62 Years Of …..

‘I would rather argue that we need to mobilize the right mindsets rather than more fundingAfrica has everything it needs in real terms but Africans remain mentally married to the idea that nothing can get moving without external finance. We are even begging for things we already have. That is absolutely a failure of mindset’. (Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda).

If modern day Ghana were a human being, it would retire from active public service, as it were, and depending on what position Ghana holds in the service or wherever it had worked, it would be given a two-year contract term as it has become the norm these days. It could also be engaged in consultancy work depending on its professional background, experience and knowledge. If Ghana was just some labourer pushing papers from one desk to the other, none of the post retirement opportunities stated above would be available to him. What that would mean is that if he did not plan his life well, then the harsh realities that normally confront some retirees would come to face him.

At age 62, no matter the position of this man called Ghana in his active working days, he would quietly assess his life and make a conclusion to himself as to whether he made meaningful life with his 62 years as a young man through to his old age. For this man Ghana to be able to make objective assessment of his own life, he would first take a look at his own background. Circumstances of his birth, who his parents were, environmental influences that shaped his upbringing, education and training he had to prepare him for life, decisions he made from his teens through adulthood and how those decisions impacted on his life.

Having done this with a very objective mind, he would then have to draw a simple balance sheet to state his assets and liabilities, both current and fixed and determine whether he led a meaningful life that will ensure a pleasant life for the rest of his life when he was young. The difference between Ghana as an individual and Ghana as a nation is that “Kofi Ghana” will certainly pass away one day but Ghana will remain till thy Kingdom come. So if he did not lead a reasonably good life, death will end his misery and suffering. As a nation, Ghana will not die and the suffering and misery will be passed on from generation to generation.

Since we have just celebrated our national birthday, can we do introspection as a people about our collective failures and achievements and openly discuss our failures? I am stressing our failures because even though success is appreciable and desirable, to us journalists, ‘Good News’ is no news. This does not also mean we do not, as journalists, appreciate good things. Our belief is that right-thinking human beings are supposed to do what is right, all things being equal. Ghana as a nation started very well. In spite of the exploitation of our resources by the colonial masters, we were bequeathed with appreciable foreign reserves which other nations did not have after independence.

We still had a huge chunk of unexploited natural resources at our disposal. We had very well educated people comparable to black Africa or more appropriately, Africa South of the Sahara. But, alas, the internecine political war which emerged amongst our political leaders just after independence and probably before, perniciously distracted our development. Unfortunately, 62 years on, even generations which were not part of those political conflicts  are fighting proxy wars on behalf of people they never saw nor benefited from neither were they victims of whatever wrongs were committed by any of the political groupings at the time.

While a certain level of progress was achieved in the wee hours of our independence, the internal political strife deprived us of the needed political and social unity we needed as a nation to chart a course of national development based on consensus. The alleged bomb throwing and the detentions by and against political opponents in our early days of nationhood still remain the political scars that have divided this nation over the past decades.

Our political parties and institutions are built around the political traditions which together fought for independence 62 years back, yet our political differences today are not based on policies and programmes but on what our forebears did or did not do decades ago. So intense is this division that the nation does not benefit from the knowledge and expertise of its sons and daughters. A man is looked at with political lenses and judged as such when he is suspected to belong to a political party other than the ruling political party in power. His knowledge and expertise is relegated to the background.

Many a brilliant Ghanaian has left the shores of this country to sell his knowledge and expertise elsewhere on political grounds. Sixty-two years down the line, generations of political leaders have not put a stop this unfortunate discrimination against fellow Ghanaians on grounds of political differences. So deep seated is this sad situation that even within the public sector, public servants at certain levels will look at the political colour of a Ghanaian before decisions are made on him as far as service delivery is concerned.

The nation’s critical social service institutions are not what they use to be some thirty years back. The huge infrastructural deficit of our public sector health delivery facilities have turned many of such places into transit camps into the world beyond in spite of the efforts by governments to make health care reasonably affordable to as many people as possible, particularly the poor and vulnerable.

Many of our educational infrastructures from basic schools to the tertiary levels have deteriorated to the point that some are simply death traps for children who are supposed to be trained for the future. The irony of our national tragedy is that generations immediately after independence and immediately before independence enjoyed better health and educational facilities and services than the generation of today.

It is a fact that those born not too long before independence and those born immediately after independence or in the year of independence are the people who have led this country into the state we find ourselves today. Young people have no jobs to engage themselves in because our educational system has travelled along the line of the colonial education bequeathed to us largely. Even when we have decided to bring changes for the benefit of our children, we have failed to implement the changes to the letter.

Selfishness and greed have made a few kings living on earth while millions of our people still wallow in deprivation. We do not seem to know where the nation must go because we keep on changing our route even though our target destination is progress for all. It looks as if we cannot do anything better for ourselves by ourselves unless we look out there to some foreign donors, partners or lenders.

Much as we need to improve upon our social and capital infrastructure to hasten our development, we should not do that on the wings of foreign loans wrapped in silky clothes that may take away our national assets in times of failure to meet our repayment obligations since we don’t want to fail in that regard.

At independence, our country was virtually at war with poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, disease and a multitude of other debilitating problems, so says Joe Appiah in his book ‘The Autobiography of An African Patriot’, but after 62 years of independence under four written constitutions and a number of military interventions, only a forlorn glimmer of hope beckons us on to our dreamt-haven of true liberty and prosperity for a greater number of the populace. It’s very sad, isn’t it?


From Kwesi Biney