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Paying The Piper - Religious Faith And Accountability In Ghana

Paying The Piper - Religious Faith And Accountability In Ghana

Sun, 26 Nov 2006 Source: Danso, Kwaku A.

Is there Something Missing in the Ghanaian Psyche?

There are many Ghanaians in the Diaspora whose experience with cooperative ventures involving Investments, remote project management and accountability of funds have not been pleasant. This suggests one of many complicated hypotheses which may include the following set:

1. Ghanaians in general are not trustworthy.

2. Ghanaians in general are weak in the culture of bookkeeping and accounting of moneys.

3. Ghanaians in general rely on faith and trust and believe that asking somebody to account in detail implies not trusting the person.

It may not be appropriate scientifically to generalize data collected from informal qualitative analysis to the whole Ghanaian society. However, every society learns from the general dialogue and discussion that take place within the community when people meet at gatherings, be they funerals, parties, or any occasion. From the time we are born, humans and even other species tend to adopt the social, political, and general mannerisms of the groups and society that we live in. Such informal sharing of ideas and knowledge is part of an organizational knowledge base that the new entrants such as children growing up absorb subconsciously and become part of the organizational culture. Harvard Professor James Austin (1990) states that, in doing business, differences in culture and processes “significantly affect all functional areas of management as well as overall strategies” (Austin, 1990, p.3).

One of the aspects of our Ghanaian culture that affects our business success and survivability at the global level, and hence societal economic survival relates to our faith and belief and how that affects our enforcement of laws and regulations. One such faith, further exacerbated by perhaps misinterpretation of some aspects of Biblical writings, is that everything will be alright, and that there may be some superhuman or external deity who will resolve disputes, and bring peace, even if they are economic, mathematical or scientific. In most Ghanaian culture, it appears the attainment of Peace implies letting things settle without touching them, just like water settles when not disturbed. The attainment of Social justice seems to be not as important as the attainment of peace. This often phantom and illusionary scenario of peace in the midst of social injustice once led the famous musician of the 1960s-19080, African Brothers Band, to sing the song “Ebi te yie, ebi nnte yie koraa”. Translated this means “some have comfortable seats, but some are not comfortable at all”.

Africans, especially the Akans of Ghana, usually depict their social wisdom in proverbs and the lyrics of songs. The scene depicted in this African story and song was a situation of a deer at an all-animals conference who found himself sitting next to the tiger. The deer, in this uncomfortable situation, had to raise his hand and make a petition or point of order to the Chairman of the conference.

Observations of Ghanaian and African society may lead one to the conclusion that the understanding of cause and effect and what is normally described as science in the Western world holds a different meaning in Africa. In a recent Internet dialogue on our Ghana Leadership Forum, we discussed the meaning and implications of the Ghana News agency (GNA) report of November 14, 2006 reported on GhanaHomePage with the title: Mills ask for prayers:

Accra, Nov 14, GNA - Professor John Evans Atta Mills, Former Vice President and aspiring National Democratic Congress (NDC) flag bearer, has asked for God's intervention in the affairs of the nation in the midst of drug trafficking and rising armed robbery.

Prof Mills, who was addressing worshippers of the St Monica's Anglican Church, Kaneshie, Accra, said Divine intervention was necessary to change the hardened hearts of criminals to make them to live peacefully in society. Prof Mills said since the Old Testament time men and children of God had interceded for nations in times of crisis.

The issue for discussion posed by this writer was whether Prof. Mills, a man of words (Law) and numbers (Accounting), was pandering for votes and hence using the religious faith of these people for normal political capital instead of contributing to the solutions of our economic problems using more scientific and management systems.

In response a Ghanaian Professor, Edward Kutsoati wrote:

Hi Kwaku D; I am not that worried about Prof Mills pandering to the religious sect; if indeed he is exploiting faith for votes. Every politician exploits something to get more votes. That's the nature of politics. It's hard to win otherwise.

But the problem in Ghana is that, the demand for prayers is way out of this world, and crooks masquerading as pastors, are happy to supply such bogus faith. For most people in Ghana, the solution to every problem lies in a PRAYER. And I am concerned that Prof Mills, is not exploiting this, but truly shares in this belief.

You see, these actions and pronouncements by intellectuals like Prof Mills, contributes immensely to the religious fanaticism in Ghana. I believe Prof Mills is not a fanatic himself, but as a religious moderate who makes such occasional pronouncements to the die-hard faithfuls, he hurts the chances of promoting growth-enhancing values and attitudes.

(Kutsoati, E. 2006, November 19 11:46 AM, GLUforum@yahoogroups.com)

I use this opportunity to offer some suggested explanations of our society. There are instances of mysticism in Ghanaian management science that come to mind:

1. Former President Rawlings ascribed the term “financial wizard” to Tsatsu Tsikata, the man who as Chairman of the Ghana Energy or Petroleum Commission was reported to have used state funds to gamble on the French Stock market. It is quite possible that during a time he may have won some dividends for the nation and impliedly for the NDC, at a time when knowledge of stock market was not widespread, the term wizard was an appropriate term for a man who could create money [profit] out of simple computer clicks.

2. Another case is the 1970s reported utterance and shock of the former Head of State, Col. Acheampong to reports by his financial advisers that Ghana was in financial difficulty. The military Head of State was reported to have asked why Ghana, a whole nation could be out of money. "How about all the money they count at the Banks?", he was reported to have asked in disbelief.

3. Recently, in 2005 some dozen or so Engineers at the Tema oil Refinery resigned and took jobs in Saudi Arabia or other Middle East nations where their pay was reported to be in the $80,000 range. The men were earning about $300 or so in Ghana and had chosen to take the risk and leave for this monetary reward opportunity. It was reported that Prof. Mike Ocquaye, current NPP Presidential aspirant and self-made author millionaire, who was in charge of the Refinery as Energy Minister, suggested that the Tema Oil Refinery employee en-masse resignations could be the work of the devil and prayers were needed.

4. A few years ago, perhaps in the early 2000s, it was reported that the man who was Chairman of Ghana airways, Sir Sam Jonah, former Chairman of the Anglo-Gold Ashanti, had requested three times to terminate his Chairmanship at Ghana Airways. The President of the nation, J.A. Kufuor had not accepted it. Ghana Airways was in debt by $100 million and they hired some European consultants for some $5-15 million or more. By the time the contract ended, the debt burden of Ghana airways had increased to $150 million. A pastor has once made some prayers for Ghana Airways, as reported on GhanaHomePage.

There is no doubt that Ghanaian and Africans in general are a very religious people, and perhaps we do not know the end of religion and the beginning of accounting and mathematics. However, it is very hard for anyone to convince this writer that the highway to Heaven is better paved for us Ghanaians or Africans than say for the religious people of Texas or the Southern belt of the USA where large SUVs on earth cruise at 75 miles per hour. It may be true that Virgins may not be shared equally in the Heaven of other religious faiths, but as the saying goes, “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”. The important issue is that there is no empirical evidence that we in Ghana are any better people than say Americans, Australians or the people of Sweden or Norway. The science of the Spirit was not created for us any more than the Science of the physical world was created for the Americans or the Europeans. When our forefathers met the Europeans who had used their wizardry to create a huge house called a ship on the ocean, and had a gun with gunpowder that could destroy life, they had the obligation to learn from them, and exchange knowledge and ideas.

The people of Ghana, like many other poor nations, are suffering under delusions of expectations that may never be manifested. This usually comes in the form of beliefs and religion. These cause economic hardships for many who are poor and end up poorer due to belief in quack religious leaders, as well as national leaders who subscribe to these faiths or lack problems solving skills. Example, if a person loses sleep on all-night worship, and hence productivity the next day, they may lose their job or customers. If one donates half of one’s working capital to a Church as was reported in some cases of religious fervor in worship, they end up worse off economically. Simple Science and common sense is usually better than this hope for some Manna from Heaven of some spiritual deity who may come from the super-world to save us.

Perhaps this example may surprise and shock some of you. In a book on Paul O’Neill the former US Treasury Secretary who was fired after his trip to Ghana with entertainer Bono, the Secretary who has been a CEO of Alcoa, the giant aluminum company, and a man very comfortable with product and project pricing, did some calculations. He was able to calculate, after trips to Tamale and others places, that Ghana needed not more than $25 million to supply potable clean water to the estimated 10 million needed people where water-borne diseases killed thousands of children per year (Ron Suskind, 2004: Paul O’Neill - The Price of Loyalty, p.418-419). The book indicates President Kufuor “wondered when and how such a project could start” (p.419). Incidentally he did the same thing in Uganda for President Museveni. A Consulting project estimate had been produced for $2 Billion to hire American corporations for the job.

The World Bank Report (2005) indicates that 2 out of every 10 in the least developed world have a dire need for water, and in Ghana about 70% of the population is without potable water, 78.5% are living under $2 per day, and the percentage without jobs can only be glanced from roadside traffic hawkers. In the mean time our leaders simply have no clue how to create jobs, offer no help to their own people despite 200-300% duties and taxes at the ports, and exercise no limit on their personal spending for travels and colonially inherited benefits. In the midst of desperation, our people believe that a new day may come without ability to hold politicians to account for their stewardship. Our leaders also put their faith in foreign experts, some of whom are dedicated to take advantage of our nations’ weaknesses. As American author John Perkins writes: “Economic Hit men are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder” (Perkins, J., 2004)

Is there something missing in the Ghanaian psyche why we have faith but are still so poor? No!

1. The point is that there is no evidence to suggest that Ghanaians alone are unique and are born untrustworthy.

2. There is no evidence to suggest also that Ghanaians are inherently incapable of learning to do bookkeeping and accounting of moneys.

3. However, there is evidence to suggest that we have a culture, learned behavior that suggest that as Ghanaians we rely on faith and trust, and believe that asking somebody to account in detail implies not trusting the person.

The resulting poverty after 50 years of political independence suggests that we in Ghana will be better off keeping our religious beliefs to our inner Souls and to ourselves, and learn to depend on our minds, our laws, rules, and ourselves, and our expertise developed for half a century through training our natives overseas. It is a common wisdom in our Ghana that we reap what we sow. Jesus instructs in the Bible that we should give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what was Gods. We have learnt enough how the Western world manages their lives and societies and it is time to put them into practice. We must pay the Piper, so to speak. We must make external decisions based on the Sciences of the Physical world, such as Mathematics, Physical, Chemical and Biological Sciences and Accounting. We must produce products that we need in our lives through manufacturing and sell to the rest of the world. Our beliefs that some external deity or super-hero will come in the form of a leader must end. We must stop the begging, stop believing in fantasies and believe in ourselves. This would suggest that we evaluate and select leaders based on their skill levels and demonstrated character and experience to deliver, not on faith or pretence of faith or revelations. It is true we need faith to move from day to day, but as the same Bible says:

“In all labor there is profit, but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury” (Proverbs 14: 23). Another one I remember is for us to let our “Yeas be Yeas and our Nays be Nays”!

Ghana’s economy has become worse than at Independence and we owe about $6.2 Billion in loans to the outside without a single 62 miles of decent 4 lane non-stop highway. A fraction of this money is to be written off, with conditions, over a long period of time. If we sincerely want to be free as a people, let us always remember that there is nothing wrong with us. We need to remember this proverb that says “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22: 7). If we want to be respected and valued as a people on this earth, even the same Bible says that "The poor is hated even by his own neighbor but the rich has many friends" (Prov.14: 20). Let us use stop this reliance on religious Faith, and rather use objective criteria to select the right people to lead us and stop believing any leader will drop from Heaven to create jobs. We must stop relying on foreigners, and stop the high level greed, selfishness and political corruption, drug trafficking and open hooliganism and thievery. We must use our assets and competencies of education and experience of dedicated Ghanaians in the Diaspora to help us adapt strategically to global changes and technology, enforce our laws, clean our environment, and secure our nation’s future.


Kwaku A. Danso, PhD

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.