Thursday, August 2, 2007
Independence, freedom and responsibility
By: AHUMAH OCANSEY
“At long last the battle has ended! And Ghana your beloved country is free forever … And as I pointed our at our party conference at Saltpond, I made it quite clear that from now on, today, we must change our attitudes and our minds. We must realise that from now on, we are no more a colonial but a free and independent people. But also, as I pointed our, that entails hard work”.
(Kwame Nkrumah: 6th March, 1957).
WHEN, with a thunderous ovation, we shot our hands into the air, and with joy exclaimed Freedom! Freedom! Independence! What did we mean?
When, in our elation, we hugged each other, waving our hands, singing, dancing and reeling with joy, what did independence and freedom mean to us? What role did we envisage playing to fulfil the vision of our founding fathers?
Today, in this year of jubilee, we ride the choppy seas of nationhood, our compass awry, uncertain of our destination.
Today, in this year of jubilee, we are like travelers wandering on the desert, painfully and vainly moving from one mirage to the other.
Today, in this year of jubilee, a desperate hunger for bread, shelter, work and money claws at our stomach.
Today, in this year of jubilee, we are full of questions, wondering whether we did anything wrong in being independent, and wondering how we shall attain our vision, plans and aspirations.
In this article, we shall look at what independence and freedom entails for us Ghanaians.
On analyzing Nkrumah’s statement, we shall observe two salient conditions fundamental to the assurance of independence. The second is hard work. These two conditions are inseparable, but hard work depends on the attitude and mind of the Ghanaian.
Ghana’s independence merely delivered us from the political control of the British. It did not mean we were free! True freedom is mental, and psychological. Mental freedom is more important than physical freedom. It is here that the greatest struggle lies.
With independence, we had to contend with our past, the present and the future. How were we to deal simultaneously with these aspects of our life? Independence led to the transfer of allegiance from a foreign power to our national government. However, the idea of government was still alien to us. Even today, I wonder whether we have fully understood what government is. What confronted Nkrumah then was how Ghanaians were to adapt to the new phenomenon of a Ghanaian Government.
Nkrumah remarked on this and said:
“One subject which should occupy our attention during these discussions is the subject of the Ghanaian attitude to State property. Under the colonial regime, the people were made to fell so remote from the government and so remote from the government and so divorced from it that they grew up with the idea that the government and the people were two different entities. In those days, government property was treated with deliberate negligence. Unhappy, this attitude has, to a great extent, remained, and it is causing a good deal of harm to our society today.
It must be clearly understood by everyone that the government and the people are one, and the property acquired by the government is State property; that is to say, property belonging to the people and property for which the people are responsible. So if a person is put in charge of a particular property that belongs to the State, that is, to the people, he is guarding that property on behalf of himself and the people, who each has a stake in it. It is in his interest, therefore, to guard and preserve it with the greatest care and attention”.
(Nkrumah, at Winneba Ideological School, 3rd February, 1962).
Here we have a succinct picture of the first major attitudinal change which is a prerequisite for national development: we must see government as our own creation, from which we give our energies.
A more sinister attitudinal problem which has affected our enjoyment of freedom concerns the psychological inferiority complex we have about ourselves vis a vis the whites, symbolished by the British. It is growing worse every day because of globalization of the world through information technology.
Overwhelmed by the material glut in the developed world, Ghanaians are straining themselves to acquire those things, and this they do at the expense of the nation, as money, and will-gotten money, is what is required to come by the material things they lust after. Unconsciously, we reject what is our own. We despise them.
And, to reinforce this psychological inferiority complex, Ghanaian governments, one after the other, have faithfully, gone a-begging in the developed world for money. And the donor nations and the World Bank/IMF dictate the terms of trade and aid to Ghana. We are growing older in age without necessarily developing.
This year we are fifty, and just look at our environment! Billions of cedis have been poured into the economy and into infrastructure, but the yields have been negligible. Our minds are still in leash! So, the Minister of Trade has to institute Friday wear for us to wear Ghana clothes! And the Minister of Agriculture has to cry hoarse for us to begin to patronize our own rice! Fifty years after independence!
Unless we experience mental and attitudinal transformation, we shall not realize the fullness of our potential and destiny. True freedom is assertion of self-appreciation, self-direction, self-appreciation, self-confidence and self-love. These are all attitudinal elements of our personality. Freedom is an attitude; it is not automatic; it must be earned.
There is yet another attitudinal change so vital for us: that is, respect for law! Freedom is not the absence of law and restraint; freedom is not the absence of controls; freedom is not a license for moral or financial promiscuity. Freedom is law. The classic Ghanaian disregard for rules, regulations and the law affect every facet of our life. It is pointless talking about the gross, shameful mismanagement of State funds; it is pointless talking about our chaotic towns and cities as if they emerged from an ocean of pandemonium. If Ghanaians are complaining and grumbling about everything, it is we, and we only, who are to blame for our shortcomings and inadequacies, and not anybody else. We have not fully understood what it meant to be free!
Independence and freedom imply responsibility. And responsibility is hard work. That was what Nkrumah stressed. Hard work is not just an enormous expenditure of energy and recourses. Hard work entails vision, organization, planning and management. Overlaying all these is integrity. Whereas Nkrumah knew what he wanted for Ghana, and planned for them, and we began to see the beginnings of a beautiful dream, his premature exit from the Castle spelt the doom for the development dream of this nation, as no one else had his drive and vision to realize what he fought for so much.
The responsibility that we talk about begins at home. It encompasses the school, the church, business activities, personal relations, work, and ends at the Castle. No one is exempt. Almost all Ghanaians know in their hearts what is expected of them. We know we have responsibilities, but we shirk them out of indiscipline. From now onwards, we must be so conscious of the interpenetrating influence and consequences of our work and actions on each other to the extent that no one class of people should wish to be seen as negative and counterproductive. Ours is to work in tandem towards a common national goal.
As we celebrate our Jubilee, we have to remind ourselves that with independence and freedom, we must by now have settled on a master national development plan which we the ordinary citizens have bought into, and made integral to our life. Each Ghanaian should by now have had certain knowledge of the direction in which the nation is going, and what is expected of him. Not so.
It is not late for us to work at the crystallization of a national ideology and the creation of a development matrix within which Ghanaians would enjoy the full maturation of their diverse talents, abilities and work output. As we celebrate the Jubilee, we must go back into the past, and begin to untangle the messy mass of threads of policies, governmental inconsistencies, governmental inconsistencies and unchecked growth, and lay afresh in straight lines the various strands, the weaving of which would give us a beautiful clothing of respect, dignity, and nobility.
This Jubilee must see the end of the national taters that we shameful wear!
Myles Monroe, known as a great inspirational speaker and author, wrote in his book. The Burden of Freedom: “National independence does not guarantee freedom; it only proffers deliverance from imperialism. The spirit of industry, work and responsibility determines the success and development of a nation”.
Daily Graphic - Thursday, August 2, 2007 Page: 7