Ghana is 57 today. Wow. The gravity of that statement really just struck me. Fifty-seven years old as a sovereign nation…
I wonder if Kwame Nkrumah, Ebo Taylor and my sainted grandmother imagined on that glorious Independence Eve that Ghana would look as she does today fifty-seven years on. Most likely not. I shall never forget my grandmother sitting in her courtyard on a stool, spitting and muttering that Ghanaian life was “much better under colonial rule.”
“You could go to town and get a job just like that!”
Then she finished feeling her cassava and set about pounding her fufu.
Today, African twitter will filled with messages about Ghana’s independence. Most of them will be negative. We will gripe about waste, water shortage, dumsor-dumsor (power outages) and the disobedient cedi that refuses to rise. Other’s still will throw an obligatory ‘Happy Independence Day’ on the status line of their Facebook wall and continue with the day. Between the griping and the compulsory well wishes, would it be possible to spend some time thinking about what our independence means to us?
Sure, Ghana is a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess. It’s OUR mess: Ours to own and ours to clean up. Being independent means that we do not have to look to outside forces to save us from ourselves. The Big 6 and the thousands of unnamed and unsung heroes and heroines in the fight for freedom from colonial rule did their part individually to prove that we are a nation that can conduct its own affairs. We are a sovereign nation. We owe our allegiances to God, our country, each other and no one else!
Would we really trade our freedom for running water and constant electricity? It’s easy for me to ask that question from where I sit in comfort in the Diaspora, isn’t it? To be honest, I don’t struggle with half of the ailments that afflict the ordinary Ghanaian. The currency I deal with is stable. My kids eat 3 meals a day with snacks in between. The roads I drive on are safe and well maintained. Still, I don’t think any of these physical comforts would ever comfort me in the event that I found myself subject to foreign rule. The knowledge that I am allowed to enjoy certain liberties but still be considered a less than free is unfathomable.
We have an incredible opportunity to begin to learn some form of patriotism and pride for our country. My generation was never taught civics, patriotism or any sort of history about Ghana unless it was in relation to someone else’s. Thankfully, these attitudes and trends have changed recently. We are seeing more and more young entrepreneurs turn their focus on Ghana’s problems and try to figure out creative ways to solve them. The generation that were the immediate beneficiaries of our Independence Dream turned reality are partnering with us too. You see these partnerships in several facets, including the arts, science and business. Ambolley, the Simigwahene of 1960’s fame (and beyond) has recently done collaborations with Sway and several other current hip-life artists; Dr. Yaba Blay consistently and doggedly engages young female writers, guiding them on how to hone their thoughts and their craft; and Patrick Awuah built and implemented a university and new way for the young Ghanaian to think about and engage their society. This is what independence is! That we are free to think, believe and choose how to live our best lives under our own terms. Ghana is FREE forever!
(Unless you’re a criminal.)
Perhaps we might spend this day being grateful for the gift and opportunity we have been given. It has not escaped any of us that our government is a failed one. We can wait for them to get on board with innovative ideas, or do what every other individual in any progressive independent society has done to date: band together and fix our problems ourselves. And when election time comes, vote on ideas; not on party and tribal lines. This is what a responsible citizen of a free nation does. We have the resources, and Heaven knows we have the education. Let’s spend this 57th year continuing the good work that has been executed, and destroy practices that have failed us thus far.
Long live Ghana!
What does independence mean for you? Does it mean greater dependency on the government? Do private citizens have a duty to their nation, or only to their families and themselves? How does the concept of independence play out where YOU live? Discuss!