Rising Ghanaian Values In Her Development

Sun, 5 Jun 2005 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong observes that Ghanaian cultural values are increasingly rising in the midst of the colonially structures in her development process

Recent events cropping up, as the Ghanaian democracy tries to lay solid foundation and drives the country's development process, send signals that after decades of much massive misunderstanding and many an unrealistic attempts to solve Ghana problems wholly from the colonially-imposed values to the detriment of Ghanaian values, Ghanaian values are increasingly coming into the forefront of dealing with issues of grave national importance. From tribalism to corruption to how politicians should behave, Ghanaian values are increasing being invoked to oil the country's democratic and development wheels. Such attempts are making renowned Ghanaian thinkers such as Prof. George Ayittey, of the American University in Washington D.C., whose book, "Indigenous African Institutions," advocated for such, wrote me recently that that Ghana/Africa's development "lies in returning to and building upon its own indigenous institutions. Botswana is the only African country that did this and it should not surprise anyone why it is doing so well economically."

Last week's traditional rulers from the National House of Chiefs two-hour meeting with former President Jerry John Rawlings to talk about issues of grave national concern bode well for attempts to integrate traditional Ghanaian values into the coutrey's democratic and development process. Rawlings long-running misguided utterances, more so as a former head of state, has become a serious national concern, especially in region which security and peace is fragile and which need all the matured dealings it can harness for its development. By responding to Rawlings' temperamental outbursts, the traditional rulers were telling Rawlings and all those who have not used Ghanaian traditional values in their activities to do so, since in the final analysis Ghanaian indigenous values will drive the country's democracy and development process.

How serious was the traditional rulers concerned about lack of Ghanaian values driving the country's democracy? By seeing the unGhanaian and foreign borrowed values unfluencing the behaviour of Ghanaian politicians, especially from supposedly prominent personalities like former president Rawlings. "Matters of grave national concern were discussed and the meeting lasted for two hours," signed by Victor Smith, director of public affairs of the Office of the Former President, and included in the National House of Chiefs-Rawlings meeting were all the Presidents of the 10 Regional Houses of Chiefs. By showing such volume of traditional concerns about Rawlings and others recent behaviour in the country's democratic growth, the traditional values, responding to Ghanaians call for them to use their immense traditional gravitas to reconcile the traditional and colonial, were demonstrating that the Eurocentric structures on which Ghana rest is motored by core Ghanaian indigenous values, which is waiting to come into the forefront of the country's policy development and the eventual development process of Ghana.

Still, ordinary Ghanaians, the mass media and and traditional rulers showing concern about the utterances of celebrated one-time soccer star, Wilberforce Mfum, of both Asante Kotoko and United States' Cosmos fame, in which he demeaned referees from the Volta Region on tribalistic grounds reveals how the Ghanaian culture, like other African culture, has not been used deeply in the development process. Mfum's tribalistic and misguided remarks is surprising, more so as man who is not only expected to be matured but also who has traveled extensively, having stayed and played soccer in the United States. All these should have enriched him, develop his multi-ethnic sensibilities, more so being aware of how the Ghanaian state, like other African states, was created out of disparaging ethnic groups, and make him a decent and civil role model for younger Ghanaians. Editorialised Ghana's leading newspaper about the Mfum's vain and infantile tribalistic remarks, "Evidently, various cultural practices in the country amply demonstrate that it is not everything that one has to say in public, apparently because of its effect on people. It is important that our utterances are made edifying enough to enhance national cohesion, instead of trying to shatter the fragile unity that we have. Besides, it is important that many of our people slough off the prejudice and perception about other ethnic groups other than their own."

Mfum's sick remarks reflect how corporate Ghana has not worked to educate her citizens that despite some ethnic differences, despite some cultural differences, despite some historical differences, all the 56 ethnic groups and their 100 linguistic and cultural groups that make up Ghana are from the same cultural tree, as Nigerian historian Anthony Ijaola Asiwaju tell us in his famous book, "Partitioned Africans: Ethnic Relations across Africa?s International Boundaries, 1884?1945," (1985). The difference between an Asante or an Ewe, and for that matter any other of the 56 ethnic groups, is geogeaphical: the Asante cocoa farmer is no more or less different from the Fante fisherman, the difference is geographical.

Like the rest of Africa, since the transition from the then Gold Coast to Ghana, there have been two Ghanas: one traditional, real, genuine and original, which affairs are largely driven by indigenous Ghanaian values, and the other created by the colonialists, which structures are colonially-imposed to the detriment of Ghanaian indigenous values. For long, there have been schism between the indigenous and the imposed values, creating misunderstanding, false pretences and images, unnecessary crises and confusion in Ghana, like the rest of Africa's, development process. Still, like other African states, the colonially-imposed values have dominated Ghana's development process till now to the detriment of the growth of Ghanaian traditional values, history, and experiences.

Such developments have not help Ghanaian values influence the country's policy making as is the case with ex-colonies such as Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brazile, and even of recent times Vietnam and Cambodia. And by Ghanaian values not influencing national policy development, it means both the enabling parts and the inhibiting aspects of the Ghanaian culture and experiences, like other African culture, have not being opened for refinement for national development. "I have always argued that the African CHIEF or KING is Africa's most important human resource, indispensable in economic development. He is closer to the PEOPLE, understands their needs and problems. Yet, after independence, we stripped the chiefs of their traditional authority and marginalized them. We never bothered to consult them when we drew up grandiose plans to develop Africa. We dismissed the chiefs as "backward and primitive" and never fit into the plans to industrialize Africa. We neglected agriculture in any case. South Africa is repeating this foolish mistake," Prof. George Ayittey me in response to the on-going debate about how to involve deeply African traditional rulers in the continent's development process if Africa is to see real development.

Despite the imposition of European values, and sometimes its ensuing confusion as Rawlings and Mfum exemplifies, as Ghana grows, her cultural values will finally direct her development, as her elites are increasingly coming into grips with real development.

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

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi