Saturday, March 17, 2007.
I Love Ghana
By: SANDY KOJO-ANDAH
I LOVE my country Ghana, I do not know why but I do love my country and feel proud to be a Ghanaian, I believe this love for my country was stirred up in me from my childhood when I heard stories about Ghana.
As the senior citizens would say, ‘in those days’ or ‘those were the day’ the stories of our independence and the fact that we were the first country south of the Sahara to become independent were often told.
We were told tales of how Ghanaians felt so good and were so highly esteemed by other African nationals that at a point to come from Ghana. After 50 years of independence, do we still feel that good?
We are known to be a nice and hospitable people with a rich culture. How can we blend our natural ability to be hospitable with a rich culture in such a way as to develop a professional attitude to work towards building our nation? Being nice alone is not enough to help our nation claim back its days of glory.
We need to examine our national psyche, how do we think of ourselves collectively? What is the total effect of our thinking about ourselves as a nation?
A few years ago, we experienced a spate of losses in football and a child asked me whether it was our lot to always lose. The question was posed in such a way to imply that we were losers.
I wondered if other children felt that way about the country because I had grown up believing that Ghana would always win. No matter how much premium we put on the meaning of jubilee, it will not come to us through mediocrity.
As we celebrate 50 years of independence, let us ask ourselves question, how can we maximize on our natural ability to be hospitable? How can we instill positive attributes in our youth and inspire them to excellence and finally how can we improve on our work attitude”?
African hospitality, Ghana in Character
It is great to be known as a friendly people. How can we market this compliment as we endeavour to build up our nation? It seems that our being nice does not help us much and in fact it can sometimes negatively impact on our attitude to work and ultimately kill business.
Before I left the shores of the country, I assumed that the saying that Ghanaians are hospitable was just a slogan. However, after visiting some European and African countries and I have gradually come to realize that we are indeed very nice people.
From my experience, Ghanaians are more likely to open up their homes to you and invite you to share a meal with the family. I spent nine months in another West African country and what we missed as students was weekend home visits coupled with our curiosity to see how our fellow Africans lived in a family setting. Unfortunately we were left in school and hardly ever got invited.
I remember that in that same country we eventually received an invitation from a former diplomat who had spent time in Ghana. We remarked to ourselves that his invitation towards us was probably because the diplomat had enjoyed our proverbial Ghanaian hospitality and realized that it would be “nice” to invite us all to their home.
The above example was from a West African country but it is worthwhile mentioning my experience from a European country.
We traveled outside London to the countryside where we were invited into the home of a colleague of my parent. They were Europeans, not British. They had a beautiful home in the country with woods nearby and we were invited to take a walk in the woods.
I remember my parents asking in vernacular whether they thought we did not have trees in Ghana and had traveled all the way there to look at trees. After the brisk walk through the woods we trudged back home expecting lunch since our appetite had been aroused.
We were given one cheese sandwich each and told to wait for dinner in the evening. Of course we would not wait because we had to take the train back to London.
This couple visited us in Ghana and you can trust the Ghanaian hospitality; lavish entertainment and meals were prepared for them.
I do not know if I can term the earlier behaviour from this example as hospitality. When there is a funeral where most sympathizers are from afar, the typical Ghanaian feels compelled to feed the guests. This has, of course, been abused and become extreme in the way and manner we lay out a bullet for the guests. This must not be encouraged.
I attended a funeral of a relation who had been sick for sometime and had been unemployed for years. We never heard that he was sick and when he passed away we all made contributions towards the funeral. I remember asking his sister why we were not informed about his illness so we could have at least helped with his hospital bills.
At this funeral imagine our surprise at the food laid out for us. All the sumptuous meals were available, there was a variety of rice dishes, and there was even fufu and light soup with mutton. I thought in mourning you are supposed to be too distressed to swallow fufu!
Even though we are hospitable, our frontlines in some of our organizations expect the client to greet them before they are attended to. This may be attributed to our culture, where the guest or visitor is expected to greet whoever they meet in the house.
This behaviour is often carried to the professional setting where secretaries and receptionists expect the customer to greet them first before they attend to them. Our receptionists and secretaries must take not and promptly acknowledge the customer with a cheerful salutation.
I was once told a story about another Asian country, famous for its tourism which had suffered a natural catastrophe and was gradually recovering. The person narrating this story said you could feel that the service provider was straining himself to be nice because his livelihood depended on it.
We, on the other hand are naturally friendly, but what are we doing about it? We need to promote our hospitality in addition to the relative safety and political peace we enjoy. We can do this through developing our tourism sites to the highest standards.
We should not tolerate making our visitors ‘quite comfortable’ as was reported in a media interview recently. How can we be thinking of ‘quite comfortable’ when others, our competitors are aiming for and achieving the highest standards of service excellence in their tourism industry?
Our future leaders
It appears that our 50 anniversary celebration is more the outsiders who are coming to celebrate with us. We are preparing by building physical structures. This is typically Ghanaian; we will do everything for the guest. What are we doing in our schools to make our children proud to be Ghanaians? We can use this occasion to instill positive habits and disciplines in our youth.
Let us use this occasion of our celebration to instill in our children pride in the country and the spirit of excellence. Ghanaians who have excelled in various fields could have their life story told to inspire children.
For an example, our own Kofi Annan’s story could be told. I believe it was said that his mother remarked that she was not surprised at his success because amongst all her children he was the most obedient.
In addition it has been said that he wrote his parents telling them that one day he would head the UN. Our children need to believe in themselves, be obedient and set goals for themselves just like he did.
‘Dabi dabi ebe ye yi ye’
I remember the days of “Operation Feed Yourselves”. As children we all felt the need to have a backyard garden and the whole nation was moved to live this slogan. What is the slogan for the 50th anniversary?
It appears our unspoken slogan is ‘dabi dabi ebe ye yiye’ (one day things will get better). We need a saying to motivate ourselves that we can do it now. We can make it happen now!
What would have happened if Kwame Nkrumah did not believe in ‘Self-Government Now’! We can turn our destiny today, if we all decide that we are in our various individual ways going to make a difference in this nation.
Work and happiness for a beautiful Ghana
What about our attitude towards work as Ghanaians and what can do to become more professional as we strive to become more competitive as a nation? It seems as if in Ghana even when you are paying for a service, the service providers think they are doing you a favour.
We need to exhibit professionalism in our work habits. It appears that we work very well outside the shores of this country. In a number of international organizations, Ghanaians are known to show excellence in their work delivery. Unfortunately we do not show the same level of professionalism in our own country.
We need to exhibit professionalism in our attitudes towards work. Professionalism in our work habits has little to do with the business you are in, the role you perform or how many degrees you have. Professionalism is a work, commitment to quality, dedication to the interest of clients and having a genuine interest and desire to help.
Psychologically, it is a known fact that people tend to fulfil the expectations that other people have of them and expectations what they have of themselves.
Outside Ghana, we shine because we know the best is expected from us, this attitude or belief could be a carry-over from the immediate years after our independence. What are our expectations of ourselves in the country now?
Our leaders can begin to help us show professionalism in our work attitudes by inspiring us to be professional. By leaders, I don’t mean political leaders but in every sphere of society: managers, teachers, parents, etc.
Our leaders should treat us as professionals and be tolerant of nothing less. They should let us know that they expect the best from us.
Apart from letting us know that they expect a certain standard of work from us, ‘leaders’ can encourage people to act professionally by creating the environment that allows real professionals to flourish.
This environment can be created with the use of the power of principles to guide and direct our working patterns
Principles or values are the most effective management tools one can use to encourage professionalism in our work. What is our national attitude or vision towards work? If we do not have one this is the time to create it.
I believe at independence there was a song on work and happiness for a beautiful Ghana. Sometimes such lyrics could be used to direct every Ghanaian’s mind towards the standard of professionalism expected in our work attitudes.
I still Love you
As we celebrate 50 years of independence, it appears that we have along the way made some mistakes. Let us look ahead, let us not cry over spilt “cocoa”. It is good that we are preparing for our visitors; however let us not forget ourselves and our future leaders.
Physical edifices are good to look at. However let us create a national drive through pronouncements, slogans and expectations of excellence that will inspire our children to excel and be proud as Ghanaians.
We need to believe passionately in what we do, and never knowingly compromise our standards and values. As Ghanaians, in this jubilee we have to aim for true excellence and the economic benefits will follow.
Let us not act like the professional street walker with the attitude of doing it for the money. If we continue in the next 50 years with this attitude, as a nation we will lose the premium that excellence earns.
I know I am not the only one who believes in Ghana and loves Ghana. Let us ensure that as we celebrate, we are thinking long term and emphasizing and encouraging habits and attitudes that will guarantee that the Black Star of Africa will rise and shine as a beacon of excellence. We can make it happen!
· The writer is an HR Development and Training Consultant.
Daily Graphic - Saturday, March 17, 2007 Page: 7