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New mentality required to resolve the problems and challenges of the nation

BY: K. B. Asante

Ghana has serious economic and social problems.  Fortunately, Ghanaians have the capacity to resolve them.  Unfortunately, Ghanaians have developed a dependency mentality.

They have come to believe that only non-Ghanaians can manage and solve their problems.  Proud Ghanaians will dismiss this assertion.  But actions expose beliefs.

What do we do when we encounter a problem? We seek and request outside assistance.  

Even when we analyse the problem and design a solution we look for outside resources for implementation.  Our leaders in various fields and institutions feel satisfied when they announce that they have formulated a project and are looking for funds to implement it.  

Often they do not seek resources from the national budget.  It appears that we do not really believe in planning, and even our national budget is not primarily designed to support projects to promote growth and well-being but to satisfy the beggar mentality of seeking donor budgetary support.

We have to be harsh with ourselves.  We should ruthlessly expose ourselves to self-examination.  The past still greatly influences our actions and more importantly, our thoughts.  For years, our people had inferior status in their own country.  

They were happy when a handful of them were given “European appointments” in the civil service.  

They felt they had arrived when they occupied bungalows at Cantonments and Ridge and could be treated at the ‘European Hospital’ now the Ridge Hospital.  Only a handful, of strong non-conformists like Kobina Sekyi and Ephraim Amu were proud to display their ‘Africanness’.

Before and after independence, some of our leaders like J.B. Danquah and Kwame Nkrumah realised that this subservient mentality should be changed if we were to make progress as a sovereign people.  Thus Danquah promoted pride in our roots and went back in history to identify the country with ancient Ghana.  

Kwame Nkrumah realised that self-confidence and self-reliance were most necessary for a forward march into real independence.  He asked his countrymen and women to realise that they were as good as any other people.  They should gird up their loins and move forward and should not be afraid to make mistakes.

He maintained that Ghanaians had the right to mismanage their own affairs, meaning that they did not need a pat on the back by the former imperial power and others for their efforts.  Ghana moved forward confidently.  Ghanaians were respected. Doors opened to a man of small stature like me when I was sent on missions as a special envoy of President Kwame Nkrumah.

Today, we are looked down upon even in our own country.  An example is the way diplomatic envoys behave towards Ghanaians.  Even the President is made fun of by “tweet”.  

Not long ago, as a former High Commissioner to Britain, I obtained a courtesy visa in a day.  Today, notes by the Foreign Ministry are treated with contemp; after thumbprints and examination of my eyelashes I have to wait for two weeks before the Protocol Department of the Foreign Ministry could collect and bring me the passport after paying a substantial visa fee.  

Now, this can only happen when we lose respect.  Our ministers and the like shiver at the sight of the donor representatives and receive envoys without the observance of protocol.  The Foreign Ministry is ignored and we make gaffes regularly.

Someone told me that some ambassadors ignore the Foreign Minister and her staff because they have the mobile telephone number of the President!  This is unlikely to be true but the belief shows how low we have sunk.

At Achimota College, I was taught by agents of the colonial power to get rid of African practices which weighed us down while adapting that which was of value in European culture.  I must confess I swallowed many of the peculiar habits of the British.  I still enjoy my Ridgeway Five O’clock tea and sundowner.  I find it odd when footballers hug each other after a goal is scored.  

I was shocked when thanks to the head of the money-printers De la Rue I was at the enclosure, and crowds invaded the pitch after the West Indians won the cricket match.  I was enjoying company and excellent tea at Lords.  

At Achimota I learnt and believed that a gentleman acknowledged an achievement at cricket by raising the bat or hat.  I know many readers may not understand this.  But they need not worry.  You can imbibe some colonial habits without subservience to the colonialists.

The confidence and the pride of the Ghanaian in the early days enabled me to form lasting friendships with the nationals of the colonial ‘mother country’ and other lands.  

I could plan my holidays to coincide with the plans of a British friend whose home we occupied while he and the family proceeded on vacation.  I wonder which ambassador who walks the corridors of power with arrogance will entertain their Ghanaian Ministerial ‘friend’ at home after leaving Ghana.

Our Ministers and top people should know how things work in the present world.  

The ambassador does not determine the quantum or nature of aid.  The World Bank official is a small fry in an elaborate organisation of which Ghana is a member.  

Our leaders should know how countries and organisations work and not make picaninnies of themselves.  We should rid ourselves of the slave mentality.  

The so-called donors and partners pursue their national interest.  Ghana should know what its interests are and pursue them.  Aid which may divert trained men and experts from assignments of the national plan may be politely declined or postponed.

Ghana’s problems stem from not-well-thought-out reactions to challenges.  People with non-black skins have no magic solutions to our problems.  

If the Electricity Company is not doing well, change the management and not indulge in esoteric arrangements.  We have not had super-service since we acknowledged our incompetence to deal with our telecommunications.  

We are now able to talk on mobiles while we walk, drive cars and sleep.  But no major investment has been made in the industry.  Our film industry has been ruined by belief in our incompetence and valuable films of the old days have been thrown away by the experts of distant lands.

The other day I was at Ecobank.  I was happy all day.  And why? I was impressed with what I saw.  The young man in charge, Mr. Ashitey Adjei was on top of his job.  Charming Rosemary Yeboah was impressive as Executive Director.  

There are Ghanaians who know that Directors do not just collect allowances and fees but have duties under Prof. Gower’s Companies Code of 1963.  Ghanaians and Africans have done it and Ecobank has overtaken Ghana Commercial Bank as the leading bank in the country.

Ghanaians can do it.  We can do it with our present organisations and systems.

 Let us abandon the present preoccupation with new concepts and reliance on outsiders.  Ghanaians can do it.  Maintain discipline and respect the rules and procedures and Ghanaians can meet the challenges.