Building a stronger nation …a leader’s perspective

democratic dispensation
Patrick OWUSU (PhD)

On Thursday, 7th January 2021, a few minutes after the swearing-in of the president-elect, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, a few thoughts ran through my mind about the advancement of our cherished country, Ghana. Generally, official ceremonies do not appeal to me much until there is an effort from all and sundry to join forces in supporting the bigger picture of making Ghana greater and stronger.

As a nationalist, I have had the opportunity to observe the changing scenes of our democratic dispensation from 1996 till date. On a daily basis, I ask myself a lot of questions about the needed tools to cause accelerated growth for our socio-economic subdivisions. Having had the opportunity to visit a few countries across the world, I still do not understand why our pace of development is unhurried, regardless of the rich human resource we have in the nation.

I am of the opinion that most of our challenges are attitudinal. All we need is a transfiguration of our mindset or our worldview. We need a deep-seated change of mind that goes beyond party politics to developing a nationalistic mindset, premised on a national agenda. Ghana has all the resources to make a difference in all sectors of our economy.

On March 6, 2022, Ghana shall be 65 years; that is post-independence from colonial rule. In many jurisdictions, 65 years is considered a near-retiring age. It is assumed that at 65, our ‘pension benefit’ should be, yielding maximum productivity in all sectors of the economy thereby giving the next generation hope for their future. Thus, what must be done to cause the shift we so desire? I would like to draw our attention to a few concerns which when implemented can help raise our bar of development:

Enhancement of our Educational System

The development of every nation drape or hangs on a well-defined formal education, informal education and non-formal education. Education as most of us know, is the process of human learning by which knowledge is imparted, minds, trained and skills developed for the advancement of individual lives and the society at large. It is on record that, any growing economy pays particular attention to education. Over the years, governments have tried their best to put our educational system on a higher pedestal. However, much needs to be done as the size of the population increases with the majority being youthful.

The Free Senior High School Educational Policy (FSHS) by the present government is a laudable one. At least, it is giving the less privileged and the most vulnerable, the opportunity to access basic education. That notwithstanding, the government must speed up infrastructural developments to do away with the double-track system. The challenges involved in running this batch system which grants that one group be in school for a period and others join at a specific date should be assessed and effective measures taken, by the government to safeguard the lives of the many young people who, at the least opportunity without any proper guidance and therapy stand the chance of falling into the hands of a bad company.

No matter how the Free SHS Policy is praised by a cross-section of the population, provision for extra curriculum activities should be properly infused into the Time Table in making students have time to also develop their skills, talents and capabilities in their areas of interest. We should bear in mind that, education involves the total development of an individual and not necessarily, the acquisition of acute mental information. It must be noted that not everyone who completes the basic education will have the urge to do further studies. Why don’t we make little provision for other social activities, then?

We have to agree that no matter how faculties must be trained which to a large extent make most students become grades or marks-conscious at the expense of understanding the core of the subject matter, the development of skills and talents in sports, music, entrepreneurship and innovation should also be factored into the development of our educational curricula. Till date, do you know that most students after completing their basic education refuse to attend teacher training colleges and other technical and vocational institutions, regarding them as lower-ranked on the academic ladder? On the contrary, life is independent of where you start from but centres on where you end. After all, half a work done is better than no work done.

Sometimes, I blame our total concentration on that method of formal education, which is tailored to suit only white-collar jobs at the expense of technical and vocational education. On a whole, must one succeed in life only through university education or the identification of one’s talents? Growing and emerging economies like Japan, China, Brazil, Singapore and the like are speedily making strives because of their focus on technical and vocational education.

Education shouldn’t only be geared towards building the left side of the brain which has to do with logic, arithmetic, theories, analysis, etc. but also the right side of the brain which deals with creativity, music, colour, entrepreneurship, innovation and things which involve the psychomotor domain (things or inventions easily done or made with the hands). When students’ minds are trained to believe in their talents, they automatically take charge of their future instead of always cursing their stars for not getting admission to a particular university or any higher institution of learning. Though the latter should not also be downplayed if one can only afford, my point of view, however, is that, should we fail to identify our area of specialty, we will join the crowd, thereby disappointing our future.

Furthermore, the government should make the Training Colleges, Technical and Vocational institutions more attractive to the graduates of the Senior and Junior High Schools respectively. As an added motivation, effective and efficient curriculum development should be properly heightened to make well-guided students follow what they exactly want to achieve in life thereby making our Ghanaian society a level-headed community to balance issues from a broader perspective.

Dealing with Corruption

The issue of exploitation, sleaze, dishonesty, bribery, greed and fraud should be critically examined under the lens of societal development. Any culture that wants to make strides in all sectors of their economy must work hard to eliminate corruption or at least, bring it to the barest minimum. Right will always be right and wrong will also be wrong in any society of respectability. On the contrary, when right is overturned to mean wrong and the latter is branded to mean right, a corrupt society is built. Let’s set the ball rolling on the issue of corruption.

There is this platitude, banality or cliché that brands Ghanaians to be extremely hospitable within the sub-region. But how friendly or welcoming is the average Ghanaian on the street of say, Greater Accra or Greater Kumasi? If we only become hospitable to unfamiliar people because of the benefit we shall receive from such an association, we are unethical or unprincipled. In other words, we are dishonest and manipulative. If we cannot show a little kindness to people without any subscriptions or money, we are corrupt. So, instead of always looking at the bigger picture of corruption from the governmental section, let’s do a little introspection to make some changes in our personal lives.

At the office, when a clerk demands money before tracing a file for someone, he/she is not only callous but also a deep-seated corrupt personality. When you enter the wrong time in the time book at your office in order to prove a point, you are abusive and very untruthful. If we falsify documents and change our age in order to have access to a higher position at our workplace, we are also corrupt. When income or indirect taxes are evaded through under invoicing and over invoicing, the nation loses money meant for developmental projects to an uncultured individual. On the Highway, when we jump into the red traffic light when the signal demands a halt, we are dishonest and lawless. In effect, we are careless and we do not value road safety regulations.

When money intended for a specific project is redirected or diverted to another use, we are not only misapplying funds but also swimming in the pool of corruption. When the salaries of your employees are continuously delayed without any tangible reason, you are not only cruel but practising skulduggery or dishonest gain.

When we deliberately bypass the most competent people on the job market, but shrewdly appoint dishonest associates in building an unhealthy homogeny or standardization, we are not only deceitful but, very imbalanced in our persuasions. When you paint a dirty picture about well-deserving people at the office in order to undermine their value, you are also shady or corrupt.

When we award marks to undeserving students because of certain favours we receive from them as instructors or lecturers, we are also mendacious and deceitful. When students also use unfair means to get very good grades to enter the university, we are not only raising a corrupt generation but a generation of ‘anaconda snakes,’ who, in the near future will ‘swallow’ all the assets in the nation. Thus, the consequences of all our actions will rear their ugly heads on us, should we continue in our fraudulent ways. When we cheat on our spouses but pretend nothing is at stake, we are dissemblers, fibbers or liars to the oath of allegiance we took on our matrimonial day.

At the hospital, when medical doctors redirect their patients to their private clinics for a higher charge instead of handling these patients in the public hospitals for the same medical situation, we are unfair, unkind and manipulative. Once the desire to use warped or crooked means of amassing wealth at the expense of showing a little kindness to the poor masses becomes our topmost priority, the nation falls into the sea of destruction.

How can a continent like Africa, so blessed by the Almighty in terms of rich natural resources be in such a despicable situation? Greed on the part of most political leaders has collapsed the moral fibre of a continent so blessed with uncountable resources. If civilization started in Africa, how come most of the inhabitants live in abject poverty? No matter how it may be debated that people contribute to the success of their lives, my argument is, if people are not properly resourced and empowered, how would they enjoy prosperity? Africa is highly recognized as one of the poorest continents in the world? Most of our state institutions are porous because of corruption and shrewd preference. The desire to lead is no more with a heart to make people’s lives better but one to take undue advantage of the porosity of the institutions to constantly amass wealth to ourselves. There are bad roads, under resourced hospitals, poor healthcare delivery, poor educational policies among others in most communities in Africa.

We are in a continent of abundance yet our greed and pride have paved way for looters and selfish aliens to take undue advantage of our weak systems. For example, take countries in most of the West African sub-region so blessed with oil. Most of the proceeds from the drilling of oil are not properly accounted for. Though these countries have oil reserves and other rich natural resources, they live in abject poverty as funds are misdirected into some people’s coffers at the expense of the development of the states

Poor leadership has scattered some brilliant citizens of Africa to roam around the world in search of greener pastures.  The desire to make our system better is constantly fought by some quarters all because their percentage in the share of the booty will be denied. In September, 2014 for example, 22,000 ghost names were discovered on the payroll of a certain public organisation in Africa. The estimated cost of this scandal to public coffers was thirty-one (31) million US dollars per year.[1]  This is about 1% of that country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Meanwhile some public workers were not paid and hospitals and schools were starved of basic resources, just to mention a few.

Some government officials and even middle-level managers of corporate organisations embezzle public funds in some countries and the severest punishment meted to them is indefinite suspension. Instead of asking them to refund the money before going to jail, they are allowed to go unpunished. In fact, some perpetrators are even promoted to positions, attracting higher pay check. Thus, they get away with the stolen money. This is the state of greed and bad leadership. Such acts of mismanagement of resources and appointment of incompetent people into higher offices are a sign of disrespect to the people being led. Until we deal with the canker of voracity or greed and learn to be content with what we have as leaders, we will continue to disappoint ourselves, fail our generation and terminate the dreams of the people we lead.

It’s time we caused a change in our lives. As a nation, we can conquer corruption through a mental readjustment, contentment with our individual states at any point in time and being thoughtful of the consequences of all our actions. That is what a right attitude results into; a massive transformation of a great nation like Ghana.

Improvement of our Transport System

A growing economy like ours must earnestly fight to upgrade our road and rail grids. Ghana has come of age and must have more dual carriages on our roads. Construction of roads should be assigned to the right contractors who think about the destiny of this nation and not their parochial interests. If roads meant to be asphalted are turned into an inferior link that barely last for a few months, we are not being honest to ourselves and the nation at large.

Road contractors should be properly supervised to produce the best and quality road network for our country. Sometimes, I do not understand why roads serving important purposes such as tourism and agriculture among others should be abandoned for years until there is a major vehicular accident or natural disaster? Take the Atonsu-Lake Bosomtwe road for instance. This is one of the major roads in Kumasi, serving thousands of people. This road if properly developed can serve a part of the Ashanti tourism hub, for the government thereby yielding maximum revenue for developmental projects.

It will interest you to know that past governments paid less attention to this road construction until recently. Even with that, work has been quite slow. The interesting part of our politics is, once you tell the truth, people read it in a polarized manner, without weighing the issues from a nationalistic point of view. There are countless numbers of roads linking major farming centres or communities that must be given higher attention. If we are satisfied with potholes in the middle of our roads and fully concentrate our attention on the development of roads in our country’s capital, Greater Accra and a few communities at the expense of almost all communities in the country, more lives would be lost to fatal accidents. In the year of roads, we want to see a massive transformation in our transport sector.

Whilst constructing roads, we should factor solar street lights into the equation to make driving at night easier for commuters and pedestrians as well. The speed we adopt in constructing roads in Greater Accra should be applied to all communities. Ghana deserves better and we cannot be left behind in the era of better roads and upgraded railway systems. It is now or never.

Empowering More Enterprising Entrepreneurs

In a capitalistic system, everybody’s skills, creativity and ingenuity should be of higher concern to the government. Our financial system must be more flexible for credible entrepreneurs to easily access loans for the expansion of their productions. The Bank of Ghana should evaluate the impact of higher interest rate on the economy and devise means of bringing interest rates on loans to the barest minimum. In certain jurisdictions, interest on loans is very negligible, making it possible for reliable entrepreneurs to access loan facilities from the banks. Countries like China have raised millionaires within a shorter time. This is made possible because the economic system is quite flexible to business men.

Malaysia, our contemporary in terms of independence from colonial rule has a vibrant economy than ours. Rwanda, which only became a stronger economy a few years ago is a force to reckon with in terms of socio-economic development. The time has come for Ghana to be set on a higher plinth or base of socio-economic development. In a country where a sizeable number of citizens are millionaires, their investments in manufacturing of goods and services create more jobs for the local people whose commitment to tax payment helps increase the Gross Domestic Product of the country. When money is in the hands of a select few, it creates jealousy and wariness. On the contrary, where the system is more flexible for an average person to make it, the rate of crime, misconduct or corrupt practices dwindles.  

Our Responsibility

The development of this country depends on every citizen. It does not depend on any foreigner but ourselves. Let’s be patriotic enough. The massive development of all emerging economies like Rwanda, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, China among others started from a change of mindset from their own people. The cleanliness of this country largely depends on us and not the sitting president. We should stop littering around and direct refuse to the right wastebaskets. Obeying traffic regulations depends on us. We should train ourselves to avoid urinating at public places. The decision to make our lives better rests on us.

Permit me to whittle a section of the president’s inaugural speech at his swearing-in on Thursday, 7th January, 2021: “I invite all of you to join in the exciting business of developing our country. There are endless opportunities, if we remain united. What our forebears dreamed of; we will achieve! If we inherited dreams and visions from our founding fathers, we should leave a legacy of achievements and realities to our children and their children. For, I believe in the limitless prospects of Ghana and of us, her people.”

Drawing from the president’s speech, the ball is now in our court. We have a duty to soar higher in making Ghana the beacon of hope for Africa and across the nations of the world. So, do what you can to make yourself a proud Ghanaian.

The writer is an Academic, Visiting Lecturer, Leadership Consultant, Philanthropist, and a Reverend Minister

Email: [email protected]

[1] Gyasi-Agyei, A. (2015), The three Stages of Salvation: Heavenly-oriented or Hell Bound? Mumbai: Partridge India, p.253

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