’s party that led us to independence, clearly mirrors Ghana’s fate.
Let us revisit the vision of 1957 in the form of one village-one dam, one district-one factory, one constituency, a war chest of one million dollars. The language may not be grandiose but it is the dream. When each and every one does his duty, in spite of some earlier doubts, this vision may be realisable, provided our leaders remain true to the course on which they have launched us. Let us show commitment and our leaders must reward according to merit, not political party allegiance.
To all, My blog wishes you a Happy Birthday. But for Heaven’s sake, let us have something to show for 60, not just an accumulation of years, a stirring speech and a cocktail to see off the occasion.