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Opinions Mon, 16 Apr 2012

What shall we tell our children?

During Ghana’s first Independence Day celebration (1957), many people, including royal dignitaries, came from far and near to celebrate the awesome transition from colonialism to sovereign governance with us. It was a radical celebration for the first sub Saharan African state to gain independence. Among the visitors was a young man known as Martin Luther King Jnr. who emerged to become the famous American Civil Rights activist and a rhetorical speaker of all time. Luther King sat under the feet of Nkrumah and listened to our success story and how Nkrumah and the others made. Truly King had a personal chat with Nkrumah.

After his return to the US, Luther King Jnr. mentioned the name of Nkrumah in many of his speeches. He was deeply inspired and influenced by Nkrumahism. In 1963, which is 6 years after his encounter with Nkrumah, King was successful to lead a massive march in Washington where he delivered, “I have a dream” speech. After meeting Nkrumah, King became fully certain and convinced that one day blacks, not in America alone, shall have total freedom and equality in the world. Such a great man was inspired partly by Nkrumah.

Nkrumah was a mover of hearts. He was in fact a born leader who could speak out even sometimes without notes. He had his head straight forward and could see the future from the present. Listen to what he said, “The resources of Africa can be used to the best advantage and maximum benefit to all only if they are set within an over all framework of continentally planned development. An overall economic plan, covering an African united on a continental basis would increase our total industrial and economic power (Nkrumah, 1963, 218)” No matter how weakness this statement might have it is a thrilling quotation.

Today our leaders cannot even move hearts. They are neither charismatic nor motivational speakers. Few of our politicians can speak with authority and optimism. But I’ve observed that no man can speak like Nkrumah or King, when he is lying. Insincerity has shut our politicians’ mouth and that is why they don’t talk about virtues and morality on open platforms.

I’m afraid because, if peradventure my children should one day ask me to tell them about the story of African leaders, what shall I tell them? This question has been hunting my conscience for quiet sometime now and it makes me to think to leave good traces in life. My children might perhaps not ask me but a father somewhere might want to tell his children about me and my worry is, what will the father tell his children about Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi?

Since independence, Ghana has struggled her way through political instability, corruption and years of silence. When Nkrumah was overthrown a joysome choruses were heard through out the entire country. People celebrated and partied. The daily newspaper was filled with cartoons of Nkrumah. Nkrumah was caricatured as the devil of Ghana. I might not blame our leaders then because that was a beginning of something that they’ve never experienced before. Their first experience with a black president was Nkrumah. But what happened next?

For more than 55 years, no one can be compared to Nkrumah, both in charisma and durable developmental projects. They lied to overthrow him. The only way that they could have proved Nkrumah wrong was to do better but sadly they messed up the country and plunged it into corruption and what was known as “kalabule” (economic malpractice in its highest point).

Sometimes, it seems like we are accusing too much but our leaders don’t give us good stories to share. In fact we can say many thanks to our leaders without applause. I can see that the country has benefited from each successive government. We cannot give credit to one government and ignore the other, though I accept the fact that some performed better than others.

I’m thirsty to have some tantalizing stories to share with my children one day. I must tell them a story that will make them proud of Africa. That can motivate them to contribute their best for Ghana. I want to tell them about how we broke through these night mares. I want to tell them about how we got a lot of cities in Ghana. I want to tell about how ATM machines could be found in the entire country. I want to tell them about how banks spread through out the entire country. I want to tell them about how Ghana became the most peaceful place for vacation. Sure I want to tell them some realities that can serve as bed time stories.

Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi

University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Columnist: Owusu-Gyamfi, Clifford