Orangeburg, South Carolina
3rd March, 2014
Ghana has not lived up to the expectations of its founders and citizens. Often, we blame leaders for our problems—with a lot of justification. Many leaders have been corrupt, visionless, uninspiring and selfish.
However, as we celebrate independence, let us discuss the one thing, more important than leadership that holds us back--- BAD CITIZENSHIP!!! YEP, MOST OF US ARE BAD CITIZENS. Now, this does not mean leaders are blameless. However, particularly in a democracy, we cannot produce one bad leadership after another without assigning some of the blame to citizens. As Aristotle stated, “the salvation of the community is the common business of all.” Our history is dotted with exemplary citizens. Here are some examples:
• Tweneboa Kodua’s sacrifice for the welfare of Asanteman.
• The visionary establishment of the “Fante Confederacy” with a constitution that foreshadowed our struggle for independence.
• The leaders of the UGCC committing their lives, liberty and fortunes to the fight for independence.
• The youth who rioted in 1948 after the shooting of Sergeant Adjetey ET all at Christiansburg.
• Danquah challenging Nkrumah’s dictatorship by repeatedly invoking the constitution and dying for his believes in prison.
• Justice Abban’s refusal, as the Electoral Commissioner to rig the”UNIGOV” referendum in 1978, together with the professionals who brought the Acheampong dictatorship to its knees before the soldiers saved face by staging the June 4th uprising.
• Those who struggled to restore democracy during the Rawlings dictatorship, led by Sam Okudjeto, J.N.A. Attoh, Prof. Adu Boahen, Dr. Twumasi Boateng, the students of Ghana and journalists, including late Kugblenu, Ebo Quansah, Harruna Attah, Kweku Baako, Kwesi Pratt and Kofi Coomson.
• The “Kume Preko” demonstrators, who gave voice to the suffering of the masses and were attacked by armed security forces, leading to death and injury.
I know I missed a few. However, the key is that good citizenship requires sacrifice, responsibility, loyalty, self-discipline, work, integrity and gratitude.
We are where we are because these days, the most dominant creed is “everyone for himself and God for us all”.
Politicians are motivated more by private greed than the public interest. How else can we explain the proliferation of judgment debts and other forms of corruption combined with ex-gratia, pre-gratia and other expenditures for politicians while the peoples’ needs wither away for lack of funding?
Year in, year out, nearly half of our children fail their BECE exams and leave school without any of us lifting a communal finger to address the colossal waste of our human treasure. This is on top of the nearly one-in-five who drop out of school long before the BECE exams. And we never say “Tweaa!! Enough of this nonsense?”
Day-in, day-out, our relatives die like flies in our hospitals even while our NHIS and our hospitals are collapsing without any of us lifting a communal voice to say, “HABA ENOUGH!!!”
Our environment is dirtied by human excreta, discarded polythene, uncollected garbage that piles up day after day, week after week and month after month, without any of us lifting our communal voice to say “TWEAAA!! ENOUGH!!!”
Our major roads become unmotorable and unmaintained for years without any of us saying “YABRE—STOP THIS NONSENSE!!!”
You get the picture. Even when we react, as Rev. Otabil said, we turn these issues into jokes, and then go back to our lives. Indeed, when we choose to react, we react to useless things.
Those who will not march to protest the mis-education of our children will happily march on the EC which is doing its job, or to prevent President Kufuor from attending the inauguration of an elected President.
Maybe, if Justice Abban had been the Electoral Commissioner today and we had had a Referendum, he would have asked Acheampong how much he was willing to pay for the results he wanted and then asked the opponents of “unigov” if they could top his figure before making up his mind.
As we celebrate independence, let us reflect on how far we have fallen behind the dream nation that our FOUNDERS conceived and accept that, as Pogo put it, “we have met the enemy and he is us”.
First, our leaders come from our ranks and we elect them with our votes. Therefore we are just as responsible for our bad leaders as they are. When we go to the polls and more Ghanaians vote for Hasan Ayariga than for Kwesi Nduom, we deserve the bad leadership we have. When we permit crooked politicians to bribe us with the nation’s resources in exchange for our votes, we are responsible for their bad leadership. Let us vote for good people, without accepting bribes, regardless of where they come from and our governance will improve.
Second, in the public square, let us stop insulting elders we have never met and condemning books we have never read and confusing noise for sense and our public discourse will improve.
Third, let us rediscover the powers of virtuous citizenship. Why are those business people whose savings in dollars are being confiscated not going to court? If a constitutional government can arbitrarily confiscate the wealth of people, how can we restrain a military government? Indeed, we should go back and return to the owners, the full value of the fifty cedi notes confiscated by the PNDC.
Fourth, a little aluta once in a while is good. If our government will not protect our national resources from “galamsey” operators and rogue operators who will intimidate our government from implementing laws in our favour, we should rise up and protect those assets ourselves!!
Fifth, we should return to high-minded personal citizenship—by raising our children to value hard-work, respect their elders, speak well and avoid short-cuts to wealth. We should honour the hard-working poor and disdain the corrupt rich.
Regardless of where we are, let us stop cursing the darkness and light candles, through our votes, our voices and our deeds. From this new citizenship, a new leadership will emerge to lead us to better times.
We must remember that citizenship is not a spectator sport. Even when we go to watch the Black Stars, we must actively cheer them on to help them win. We must be active citizens to make Ghana better.
All these are contained in Ephraim Amu’s song “Yen ara yen asase ni”
Let us move forward—together. Happy Independence Day.