Last Tuesday, 24th May 2016, I attended the 10th Anniversary Celebration of both the birthday and passing of the late, great; the handsome, charming, outstanding Ghanaian Historian and Statesman, Prof. Albert Kwadwo Adu Boahen. That he was born and died on the same date is remarkable and historical in its’ own right. There isn’t a hyphen between Adu and Boahen. I always thought there was one and to only now discover that there isn’t one is an indicting certificate of lack of observation on my part. Unlike most “Celebrations of Life” characterized by revelry and excesses of food and drink, this was an academic and sober event. But there were some really good wines and delicious canapés to be had.
At Mfantsipim, Prof. Adu Boahen’s quiet eldest son Kwabena “Buster”, now a Bioengineering Professor, was a year my senior. His beautiful eldest child and daughter Cynara, the cynosure of many eyes, who had me weak-kneed in my freshman year was two years ahead of our class at the Law Faculty, ‘Legon’. His imperious, number crunching son Charles, had the misfortune of going to Achimota School, but his father wisely remedied this and he gate-crashed Mfantsipim for 6th Form. We share a beer every so often. His other children, Christopher and Freda, I hardly know but I’m told they possess the same acute academic excellence presumably handed down by their father to the elder three. They are all excellent achievers in their own right, but one cannot mention their surname “Adu Boahen” without arousing respectful thoughts of this great scholar and patriot. His book; Topics in West African History was our “Bible” as O’ Level History students. I learnt by rote the history of the Oyo, Mali and Songhai Empires through Prof.
I’ve digressed. The truly ‘distinguished’ speakers at the event made the commemoration a nostalgic history lesson, a stimulating academic discourse and a fitting memorial to a great academic, warrior and statesman. What Adu Boahen stood for through the years, from his days at Legon editing the Legon Observer, his anti corruption, anti bad governance stand that culminated in his 1988 lecture which he confronted the “Culture of Silence” among Ghanaians towards the totalitarian PNDC regime, does not need to be, and cannot be recounted here. It is trite knowledge.
I’m unable to attempt a critique of the various lively and educative presentations made that evening being a bit ‘brain dead’, but H. Kwesi Prempeh’s observation, disappointment and sadness that the Ghanaian middle class is failing the nation earned my attention and shame, and is my focus here. I hope our dour newspapers and news web pages will look for his paper and the other papers presented and publish them. H. Kwesi Prempeh lamented the fact that the educated Ghanaian middle class has abandoned its proud past and its incumbent duty of keeping government on track by calling government to order when it errs, confronting government when it acts contra to the best interests of our nation and educating our people on what government and its institutions ought to be doing and what the people themselves should expect and demand from government. The Ghanaian middle class has reneged on and ceded these duties to think tanks and civil society organizations reliant on foreign donors for support, rabid, entrenched, painfully biased and often unschooled political party representatives, agenda setting radio stations controlled by unfailingly biased politicians and poorly balanced and ill resourced TV stations and newspapers. These ‘groups’ have now taken over the space that ought to be the preserve of a discerning, concerned, strong and independent middle class. These groups hold sway and direct our politics, governance issues, economic and other debate and hold us all to ransom. Our news is dominated by scandal and fleeting analysis. Intellectual challenge and discourse independent of political strings has been relegated to a backroom. Our middle class is fragmented and preoccupied with personal self preservation and survival with no real effort at/or sense of duty to protect the common good. I agree with H.K. Prempeh 100%.
Who can argue with the fact that the Ghana Bar Association has lost its dentures or that the Ghana Medical Association must, given its thorough understanding of our healthcare requirements, insist, that our health sector grows in a particular trajectory and that, it, and not some inexperienced politician, driven by unharnessed enthusiasm and private gain should call the basic shots regarding our health policy and where hospitals should be situated, etc? Shouldn’t the Ghana Institute of Engineers put relentless pressure on the AMA to take urgent infrastructural and fearless, ‘damn the political consequences’ steps to avoid flooding in Accra and ‘name and shame’ the AMA by publishing its recommendations on how to tackle the Accra flood problem in the newspapers for all to see ? After Ghana’s 2014 World Cup disgrace, the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) issued a statement in which it asked for disciplinary sanctions to be taken against our errant players. Should the ‘misconduct’ of a bunch of young players (whose folly may truly have hurt our national pride) be the GBA’s priority? Shouldn’t sustained basic legal education on citizens’ legal rights, confronting human rights abuses and tackling corruption, preoccupy the GBA more than World Cup disaster? Our professional bodies, dominated by the middle class must go beyond glitzy annual dinners and conferences and constantly hold government, state institutions and actors accountable for things that lie within their ambit.
Beyond these organized professional bodies, our middle class, also grouped in social clubs like Rotary International, Zonta, Lions Club, other societies like Freemasons, Churches and Church groups and social and Keep-Fit clubs provide worthy help to the needier members of society through good charitable causes. But they do not confront the ills of society, the thievery manifested in the Smarttys, SADA and Woyome scandals to name a few. Their members are the crème of our society, educated and discerning, but whilst their members privately lament the ills of government, corruption, nepotism and bad governance, they make no effort, either as groups, or as individuals with conviction, to confront these ills. What prevents our middle class from picketing, distributing leaflets, going on marches, releasing press statements, presenting position papers on specific sectors, organizing press conferences etc to draw attention of our suffering people to the ills plaguing our district assemblies, government departments and ministries and the abuse of our resources and other abuses of public office or to urge them to take action in matters etc?
We are failing our country and its people. We must get off the fence! Our people must have a “credible” voice beyond our political parties to stand up for them, to ‘fight’ for them. We must leave our comfort zone. Huge cash donations and material and other support for charitable causes such as orphanages and public toilets is good, thank you, but it does not match a rigorous anti corruption and anti bad governance stance. We require a determined fight against the careless use and plunder of our states resources, the near total disregard of our public procurement processes, criminal padding of government contract sums and bare faced thievery. It is thieving which causes the squalor, helplessness and deprivation our social clubs and church groups try futilely to cure with their donations. We must go to the source of the fester; government and its institutions. Commit a fraction of your money, resources and time and direct your energy to fighting recklessness in government, lack of respect for proper procedures, wanton breaches of procurement processes, abuse of public office etc. Ghana needs that from you. It is NOT politics!!
But my call is not limited to our selfish middle class alone. It is to you, the educated Ghanaian who can read and write and understand the issues and problems we face as a people, you who can discern good governance from bad, vile propaganda from fact, you who knows the painfully negative consequences of state sponsored, promoted and emboldened thievery such as the smelly and indefensible Smarttys’ deal; you who knows that leadership must be open, honest and accountable, you, who are pained by stories of corruption and bad governance practices in government and its institutions. You must stop lamenting corruption, poor governance, and the desecration of our state institutions by our leaders and appointees and uncaring public servants, with your peers, family and on social media and do something about it.
Ghana needs your input and energy. You need to go beyond your comfort zone and sacrifice something for Ghana. Ghana is rotting. The Ghana of selfless patriots and visionaries like Kwame Nkrumah and J.B. Danquah is rotting. There are no rigorous benchmarks for state actors. Anything goes as they say. The recent disgraceful Independence Anniversary Brochure saga and the filthy Smarttys deal, both of which were trivialized by the President is a painful indictment on us as a people and a good measure of how we’ve sunk. This call is not a partisan or political call. We ought to do the right thing and it is not the preserve of our political leaders, government functionaries and our largely compromised public and civil servants to tell us what is right.
Accidents like the recent Yeji boat disaster can be avoided if educated and knowledgeable people resident in those areas with expertise in health and safety practices in boat transportation practices form an advocacy body that keeps the operators of these boats, district assemblies and the police on their toes by ensuring that they constantly adhere to safety practices. These boat disasters occur every year and are attributable to the same preventable causes. Why? Why, since the June 3, 2015 disaster, haven’t we seen the emergence of an advocacy body to recommend and help implement health and safety practices and point out the flagrant disregard for safety at our fuel stations and LPG stations? Don’t we have experts willing to help draw up guidelines and ensure the relevant ministries, departments and assemblies implement them? Every aspect of our national practices needs review, improvement and fine tuning. It is only a committed, independent, educated citizenry that can ensure that.
Work for yourself, secure your family’s future and a good retirement, but please donate some of your expertise, energy and conviction to the cause of Ghana. Form a small group of like minded people, set out your agenda, and prosecute it.
Prof. Adu Boahen did his bit. Brighten your corner.
Source: Johnny Blukoo-Allotey/[email protected]
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