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Ghana Doesn’t Need Me; It Needs a Lobotomy

Last week, Ghana celebrated its 56th year of independent rule from Britain. Reactions on social media were varied, but there was one dominant theme: disappointment. The usual hand wringing over the lack of basic utilities (like a dependable supply of water and electricity) and public amenities (like roads and safe, affordable transportation) were at the top of list. If you’re a Ghanaian – or hail from any African country for that matter – you’ve heard it all before.

There are some people who take issue with those complaints.

“We should be grateful,” they say. “At least Ghana is not at war like some of our neighboring countries! By the grace of God, we are a nation that enjoys peace!”

Now, in the past, I could passively nod my head and agree to some extent. Indeed, we have managed to skirt an outright civil war. But as I have gotten older and done more reflection, I have come to see the danger in such thinking. I ended up in a social media battle with one woman because I refused to nod and agree with her platitudes about the absence of war in our native country.

Most of the MOM Squad knows that I grew up rather unconventionally in Ghana. I came of age in a time when there was no “middle class”. There were the very rich, and there were the very poor. My family existed a small host of citizens that was somewhere in between, but not large enough to make up a “class”. I have seen life on both sides of the coin. We lived in a huge rented house in Labone, but for a year we ate noting but different variations of rice because that’s all we could afford. My parents made sure that we went to the finest schools in the city: Soul Clinic International School, GIS (in my case) and finally boarding school at HGIC. For the first 3 months I was at Soul Clinic none of my siblings or I had a uniform because my parents couldn’t afford one. I’ve suffered the humiliation of being sacked for not paying my school fees at every school I’ve ever attended. I know what it’s like to go to school hungry because you don’t have lunch money or food at home to pack lunch for the week. Through wit and will, we overcame our circumstances in various ways. While I was declaring that it was “cool” to eat plantain and beans every day in GIS’ cantina “because I’m a Ghanaian”, my brother was doing coin tricks on his secondary school campus to earn his lunch money.

Now, I do recognize that this hardly constitutes as hard living by any stretch of the imagination. What I am saying is that I have tasted just enough hardship to empathize with people living at the bottom of Ghanaian society’s echelons. The fact that there is no war in Ghana will not serve as consolation forever. I know what a desperate person is capable of doing. Desperation is a dangerous thing, and I fear that ordinary Ghanaians are becoming more desperate as the years roll on.

The woman with whom I had an 8 hour social media battle clung to her belief that the absence of civil war in Ghana serves as panacea for its failing infrastructure.

“I can walk from Cantonments to Labone Junction without fear of getting my hand chopped off,” she said (and I’m paraphrasing.)

Well, isn’t that fortunate? To live a life of such privilege and fortune. To put it in perspective for my American readers, it’s the equivalent of taking a carefree stroll down Rodeo Drive. This particular young woman, who is actually a good friend of the family, has always lived in cloistered life of comfort and power. Of course she’d be grateful that there is no war. It’s actually the worse thing she can imagine. She admonished me because I’ve never been to Liberia – as she has; seen the children with their limbs cut off by rebels – as she has; and seen the deprivation the survivors of war live under – as she has.

To that, I say I don’t have to live next to a sewer to know it stinks. Of course I can imagine the horrors of war! But I wonder if have she and others of like mind have ever sat down to consider what led Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote D’Ivoire to war? Corruption is what led these promising, thriving countries down a dark path, and if Ghana doesn’t solve its corruption problems, we won’t be able to rely on the grace of God to keep it safe forever.

When people say “corruption”, there is an automatic image of government minsters siphoning off millions of dollars into Swiss bank accounts and flying around the world in private jets. But Corruption is an ugly, multifaceted monster that doesn’t always manifest as Greed. Nepotism, Neglect and Laziness are all part of the beast we know as Corruption.

Every Ghanaian is corrupt at some level. It’s the only way to survive and do business in the country.

When the queue at the driver’s license office is too long, what do you if you have a “guy” who works there? Throw him a few cedis and get yourself ahead of the line: Corruption.

When you buy three plantain chips in traffic from a seller and demand an extra bag from her as ‘dash’ that’s corruption.

When you know that your neighbor is keeping their elderly grandparent chained up in a room without food because some pastor or elder divined that they are a ‘witch’ and don’t report it, that’s corruption!

When government officials do not fear the media’s reportage of their misdeeds, that’s a clear sign of corruption. In fact, every political party has a media house lapdog to do its bidding, and is not afraid for the public to know it.

When 40 children die from lead poisoning because their chief allowed their farming lands to become an e-waste dump site in exchange for a kickback, that’s corruption!

Corruption is knowing the right thing to do and not doing it anyway.

Ghana’s state of affairs as it stands today has everything to do with a mindset that we’ve slowly allowed to creep in. When my father first came back from living in the States, he came with numerous ideas. His friends shot them all down.

“Oh Kwasi. That won’t work in Ghana ooo. You? You’ve been outside for too long!”

Eventually, he began to believe it, and that has become his mantra too. “This” won’t work in Ghana.

Why don’t we have safety standards for how people in villages and towns purchase fuel? Why is it, at this very moment, a 3 year old child is probably ingesting kerosene and imbibing his doom? Because the government allows people to buy and sell petroleum products in used Fanta and water bottles. “This” is Ghana, and we can do that.

Why hasn’t the Ministry of Health halted the practice of referring critically injured patients from one hospital to another instead of bringing qualified physicians into the facility to perform an operation? Because “this” is Ghana, and we can’t inconvenience our doctors. A recent acquaintance of mine just died because he was sent to three different area hospitals following an automobile accident before he got treatment. He had just moved back to Ghana, brimming with capital and new ideas to help improve his country and his country killed him!

Armed robbery is becoming more prevalent in the country and thieves are getting bolder. A Dutch citizen was just robbed and killed in broad daylight this past week. Ghanaians like to blame outside forces for these attacks. “Oh, it’s the Nigerians bringing these things in. Oh, it’s those guys from the North.” We forget that we are raising our own little terrorists in our backyards. When an uncle comes to sell his 8 year nephew to a fisherman in Keta – a man who beats him, doesn’t educate him, feeds him two small meals a day, and forces him to do the dangerous work of diving under his canoe to untie tangled fishing nets – do you think such a boy will grow up to become an office manager? No! As an adult, he will do what he can to survive! He will become a thief, a male prostitute, or indulge in some other vice. And then Christians will sit in church and disparage him, forgetting it was their Christian duty to care for the least of these in the first place.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Some people back home like to say that because I only visit Ghana once a year, my views are invalid. I don’t live there. I don’t know what I’m talking about. They are living in it. They are the “experts”. If I lived there, I would understand that “this is Ghana”. I wish I could conjure an analogy to explain how absurd this line of thinking is, but I’ve drawn a blank.

So why do I say Ghana doesn’t need me? Simply because I don’t have the skill set Ghana needs for advancement. Ghana needs IT professionals, city planners, honest MPs, and health professionals of all disciplines. It needs engineers to design and build apparatus to harness solar and wind energy. It needs manufacturing gurus so we can build our own cars and trains. I’m a writer. Sending me to Ghana to further the cause of development is like sending a mural artist to an empty construction site. It’s pointless and foolish.

Above all things, Ghana needs  to get its head examined and work on decentralizing wealth from the hands of a privileged few. I’m not proposing that we  merely take from the rich and give to the poor. That’s not a permanent solution. But it does need to give the masses the basic hope…JJ Rawlings has already shown us what one motivated mofo with a gun and no hope in his government can do to a country.


Where have I missed the mark? Don’t be afraid to tell me right here ↓

This article has 13 comments

  1. gdanny

    This is so spot on. How I wish every sensible African reading this blog post should reflect on their countries. Sub Saharan Africa looks so much the same, all what you said is so true for any sub Saharan Africa. From soda bottles used for kerosene to corruption, poverty, failed health systems, name it. What is killing us is the silence, the complacency, the mediocrity and gullibility of the people. I feel so sick about this.
    I am a medical doctor who visits Africa especially eastern Africa every year to support rural health facilities. But I feel so sad for the poor women I help to repair the fistula only to come back another year and meet even more cases of fistula. Can’t this ever stop. Where are the young people to cause change?? I find most people so gullible, lazy and not interested at all.

    • Malaka

      I’m so glad you brought up women’s issues! This is a major reason for Africa’s lagging development in my opinion.

      When more than half of the continent is female, how can we expect to make major progress when the majority of your citizens are un(under)educated so that men can hold on to a little power? FGM, child brides, breast ironing, etc are all ways to repress women’s development. Yet women are the educators of our future. I spend 3 hours a day in homework and supplemental education with my kids. It’s my duty as a mother. How can a mother who has had her education withheld from her help her child achieve?

      We have to change the oppressive culture of patriarchy and oppression as well. It’s doing us no favors.

  2. Ebenezer Mr Scrooge

    Madam…. I “taya” plus your people… Saw a similar RejoiceCauseThere’sNoWar remark and I just had to ignore it… I reckon that to a very large extent, the peace of a nation is dependent on her citizenry, because inasmuch as leaders can inflame passions, provide weapons et al…. It still boils down to (a handful of) the people to pick up arms and start hacking, shooting and slashing, as such, methinks the populace deserve more commendation to this regard than do the leaders…
    Now, help me out here… So a politician comes over, asking for my mandate, promising crude oil flowing from my taps, unicorns and el Dorado… He manages to do a fraction of what he promised yet he wants a pat on the back??? Oh, like those no good entities from ThaHood, sowing their seeds at every given juncture, expecting glowing adulation for paying child support?? More like a slap across the face would suffice, no??

    • Malaka

      I desperately want to reply. I’m too busy laughing. I’ll have to get back to you later. Aba!! Lol!

      But you’re right in this major regard. The citizens are largely responsible for the peace we enjoy, not the government. But if the government want to continue to enjoy this peace it needs to cater to its citizens.

  3. gdanny

    I can’t agree more. If Africa fixes the women empowerment issue, it will have fixed half of her social political and economic problems. Even these thieves in leadership we lament about, I am sure its because they had poor parentage simply because their mothers had so little at their disposal to help fix their behavior. I practically see my mum so much in all I do everyday of my life. From how I eat, talk to people, and how far I have come as a medical doctor working in the west.
    She was not so educated, but would look into my books even at secondary level which she had not attained. At least she would complain if she didn’t find a teacher’s red ink in my book. No wonder I became a doctor, even when my Ghanian father abandoned us so early in life. It helped me so much seeing my mum work so hard to raise three kids, who all turned out to be meaningful people. I am trying so hard to bring up my two children (boy and girl) to be sensible, knowledgeable of the social plight of their small world but importantly to understand who they really are.

    I thank you Malaka for your educative posts. I am gonna refer my daughter to your blog such that she get motivated from another African lady’s soul. But she seems not interested at all in reading!! I wonder what I can ever do to make her pick interest.

  4. Lady Jaye

    There simply aren’t enough doctors anywhere period, even in our “specialist” hospitals, let alone district hospitals. Doctors are already “inconvenienced” to beyond breaking point in Gh. To blame doctors for a system that is broken down and already taxing them beyond belief is unfair and the same tactic the government uses to deflect blame from themselves instead of addressing the issues that have to do with healthcare delivery in GH

  5. Lady Jaye

    I forgot to add that we need everyone. Writers, artists, too. Literature and the arts keep our national memory Alice and help us forge national identities. They are just as important as doctors, activists, planners etc

  6. a

    bravo, malaka, bravo!

  7. Ekuba

    Ghana is the way it is because each & every one of us who calls him/herself a Ghanaian likes it that way. Yes. With our mouths we all claim we want things to change but with our actions, it’s obvious that we are content with things remaining the same. Those of us who are living in Ghana are content with exhibiting poor work ethics, corruption & mediocrity. Those of us living outside Ghana are content to be part of the brain drain & we stand by as foreigners go to our country to build it & volunteer but we’ve never done or will never do anything like that. So the question each of us should ask ourselves is that what should I do or stop doing in order to help Ghana to progress?

  8. Ali Bajaber

    Dear Sister Malaka if I may call you that. I’m a Kenyan,we are facing the same points you’ve really elaborated in your story.
    Corruption is the worst enemy that we are facing in almost all our African Countries. It’s become part of our lifestyle so to speak,that it has blinded us we have come to believe that its how things ought to be done..
    I believe it ends up in a very rotten communities,selfish leadership and civil wars in our countries.

  9. FredoGomez

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. I just returned from a 3-week holiday in the country (I think I was there when you also visited). While I enjoyed the family bits, I was disappointed withthe condition of the country, the state of the roads and even the nature of the political discourse. Just imagine that it took 6 hours to travel from Accra (the capital) to Kumasi (the second biggest city), a journey of just 272 kms! I visited three beautiful tourist locations (Sejuna Beach Resort, Akosombo Dam, Aburi Gardens, and Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and at each location I was reminded of the absolute lack of imagination in terms of tourism. Anyway, I shared your last article on my Facebook page and everyone agreed with your dad’s rant. I am going to share this too and I’m sure I will receive similar comments.

  10. African Mami

    Here is where you have completely missed the mark, as far as I’m concerned.

    For you to say that because you are a writer, Ghana does not need you as much is also VERY, verily I say unto thee, DANGEROUS thinking. Yes, the lack of basic infrastructure has created an acute need for professionals in the science and technology fields, however, your dismissal of your contribution as a writer, was panic inducing-to say the least. Your way of thinking could actually be one of the reasons why Ghana, and the rest of Africa is lagging behind. Why? We may feel as though our contributions will be, or are so minor, in comparison to the ‘big dogs’-(engineers and the like), not knowing that, as the Swahili proverb goes, “Haba na haba hujaza kibaba” loosely translated to mean “Little and little fills the measure”.

    My point is this, our contributions however small are of significant importance. Even for those that lack the most basic of education-kindergarten, if all you know how-and are paid to do-is sweep the streets of Accra, well then, I salute you! You, are indirectly contributing to the basic upkeep of the same infrastructure that we keep talking about. Moreover, you are ensuring that the average Ghanaian’s health is intact, as far as spinal chord injuries are concerned because they won’t have to worry about slipping on carelessly thrown away banana peels on the pavement/walkways.

    As a writer, you have a VOICE, you have a medium of expression, by which you can influence, you can inform, you can impact! So, please this business of I’m an ant so therefore I cannot impact Ghana the way the infrastructure big dogs can needs to die, a slow and painful death. Safari ants CAN be mistakenly DISMISSED because of their small size, but let me tell you, when those small insects combine to form an army, and invade your body, you’ll regret ever having looked down upon them. My sister, for us to even engage on this forum that you’ve created to express your thoughts, is saying something. So yeah….

    Otherwise, as far as the lobotomy of Ghana to rectify its current situation is concerned, apart from the mentioned, you are very much on track. By the way, this post is applicable to the rest of the African countries, none is immune, thus far!

    -Sorry for the long post oo..

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