Last week I headed out to the Shai Hills area to meet some young people from Nigeria. The journey though a short one was quite relaxing. And such a feeling was aided in no small measure by the overwhelming lush greenery which calmed the senses (brutalized and abused by the daily frenzy of urban living). I loved nature’s artwork expressed in those craggy formations which swirled and twirled in multiple directions as if executing some esoteric contemporary dance move. Inevitably I pondered over Ghana too. When, I thought, will the creative genius of the Ghanaian mind be unleashed to harness such neglected wealth for our collective advantage? The next generation becomes critical I thought as I watched those young Nigerians stream into the seminar room all feisty, chatty and innocent.
These youths (all teenagers) are from a high school which has decided to send its students to Ghana yearly for a tour of historical sites and leadership seminars. This was my third engagement as a motivation speaker with such youths from Nigeria. But why “small Ghana” as some of my Nigerian friends like to describe us? I asked them to share impressions of their stay. Their views both humbled and scared me. They loved our cuisine and our accents(when Ghanaians spoke English!) too. Our streets were almost surgical theatre clean. Electrical power was too surreally stable. Some wanted to come back to study in Ashesi University where I teach. Ghana was an oasis of progress for them. And in these statements they were echoing a sentiment a top Nigerian military officer friend of mine had expressed to me some years ago. I dismissed him then. Coming from these youths however got my mind into a spin to understand it all. Then that questioning quip from one gangling lad complicated it all: “ does Ghana face any problems at all?” I struggled to provide an answer to interlocutors who had made up their minds. My future Ghana I told them was one that could hold her own against the leading countries in the world on major economic and social indicators. Ghana’s rise it seems could provide such a compelling example for other African countries. That was humbling for me. However such supine adulation from other Africans for what for me (and many fellow compatriots from all walks of life I have spoken to over the years) are excruciatingly modest achievements could induce self –delusion. That scared me and the fact that some of Nigeria’s youth had concluded that their country had not lived up to her much vaunted potential.
And then last week London smoldered and then went up in flames. The youth again. In the global news. I remember the London I first saw. It was a rain soaked and windy October day. It was dark and overcast. That did not make the mood right. I was disappointed. The organization of space looked too staidly quaint for me. Still does after a couple of visits. My bad. I have seen a few major Asian cities and been smitten by their scarcely hidden gusto and experienced as a bonus the warmth of total strangers on those streets. I love the sweep of some leading North American cities as well. But back to the point: why will youths set their city ablaze and go on a frenzied looting frolic? Is it seething anger stirred by hopelessness and a lack of opportunity? Cameron (himself quite youthful) and his team must find answers to such fundamental questions and cut the frothy, threatening, clichéd, criminalizing speeches which stripped of their veneer appear intent on protecting privilege and power. Maybe the youths of Tunis, Cairo, Damascus, Tripoli, Sanaa, Muscat, London, Lagos and Accra share the same pain after all in a world in which bankers and politicians filch billions, throw our lives into a tailspin and are glad handled and compensated to boot.
PS: Which Ghanaian official(s) chose the green hue for our biometric passports? It is so ugly. Can we please go back to the dark blue? On a lighter note I thought Nigeria held the patent for the colour green? Oya!!!!!!!!!!!!!