Towards Nation Building

Fri, 4 Apr 2003 Source: Asante, Kojo Pumpuni


It has been forty-six years since independence and yet we have nothing to show for it. Certainly we have made great strides since we reclaimed our geographical heritage. Many reasons and answers have been given for our failed economic, political, social and cultural progress, yet we appear to have stagnated in our efforts.

In another commentary, I would like to explore comprehensively why we are at the stage that we are. However in this commentary, I would like to discuss a vital aspect of nation building that has eluded many commentators and which in my humble opinion should be the foundation of any nation-building effort.

Believe it or not after forty-six of independence we are still at the foundations of nation building. Many developing countries have the tendency is to look at the success story of other countries around them and basically copy their formulas. Some countries make strenuous efforts to modify some of these formulas in order to apply it locally. With a country like Ghana and many African countries that desire to modify is most times non-existent because of globalization, IMF and World Bank, who since 1983 have been engaged unceasingly in structuring our economy.

My quest is for a Ghanaian ideology, an ideology which defines us as a people. A common idea which tells us where we come from and where we are going. During the cold war two prominent ideas dominated the thinking of nation builders and they were Capitalism and Socialism. They are two ideas which are a complete reverse of each other. Capitalism is based on exploitation, where power is concentrated in the hands the individual, derived from the concept of survival of the fittest on which many western societies matured. Socialism/Communism/Marxism all advocated for the centralizing of power in the state, placing the responsibility on the state to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth among the people. Capitalism we can see still survives whiles Socialism continues to be on the decline.

It was this dilemma that our first leader Kwame Nkrumah faced and led him to propose a different ideology for the emerging new state of Ghana, which was called ‘Nkrumahism’. In ‘Nkrumahism’, the former president attempted to find a hybrid between Capitalism and Socialism. Most of the African leaders at the time were aware that Capitalism meant exploitation by few of the masses. As an emerging state it was bound to fail because the few people who had the skills to meet the challenges of the then modern world, largely the intelligentsia, will accumulate all the wealth whiles the millions of the masses were disadvantaged. So today in the Unites States, you have a few people who occupy the pages of Fortune 500 with billions of dollars whiles a majority of the people are scraping for three square meals a day. Socialism had its own advantages; it allowed wealth to accumulate in the state and gave responsibility to the state to distribute the wealth equitably. However that assumed that the state actors were objective in their assessment of equitable distribution and as we saw in the many socialist economies the wealth were generally distributed among friends and family.

This examination shows explicitly that there is no easy answer. What is essential however is that, what ever the ideology is, it is the guiding light in building a nation. It is a principle by which the people live, plan, create and build. It relates to their economics, politics, foreign affairs, social program and administration of justice. It ensures that when ever the country faces a crisis it can revert back to those guiding principles. In the US, Capitalism is freedom, liberty, individualism and the American Dream. Anytime the country faces a crisis it goes back to these guiding principles. An ideology becomes part of the fabric of society and guides the daily activities of all who live it and govern it.

I advocate that as Ghanaians we have to attempt to develop an ideology for our country, the foundation on which we will lunch our self definition. In some ways projects like Vision 2020 and other economic programs reflect part of that work. But it is more than that; it should address all aspects of our existence and cultural heritage as a people. We should encourage more philosophical thinkers and creators in our society to comment on the Ghanaian way of life and how that can be conceptualized to be promoted as a Ghanaian model for living. The day that Ghanaians can answer the following questions: Who are we? What are we striving for? What do we want? How are we going to get it? Where are we? Where are we going? that day, Ghana would have defined itself and created the foundation for future success.

I have made it my quest and I hope many Ghanaian thinkers would join me in my quest.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.
Columnist: Asante, Kojo Pumpuni