*Stick with me Atlanta readers. This post is about Ghana, but it concerns you too!*
Over the last few weeks, there has been much ado about the lack of respect for Ghana’s leadership and in particular, for the office of the presidency. Several members of parliament, a smattering of traditional leaders and now recently, presidential staffer, Sam George have made plaintive noises about Ghanaians’ absence of regard for the country’s leadership core. They complain that people “get up” and make “any sort of statement” they wish about the presidency. This ought not be so, in their estimation. Fair enough.
I for one believe that we must respect the office of the presidency – or the office of anyone appointed, elected and/or entrusted with a leadership position over our lives and land. I also believe that it is incumbent upon those who occupy these positions whether it be for 4-8 years (or a lifetime) to respect themselves AND that office as well. The only way to earn the respect of others is to have at least a modicum of respect for oneself first…and Ghana’s leadership at ALL levels is suffering from a severe deficiency in that area.
The primary problem with Ghanaians (and many African nations) is that we misinterpret the term and definition of “respect”. To respect someone means to have a feeling of admiration or a recognition that they are valuable, important or good. There is an understanding, based on the previous deeds of this person, that they are serious and therefore must be treated in an appropriate way. The “African” definition of respect is fealty, obsequiousness and credulity. Elders do not want to be questioned or challenged not because they are wise, but because they have occupied space on the Earth for a particular number of years. Presidents and MPs want an unquestioning, servile, and silently longsuffering populace to perform at their whim and fancy, not because they have the best interest of the nation at heart, but because they won an election (or overthrew another government by the gun) and think it obedience is theirs by “right”. Again I say, the problem with Ghana’s leadership is that they have done too little to earn the nations respect.
Respect is earned, it is not a gift.
There are too many examples of how Ghanaian leadership has portrayed itself as a band of clowns at a circus and shamed our country repetitively and globally. I wouldn’t be able to contain them all in one blog. However, I know it is imperative to detail at least a few examples so that the leadership can see itself from our eyes and work on doing better. I am merely holding up a mirror!
1. Your public Facebook profile, which is accessible to your counterparts globally, has you listed as “Former Aide to D Chief of Staff”. D Chief of Staff. You don’t even respect your title enough to present yourself professionally to the world.
2. Our (current) president takes pictures in front of CNN logos like he’s on a secondary school Yankee safari.
3. In 2011 our former president, John Kufuor took time out of his presidential schedule to meet with broadcast journalist Forrest Sawyer discuss how AMAZEBALLS Ghana was. “You can even walk around with a $100 bill in your teeth, and no one will rob you!” President Kufuor proudly proclaimed! That wasn’t true then, and it certainly isn’t true now. But that’s not the point. The point is, why is our president meeting with a guy who has no real influence on travel and tourism? And furthermore, isn’t that what the culture and tourism minister and his/her entire team are for?
4. Anita De Sousa tried to convince the entire nation that dwarfs and juju – not market fluctuations or failed fiscal policy – were responsible for the decline of the cedi. No really. Black magic caused the currency’s decline, according to this woman.
5. The entire world watched and mocked as our football team, the Black Stars, held the Ghana government hostage when they refused to play their second game at the World Cup because they had not been paid their promised appearance fee. Personally, I was proud of them for using their leverage, but it’s awful that they were put in a position by an untrustworthy government where they felt compelled to.
6. The (un)official response to the cholera outbreak was nothing if not laughable. Remember when your favorite Accra mayor ordered the burning down of the makeshift homes of the slum village behind Arts Center, leaving dozens of families homeless? Who could forget? It was monstrous. It was barbaric. It was inhumane. Oh… and it didn’t solve the cholera outbreak.
7. Oh gosh. The bribes. The corruption! They are so many. The Soli 100 bribes. The 13 vehicles presented the members of the National House of Chiefs bribes. SADA. GYEEDA. Acronyms that translate into millions of dollars that should have gone into infrastructure that have instead vaporized into some “honorable” man/woman’s pockets. We know this because Victoria Hammah fully expected not to retire from politics until she had made at least a million dollars. Poor, poor Victoria.
8. The insistence on racing to the bottom and striving for mediocrity. Ghana was ranked 76th out of 76 on global school rankings. The Minister of Education’s official response was to: (i) decry the results as presenting a ‘false’ picture (ii) dismiss the results because it did not list every country in the world (because if Somalia had been on the list, Ghana surely never would have placed last!) (iii) derail the conversation by pointing out how many of Ghana’s children have access to education, while we completely ignore the poor quality of that education, thus ensuring that we will remain 76th out of 76 forever.
9. In the midst of President John Mahama’s “Buy Made in Ghana” campaign, Parliament has AGAIN ordered furniture and other fittings for the Job 600 office complex for Members of Parliament from China. This time, Majority Leader Alban Bagbin has boldly asserted that importing furniture will “preserve the nation’s dwindling forests”. Deforestation is a major problem in Ghana, and we’ve lost thousands of hectares of forest growth without any conservation or replanting efforts. But please, let’s be serious. Ordering chairs from our neo-colonial masters is not going to save our forests. Parliament is merely diverting monies that should go into our R&D and manufacturing industries and giving it away. What does Ghana get in return for you settling your black bum in a chair made in China?
Atlanta, this one is for you. Watch this video. Just watch it! I have some friends who have said that Phaedra Parks was wrong to put then VP John Mahama on blast. (This episode came out 2-4 years ago, I believe. I watched it when it first aired but it’s just now making the rounds on social media.) Look. Phaedra is a reality TV star, and has no control over what footage Bravo or any other network decides to air from the 24 hour cycles in which they are consistently filming her. The problem isn’t that Ms. Parks did a monologue about her conversation with our VP-now-president, the problem is that common Phaedra Parks has unfettered access to his cell phone! This is like Afia Schwarzenegger having access to President Obama’s private cell phone and putting it on Channel O for the world to see. How was this allowed to even be possible???
You see what we mean, Mr. President and co.? You lot don’t even respect yourselves. How are we now supposed to manufacture respect for you? Please find some time to unearth some dignity so that we can get Ghana back on course to reclaiming her past glory. We are 400 years behind the mark. We are still stuck in medieval mind frames. Too many people actually believe (because this is what YOU have told us) that God will miracle a solar grid or hydro-electric dam from the sky if we pray hard enough. We don’t have the facilities to treat the mentally infirm because you’re spending that money to import Italian cars and Chinese chairs. I even spared you the agony of mentioning dumsor. But no, seriously, enough with the lies and the excuses. #DumsorMustStop.
You have disgraced yourselves and your positions, and we will not be bullied into silence for pointing it out. Ghanaians will keep demanding better, and you ought to want to do and BE better. Over to you.