Mama, this man you got married to, he’s dead-alive!
The moment I heard President John Mahama’s recent declaration that in our hands, yours as well as mine, rests the success or failure of Ghana’s future, I became haunted by the events surrounding my recent frolic into town.
“We all, each and every one of us, have a role to play in the growth and development of our beloved mother Ghana. In our hands—yours as well as mine—rests the success or failure of Ghana’s future. Let us all stand, not as separate entities but as partners. Together we will build a Ghana that will be a source of pride for all of us.”
If His Excellency truly believed that we were all partners, then in some cases at least, some of us were nothing short of the dead-alive variety that needed resuscitation to play our deserving roles in national development. What follows is a brief account of my visit to three offices in one day: a bank and two government agencies.
At the bank, I walked into a very serene air conditioned waiting room. Tastefully furnished, there were stacks of current newsmagazines and newspapers that visitors could read while waiting to be connected. The front desk person appeared busy at her computer but looked up the minute I walked in. I greeted and asked to see an officer. She directed me appropriately and gave me access. In the corridors en route to the officer’s office, a security man accosted me, asked preliminary questions and ushered me into a waiting room while he fetched the officer. “How can I help you, Mr. Son of Man?” Ten minutes later, my business was done and I was out of the bank- crisp, professional, smooth!
The first government agency was a complex housing many offices. There was enough heat at the reception that the receptionist would occasionally fan herself with the newspaper she was reading a newspaper. She mixed answering my questions with negotiating a lunch package with her work colleague.
“Turn left and go to the last office on your left!” she barked.
On turning left, I encountered another lady walking through the corridors bare footed. Appearing to be coming from the direction in which I was headed, I briefly mentioned the name of the one I was looking for.
“Go to that office and wait for me.” After going through the drill of the boss is not in, don’t know when he would be back etc., I opt to leave a note. About to leave, she asks for my name – who should I say came to look for him? I mention my name. Apparently recognizing it, she breaks out into a huge smile. Does my name have to ring a bell before you give me a beautiful smile in your office?
I visit the third office around lunch time. I am directed to an office adjoining the big man’s. It is only on opening the door that through the familiar aroma wafting through my nostrils, I know just how good life can be mid-week in an office. I then see the three men in the room in strategic positions and ready for overt action. Directly ahead of me was a man pouring light soup from a big bowl into a smaller one held by his special assistant. Significantly, they didn’t appear too surprised that a total stranger had chanced upon them in this endeavor! With the soup poured, I was given hurried answers to my questions – we don’t know, we have no idea kind of thing – and effectively dispatched! The party was on!
So when the President says that “We all, each and every one of us, have a role to play in the growth and development of our beloved mother Ghana. In our hands—yours as well as mine—rests the success or failure of Ghana’s future” it is actors in the above three scenarios that come to mind and I ask how many Ghanaians actually see themselves as development partners of the President and secondly whether being partners, they are of the living or dead, dead-alive variety?!
While holding the President accountable is easy, many of us have conveniently abdicated our own key roles in the national development agenda. In some cases, we are even actively sabotaging the national cause but never recognize our various and divers individual roles in whatever state Ghana finds itself and which we have become perfect at complaining about. We engage in loud raucous debates, pointing fingers at Ghana and Africa’s failed leadership and yet failing to notice and name our own failed leadership in corners where we could have brightened.
Ghana’s success or failure rests in our individual and collective hands: in the hands of the estate developer who uses inferior materials to build an over-priced house, in the hands of health professionals who flare up in anger when patients question them, in the hands of the journalist who pronounces that unless paid transportation support, your press conference will not be carried, in the hands of the lecturer who measures success not by the number of students who have passed and are making a difference with their knowledge, but by the number of students who struggled and failed, in the hands of the consultant who spends eighty percent of his time doing anything but the job for which he is paid, in the hands of the priest who is quick to accuse everyone of not living according to the perfect will of God, but whose avarice for worldly possessions surpasses those he accuses of chasing money and last but not the least, in the hands of the children who make us suffer before agreeing to do their homework!
I pray everyone carves a little bit of national development for themselves and do their work diligently. We must be living and not dead-alive partners to the national cause.
To quote John Mahama, “Complacency and frustration can entice us into believing that we are insignificant players stuck somehow in the background of a bigger picture, or that we are incapable of making a difference. But history itself has proven that nothing could be further from the truth.”
25th January, 2013