Opinions Fri, 4 Oct 2013

Has Ghana become parochial and mediocre?

I have spent the last few days deeply pondering over some comments made by Dr Ben Kumbuor. My thoughts were also disposed to appraising our current positioning as a country and whether we were on track.

Dr Kumbuor’s comments were not necessarily new to me, but his delivery of it was touching and his candor to speak in the manner he did was remarkable. It was refreshing to me also because it came from a member of the elite political class. However, I was depressed because he sounded quite helpless and frustrated about the path we as a people have ‘chosen’ to traverse.

He might have had it to the neck!

If you didn’t know, Dr Kumbuor is a highly respected politician and academic. He is a prized member of Ghana’s political ruling class, a former Attorney General and Justice Minister, a past Health and Interior Minister, and now the leader of government business in parliament and Majority Leader.

His observations, for those who could not listen, simply centred on the level of social degradation our society has been plunged into. A country where standards don’t matter anymore and a place where mediocrity and crude quick fixes have become shockingly glorified. He even said we talk too much and think little and that we have more paid talkers than thinkers; a recipe for disaster per his diagnosis.

Every word he uttered was on point!

I have had discussions with friends where I have expressed similar irritation. My conclusion has been that we applaud mediocrity because our standards are so low that anybody on a normal day could hop over them. I also think that we do not learn from history and largely are not serious about nation building. This is why we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. We can almost rehearse what the next government will say in its first few months in office about the economy. Doing the same old things and expecting different results. It doesn’t work like that. Clairvoyance and audacity usually absent.

Ghana is becoming a collection of people who are in for themselves, not for neighbours or country. Our sense of individual entitlement has risen beyond the ordinary. I sometimes think we do not want Ghana to prosper at the expense of our own individual blinkered interests. The word, sacrifice, no longer exists. We simply love ourselves than our motherland; this is my deduction of why we can go great lengths to exploit the system.

We easily get too impressed with little things.

Right Hon. Edward Doe Adjaho was sworn in to act as President for a few hours or days, obviously because President Mahama and Veep Amissah-Arthur were out of the jurisdiction. I have my own views on the wisdom of that constitutional arrangement but that is a different discussion for another day. I was surprised at the attention that the news of his acting presidency garnered. For two days, major newspapers had their front pages flooded with this. Radio stations were discussing it, and it was a running issue on television. Meanwhile, it was not the first time a Speaker of Parliament was acting as President, indeed almost all Speakers in the 4th republican parliament have acted in same capacity at one time or the other.

Further, it had nothing to do with his performance or competence beyond being a Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament. It was simply ceremonial, and a matter of provision. I was therefore startled to hear the leadership of Parliament spending quality time extolling and praising him for assuming the highest office of the land. While they were doing this, key issues remained, requiring their attention. This is an example of how small minds play around real hardcore problems, while praising unnecessary little things and glorifying nothingness.

Another example is how we praised ourselves for the smooth transition of power from the late President Mills to John Mahama. Didn’t we expect it to be smooth? Were we expecting disagreements or chaos after we claim to have practiced democracy for about four decades? I expected nothing less than we saw. We should stop comparing ourselves with the worst and start competing with the best.

Did we also see how the country praised Nana Addo for halting his campaign after the death of Prof Mills was announced? The suspension of campaigns was in the interest of the parties and not Ghana necessarily. Just think about it; Nana Addo or Abu Sakara is racing around the country campaigning heavily when the entire country is mourning in black, shock and in a confused moment trying to come to terms with the loss of a sitting president for the first time. They would have been seen as inhuman, parochial, insensitive and wicked and that could have been more fatal to their political bids, especially considering the fact that Ghanaians are a funeral loving people! These acts for me should be what we should expect any day, not what we should spend time discussing or reveling and cheer-leading about. Small thinking produces, small results!

I have also worried about how our generation may turn out when we finally take over as future leaders. I am apprehensive about our falling educational standards, the cheap toying with how to call our second cycle institutions whether ‘high’ or ‘secondary,’ and the vacillating three/four year academic calendar we run, just to satisfy our political egos. As if the confusion in the formal educational sector is not disturbing enough, we have a fast deteriorating moral and social structure, which is scary.

This is terrifying because strong moral and social systems enable a thriving and conscientious people. Arguably, the current class of leaders we have today with all the problems we find with them were produced by a less tinkered with curriculum and a system they were proud of in terms of standards. They also say they had a better moral upbringing where the community was equally responsible for the discipline of every child, amongst others. Their educational system, I hear was the envy of many countries on the continent. Sadly, this is where that so called better system has brought us: confusion, egoism, hypocrisy, visionlessness, selfishness, corruption and very little to be proud about.

I can only imagine where we will be with our current crop of youth who are more partisan than patriotic, inclined to getting rich at all cost and have very little respect for decency, culture and morality, no matter how subjective these may be. A generation that is ready to be paid to insult authority, smear people’s reputation and make genocidal threats all because of their hidebound partisan political interests and to protect or project their paymasters. The debauchery of society and the festering systems as we see them now must be enough to make parents and thought leaders sit up.

Further, Ghana is permanently in election mood. I was astounded to see that after several prayers to ensure that the Supreme Court election petition was accepted, just 48 hours after the law lords pronounced judgement, the country started talking about election 2016. Just when the elected president is settling down properly to deliver on the mandate he was given, the country is again warming up for elections. This is not a sign of a thriving democracy as people will have us believe. It is a symptom of laziness, anti-progress mindedness, idleness and the ‘not-serious-about-nation-building’ syndrome. Ghana is not an election machine. It is a country of 24 million people who deserve development and a decent livelihood. Sir John and Ade Coker are the worst culprits. Such an environment is anti-development because no president will be able to lead or govern with peace of mind when even in his party there is talk about who leads them for the next election when he is barely settling into office for a first term.

The late President Mills suffered it and the recent turn of events suggests that if this canker of wanting to talk about elections every time is not dealt with, we will become victims of multi party politics. This is what becomes of a country, which has its ministers constantly on radio and TV in the mornings discussing newspaper headlines and petty politicking when indeed that is the most productive time of the day to be used for meaningful work on the ground.

The result of the system we are nurturing is an irresponsible citizenry, broke economy, insincere leadership, badly built roads, uncovered mosquito-breeding gutters, high unemployment rate, corruption, armed robbery, collapsing educational standards, weak healthcare structures and high levels of poverty. The media, civil society, clergy and thought leaders have roles to play to ensure that we relax the tone of our discourse and think nationally and shift from our dangerously polarized way of considering politics. We cannot leave it to politicians alone; Ghana belongs to all of us!

The recent incident in Ashaiman, where drivers and some town folks with impunity blocked roads and demonstrated against poor road networks in the area, should be a wake up call. Though I condemn the act in its entirety, it is indicative of how the citizenry is fast losing faith in the political class and how if the country gets impatient, things could play out. I wasn’t surprised that in less than 24 hours government responded by sending bulldozers and road construction equipment to start work on their roads. Perhaps, our governments only respond to strikes and demonstrations. It shouldn’t get that far. Prioritization and responsiveness to the needs of the people we serve, could avert such uprising. The Tunisian example, which led to what is now called the Arab spring that has seen the likes of Mubarak, Gaddafi, Ben Ali exist power should guide us in appreciating how much power the people we so take for granted wield.

In conclusion, I must state that my despondence does not mean nothing works in our country. It is simply that as a young person, I believe there is much more to do than we are currently engaged in. I think we deliberately settle for cheaper and less worthy options. I am however encouraged by the fact that all is not lost and it is not too late to make a turn-around if we decide to. Quite a number of centres of light exist making a difference in their own unique ways and charting a path many will follow.

Maybe I expect too much or I’m simply a confused young man.

Author’s Email: spexlorm@hotmail.com

Twitter: @SelormAdonoo

Columnist: Adonoo, Selorm