Values, Attitudes and Law Enforcement!

Recently, a young single parent lady recounted her experience when she took her child to school on a Monday morning. As can be expected of an elite Ghanaian Basic School, an assortment of luxurious cars trooped in each morning to bring the children of their rich owners to school.

However, what struck Jay that Monday morning about the routine dropping of children was that, the children who came out of that posh car looked more like coal miners at the end of their shift. While their school uniforms looked dirty and scruffy, their general appearance, particularly their unkempt hair was disturbing to Jay as a single mother. What kind of upbringing were such rich parents who showily dropped off their kids in luxurious vehicles giving their children, and seeing nothing wrong with bringing them to school so dirty on a Monday morning?

This incident brought back to mind a question my nephew asked his mother a few years ago which was referred to me!

My nephew, a young university graduate asked his mother what legacy we their parents are leaving for them. He fired at his mother that, she and her siblings constantly spoke fondly and lovingly about the virtues and discipline their parents instilled in them. Then he continued as follows:
“All we hear you do daily is hurl insults at one another using intemperate language and showing open disrespect to one another in the full glare of the whole world. Meanwhile, ours is a country which produces nothing apart from Bitters and building Filling Stations. We import everything including tooth pick, and vegetables from neighbouring and far away countries. Corruption has grown deep roots and is strangulating us with the power of a choke grip.

Are you our parents happy with bequeathing us with a legacy of violence, indiscipline, stealing, lies, filth and corruption, and consigning us to permanent poverty with the huge debts you are leaving for us after all your conspicuous consumption?”

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The mother was sad about her son’s questions as she realised that, she had no answers to his barrage of questions based on his observation. She asked me “Uncle Dan, so what do we do?”

On 7 December 2015, Ambassador KB Asante of blessed memory, wrote an article in his column ‘Voice from Afar’ in the Daily Graphic titled HOW DO WE TRULY EULOGISE OUR HEROES? He stated that, “An excellent tribute has been paid to the distinguished surgeon Prof EA Badoe by my friend and eminent scholar Dr Nana SKB Asante.”

Talking about the nature and attitude of the Ghanaian as he discovered early as a student in Achimota School in the late 1930s into the early 1940s, Mr KB Asante had this to say.

“When Abaka-Wood of Mfantsipim obtained eight ‘A’s at the Cambridge School Certificate (in 1940), we at Achimota School dismissed the achievement and said they only ‘chew and pour’ at Mfantsipim without understanding.

But the new Principal (of Achimota), the Rev Stopford said, we should do just as well if not better, for despite the fees our parents paid, the country had spent and continued to spend a lot on Achimota.

Badoe’s class of 1941 rose to the occasion and he himself led by obtaining five ‘A’s. We the next class of 1942 determined to do better with six ‘A’s.”

On a visit to Indonesia in 1968, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore was impressed with what he saw. He therefore complimented President Sukharno of Indonesia with the words “you are blessed with a beautiful country.” Sukharno’s answer was “yes, God has blessed us. The problem is the people.” Like Lee, I think Ghana is blessed. But, how about its people, as Sukharno said about Indonesians? Certainly, the people of Ghana need a visionary and good leadership by example, to ensure a change in values and attitudes. Most importantly, we have to enforce our laws! Time without number, I have heard on radio and TV experts chorus to us that, Ghana has some of the best laws in the world. My simple question is, of what benefit are good laws on paper which are not enforced?

When I questioned a colleague about why screaming newspaper headlines on murder were a daily ritual in his country, he sadly and simply said, “it is because there is no law enforcement in this country. People will murder because they know they can get away with murder.”

I ask myself, why we have become so negative and cynical. Why do Ghanaians denigrate anything Ghanaian and yet offer so much “traditional Ghanaian hospitality” to foreigners some of who do not deserve it? Why do traditional rulers cooperate with foreigners in the destruction of our forests and water bodies through illegal mining? Rivers Ankobra and Birim now have the colour of chocolate that can no longer sustain fish life!
Happily, a war has been declared against galamsey! The war cannot be won by the Task Force alone. The war must be won by all Ghanaians. I hope Ghanaians give it their support to victory.

Why do we praise mediocrity and kill achievement? What happened to Meritocracy which brought out the potential in students from villages when we went to the secondary school in the 1960s? This country is so blessed with both human and material resources that, with a positive attitude under effective visionary leadership, we can do far better than we are doing, in the estimation of my nephew.

It appears to me that, for about the first twenty years of life as a nation, traditional values were generally respected and observed, in spite of some social upheavals. Thereafter, a new alien culture of violence, indiscipline, disrespect for authority and dislike for success, while hailing mediocrity got injected into Ghanaian society. The very fabric of Ghana’s societal values got dealt a heavy blow with an alien culture of viciousness and selfishness replacing the virtues of Ghanaian society at independence. Money has replaced Truth as a social value in Ghana. This has had a serious toll on the Ghanaian and has not helped us.

What we need is a rediscovery of the time-tested values of Truth, Integrity, Hard work, Respect for Diversity and Discipline, back to what we had at independence when the Ghanaian respected the Ghanaian and felt proud to be a Ghanaian. Indeed, such was Ghana’s image internationally that, some colleagues from other African countries have told me that, in the 1960s, they all took pride in introducing themselves as Ghanaians overseas .

Given effective visionary, respectful and selfless leadership, this country can rediscover itself and move forward again such that, my nephew’s question about what legacy we are leaving for them will not embarrass us.

Most importantly, parents must parent their children based on the traditional values of Respect, Integrity, Discipline and Selflessness, and remember the old saying “spare the rod and spoil the child!”

Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Former CEO, APSTA (African Peace Support Trainers Association)
Nairobi, KENYA