"Nostalgia is not what it used to be."
(Swans - April 19, 2010) How time flies! So, fifty-three years have already gone by since our parents gathered to celebrate our freedom from colonialism!
Luckily for us, unlike in many parts of our dear continent, the bestial colonialists didn't shed copious amounts of blood of our compatriots in order to relinquish control of our brazenly stolen land; some of our fine patriots were killed, though -- may the ancestors grant them eternal rest.
But on the whole, our liberation was won on the political front rather than on the battlefield. Our leaders pitted their wits against those of the darned colonialists and they won -- many praises to them all.
So, fifty-three years later, it is the time to, once again, take stock. Fine speeches have been made by our leaders, mostly in unnecessary chest-beating and undeserved self-congratulations.
Please, let no one get me wrong; the very idea of our being free from colonial domination is enough reason, in itself, to celebrate.
Colonialism, whatever veneer its apologists are rendering, is a military conquest undertaken for purely economic domination. It was a war waged by depraved souls to steal our resources. No one colonises another people for purely altruistic reasons. Whatever "development" colonialists claimed to have wrought is purely incidental; the main focus remains the exploitation of the resources of the colonies. Hitler didn't build his super autobahns to make the conquered people enjoy good motoring.
At long last, the battle has ended! And thus, Ghana, your beloved country is free forever!
And yet again, I want to take the opportunity to thank the people of this country; the youth, the farmers, the women who have so nobly fought and won the battle.
Also, I want to thank the valiant ex-servicemen who have so cooperated with me in this mighty task of freeing our country from foreign rule and imperialism.
And, as I pointed out... from now on, today, we must change our attitudes and our minds. We must realise that from now on we are no longer a colonial, but free and independent people.
But also, as I pointed out, that also entails hard work. That new Africa is ready to fight his own battles and show that after all the black man is capable of managing his own affairs.
We are going to demonstrate to the world, to the other nations, that we are prepared to lay our foundation -- our own African personality.
As I said to the Assembly a few minutes ago, I made a point that we are going to create our own Africa personality and identity. It is the only way we can show the world that we are ready for our own battles.
But today, may I call upon you all, that on this great day let us all remember that nothing can be done unless it has the purport and support of God.
We have won the battle and again rededicate ourselves ... OUR INDEPENDENCE IS MEANINGLESS UNLESS IT IS LINKED UP WITH THE TOTAL LIBERATION OF AFRICA.
Let us now, fellow Ghanaians, let us now ask for God's blessing for only two seconds, and in your thousands and millions.
I want to ask you to pause for only one minute and give thanks to Almighty God for having led us through our difficulties, imprisonments, hardships and sufferings, to have brought us to our end of troubles today. One minute of silence.
Ghana is free forever! And here I will ask the band to play the Ghana National Anthem.
Reshaping Ghana's destiny, I am depending on the millions of the country, and the chiefs and the people, to help me to reshape the destiny of this country. We are prepared to pick it up and make it a nation that will be respected by every nation in the world.
We know were going to have difficult beginnings, but again, I am relying on your support.... I am relying upon your hard work.
Seeing you in this... It doesn't matter how far my eyes go, I can see that you are here in your millions. And my last warning to you is that you are to stand firm behind us so that we can prove to the world that when the African is given a chance, he can show the world that he is somebody!
We have awakened. We will not sleep anymore. Today, from now one, there is a new African in the world!
How time flies! So, it is already fifty-three since the Osagyefo, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, thundered those words to our elated ears!
As fate would have it, I spent this year anniversary -- March 6, 2010 -- in Paris to celebrate with the Ghanaian community in France.
Traveling from the Dutch city of Amsterdam to Paris starkly reveals how much we have betrayed the ideals enunciated by our Founding Father.
In the course of the journey, we crossed two borders (between the Netherlands and Belgium and between Belgium and France), but it was hardly noticeable since there were no border posts; no immigration, no customs and excise, and no police check points.
The distance between Amsterdam and Paris is 515 km, which is about 100 km less than the distance between Accra and Lagos. But while it took us about five hours to make the trip to Paris, a journey from Accra to Lagos will consume the better half of a whole day.
Let's not talk about the superhighway that we traversed throughout the journey from Amsterdam to Paris, but travelling within our ECOWAS (Economic Community Of West African States) sub-region remains a nightmarish experience for our folks, despite all the pronunciations by our leaders over the years.
Not only are most of our roads not up to par, but citizens are still routinely harassed, beaten, and swindled by the criminals we put in the official uniforms of police, immigration, customs and what else have you. On the Ghana side of the Ghana-Togo border, non-Ghanaians have to pay two Ghana cedis (2GHC) to pass through Ghana to Togo. On the other side, Togolese officials are eagerly waiting to collect another illegal toll. Beninois officials are also waiting to collect theirs at Hilla Condji (the border town between Togo and the Benin Republic). Coming to Seme, the border town between Benin and Nigeria, is enough to give one a heart attack -- what with all those armed hooligans, some in uniforms, some in mufti, the Nigerians have deployed to make life miserable to all and sundry!
Seme remains the craziest border post yours truly has ever passed through.
It galls greatly when what people take for granted in other lands has become a major production in Africa. Nkrumah told us that our independence is meaningless unless it's directly linked to the independence of the whole of Africa. How well-intentioned, but sadly, how well betrayed!
The saddest part is that it's mainly only Africans who are subjected to the daily indignities at our border posts. Asians, Arabs, and Europeans are all accorded due respect while our officials continue to treat with disdain anyone with black skin.
Travelling through West Africa makes it starkly plain that we Africans remain our own worst enemies. It also shows how far deep the colonialists succeeded in destroying our psyche. Nowhere else do people suffer the same self-negation we continue to see in our beloved continent.
And we dare say that we are free!
Back to France. The night of March 6, 2010, was criminally cold but that didn't stop the Parisians from trooping out to enjoy all the lovelies their great city has to offer. The well-kept sidewalks were packed full with frolicking walkers. Despite the cold, the nightlife of Paris bubbled with virile enthusiasm. The streets were rendered in pungent technicolor with the great Seine River suffused in a glowing halo.
Pardon the cliché, but Paris at night is a sight to take one's breath away -- it was like watching a movie!
The Eiffel Tower didn't disappoint at all. It was bathed in a mellowed golden glow atop which sat a soft blue/pink saber softly caressing the dark Paris night.
Like all sane people, the French appreciate a good thing when they see it; thousands of them were there to admire the beautiful sight that has made their city so popular throughout the world.
As much as I enjoyed the beautiful sight of Paris, I cannot help noticing the gnawing anger as to why our leaders in Africa never think of building aesthetically-pleasing things to bequeath to us as legacies. Why do African leaders consistently fail to build some things just to make us enjoy life small-small -- as we say in West Africa? Why do we continue to have leaders who are totally incapable of dreaming big dreams?
Why do we in Africa continue to be cursed with self-seeking leaders who have no intention of providing us with good leadership? It is said that the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams; why then do African leaders lack the wisdom and the capacity to dream big dreams?
I tried to address this issue in a recent article.
Our president, in his wisdom, after telling us that he never promised to put money in our pockets, offered to build offices for members of Parliament at their constituencies. He also ordered that our MPs should be given diplomatic passports. That was after he had given each one of them US$50,000 as a car loan!
I say good luck to them.
The Good Lord knows that I begrudge no one her privileges. What is, however, gnashing at me is the knowledge that our leaders are frequent travelers to other parts of the world. They venture out and see what other leaders are doing to improve the material lives of their people. They go out and enjoy all the conveniences the other societies are providing for their people, and they return back to our shores only to battle for their personal comfort -- a car loan, a house, an office, and now a diplomatic passport!
Which among our 320 MPs have built a single library in her/his constituency? How many of them have thought of building a museum to chronicle the history of her/his people? How many of them have plans for a park, a swimming pool, or any other thing that the ordinary people can enjoy?
But for the foresight and the vision exhibited by the Osagyefo, Ghana today would be in total darkness. His Akosombo Dam continues to provide the bulk of our electricity! Yet, he joined the ancestors without a single building to his name -- what a salutary lesson in selfless leadership!
However, we are not ungrateful; his name is engraved in pure gold in the sand of our history.
How many of our current crop of leaders would be remembered after they left office? Maybe it's time they take leave from their maddened, conspicuous, and very primitive accumulation to ponder this -- if they are capable of pondering anything at all, that is.
Our situation is really more than sad when we sit down to consider it! What legacies are we bequeathing to our children? Are we going to tell them that we just pass through life without making any positive impact? Our chiefs and elders have not only sold off all the land; our governments have also sold all the minerals underneath, making our children truly dispossessed.
And yet we beat our chests in empty celebration of our sham independence!
Today, thanks to the Internet, our children have access to what is happening all over the world. They can compare us to what other people are doing in their societies. They surely will find us wanting. Do we then expect to continue to command their respect?
The Independence bash in Paris itself was great, the music was fantastic, the cultural display marvelous, and there were lots of beautiful ladies to make a man happy (sexism anyone?), but have we not seen it all before? For how long shall we continue to play the happy-go-lucky?
Nkrumah enjoined us in his speech: "But also, as I pointed out, that also entails hard work. That new Africa is ready to fight his own battles and show that after all the black man is capable of managing his own affairs. We are going to demonstrate to the world, to the other nations, that we are prepared to lay our foundation -- our own African personality."
Any honest appraisal will reveal that we have honoured this pledge only in the breach. The current leaders in our land are once again in cahoots with the IMF and the World Bank after telling us, when they were in opposition, that the Bretton Woods institutions were evil personified.
A few years ago, these institutions rendered an apology on the terrible costs their neo-colonial policies have wrought around our continent.
These policies did nothing except to totally deindustrialise Africa, exponentially increase our debt burden, render our currencies inutile, wipe out our middle class (the creator's of wealth), enlarge our unemployment figures, increase our dependency on "aid" (70 percent of Ghana's budget depends on donors' support), ensure the sell-off of our national assets at thieving prices, deepen our neo-colonial status, and allow all the gains of political independence to be wiped out by the new economic imperialism.
A former chief economist of the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, has since came out to denounce the policies that have been foisted on Africa, yet today the twin institutions are up there "advising" our leaders. And we are celebrating!
Are we really demonstrating to the world, or even ourselves, that we are capable of managing our own affairs as the Osagyefo demanded? This is the mother and father of all the questions we ought to be asking ourselves. What in our dear land today belongs to us? That's another important question we are not asking ourselves. The gold fields have been sold out long ago. No one told us how much was accrued to us in the sales. And today no one is telling us how much of the newly-found oil belongs to us with some suggesting that we are going to get as little as 10% of the revenues; there has been no denial from the government.
Why exactly is the whole oil business masked in such opaqueness? Ours is supposed to be a democracy -- government of the people, by the people, and for the people, right? If there is no serious hanky-panky involved, why can't our leaders publish any and all contracts signed on behalf of the republic? After all, our leaders are forever shouting "Transparency, transparency."
Fifty-three years are gone; there is nothing we can do to bring back that which is lost. We can only endeavor not to squander the coming years in the ways and manners we wasted the preceding years. The world expects better from us, and our children certainly deserve better.
A voice from Africa worth hearing... Please consider a
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About the Author
Femi Akomolafe (see his profile on Swans) is a computer consultant, a writer and social commentator, an avid reader, and a passionate Pan-Africanist who lives in Kasoa, Ghana. Femi is known to hold strong opinions and to express them in the strongest terms possible. As he likes to remind his readers: "As my Yoruba people say: Oju orun teye fo, lai fara gbara. It means that the sky is big enough for all the birds to fly without touching wings." Femi Akomolafe's views, opinions, and thoughts can be accessed on the blog he maintains: http://ekitiparapo.blogspot.com/. (back)