Will Donations and Grants Ever be enough to help our People?I was born only in the last century, and cannot claim to known how Ghana and Africa were during the times of greatness in the 13th century. However, so far as I know since I was born a long time ago, there are certain elements of culture and traditions in our society that have not helped us to develop whiles other nations have done so, starting at the same level of economic strength since independence from imperial and colonizer Britain.
There is a concept in African societies of today that some things can possibly be obtained from nothing. We believe in things unseen, and hence some keep praying to Jesus and God, whiles others pray to ?Nananom?, the ancestral spirits of those gone bye. We have invaluable beauty and tourist sites in our land, as the above picture shows of the Kwahu Abetifi- to -Abene valley, but nobody even recognizes and acknowledges they exist. Nobody seems to notice the resource we have in people and in assets. I used to go to farm around that area when I was a kid some 50 years ago, but never even knew it was so beautiful till last September 2004, after over 3 decades of living overseas. Many Ghanaians claim to be Christians, and in the Bible there is a saying that it is better or more blessed to give than to receive. The Bible also warns us in proverbs about planning our lives and working together just like the ant kingdom. Many of our leaders only think of today, and what will please themselves. They hope for the best for outsiders. We perhaps have to add that the ant is known to have an extremely organized kingdom, well versed in cooperative efforts, job division, and project management, all under the leadership of a Queen Ant. This makes Ghana, and most Africa, sad societies indeed. Most of the current traditional Chiefs and leaders, as also the central elected leaders, are well educated to university level and higher. However the planning and management seem to be missing!
For most of us overseas, all the money transfers have been one direction, and it never stops. I have a friend from Togo who told me that it reached a point where even when the folks back home write him, they don?t ask how he was doing in health, only ask for money. They assume the money will be coming, good or bad health, job or no job.
- What is wrong with Africa, then, that we can?t seem to make ends meet and can?t seem to want to plan our lives?
- Why can?t we seem to find the means to survive and get the things we feel are necessities of life today?
I am talking of simple things like water flowing through pipes, electricity and telephone system coming from wires hung on poles. Of course I am making it sound too simple. In fact they are simple if you are an engineer and practiced in America or in the West for long like some of us have. The technology and knowledge to get these things done have be taught at our Universities for over 3 decades now. And there are many technical expertise that can be hired anywhere in the world. So what is our problem?
Let me illustrate with a live anecdote. The town of Abetifi in the Kwahu region is reported to be the highest inhabitable place in Ghana. If you were to list towns in Ghana, perhaps Abetifi will be the largest town and first on an alphabetical list. Abetifi is a major educational center, with many primary schools, middle schools, a training college, technical and secondary schools, and now a University. Abetifi was one of the first places to receive the missionary gift of western education with the Bible, some hundred and seventy five or more years ago from the Basel Presbyterian Missionaries of Switzerland. Other Churches like the Catholic, Methodist, SDA, and even the Mormon Church, have set up Churches and schools, and some clinics and small hospitals. For over a hundred years, we have had a crutch to lean on, but we don?t seem to go anywhere. We can blame the Europeans for not sharing, but did we really seek to learn their wizardry through this Christian brotherhood? Or they intentionally kept their age of inventions a secret? Why do we have our Chiefs begging when we can ask how to do it ourselves? When do we catch up?
This concept of taking and not producing enough to yield and give back to others has bothered me for a long time. A few years ago a guy who learned I was from Abetifi from one of my many articles, sent me a note that the group in London were raising money to help Abetifi. I immediately sent a small check, with joy in my heart. The guy, who is only married to a woman from Abetifi, was so pleasantly surprised that I was the first to donate, and from 10,000 miles away. We started Internet chats, and now have become good friends (one of the many benefits of the Internet). Just today I received this letter for him:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 01, 2005 10:14 AM
Thanks so much, I am keeping body and soul together. Its very thoughtful of you to check us up among your hectic schedules. I know I have not been active on the net these days because there never seem to be enough time to do all the work in a day.
Last Sunday I got home at 10.00 pm and it was supposed to be my rest day. Our union met to consider a proposal from Abetifihene to help raise a small matter of 50K cool sterling pounds to help fund the Kwahuman University..we had already planned to use this year and next year to build the new clinic which we estimate would cost in the region of another 50k so you see ooo the problems of home follows you where ever you are!!
The letter prompted me to write this spontaneously, and I want to share with others since this will not be the last a group overseas will be asked to donate money to their town whiles we have the opportunity to do this in a more legal and lasting way. Here?s my letter (modified a little), and I invite comments and discussion (name changed for privacy):
Thanks for writing. Keep hanging in. Strategies for ever returning home is what we are working on, and if we can get you guys in London to support us, we will be more successful since most of the politicians come there. That is why I formed this non-profit lobby and pressure group.
Look, Abetifi is an example of a place without leadership. And it hurts our pride as a nation badly that we cannot even have one small town where people are educated, wealthy, and there is a modern town council that manages the town and can raise funds, account for the money, hire Engineers and City Managers like done elsewhere. What is education and money for, then? Tell me!!
I was in Abetifi on Aug. 28, 2004 when Kufuor came there to display his 15 Landcruiser parade and all the Chiefs were gathered and drumming and so forth ? lots of pictures (see these two nice shots you can share with the Abetifi group. There were only 4 Ministers, so why all these display of expensive 4x4 cars? Who is paying for them but us? And why are these expensive vehicles a national priority when Abetifi, and even parts of Accra the capital does not have even drinking water running through pipes and we are claiming to be great?!! At the durbar, when the Omanhene (regional traditional Chief) recited some of the problems in the area, WATER was the number one issue. Kufuor told the Chief to refer it to the REGIONAL Minister, which I think was smart of him to do. Okay. I did my own investigations, and I found out that the problems have been identified for a long time by the engineers, but the central government claims there is no money! This is a shame! The problems and solutions are the Booster Pumps. Cost I don?t know, but I doubt if it?s over $50,000.
Kofi, instead of us trying to solve these like done in Britain, or US, or any civilized nation with educated people, we dance around it! What the heck does a University mean if we don?t have water?
Let?s PLAN our lives as humans are supposed to do:
1. Itemize /list /identify the problems we have that is preventing us from reaching a decent lifestyle as human beings. I challenge anybody who tells me that village people will not appreciate the God life or a cold water from a fridge on a 100 degree F. day.
2. Find the cost and what it will take.
3. Find how to raise the money.
Life is that simple. It is only when they have done 1 and 2 that they contact groups like your groups in London and US, etc. Even then there are better ways than this voluntary ideas and donations! Donations have no mandate of law and no accountability. All these rich Kwahu people, you think if you want to raise taxes to buy a pump for their town, and by law and mandate, everybody is assessed a tax based on the value of their house in the area, they won?t pay? Come oon!
Look, Kofi, I am personally tired of us acting like beggars and expecting somebody from the World Bank or elsewhere to come and think and plan for us. I personally will give no dime to any community unless and until they are prepared to use the education we have acquired, to plan for long term survival. Of course I spent all my money in Ghana, 40% of that doing work for family and community that could have gone into completing my own house. However that is just done out of emotion and love. When are we going to request that Abetifi, and Abene, and all the way to Zualerigu, are self-empowered town and districts, legally recognized entities to chart their own course in history, to vote for their own District Chief Executive or Mayors, collect money and account to the people, and perform?
I would like to complete some work I am doing and go home to teach, even from the grassroots, about MANAGEMENT AND LEADERSHIP, how to solve our own problems, and how to develop as a people.
Please pass this message to the executive for me, show them the pictures, and tell them exactly what I said. We have enough Lawyers! Long term planning to empower our own towns, solve our problems and develop our town of Abetifi, and hence as an example for other towns in Ghana!!
Too many educated people and can?t even put a lawn around the Chief?s palace!! Can?t even get water to drink and bath in Abetifi? Why can?t we learn from the West and others to build and manage our towns, districts and nation?
Keep in touch. Kwaku
Perhaps I should end with his last paragraphs which others will tune in to:
Kofi writes (?contd-)
You know I championed the cause of NPP in 2000 with high hopes for Kuffour's regime when they came over in 2000 but as you saw from the ground floor last year, little has changed..our politicians do not seem to care or they are in politics for themselves and not to take on the problems of Ghana..they are in it for themselves and not for anybody else. As I write, the vetting process has turned into a mudslinging contest..each side looking to find more mud to throw at each other. Some nominated ministers could not recite the national pledge, others who claimed to have got degrees abrokyire have been asked to produce the certificates and those without may not be confirmed, others have their private lives splashed on the front pages of newspapers..the result: Government business has come to a standstill..no minister to run the ministries..government without direction, with no checks and controls the chopping goes on at the highest level while you and I in the diaspora have been left to look after ourselves, family, business and still solve problems back home..its a tough task but someone has to do it..when I turn on the net..you see so many concerned citizens detailing the ills of our country and I must confess sometimes I have to stay off the net just to clear my head...
Well, we live in hope..what else is there for life without hope?. Regards to you and the family
I ask: Will donations and hand-outs alone help Ghana? When do we move from what is given us, as loans or as gifts? Can we add to the talents that we were given at birth? Yes, we can! Let?s do it!