Monday, January 29, 2007.
Ghana in the Golden Jubilee year
By: KWABENA ANKOMAH-KWAKYE
A FEW weeks ago, I happened to visit my nine-year-old brother in school. Incidentally, his class teacher happened to be the same woman who taught me when I was his age. Only she was now a little older than the Madam Eunice I knew.
After accusing me of not visiting often and commenting on how much I had grown, she left the class for me to handle as the headmistress wanted to see her. So here I was with forty-five nine-year olds staring at my face and wondering if I was going to be their new ‘Sir’. Not having anything in mind to teach them, I resorted to asking them the professions they planned to join when they grew up.
The first girl wanted to be a nurse, I asked why and she said her auntie was a nurse and that she wanted to be like her when she grew up. I took the opportunity to advise her to take her Environmental Studies and English lessons seriously. The next pupil, a boy wanted to be a doctor. Another boy wanted to be an engineer but the next boy didn’t know what he wanted to be in future so I advised them all accordingly.
Then it was the turn of this confident-looking girl who was the first of the girls in the row and it worried me to know that what she wanted to be in future was ‘to go to America’. What shocked me even further was that all the girls that followed either wanted to go to America or to London or to both! And they received such approbation form their classmates when they stood boldly in their nine-year-old frames and made their aims in life known.
Even as I sit here, I ask myself, do I have any right to blame those kids? Do I? Or does any other Ghanaian? My Ghana, in the golden jubilee year! Patriotism was a term that got burnt with the fires of 1983, or maybe with the overthrow of the Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
In the Cambridge International Dictionary, a “patriot” is described as ‘a proud supporter, lover or defender of one’s country and its way of life’. How many patriots are left in our land? And how many are bringing up to occupy the positions of service in our dear nation?
Why blame the children? Instead of teaching them patriotic songs like ‘Ghana, my motherland, land of rich resources, they are made to learn ‘Baa, baa, black sheep’!. ‘Osee yee Ghana oo’ died a long time ago and ‘Yen ara asase ni’ is on admission at the Intensive Care Unit!
Our geography lessons teach us ‘fishing in Japan’ instead of farming in the Afram Plains. Our children wake up every morning to see how our society cherishes the dollars and pounds from the gutters and cisterns of London and New York and how a whole family’s ego is heaves in society just because their ‘burger’ has arrived.
I believe those none-year-old girls said they wanted to go to America simply because they had been made to understand that living in America meant success in life.
A friend of mine made a statement as a joke, but the more I think of it, the more my mind opens to how real and true the statement is. He said that if the Atlantic Ocean was to freeze for a week, just a week, there would probably be no souls left in Ghana at the end of the week.
We would all have trekked to the United States or any other country away from Africa, for that matter! My Ghana, in the Jubilee year! The embassies and High Commissions of North America and Europe hire security men to control the hoards of Ghanaian youth that throng their visa sections every working day all year round. And the revenue they generate from our poverty, chocking!
University undergraduates cut short their four-year programmes midway after managing to acquire a visa, travel to the perceived evergreen pastures and never manage to continue their education.
They spend the rest of their lives cleaning for white folks, sweating in cold winters, paying huge taxes to foreign governments. Forever locked in the rat race. While the focus they were being trained to occupy in our country lies empty. As if this route was not enough to show the desperation of Ghanaians to become ‘burgers’.
Day in, day out, we hear of sons of Ghana drowning off the coasts of North Africa in their desperate attempt to crossover into Spain! Ahh! An interview with one of these “returnees” will make your blood chill. Their experiences on the Sahara and beyond will make you wonder why they never used such determination to farm the whole of the Asante-Akyem District. Where lies the love for the nation? Oh Ghana!
In 1998, Caterpillar Inc built seven huge excavators. These were the biggest excavators the world had ever seen.
A mining company bought a concession in Tarkwa in the Western Region. Under normal circumstances, they would use digging and haulage machinery with the capacity agreed upon to minimize the degradation of the environment by the mining activity. Their planners sat down and conspired that if they were to invest in the huge Caterpilar monsters, they would cut down the time they were going to spend mining in Tarkwa considerably.
Of course wages royalties and other expenses would also depend on the time. They chose the latter option. They chose to pay money for the monsters instead of our poor nation and people. And Ghanaian blood signed the contracts with all the eagerness and utter gratitude.
Guess how many of the Caterpillar machines they bought? Four! Four out of the largest seven excavators in the world were shipped to Ghana, to poor Tarkwa! And the fruit of their labour is very much evident in Tarkwa now.
We live in a country where senior public officials cannot even recite the national pledge! Doctors neglect their own brother and sisters and allow them to die needless deaths to buttress their point that they are the most important constituents of our society. God have mercy on us. My Ghana in the Jubilee year. Upon what did they swear the oath of service? A glass of Scotch Whisky? We live in a country where passports can be made in the thousand and ‘exported’ to be sold like groceries.
A country where, with a little money to spare, you can sit at home, skip the academic driving test, skip the practical driving test and still get your drivers’ licence within 72 hours.
A country where fuel under police guard ‘evaporates’! When the Black Stars went to Germany to battle it out with the world, I saw in this country, a level of patriotism and love never before seen by my generation. For once, every direction in which you turned, the red, gold and green smiled at you, winked at you or waved at you.
One sad thing I realized was we could not get songs to sing because the old had forgotten, the young never knew our patriotic songs, unlike countries like the United States which have over 20 national songs, songs for every state and probably every country. Our musicians in the 80s sang of death, poverty, illness, and money. Today, our rappers sing of love and sex. Mostly the latter!
Brothers and sisters, patriotism, love for one’s country, the single most important ingredient for the growth of any nation is the single most deficient ingredient in Ghana today. Ghana barely lives in our hearts any mote. And that is why we are creeping after a world that is marching. Yet every once in a while, we tap ourselves at the back and tell ourselves we are doing well.
Most vices in our society today are the result of the lack of patriotism. Corruption is prevalent in all strands of our society because we fell if you do not do it, someone else will. Everybody is doing it, after all, Ghana is not for anyone, or as a labourer I once came across put it, “Ghana is not for your Papa ooo”!
An armed robber, who was caught blurted that he felt society, and Ghana, for that matter, owed him and that was what drove him to commit the crime. Are we trashing ‘our heritage won for us through the blood and toil of our fathers”? I once read somewhere that disloyalty is a staircase leading to the very basement of spiritual experience.
Each spiritual step leads dizzily downward-twisting itself around a tall, vertical ‘I’. The first step is selfishness, ‘I want my own way’. The second is stubbornness. ‘I won’t quit until I get it’. The third indifference. ‘I don’t care who it hurts’. The fourth resistance. ‘I refuse to listen to advice’. The final step before the fall is contempt. ‘I don’t care about the consequences’. By being disloyal to our country.
Ghanaians are slowly but surely descending this staircase and I so much wish we never get to the bottom. We need a renewal of minds, a return to the paths of old that fuelled the desire for the attainment of independence.
Let us start teaching our children patriotic songs like ‘Ghana, my motherland’ and stop the ‘Baa, baa, black sheep! Have you any wool”? Anyway did we bother finding out why that nursery rhyme was never ‘Baa baa, white sheep’?
Daily Graphic - Monday, January 29, 2007. Page: 32