(A reflection by Dr. Kwaku A. Danso)
The passing away of Mr. Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu yesterday, a young promising man of 56, at a South African hospital seems to have sent shock waves and sadness through Ghana and the world of Ghanaians. Judging from a statistical sampling of the comments section of Ghana web, as well as other personal comments from the news stories, it appears Mr. Baah-Wiredu was one of those gentlemen who seemed to have been well liked, humble and affable. This writer notices that in Ghana the word humble goes a long way in public life, whiles arrogance is a killer poison pill on one’s resume. The fact that former President Rawlings and NDC presidential candidate Prof. Atta Mills, have good things to say about the man is a good testimony indeed. The Ghanaian cultural principles of “boko-boko” (what Americans call it take-it easy) and “fama-Nyame” (give-it-to-God) must therefore reign supreme at such moments. This writer strongly share the sad sentiments and wish the surviving family condolences and all the best.
Perhaps a summary reflection of the sentiments of many may be gleamed from what one writer Maame Abenah wrote in a comment titled: The Death of a Hero: Mr. Kwadwo Baah Wiredu may you rest in peace.
You were my hero.
My prayers are with your family. May God grant them strength as they go through this difficult time.
Like Jesus Christ, the good die young. You too have made a huge contribution to the building of our country Ghana. R.I.P. (Ghanaweb Comments, 2008-09-25 09:22:19).
Folks, people do not have to be heroes to die young. At such a time we usually use our emotions and feelings and we have every right as humans to shed tears if we so feel like it! So let the tears flow! As much as I did not meet Hon. Baah Wiredu and never had any interactive communications with him, despite a long letter to him last December with no reply, comments from those who know him, plus knowing that he attended my old high school of Prempeh College some six or seven or so years after I left, is enough to invoke forgiveness and peace.
The Question I have for us all is:
Aren’t Ghanaians dying too young?
According to the World Bank and UN statistics, the under-5 mortality rate is 97/1,000 and average life expectancy at birth is only 55 (WB, 2002). Mr. Baah Wiredu simply attained average age in Ghana. Is that enough? To compare data, the people of USA and Singapore live to an average of 77 and 78 respectively (WB, 2002). If we compare economic development indices, GNI/capita for Ghana was $320, whiles USA and Singapore were $37,610 and $21,230 respectively (WB, 2003).
Why Should the Poor Die so Young? It has been suggested that life is not fair to the poor, but this is no news, and it is so even in America. Poor people lose their jobs, and then their homes when the economy goes south, and then they ruin their credit and when they ever want a loan in the future, they pay a higher interest rate, which costs them more per month! Is life fair? Well, the Christian Bible has versus that shows what the French calls “C’est la vie”. That is life! We may not understand all things. To them who have to them will more be given, and to them who do not have even the little they have may be taken away from them. Such reflections on life sometimes makes one ponder whether we in Africa should give up or surrender our independence. From the time we gave in to the tricks of the white-skinned man who appeared on our shores some 500 years ago, we Africans have not had peace. Our people have been captured and carted as slaves on ship dungeons to America, and our people have been colonized and treated as if we had no common sense and ability to defend ourselves or think and work together as one people!
Whiles a funeral is not the time for deep analysis, our own Ghanaian proverbs suggest that whiles we are drinking palm wine we should reflect and have some sense to prevent future disasters or mistakes.
BIG QUESTIONS and LESSONS:
What can be done about these youthful early deaths?
Does anybody out there think about such matters, or it’s just me?
Perhaps there are some lessons we can take as we reflect on this sad death:
1. Why was he in South Africa for treatment and not at Korle Bu or Koforidua Regional, 37 Military Hospital, Agogo Regional or Okomfo Anokye hospital?
2. Considering that Ghana obtained her political independence long before South Africa, and Ghana indeed was a major contributor through our first Premier Kwame Nkrumah for the liberation and freedom of South Africans from the inhuman apartheid regime and mindset, what expertise does South Africa now have that Ghana may not have?
3. Has Ghana not collected enough money from the 2.5% NHIL levy imposed in the last 6 or more years, to build and staff the modern hospitals with the best talents?
A study of the World Bank and UN statistics on human development and economic development indices, samples of which are quoted above, seems to show a correlation between poverty and the high infantile mortality and low adult life expectancy. Are Ghanaians that poor we cannot have the best health care in Ghana and hire the best doctors, most of who include thousands of our own trained Ghanaian doctors scattered around the world earning decent wages? Do people know that there are some Ghanaian doctors working in South African hospitals? Why?
In a contribution to our forum today I wrote this piece and share:
“,,but for God’s sake, why is the Minister of Finance going to a South African hospital when sick! If the nation of Ghana imports $6 Billion worth of vehicles and goods in a year and assume those are the only items taxed on VAT and NHIL, the NHIL revenue portion alone is [2.5% x $6 Bil] = $150 Million.
How much does it cost to build a modern hospital like say a typical Kaiser Hospital in California? I would guess COST FOR NEW HOSPITAL = $20 Million using local labor. Cost to renovate Regional Hospitals = $3 million. Cost for hiring 500 of our own native Ghanaian MDs at $90,000/year = $45 Million. (I mean our own top doctors that Ghana helped train – and we should pay them $90,000/year as the politicians are estimated to get, you only have $45 Million!)
With honest accounting, one can do the ff:
Renovate all 10 Regional Hospitals = [10 x $3 Mil] = $30 Million
Build 3 New Hospitals = [3 x $20 Mil] = $60 Million.
Hire 500 to 1,000 Doctors globally trained + Recent grads = [500 x $90,000] = $45 Million
Hire 2,000 Nurses at $20,000 = [2,000 x $20,000] = $40 Million
(Or can we start at even 4,000 nurses at $10,000? 1,000 Doctors at $45,000? Most will be happy with that.)
See my drift? THINKING! PLANNING! BUDGETING!
Add and subtract and see what you get for building a nation if these men and women are honest!
Do we have to do this for any Minister and his staff?”
(K. Danso, GLU Forum, Thursday, September 25, 2008 9:01 AM Subject: RE: Ghana, a 1st world country soon).
I wish our nation will reflect and take serious actions and ensure that our leaders reflect our values and society’s basic needs. Life is too short and we must push all leaders, by any means possible, to serve the nation as opposed to the self-centered mindset we see in Ghana. We must learn to plan and budget and forget completely that we have anybody out there to aid us or help us, except our own sons and daughters abroad! The latter remit moneys to help their family members and build homes, which indirectly has helped sustain the Ghanaian economy more than four times the total amount of foreign direct aid received in 2007. In the memory of Hon. Baah–Wiredu, I herby propose that what we need to do is do the little details and learn to do proper accounting. Baah-Wiredu would not want it any less. Ghana can create beautiful hospitals like other nations like India have done, even attracting foreign clients. If one may be non-partisan at this stage and I am allowed to, a quotation from the Ghana National Party manifesto my help:
Our Government will manage a National Health Insurance Policy by providing open accountability of moneys collected under the National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL) of 2.5% and make it open with a database such that all subscribers can receive services nationwide.
Our Government will modernize existing facilities and build new hospitals equipped with modern technology and comfort so that even foreigners can be attracted to come to Ghana for health care services for a fee that will be cheaper than say America. Globalization of medical services is the Goal. This will be an investment that will help pay our doctors and nurses well, bring those in the Diaspora home, and generate money to expand our nursing and medical schools capacities. A War will be declared on MALARIA and the known environmental causes eliminated Open gutters will be banned and gradually will be replaced by underground sewage. (GNP Manifesto, Abridged, 2006, p.2)
May the Soul of Baah Wiredu rest in Peace.
Dr. Kwaku A. Danso
(The writer is an Engineering and Management Consultant in Livermore California. He is a former student of Abetifi Boys Boarding School, Prempeh College (1960-67), University of California at Berkeley (1968-75), and with a PhD in Organization & Management (Business & Technology) from Capella University, USA. He is the author of “Leadership Concepts and the Role of Government in Africa: The Case of Ghana, 2007, Xlibirs).