What Makes Ghanaians Such Abysmal Activists?

When it comes to social change in Ghana, Ghanaians obey a strict set of rules and rarely deviate from the following process:

  1. Express shock and outrage about a particular event
  2. Talk about it on radio/Facebook/What’sApp/Twitter
  3. Deride anyone with an opposing opinion
  4. Wait for the next breaking news story to over shadow the aforementioned outrageous event
  5. Repeat

The whole process usually takes a week, two if you really press it. I look at this generation of “activists” – of which I cannot exclude myself from – and shake my head with dismay…for I know that if it was up to us, Ghana would still be in the bonds of colonial shackles. The brand of Ghanaian born today pales in comparison to those born eighty or more years ago. We have no stick-to-it-ness, no value of continuity, no vigor for any cause beyond the initial spark of outrage and shock. If we did, would Ghana find herself in the place she is today?

I was on Facebook early this morning, and some chap in the NDC had written an open letter to Kathleen Addy, who is a member of the opposition party, NPP. In his post, he was goading her about all the projects that his party had managed to get out on paper and included the following:

ndc list

I read this post with astonishment, and wondered how this man had the testicular fortitude to boast of ANY of this, when the working poor can barely afford the price of kenkey, when thousands of Ghanaian children will sleep on the road tonight because they have shelter, when dozens will die of malaria this week alone, when development in the majority of the country is so lagging that the youth flock to Accra with hopes of earning a maid or a driver’s wage just to get by, and with a president who has the gall to get on national media and tell Ghanaians to count their blessings despite all this. If there was ever a time for activism, it is certainly now! At the very least, there should be a clarion call for accountability with required levels of  pressure to bring that to bear.

But what we have instead is that cycle I listed above.

The cycle isn’t working, and Ghanaians know it is not working. And to soothe the national conscience about our abysmal failures, we quote the mantra “This is Ghana!” which might soon be added as the tenth line of the National Pledge.

This is Ghana, so an MP can call for stoning women on the floor of parliament.

This is Ghana, so Accra Mayor Alfred Oko Vanderpuije can arrest a trotro driver for honking his horn at him. No formal charges! Just abuse of power at it’s finest. Has anyone in the media even followed up on this blatant human rights abuse?


This is Ghana so nobody comes to parliament with plans to expand public utilities. They only come in search of kickbacks.

This is Ghana, so a Muslim doctor can rape a 16 year old boy and be pardoned by the community because he was tempted of the devil and is truly sorry.

This is Ghana, so a quack doctor can rape women while he’s performing illegal abortions in disgusting conditions.

This is Ghana, so women at Korle Bu and KATH have to go into labor ‘in turns’ or risk delivering their babies on the hospital floor because there aren’t enough beds.

This is Ghana, where we use taxis to transport the injured and ambulances to ferry the dead.

The list goes on. It’s exhausting. But in the face of all this, what are Ghanaians doing? Making jokes and deflecting our attentions elsewhere. It’s all we CAN do.

Samuel Obour recently wrote a list of the Top 10 Ghanaian Bloggers and posted it on his personal blog. (Disclosure: I was on the list and am honored, but this next statement in his defense has nothing to do with that.) The majority of the bloggers were male, and they write on showbiz, lifestyle and entertainment. They are widely read because of the subject matter they tackle. However, Mr. Obour said his choices were based off of how much social impact these blogs had. I know for a fact that my blog did not impact Ghanaian society. It set tongues wagging, but it didn’t CHANGE anything in Ghanaian society. None of these blogs did. Not one. There is not a single piece of Ghanaian e-real estate that I (or anyone else) can point you to that is a hub for social discourse that has/does/will bring about true social change. Why? Because Ghanaians are horrible at activism. We prefer to be shocked, outraged and entertained than persuaded to make real impact on our spheres of influence. It’s too inconvenient; and this is why Ameyaw Debrah is Ghana’s premier blogger and the kid talking about Cholera prevention, or investments, or what have you is not. So despite the chagrin that other bloggers felt about Obour’s list, he was essential accurate about who the “top” blogs. The Google analytics and retweets bear that out.

There have been so many issues that we have let die in the water because we could not focus. I quipped this morning that Kenyans (Kenyan women in particular) make the best activists. Their effectiveness is seen in results. Consider Akina Mama wa Africa which grew out of Maendeleo ya Wanawaki. Look at the work of Wangari Maathai. See how #MyDressMyChoice moved from online and into the streets! I asserted and still hold that if #MyDressMyChoice had been born in Ghana, it would have died within days. How long did it take Red Friday to fizzle out? Where were the focus and the continuity? Let’s not even talk about the 31st December Women’s Movement. What is their function beyond singing party hymns, waving hankies to greet their leaders, and to collect their portion of chibom and Coke?

I asked around for feedback on why Ghanaians make such pathetic activists and got a handful of reactions:

  • They are cowardly and lazy
  • They are apathetic
  • Is activism going to pay my kids’ school fees?
  • Nobody really cares

The last reason is hard to swallow. Can that possibly be true…or is it rather that people do not care enough?

My personal view is that Ghanaians have not mastered partnerships with each other. We are too focused on divisions and what makes us different. There is nothing more sobering and disheartening than having your views dismissed because “you don’t live in Ghana” and watching people muddle through what would be simpler to solve if we worked together. To that point, returnees don’t earn themselves any allies with their aloof attitudes and insular behavior. Again, this is another area where Kenyans have gotten it right and Ghanaians are steadfastly and committedly trudging down a broken winding road leading to mediocrity.

Discuss? ↓