A Call to Our Leaders. Part 1 of 2There are some who sleep soundly even when a bulldozer passes bye, let alone when bitten by a luring smooth and invisible disease-carrying vampire called mosquito in the night. Very soon almost all Ghanaians, from the lowest to the highest, the young and the old, line up at the many drug stores scattered all around Ghana. A good percentage end up at our hospitals, sometimes having to lie on the floor in a 35 degree C temperature, according to reports. For the pregnant women, recent studies as reported at a conference and on Ghanaweb of August 9, 2004 have shown that some 200,000 African babies are born with deformities or die each year due to the malaria. Estimates of at least 5,000 of these are Ghanaian babies. Malaria tablets alone can be estimated at close to $200 million, creating jobs in some Western nations and impoverishing Ghana and the African nations where leadership on problem-solving seems missing.
What are our Ghanaian educated leaders doing about this situation?
Some say we should resort to God in every situation. But for God?s sake, can our leaders use the sense that God gave us, and the Science revealed to us by the same God, to solve such problems? Are our leaders simply hiding under mosquito nets and covering themselves with lotions manufactured by Western manufacturers? This writer believes that educated Africans have been spending too much limited public funds from our impoverished nation?s treasuries attending international conferences and meetings. They meet, set up consortiums, and talk instead of using their cognitive skills brainstorming for solutions. I see so many huge building in Accra since I settled home. Many of the ?big men? here will find it hard to define their job functions and performance measurement parameters. The Ghanaian and African leaders have been too cowardly to lead by creative ideas and by implementation of recommended solutions. Some of their less-educated folk actually do better on the personal level. On the social and community level, many have only one answer: pray to God to be alive. What I have found on return to Ghana is that in trying to solve the many riddles of life, some go to Church five times a week, an average investment of over 20 hours per week, leaving little time for productive ventures. The Churches in Ghana, Nigeria and many pats of the poor world have become an industry unto themselves. Why? The reason is because our men and women have failed to solve our own problems.
Folks, with all due respect and modesty, the way we solve our problems in Ghana leave many doubts in the minds of some who may visit and observe us, as to the basic core intelligence of our people who have been elected as leaders to serve the needs of the society. Racist theorists of the Western world in the 17th to the 20th centuries had postulated theories in the past that black people had less intelligence, in order to justify enslaving and then later colonizing our people. By our leaders jumping at every opportunity to ask for loans and carry begging calabashes to the West, they help give credence to this false notion that we cannot solve our own problems. From the classroom to the laboratories and board rooms, most of our African students who got the opportunities to go overseas have helped dispel this notion of blacks being inferior to whites, or Africans being inferior to Europeans or Americans when given equal chances. It is left to our old-fashioned leaders to stand tall and solve our problems such as malaria. Period.
Thousands of people die each year from malaria and its complications. We spend billions of dollars in pre-mature funeral expenses. Even at a modest cost of say C5 million per funeral, this unaccounted form of our culture consumes C5,000,000,000 (5 billion cedis) our economy for every thousand deaths. We know there are more deaths than that, and funerals cost more than C5 million. So you figure the loss to the nation for this preventable loss. An estimated 5,000 Ghanaian babies may die or be born with deformities from malaria-infested pregnant women. Even for those who survive, if the average Ghanaian spends an minimum $10 on malaria tablets per year, and we are 18 million, that comes to an avoidable $180,000,0000 in real or actual dollars. That money could be used to educate and improve the life of the Ghanaian. Hospitalizations costs and loss of productivity could be over $1 billion annually. This is not HIPC benefit money, as Ghanaians have been led to believe. This is real money being lost!! Where are our leaders?
Problems: Every society has problems. For the past several decades after Dr. Nkrumah?s leadership, the mindset in Ghana has been that there is somebody outside who can bail us out of our misery. Many outside government think government is not their responsibility, and those within think they owe nothing to those outside and problems are not theirs to solve but simply to point out at best. This attitude and mindset need to change. Most people in Ghana shiver and get scared when they hear of earthquakes. How about tornadoes, hurricanes, hailstorms, large acreage fires, flooding and years of drought? America has all these, and more. Nobody hears them crying and begging other nations. Some African Professors have suggested during our Internet discussions that we should not compare America or European nations to Ghana or Africa, and that we should look for solutions from Nananom the ancestors. This writer completely disagrees, as do most of our youth of today. There is a reason why our societies and our people fell behind, and a formula on how we can get ourselves out of the mindset that has so devalued our lives to second place global citizenship.
For those not aware, America, where this writer lived and maintains a second home, has all these natural disasters, plus mass murders, gang shootings, massive poverty in some areas, HIV-AIDS, crimes committed every minute of every day, sexual promiscuity, rapes, and any evil one can think of. Yet God blesses America everyday. Why? In most cases, American leaders have used their God-given talents to solve their societal problems, serve their people to the best of their abilities, without putting too much burden on God the maker. God helps those who help themselves. The American South, such as Louisiana and Florida where temperatures, humidity and average rainfall can be higher than that of Ghana, has mosquitoes also. However Americans learnt to conquer the mosquito and overcome malaria, have learnt to forecast some of these natural disasters, to plan for some, and conduct ongoing research at their Universities on predicting earthquakes and storms. Where all things fail, America also have their massive Churches, many of which can be found in even small affluent towns such as Santa Barbara or Fremont, California where this writer has lived. Americans learnt to fight mosquitoes and eradicate the malaria from their society using Science. We should save our prayers for higher-level problems instead wasting prayers on problems that God has shown man how to solve already on earth through proper management.
So what is leadership? The young may be tempted to ask. In the academic research literature on leadership, most Professors such as author P.G. Northouse, in his 1997 book Leadership theory and practice ( Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage) summarize and list many researched qualities such as cognitive skills (inborn intelligence), crystallized cognitive skills (equivalent to what we call classroom learning), human relationship skills, and communication skills. Among these, ?PROBLEM SOLVING? skills are the key and core elements of effective leaders in all organizations, social, military or corporate. Any leader who cannot formulate solutions to problems, or find smarter others to quickly solve them, is seen as lacking the characters of leadership and of greatness. It is not that leaders opt to be listed as great, but society lists their performance and accomplishments according to how they were able to define and tackle societal problems. Problems create challenges, the solution of which create heroes. In the last decade in Ghana, such national challenges as the Volta dam reduced water level, electricity and power shortages, the current water distribution problems, the killing bites of the mosquito and malaria, and mass killing of women a few years ago, the dangerously designed roads and highways, can be listed. How do we solve them and plan to eliminate those we can? Where are our leaders?