Reimagining ‘Republic’

Esther A. Armah

What kind of Ghana do you want?

That was the big question posed by Starr FM’s host, Francis Abban, on Ghana’s Republic Day.

It is the day before the July 2nd birthday of Patrice Lumumba, the Congo’s first president of a nation whose population had been halved by the brutality of Belgium – who had incidentally just scored in the last 40 seconds of a football game – snatching a victory from Japan for the millions glued to their TV screens for the World Cup.

Our Republic cup does not runneth over when it comes to Ghana. But it could.

The second half of 2018 has begun. Our president has named 4 new Supreme Court judges, dismissed the first woman Electoral Commission Chair and her two deputies; and the Privileges Committee has engaged in an extraordinary exchange with lawyers for Hon. Kennedy Agyapong culminating in the suspension to the Hearing assessing accusations of his disrespect of Parliament.

Curled up on a cool Accra afternoon this Republic Day with a book in my hands and my mind musing on the Ghana we want.

I want a Ghana where 52% is more than a number – it is the recognition that women are citizens, contributors, creators & our policy, politics & institutions practice that. That is a Ghana where women are not treated as superwomen; but are recognized as humans and powerhouses. I want a Ghana where sexual violence is treated as the crisis it is; victims/survivors get ongoing help; perpetrators face punishment, consequence and lessons in consent. I want one where we better respect media is a crucial tool in tackling corruption; a powerful instrument of development & a shaper of narratives – but those possibilities require rigorous training. In this Ghana, we learn in order to lead. I want a Ghana where we end chew, swallow, pour education and finally create a learning that rewards critical thinking & question asking rather than treating it as a risk that threatens grades & angers poorly trained teachers. I want a Ghana where we better understand that citizens’ are our most valuable resource.

And for that Ghana, I invite us to consider a different question: what is each of us willing to do for the Ghana we say we want?

Too many of us want someone else to build that Ghana. We are a nation where patronage replaces institutions. There are more aspiring Ogas than team participants of a working whole. We elevate hierarchy and patriarchy. We revere individual strength, wealth and power – even if our language is about collectivity in nation building.

God Bless our Homeland Ghana is a rallying cry. The truth is she is already blessed multiple times over. Do we within the nation recognize that blessings must be nurtured in order to expand? What if we were willing to consistently nation build to the same extent that we pray, tithe and show up for Church? What if we treated women in this country – irrespective of status – with the same reverence that we do our Pastors?

We do not think of every human being as equal despite being a nation where millions describe themselves as Christians. To treat our neighbor as ourselves is to believe our neighbor could be ourselves. Is that what we believe?

I went back to listen to President Akufo-Addo’s speech honoring the 25th anniversary of the 4th Republic. He ended it by saying that the biggest appreciation for the protection of the Democracy must go to the people in and of Ghana.

Black Star nation; that is what we are. A Black Star of symbol and substance. Our substance is as the first independent nation in Africa. Symbolically, we are the home of global Black peoples.

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These notions are lofty and they may inspire. However, I think more about impact from citizen to citizen within their circles of influence, in their communities and in our nation. That is how we might get the Ghana we want and in doing so, reimagine our Republic.

And reimagine it we must.

The histories of movements that brought global change were ignited by critical mass not majority motion; abolitionist, independence, labour and women. But our 21st Century world offers additional ways to connect and inter-connect from the 4 corners of the globe; so critical mass looks different than it did.

The work is no less easy and the willingness, seemingly, no less of an issue.

Republic and a functioning democracy is not an entrepreneurial start up. Too many within government engage its work the way we engage entrepreneurs. We consistently create initial opportunities – but only initial opportunities – for them. We are spectacular at Grand Beginnings. We are not Continuers and we fail equally spectacularly at Completion and Ongoing Effective Functioning. We are PhD brilliant at Othering or what I call Someone Else-ing. i.e.…..it is someone else’s job to fix, change, build, create or do A, B, C.

This manifests as contracts to build hospitals that serve individual Assembly people, but fail the community in which the hospital exists. A hospital building exists, but it doesn’t function. A beginning without a function or completion via citizen use and engagement.

We do not run nations, we manage chaos, inefficiency, corruption and we navigate these paths of mayhem. It is not true to say we are not proud of our nation. We are. Our pride is clearly and often articulated. It is a pride presented to the world but not practiced by us for those who live, work and seek to build here.

We are ‘potential’ in practice. That cannot build and maintain a powerhouse nation. We are ‘cycle’ aficionados. Our cycle? Hold the same conversation with the same angles featuring the same people bemoaning the same issues on a regular basis. We are Committee Experts. Committees are where great ideas in Ghana go to die or outrage over a corrupt act is buried with the belief that our reliable short term memory will move swiftly to the next – inevitable – outrage. Such is the reality of 24 hour media cycles. Such is our Republic.

We are also brilliant, talented, engaged, creative, concerned, communal, innovative and powerful. Do we really know that about ourselves as citizens? Do we understand the potential of our personal power connected to that of another’s power? Or are we utterly seduced by Oga-ism – individual wealth and influence – making ours means little in comparison?

All systems are flawed, so the search is not for perfection. Democracy has never been about perfection. It is about function that serves a majority and not a tiny minority. The basics are shelter, health, food and employment. None of these are beyond our Republic’s doing.

We must not treat our Republic like a Project initiated in pursuit of votes for an imminent election. That treatment means beautiful beginnings, expensive launches and non-existent completion. It comes with expansive, exciting rhetoric and a disappointing reality.

But disappointment need not be our reality. Our citizens’ power can require beautiful beginnings, become powerful completions and working projects that serve communities.

Why is this so hard? Is it our unwillingness to extend ourselves due to our engaging with our own everyday challenges? Or do we need to reimagine leadership and recognize that citizen leadership is about the ways we engage our community?

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I am writing this on 4th July – the day that America celebrates Independence Day. That day in the US holds a checkered history for African Americans vs. white Americans. The former enslaved African turned abolitionist and freedom fighter Frederick Douglass gave the famous 1852 speech: ‘What to the Slave is the 4th July? In the speech, Douglass said: “this celebration…reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old.  76 years ago, the people of this country were British subjects. You were under the British Crown. Feeling themselves harshly and unjustly treated by the home government, you…earnestly sought redress.’  In the US, where children are being locked in cages and calls for civility dominate media discourse in the face of such outrage, on this Republic anniversary they too face major challenges.

Over in the US and here in Ghana we would all claim a Pride and patriotism. But in today’s Republic, here in Ghana how does that pride and patriotism manifest?

Ghana was the first nation in Africa to wrest freedom from her British colonial masters. Independence was initially a political moment that needed to become an economic reality. Part of reimagining Republic, is to recognize colonialism’s most powerful legacy continues to be the ways in which we have emotionalized whiteness as superior and Blackness as inferior. Part of ending colonialism’s legacy is having what I call ‘emotional justice’. That means freeing ourselves from the practice of privileging whiteness over African-ness in all ways.

Reimagining Republic is a call to action for each of us to recognize and wield our individual power in community with each other; to better build our circle of influence and to fully recognize that nation building is our project, our work and our mission.

Ghana – what is each of us willing to do or change to get the Ghana we say we want?

It is past time to reimagine our Republic.

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Coalition Against Sexual Abuse (CASA) campaign STOP SEX ABUSE in SCHOOLS! is in partnership with ‘Let’s Talk Consent, ‘OdodowGH’ and EAA Media Productions. CASA seeks to engage additional organizations for partnership and participation. The hash tags across social media for this campaign are:- #SilenceBreakersGH and #TimesUpGH. For more info contact casaforjustice@gmail.com.

The Coalition Against Sexual Abuse (CASA) is an action and advocacy group of concerned citizens of Ghana committed to ending sexual abuse, sexual violence and sexual harassment in the country. CASA’s focus is impactful campaigns, citizen engagement, media and policy in this work. CASA works to educate Ghanaians about sexual abuse; to advocate for victims; to push for sensible legislation and enforcement against perpetrators; to engage the media in reform, language and their power regarding sexual abuse. CASA collaborates with other groups and individuals committed to ending sexual abuse.

CASA members:-

Eugenia Tachie-Menson
Richard Anim
Sara Asafu-Adjaye
Marcia Ashong
Nana Awere Damoah
Nana Akwasi Awuah
Mawuli Dake
Farida Bedwei
Nana Yaa Ofori Atta
Ama Opoku Agyeman
Elsie Dickson
Amazing Grace Danso
Yemisi Parker-Osei
Esther Armah
Elizabeth Olympio
Prof. Eric Wilson
Nana Ama Adom-Boakye
Abla Dzifa Gomashie
Kathleen Addy
The Ark Foundation
SCORP-FGMSA (Standing Committee On Human Rights and Peace – Federation of Ghana Medical Students)                                                                                          PepperDem Ministries

Follow CASA on Facebook:- https://m.facebook.com/GHCASA/

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