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Opinions Fri, 7 Oct 2016

Ghana, let us dare to be great

By Boakye K. Agyarko

Coleridge wrote in ‘The Devil’s Thought’ that “there are such detestable characters in our midst – men who, under the garb of the most profound humility, conceal diabolical hatred and malignity against all men who aspire after whatever is high and noble and grand”.

We in this nation must avoid the trap of concentrating all of our development and prosperity in isolated pockets. For the unity and stability of Ghana, we must ensure that the prosperity we create is spread out and shared equitably by all our people.

A caring society is one that does not leave anyone behind because of a disadvantage, or geographic location or that we are differently-abled. We in the NPP believe that in giving a fair opportunity to all, we can make progress by creating and sharing prosperity.

Over the past month or so, the Presidential Candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has unfurled a number of audacious and bold plans to tackle some of the fundamental needs of our people.

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The overarching thrust of these plans and programmes seek to address the serious problems of unemployment, the structural transformation of our economy through industrialisation, the modernisation of agriculture and the equitable spread of infrastructural development throughout the country to support the development of a modern economy.

To these ends, he has announced, at various places, the creation of the Western North as a new region, the promotion of a factory in every district, the provisioning of a dug-out irrigation dam in every village of the three northern regions and the reallocation and redistribution of the nation’s capital expenditure budget in order to provide one million dollars, on average, to each constituency to fund infrastructural projects geared at eliminating poverty.

Typical of naysayers, the discordant response has been, without equivocation, “It cannot be done”. These naysayers are not advancing any cogent reason that has informed their point of view. Only that they are firm in their conviction that these are beyond our capabilities as a nation. They are also not telling the nation what they will do instead.

So here we are! A nation desperate to develop and assert our newly won status as a middle income country, yet we are being constrained in our imagination and forced not to look beyond our nose. One would have thought that the logical point to begin the debate would be whether these projects and programmes are indeed necessary and will promote our national development goals.

I wonder how many of us sit down to calculate how much it will cost to educate our newly-born child from kindergarten to university before we decide whether or not to send that child to school. I wonder what kind of a parent such a person would be who says that because he does not think he can find the money to pay for junior’s education, he has decided not to send him to school. Not even allow him the chance of starting class one.

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There is also the fatuous argument being advanced that because we have not stated the number of villages to benefit from dugout dams in the three northern regions, it must be a pipe dream. Do I need to know the number of people suffering from malaria in order to commit to the eradication of the disease? But such is the base logic to which we as a nation are being goaded to follow.

From 2017, Ghana will begin the implementation of a 40-YEAR Development Plan. I do not hear the same naysayers asking how much this plan is going to cost us as a nation, and therefore, in the absence of a cost indication, must not be pursued.

Today, every Ghanaian is wont to talk about the spectacular development of Singapore. We forget that it took guts and the determination of an audacious leader with a clear vision of what he wanted for his nation, to get them there.

Out of a desert oasis has sprung the magnificent city of Dubai where every Ghanaian now wants to go shopping. Remember that it took the bold imagination of leadership to conjure Dubai out of the desert sands.

Today, many Ghanaians have gained an ordinary familiarity with China and made-in-China goods. We are enamoured of China. China has become the destination of choice for our traders and businesspeople. We are willing to let the surplus tomatoes we grow in Ofuman, Tuoabodom, Afrancho, Akomadan and Nkenkenso rot and then import tomatoes from China!

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We, however, have forgotten that over thirty years ago, China started a policy similar to the ‘One Factory One District’ announced by Nana Akufo-Addo. Theirs was called the Town and Village Enterprises (TVEs). These are what have developed into the major enterprises pouring out their goods that now fill our shops and stalls in Ghana.

As the time for the British to hand back Hong Kong to China grew nigh, Deng Xiao Ping, the then leader of China, stood in a remote fishing village of 30,000 people across the sea from Hong Kong, and resolved to build a new city that would surpass Hong Kong. Today, Shenzhen is the richest city in China with a population of some sixteen (16) million people.

The GDP of this city, once a remote fishing village only thirty years ago, is many, many times that of Ghana. It took the bold and visionary leadership of a man determined to move his country forward against all the odds!

Here we are in Ghana, seeking to develop into a prosperous nation at a snail’s pace, with the naysayers summoning the lesser angles in us and slowly but surely stressing and breaking our national spirit with a CAN’T DO attitude and talk. But, we as a nation must reject pessimism and be forward looking.

In a poem written for the 2002 Olympic Games, the poet Waddie Mitchell wrote, “Since mankind started walking, it has been swifter, higher, stronger, as if pushed by some deep need to keep limits unconfined. Always thinking, always striving for things bigger, better, longer, in some unrelenting pursuit of perfection re-defined”.

And this is the Ghana we must envision. A Ghana that takes risks, that dares to be bold. A Ghana that looks at the next frontier, ever swifter, higher and stronger that the day before.

To quote Dr Henry Kissinger, “Our past has set a framework, which we must transcend, it is our fate that from such a past we have inherited some intractable problems and commitments that have a momentum of their own. We must not act simply in accordance with the prevailing political consensus, even though the latter often runs counter to the necessities of history.

We must not confine our actions to the amelioration of present circumstances because in riding with the trend we make ourselves irrelevant. We must be bold and be prepared to grapple with our circumstances, to wrench politics and our circumstances from the tight fist of the past, in order to reshape our reality”.

We must adopt the mantra of Homer’s Ulysses, “To Strive, To Seek, To Find and not to Yield”. We must energise ourselves into believing that “We Are and We Can, We Ought To and We Will”. Together, we can do it if only we dare to be great.

Columnist: Boakye K. Agyarko