This is the week every year that Ghanaians spend in nostalgia about a real or imagined glorious past depending on your age and your real life experiences as a Ghanaian.
This year's celebrations and the message from the president make me wish I lived in Dar es Salaam where President John Magufuli has dispensed with the charade of celebrating independence and applied the funds to more urgent needs. I have developed a previously unknown psychological state best described as "president envy" on the Freudian scale of unconscious possibilities.
I do not doubt for a minute that our President is a very hard working man but to suggest that Nkrumah's vision has been realized is either an attempt to amuse us or a sign of very serious disturbance in the man's relationship with reality as is experienced by most ordinary Ghanaians. The continued rise of mediocrity proceeds at an alarming pace. The failure of the organizing committee to deliver a grammatically and factually correct event brochure for the Ghana@59 celebrations speaks for itself.
I am more interested in H.E. Mahama's own vision and his game plan for transporting us to his own Canaan. Nkrumah's vision has not been attained either in Ghana or in Africa as a whole, largely because of an epidemic of horribly short-sighted leadership across the continent for at least 5 decades. Uganda’s Museveni is an on-going example.
On every metric, we are nowhere near Nkrumah's Ghana of the past or his vision for the future. We are energy insufficient, we do not have high quality universal education, we have one of the filthiest capitals on the continent, our universities are no longer the best in Africa, our railway system has collapsed, we have no national carrier, the Black Star Line is long gone and law abiding Ghanaians are viewed as an anachronism in our society. There is a complete breakdown of law and order because successive governments have failed to enforce our laws to support institutional growth and efficiency. We have moved from the major leagues to the minor leagues in so many aspects of national life.
If we are going to realize the vision of our founding president, we must first be truthful to ourselves in our assessment of our failures because without that, we will not find the appropriate prescriptions for our national malady.
The president must level with the people on the true state of affairs. The president invites us all to share in the failures of the leadership even though the people are bearing the brunt of the mess created by poor stewardship of our national affairs. It is now common place for barely literate party apparatchiks from both major parties to take to the airwaves and drown the contributions of many knowledgeable Ghanaians to the cheering admiration of listeners and viewers. As for the Nkrumaist parties, they are small, some are divided within themselves and they have so far been unable to overcome their differences to champion Nkrumah’s vision. How is Nkrumah's vision, which was rooted in academic rigor have been achieved when true evidence- based contributions are routinely dismissed for political expediency?
The 2016 State of the Nation (SONA) address was described as evidence - based by pundits, talking heads and journalists who clearly do not understand the very specific use of that term in social sciences and medicine. The gesture of inviting ordinary citizens who are beneficiaries of government programs added a nice touch to the proceedings but that is anecdotal evidence. That is the weakest level of evidentiary support for any program subject to an evaluation of its outcomes. The presentation of hard data with verifiable outcome measures is what constitutes an evidence based accounting of programs. That was largely absent from the SONA address. Not to digress, but the conduct of the parliamentarians during the SONA was nothing short of disgraceful. The disrespect shown to the president, Mr. Mahama, the holder of the highest office in the land and the legislative body itself was an all-time low for parliamentary history in Ghana. It was a vivid example of how professionalism has fled our imagination and our shores.
Let's not throw around words loosely. If journalists want to verify the data presented by the president, they should do so by actually going around the country and checking on the data presented to determine if it is factual. I for one, do not understand the statement,”123 of community day schools are in various stages of completion". Are most of them 90% complete or 15% complete? That is the level of evidence we are owed as taxpayers. Resolving such a conundrum is the work of real investigative journalism. This should not be difficult to achieve with all the photo - ready mobile technology available to us these days.
This is an election year so the Government's record should not be vaguely presented to the people. We are at a stage of development that requires truly skilled managers in many specialized fields to make Nkrumah's vision of an economy free of neo-colonial interests a reality. The country continues to operate in a crisis response mode instead of a manner guided by critical thinking, and population –based planning.
Our agricultural and manufacturing sectors which should be our bulwark against imports, are not organized and resourced enough to protect the value of our currency. Integration of these sectors, at various levels with the education system, should form the basis for planning to solve youth unemployment through human resource development in a manner syntonic with our needs as a nation. The education system stopped serving our development goals the moment it became politicized and requires a new review by educational experts to rescue it from the abyss within which it currently rests.
While all politics is said to be local, all economic activity must be understood to be global. Any product offered for local consumption or for export should be of the highest quality because the global market place is extremely competitive. Setting the highest standards and striving to achieve was central to our national ethos under Kwame Nkrumah. No excuses were made. He had significant management failures which should have been lessons for future presidents who followed. He fully invested in the children of Ghana and their future during his tenure. For the gift of the African Personality he must always be remembered.
We are still asleep and many are dreaming. You must be awake to have vision.
T. P. Manus Ulzen is Professor & Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, University of Alabama School of Medicine (Tuscaloosa Regional Campus) and author of “Java Hill: An African Journey”: A Historiography of Ghana.
March 7, 2016