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By Razak El-alawa
In a matter of weeks, Ghana will be in a celebration mood. We shall be marking the 60th anniversary of our independence.
It has been a long, long journey from March 6, 1957 when the Union Jack was lowered for the last time at the Old Polo Grounds in Accra.
Up went the red, gold and green flag of the new independent nation with the black star in the middle. The Gold Coast was gone from the surface of the earth. In its place, the new Ghana.
With our human and natural resources, our potentials to become a prosperous nation were reorganised the world over.
We had a visionary leader in Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah who pushed Ghana to its limits to achieve some level of industrialisation, with Akosombo providing the energy we needed to power our industries. We had factories spread all over the country – GIHOC industries, Kade Match Factory, Abosso Glass Factory, the Kumasi Shoe Factory, Cement and Citrus factories in Takoradi, Pwalugu Tomato Factory, the Akasanoma factory in Accra and the sugar factories at Komenda and Asutsuare among others.
Nkrumah believed that what the West took centuries to achieve should take us only decades to accomplish. Indeed, in those early years of independence, there was hope for Ghana that she would make it.
After 60 years of nationhood, how much of our potentials have we been able to realise?
Have we succeeded in fulfilling all those hopes we had to build a paradise on earth?
As I mentioned earlier, it has been a long, long journey, not only long but really rough and bumpy.
We started off at the same level with Malaysia and Singapore and almost at par with Korea, Thailand and other emerging centuries in Asia such as Indonesia. Despite our small size and small population, we were recognised as a country with a very bright future.
In addition to the resources we could boast of, human and natural, we also had our own State Construction Corporation (SCC), State Housing Corporation (SHC), and other indigenous construction companies such as A. Lang, Taysec and others to take care of our infrastructure development. It was rare to see foreign companies imported to handle our major road or building constructions.
Unfortunately, whereas those countries we were at par with 60 years ago have enjoyed relative political stability, we have not been so lucky. Malaysia and those Asian tigers have left us far behind.
The cause of our woes can be attributed to the political instability that we experienced in the first 40 years or so of our existence. The rule of Kwame Nkrumah, which we now call the First Republic, lasted only nine years with his overthrow on February 24, 1966, the first military intervention in our history.
The first coup d’etat opened the floodgates for other coups and abortive ones interspersed with our attempts to return to constitutional rule.
There were several attempts to counter the putsch of 1966 which resulted in casualties. The National Liberation Council (NLC) finally handed over to the Progress Party of Professor Kofi Abrefa Busia that convincingly won the 1969 election. Unfortunately, the Second Republic lasted only 27 months and was removed by then Col. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong and his National Redemption Council (NRC) that put paid to our second attempt at constitutional democratic rule on January 23, 1972.
Admittedly, the period of the NRC Supreme Military Council (SMC) I and SMC II witnessed some relative peace and infrastructural development. However, the attempt by now Gen. Acheampong to perpetuate his rule through UNIGOV ended that experiment with the arrival of Flt. Lt. J. J. Rawlings and his AFRC on June 4, 1979 who claimed that they were in power to clean the stable before handing over power back to civilians.
Rawlings and his group did just that. They supervised the election that had been rolled out by the dethroned SMC II led by Gen. F.W.K. Akuffo.
After only three months, Rawlings handed over power to the Peoples National Party (PNP) led by Dr Hilla Limann on September 24, 1979 following his party’s victory in the June 1979 general elections.
Again, after only 27 months, Rawlings was back in power, having overthrown the constitutionally elected government of the PNP on December 31, 1981. The former Air Force man was to remain in power as a military leader till January 7, 1993 when he was sworn in as the first constitutionally elected President of the Fourth Republic, having ruled for more than 11 years, surviving several attempts to remove him from office.
I have narrated all these political events to show how unstable Ghana was politically from birth to January 1993. During this period, Ghana ceased to be a dominant force on the continent, seemingly groping in the dark. We appeared to have lost our identity in the comity of nations. Nothing seemed to be moving for us as a nation. It was just a struggle for power between military and civilians.
Fortunately for us as a nation, the Fourth Republic had been a different ball game all together. For the past 24 years, we have enjoyed political stability we never saw in the almost four decades of nationhood. All the respect and goodwill we used to enjoy in the early days of independence are certainly back.
Today, we are hailed as the oasis of peace in our sub-region and the beacon of democracy on the continent. This, therefore, is the time for us to assert ourselves and build a prosperous nation in which we shall all be proud.
We can really make it if we can do away with certain things that have been a canker in this Fourth Republic. First is the winner-takes-all syndrome that has seen Ghana polarised along the political divide. There is too much partisanship that does not create a sense of belonging for about half of the population.
Since 1993, the NPP and the NDC have dominated our national politics with one party alternating power with the other after eight years.
The time has come for us to break the cycle of seizure of public toilets, tollbooths and some state institutions as soon as there is a change of government. We have all agreed that two wrongs don’t make a right and we can’t pay evil with evil.
Our new President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has a legacy to bequeath this nation. At his age, he has nothing to lose but rather more to gain if in the next four years he can embark on a mission to build a very prosperous nation.
He can only do it in a state of peace and unity. Without peace and unity, we can only grope again in the dark, taking two steps forward and two steps backwards.
Nana will have to take us back to the days when the State Construction Corporations and State Housing Corporations were at the forefront of our infrastructural development. What has happened to all the engineers, mechanical, electrical and building we have been producing over the years? Where are they and what are they doing?
It appears we have not been able to motivate all these professionals to stay at home and build Ghana for us.
They find it more convenient to travel abroad and work for other countries. That’s why Ghanaian professionals are found in every corner of the earth working for other countries, doing wonders, even at NASA.
It was only patriotism that made somebody such as Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng to leave his lucrative job in Germany to return home to set up the National Cardiothoracic Centre at Korle Bu against all odds which is the only one of its kind in our sub-region, giving succour to many across the continent.
There are many Frimpong Boatengs around who will be prepared to return home and put Ghana on the map in several spheres when the right environment is created.
Today, our environment is being decimated, probably beyond repairs because of the operations of those involved in galamsey. Our water bodies are being destroyed by the youth and the Chinese who are exploiting what they realise to be our poverty in the midst of plenty.
Nana has promised to create more jobs. The youth need gainful employment to take them from the streets and galamsey and even criminal activities and make them better and more useful citizens.
However, in all our efforts to build a very prosperous nation, we need peace and unity.
The situation where one part of the population is marginalised will not augur well for us.
Ghana certainly belongs to us all irrespective of our political lineage. Everyone of us must have a sense of belonging. The national cake must be shared in such a way that every Ghanaian must enjoy a piece of it.
With the pronouncements of Nana since his victory at the polls, he should be able to unite the whole country and lay the foundation for a very prosperous nation.
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