Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Ghana@57-A Patriot's Reflections

I have not been blogging for a while. But today I return to this undertaking on my country's 57th Independence(Chinweizu prefers the description "self rule"; and he is right for Ghana like all African countries have yet to be quite independent in the real sense of the word) anniversary.

I slept early yesterday. Part of my ritual so as a scholar I can work at dawn. But I had gone to bed with Accra's rather dry spell of waterlessness on my mind. I had heard that the taps were flowing during the day; the assurances of a contact at the GWCL gave some hope however dim. When I turned the taps on I was greeted by a farty flow of wind. My contact asked that I try again late at night. So I woke up at mid-night and the taps were flowing. That meant work. Storing water in receptacles lest the gods of the taps in their tyranny recede back to their plush redoubts to return a week hence. So here I was spending a good close to two hours on this chore; my books and laptop and articles relegated to waiting. And all this on Ghana's 57th anniversary. Water has became a luxury in a land awash with this liquid. In my parents house in Ashale-Botwe the taps have been dry for well close to two decades. I wonder why we fix taps in Ghana at all. Those who have run this country have conspired to author a perverted spatial calculus in which the greater one's distance from the official waterworks(Weija and Kpong) the greater one's water supply woes. Here in Accra people actually drink water not even fit for wild beasts. What happened to our country that has left my generation to reap the fiery whirlwinds of the failures of those who came before us?

In just three years two generations will have arisen in this Republic since independence. Countries in Asia have overcome their poverty and shame in less than a generation. It seems we wasted our generations. New China emerged in 1949. It bore the burdens good and bad of a 4000 year civilization. China had to confront the schemes of Western and Japanese imperialism. By 1990(51 years later) China had emerged from the ashes. I have been reading a fascinating book that traces the intellectual architecture of one of Singapore's leading statesmen Goh Keng Swee. He made profound statements. One is this view in a speech he gave in 1960 titled " This is how we spend your money": 

" a government is judged not so much by its expressions of good intentions but by its concrete achievements in the way of economic prosperity and public welfare." 

Changi Airport Street- the signs of the brilliant minds that built Singapore in evidence
On that score our lot in Ghana is one of misery except for those who gloat in comparing our existence with the most wretched of the earth. While those in government and access to power are fixated on expanding their girths and grabbing all the material goodies in the world they have left the rest of us to a hellish fate. The doctor-patient ratio is a harrowing 1: 15, 292. Beyond simple diseases we all sentenced to death unless one can find the means to approach the Northern hemisphere and now increasingly Asia. Ghana has no power literally. Today when the lights go off and return one does not hear that joyous uproar wafting from homes as it used to be in the past: the citizen harried and dribbled by fork and glib-tongued politicos has developed an understandable cynicism almost bordering on self resignation. Education has become the politician's electioneering play toy; to be toyed with to garner votes from an ostensibly hopelessly stupid voter. Even the internet age has passed us by it will seem. Our internet speeds are pathetic making work by scholars and other professionals(and the ordinary citizen) pure tedium; and they do not come cheap! In all this I remember when Ghana was 40. That was 17 years ago. As always we shot the breeze. I bet my last bottom pesewa  that short of a miracle we will blow the time by the time we 60-our record is clear. 

I return to Goh again. The strategic economic mind he reflects on Singapore's advantages as it begun the ardous task of nation building :

" our central geographical position, our banking services, our port, our stable currency,easy exchange rate control regulations, ample supplies of power and  water, cheap land, low building cost..." 

The port of Singapore yonder
I visited Singapore last year. For me it was a policy education trip to see the country I have studied very closely. Ghana had and still has  such advantages Goh referred to and more. We have begun to lose some(certainly for power and water we are goners). The cedi is chaffy; a very pale shadow of its former self some very long decades ago.Certainly our current forex regime is darn primitive. The banks are recording manually in those fat ugly books forex transactions over the counter. Our policymakers never heard of transaction costs of neo-classical economics(and even heterodox economics) and the need to reduce same as stringently as possible. Singapore has one port. We have two. We can create more(the Boankra inland port is a case in point). What have we done with all of the advantages we had some of which we are beginning to lose? And where do we go from here?

Singapore skyline: "it is glorious to be rich"
As it stands we are in many ways still a toddling colony content as we are with paltry handouts from others. Senior government officials have made this beggary central to their discourse. Not yet Uhuru it seems. One thing is positive though. By sweat, blood and toil we have forged for ourselves an intelligent framework for changing governments periodically. This process must justify itself or become a fetid ritual. This process must deliver for us patriotic leaders who will make not a difference but the difference.

I return to Goh finally:

"There are no benevolent foreigners knocking around the world anxious to discharge these duties and responsibilities which are rightly our own. Let us not face the economic problems in the era of freedom with the mental attitudes appropriate to colonial servitude. Let us never forget that self-government is not possible without self-reliance. This is true both in politics as well as economics."   
I will return to another anniversary reflection in 2017. Still I love this country warts and all for it bears my umbilical cord and the bones of my great ancestors! Happy Anniversary Mother Ghana! 



  1. That last quote speaks volumes to me, particularly, when it states that "There are no benevolent foreigners knocking around the world anxious to discharge these duties and responsibilities which are rightly our own". This is a revealing statement worthy of consideration.

  2. There are so many parallels between the quotes here and the quotes of Nkrumah who similarly said, "...mobilize our total manpower for the industrial, economic, technological and scientific reconstruction of Ghana, so that we can produce the necessary conditions which shall mean an abundance of every good thing for our people and the greatest welfare of the masses." It's rather unfortunate that our paths have been divergent in spite of the fervor and vigor of the leaders in that time. It seems our coups really changed the course of and put a kink in what was promising to be a bright future for Ghana... but we labor on...