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SIXTY YEARS OF NATIONHOOD: ACHIEVEMENTS, CHALLENGES AND THE WAY FORWARD

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

 

An Indian proverb admonishes that: “If you are 50 years of age and you have no patience then life has not taught you any wisdom.”  The objective of this write-up is to make some basic observations as to how the affairs of this rich land has been managed or mismanaged in the last 60 years. It is common knowledge that in Ghana, public servants proceed on leave for compulsory retirement at age 60. 

 

It implies that if Ghana were to be a human being, she would have reached her pensionable age on March 6, 2017. Are Ghanaians happy about the achievements their country over the past 60 years? 


The fact that Ghana is such a blessed land, endowed with magnificent human capital and immeasurable natural resources including gold, diamond, bauxite, timber, cocoa, arable lands, fresh rivers as well as well as oil and gas, yet majority of people continue to wallow in abject poverty, most citizens may not be too proud of her achievements after 60 years of nationhood. But does it mean that the country did not make any progress at all since independence in 1957?   

 

Records show that at the time of independence in 1957, only about six million people were living in Ghana. Today, 60 years later, the country’s population is estimated to be over 27 million or so. These are some factors that ought to be taken into account when analyzing the socio-economic and political progress of the nation.

 

It is also important to analyze the achievements of Ghana from the historical perspective within the context of the Africa continent. Ghana, like most of African countries, succumbed to the ravages of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade that depleted its human stock for over 400 years (15th -18th centuries). It is common knowledge that the slave trade led to the total underdevelopment of the African continent. In fact, most of the slave castles of the West coast of Africa including Elmina Castle built by the Portuguese in 1482 and the Cape Coast Castle built in 1662 are all located in Ghana.

 

Besides these atrocious treatments of human against his fellow human, the then Gold Coast went through further excruciating pain of colonization for another 100 years or so.  It was against this backdrop that when Ghana wrenched her independence from the colonial Britain in 1957, she became the first black African country south of the Sahara under the charismatic leadership of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah to have achieved that feat.  

 

Undoubtedly, Ghana has chalked up some successes in some sectors of the economy such as education, agriculture, health and so on for the past 60 years. For example, at the time of independence, the only university in the country was the University College of the Gold Coast, now University of Ghana, Legon.

 

Today, within a relatively short span of 60 years of independence, Ghana can boast of at least eight or so traditional public universities. They include the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi; the University of Cape Coast, University of Education, Winneba, University for Development Studies, Tamale, University of Mines and Technology, Tarkwa, University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ho, University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani and the University of Professional Studies, Accra.

 

Others are Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Ghana Institute of Languages (GIL), Ghana University College of Technology (GUCT) and the recently upgraded Polytechnics into Technical Universities in most of all the ten regions of the country. Further, a new public University of Environment and Sustainable Development (UESD) is under construction in the Eastern Region. As for the private universities, one can count over 30 of them. They are playing no mean a role to the advancement of the educational progress of the country.   

 

Without counting the over 38 Colleges of Education, numerous Nursing Training Colleges, Technical and Vocational Institutes, over 400 senior high schools and not mentioning a numerous junior high schools both public and private, it should not be far from the truth, to say that Ghana has made a tremendous progress in the field of education within the last 60 years.

 

But as far as the country’s youth population continues to grow at an alarming rate, one cannot be too proud of this achievement unless all children of school going age are actually in the class rooms. This is why politicians must stop paying lip service to “Free, Compulsory, Universal, Basic Education” as mandated by the 1992. I place premium on the education sector because education is key to development. And any nation that neglects the education of its citizens should forget about rapid socio-economic development. This explains why the current government’s determination to implement the Free Senior High School programe in September 2017/2018 academic years is heartwarming.  

 

In the area of health care, the evidence is there for all to see.  Successive governments have made and continue to make efforts to provide quality health care to the citizenry since independence. . At least the past 60 years have seen some of the state of the art medical facilities such as the Greater Accra Ridge hospital, the recently commissioned Medical Centre at the University of Ghana Legon, in addition to the Korlebu, Komfo Anokye and Tamale Teaching Hospitals and others under construction is some other regional capital across the nation are commendable.

 

But what does it benefit a nation if it can boast of gigantic and picturesque hospital buildings but its citizens are swimming in the sea of filths while others are dying of communicable diseases like cholera at the threshold of the 21st century?  Did I read somewhere the other day that Ghana is 2nd on the league table of open defecation in Africa or globally? What a shame? After 60 years of independence, the country could have done better in health care and sanitation. Most of the country’s beaches do not attract any tourists when it rains. If we citizens of this beautiful land do not change our attitude toward sanitation, even the Master Jesus Christ cannot cast away that evil spirit of sanitation in us into pigs.

 

Road infrastructure is one sector of the economy that has seen appreciable improvement in the last 60 years especially in many regional capitals including the capital city of Accra. Any Ghanaian citizen who has been away for the past ten years or more will not be able to recognize certain places of the Accra if he or she returns today.
 

 

For example, from the Kotoka Airport to the Airport City area, which is now a cluster of skyscrapers by our standard, a citizen who has been out of the ‘coverage area’ for the past twenty years or so, will be mesmerized on arrival. As for the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Interchange a.ka. “Dubai” it may take a taxi driver to point out the direction of Kaneshie from the Vodafone end of the interchange to a visitor or citizen who has been away for the last ten years. This is something achieved in last 60 years, but we could have still do better, though.

 

Objectively, one particular sector of the economy that some observers feel Ghana could not do well at all in the past 60 years is agriculture. It is unbelievable to think that a country that prides itself as an agriculture country, cannot adequately feed itself. How come a country of vast arable lands with abundant rivers and water bodies of fresh water should have its children go to bed without one square meal a day? The first time this writer got to know that Ghanaian market women had to travel to Burkina Faso to buy fresh tomatoes and vegetables to sell in Ghana, he could not believe his ears.

 

For the purpose of this article, it may be relevant to share this personal experience with the reader. In October 2011, I participated in a training programme for ECOWAS science journalists in Abuja, Nigeria. Theme for the workshop was “Making ICT more accessible for the development of Africa” I was to speak from the point of view of the Ghanaian experience.

 

During the open forum, there ensued a fierce debate between a Nigerian Professor and myself. The bone of contention was that, the Professor was of the view that Africa had done very well in terms of the use of science and technology for the development of the continent. But I held a contrary view. As the argument became hotter and hotter, I used a very simple analogy not to defeat him, but to make him agree with me.

 

I asked the learned Professor to take a critical look at countries like Israel and Singapore for instance, in terms of scientific and technological advancement as compared with the situation in Africa. I only focused on food production in the two countries. I pointed out that, I was told that Israel has no arable lands per se. That they have only an average of ten days of rain fall in the whole year. Yet, they were able to produce enough food not only to feed themselves but to export as well.

 

The reader may click on this link to read about how Israelis and Arabs are turning barren lands into green belts in the Middle East: http://www.timesofisrael.com/in-the-barren-south-israelis-and-arabs-work-to-green-the-middle-east/#.WIciBS10zp0.gmail.

 

Then I related the situation in Singapore. Fortunately, I have had the privilege of visiting Singapore before. And I was amazed to realise that, even though Ghana obtained independence in 1957, about nine years before Singapore attained her independence in 1965, the scientific and technological advancement of that country was beyond compare.

 

Singapore is a city state that has no land even to cultivate. They plant tomatoes in the air. They themselves have a joke that “because we have no lands, we sleep on top of one another.” In other words, they have no choice but to make sure all their apartment buildings move vertically towards the skies only. Unlike Ghana where individuals have the luxury to build their houses horizontally, spreading uncontrollably like, say, from Kasoa to Winneba in no time.

 

Thus, I contended that if Singapore or Israel was to be allocated the arable lands we have in Ghana, they would feed the entire world as well. Eventually, the learned Professor concurred with me and the debate ended amicably.

 

Why couldn’t make effective use of her resources in the last 60 years? It would be recalled that in the early 1960s, Ghana was the number one cocoa producing country in the world. Today, Ghana is trailing behind Cote d’Ivoire. So, what went wrong with Ghana’s agriculture? Ghanaian women had to travel to some land-locked countries like Burkina Faso to buy vegetables to sell to citizens of this blessed land to eat.
 

 

Some observers are of the opinion that military coup d’états are one of the major causes of Ghana’s retrogression since independence. Another worse factor was and continues to be corruption. If within a relative short period of Nkrumah’s rule from 1957 to 1966, the country was able to achieve so much, including, Akosombo Dam, Tema motorway, Tema Harbour and others, the country should have done better in 60 years.

 

For Ghana to move forward in the next 60 years, it is suggested that the Ghanaian military who are gurus in their chosen profession nationally and internationally should no longer have anything to do with politics. When it comes to international peace-keeping duties, they have no classmates in Africa. They must be allowed to defend and protect humanity. Period!

 

Again, Ghana can make tremendous socio-economic progress in the next 60 years if corruption can be reduced to the barest minimum across board. Fortunately, since the advent of 1992 constitution, Ghana has become an icon of democracy and political stability in Africa.

 

Hopefully, if this democratic governance system chosen by the people of Ghana for themselves by themselves is maintained, sustained and supported by strong, independent and vibrant media, Ghana will be a paradise to live in by the next 60 years of nationhood.

 

The author works with Information Services Department (ISD)   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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