On The Eve of 56 years of Ghana’s Independence

On the eve of Ghana’s 56th Independence Day, I went to town and made the following observations about the true state of our nation Ghana. Our founding fathers who sought for Ghana to be truly independent I am sure will be turning in their graves.

First off, I woke up with no electricity. The Akosombo hydro-electric dam that had been built by the nation’s founder Dr Kwame Nkrumah still remains the main source of energy. The energy that used to cater for a few million Ghanaians now caters for several more millions 50 times over and present and past governments have not seen it fit to expand the electricity that Ghanaians use. It is however interesting that Ghana has still not abrogated its contract of supplying electricity to its neighbors Burkina Faso and Benin who have recently sent a delegation to the president of Ghana seeking to appeal for more electricity to be supplied to them, with population increases and other reasons, when Ghana itself is going through a load shedding due to inadequate supply. Ironic really!

Putting on a shirt that isn’t too crumpled, I jump into my jeans and I head off to town. It is only when I step out of my house that I hear most radio stations playing a particular voice. It seems as if all stations are tuned in to that voice and I notice folk with transistor radios listening with rapt attention. It is only then that I am reminded that it is the presentation of the budget to parliament and the nation by the Minister of Finance. I laugh softly to myself when the thought occurs to me that most of the people listening with such rapt attention hardly understand half the economic jargons the minister is going to say.

I also get a flashback to the day before when a friend of mine, a journalist had put up a post on social media to weigh public opinion on what to expect from the budget and another friend had replied “2013 budget: blah blah blah blah yeah! Yeah!” That is to say that what the minister will say about the budget was going to be a lot of hogwash but then the majority in parliament will say it’s the best budget ever and the minority will probably be bearing placards that read “STEALERS”.

As for me my contribution to his opinion poll post was to say that I did not even know that the budget was going to be presented on the eve of Ghana’s Independence Day but the significance was not lost on me especially with the recent hike in fuel prices which has had a rippling effect on the prices of goods and services in the country.

I smiled all the way as I sat in the trotro and used my phone to connect to the internet to see what people were saying about the budget being presented. Unfortunately there was next to nothing on all social media sites and my prognosis was right that Ghanaians did not really care what was in the budget anymore. It was for the bureaucrats to deal with and not the ordinary Ghanaian. Somehow I was disappointed but in many ways I was happy that Ghanaians have come to realize that they did not have confidence in the government of the day or any government for that matter.

My destination for the morning was to go shopping for African jewelry for a good friend of mine who lives in the States and wanted authentic African jewelry to highlight her origins in Ghana. In many instances, some people will head for the Centre for Arts and National Culture which had been created by the selfsame Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to showcase our rich heritage and culture through arts and cultural artifacts. But there are other arts and cultural villages dotted all over Accra and Ghana and this time I headed for the one at Shiashie near the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange.

This art and cultural village has been in existence for years and it will interest my readers to note that even students in the University of Ghana, Legon which is 5minutes drive away do not know of its existence. This is because westernized living, culture and life forms have taken over our traditions and our youth have lost their bearing. On the eve of independence, there are no visible programs anywhere to showcase the struggle for independence. There is no platform set up visibly on the history of the country for the youth to know what kind of struggles were fought for them so they can enjoy the freedoms they call ‘swag’ of today. As Bob Marley said, ‘if we do not know our past, how do we know what our future holds for us?”

The first shop I entered in the craft village had carvings, beads and rusted machines. I was profoundly hit by the metaphor of the state of our nation Ghana. Here is a shop that once obviously had a thriving business but then here were trinkets lying about, beads scattered, machines left unattended and rusted and there was dust everywhere. Just under a tree, a few meters away, lay a young man who at that time of the morning was taking a nap. Can we relate that to any of our government agencies and ministries? Here I was, ready to spend money to buy artifacts, and the shop was just abandoned and the attendant lay snoring under a tree nearby. I just sighed and walked on.

It was my interaction with the next shop attendant and artist Danbo that made me realize the true state of events in the artist village. I realized that it was not my fault that business was not booming for them and they had been ignored so I could make the best bargains and the best deals with the little money I had in my pocket. It dawned on me then that this is exactly what the foreign investors come to do in Ghana and rape the nation and we have no say in the matter. They have the money we need to survive and being the astute businessmen that they are, they sign deals that are favorable to them. Usually we are so desperate that we do not even bother to read the fine print and just sign the deals. This is a recurring trend and a devious cycle that keeps haunting us from generation to generation.

It was a fun experience walking through the artist village and enjoying the creative ingenuity of African youth as they have carved pieces from wood and molded metal and made use of all sorts of materials to create art even drawings. But at the same time it was a sad time because on the eve of Ghana’s 56th independence day, to think that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah commissioned workable and useable Arts and Cultural centers all around Ghana, the present government is commissioning a gargantuan project that might turn out to be overambitious, The Hope Village which could very well turn out to be what it is aptly described to be ‘The African Dream’. Only posterity will be the judge of that. Let us all wait and see.

With one form of cultural heritage under my belt, I decided to feed my curiosity in another cultural heritage, music and headed for the National Theatre which was the venue of the Musicians Association of Ghana’s (MUSIGA) Ghana Music Week.

The week was slated to showcase 56 years of Ghana Music and as usual had been launched in pomp and pageantry. From the media hype that the Ghana Music Week had enjoyed, I had expected to see the National Theatre buzzing with activity but alas, I was reminded that this is Ghana.

Reports had indicated that the Ghana Music Week could be easily comparable to music festivals all over the world so I had expected to see a variety of music genres being showcased and even played simultaneously all around the theatre. The only obvious group present was a traditional cultural group just doing traditional dances that I found remarkably educative and entertaining if you know what to look out for in a traditional dance.

The other activity going on was Appietus music studio set up where some folk were playing loud music and just in there having fun and the stage being set for a concert of ‘Bless the Mike’ later on in the evening. The Bless the Mike concert was fun especially when Mutombo the Poet was invited on stage (during the ‘kasahari segment’)[i] to do his piece on ‘Finding HIpLife’ which coincided with showcasing the next generation of hip-life artists.

Ghanaian music has travelled a long way and I am happy that MUSIGA has taken a spearheading role to promote Ghanaian music both locally and abroad and check on copyright issues so musicians can benefit from their works. Musical artistes in Ghana are not appreciated for their works usually because of piracy and it is important that we all pitch in to help appreciate our own brand of music in Ghana.

From the National Theatre I decided to take a long walk through the streets of Accra. It is very fascinating and interesting to see Accra for what it is when you take a walk down the streets when they are less busy than they usually are during the day. Open drains flow freely into the streets, burst taps vomit out treated water into filthy drains, water hydrants leak freely, filth piled on the streets from daily activities and the best of all, late night food vending for the street dwellers.

Our nation Ghana, on the eve of its 56th independence day needs to wake up from its sleep in the shade. Juxtaposed to the refurbished and rebranded GOIL gas station is the Trades Union Congress (TUC) building which has not seen any renovation in a while with rusted air conditioners sticking out of windows like rusted tucks in the building. Just a few meters away is the Telecom giant TIGO with its magnificent blue glazed edifice. Need I say more?

But the most fascinating moment of the journey was joining my fellow street dwellers at a wayside eatery run by 3 northerners who in spite of the darkness (lights off) balanced torches between their head and shoulders, on their neck, to illuminate the food they were serving to de throng of people lining up to buy their food. The foods on the menu were egg sandwiches, noodles and jollof rice. In my opinion, people thronged to these guys not only because they were men trying to make a buck but also because the food was served hot at all times. The jollof was served direct from the coal pot on which the cauldron was placed and it was very affordable too.

My earlier statement that the average Joe did not need any government rhetoric in order to survive was epitomized by these young men, who had migrated from the northern regions to the capital and found a business for themselves. Whatever budget the government presents, they are in no position to understand half of it for it to make a difference in their lives.

But 56 years after independence, we still have a public transport system that works from 6am to 7pm and after that if you want to go anywhere you are virtually stranded like some market women I met on my walk from the National Theatre to Kaneshie.

They had waited to catch a trotro but since none was forthcoming they had to keep walking and hope to get to Kaneshie station to get a bus home. Even at Kaneshie there were more people waiting to catch a bus home and you would not believe how late it was. One would think it was early evening. Is this the kind of system Dr Nkrumah envisaged in his 7year Development plan after independence?

Well, these are my random thoughts as Ghana heads into celebrating another Independence Day. Will it all be about marching past and showcasing our incompetence and ignorance? Will our independence be reduced to just funfair with no recourse to building on our developments?

God has already blessed our homeland Ghana!

Long Live Our Motherland Ghana!

[i] Kasahari is the Twi word for rap

3 Responses to “On The Eve of 56 years of Ghana’s Independence”

  1. “Here I was, ready to spend money to buy artifacts, and the shop was just abandoned and the attendant lay snoring under a tree nearby. I just sighed and walked on.” Mmmm, what a powerful and apt visual analogy! Thank you for this insightful and engaging piece. I couldn’t stop reading! I look forward to reading more! I hope you found what you were looking for for your friend 😉

  2. Yes, we are desperate to survive against all odds, so even if we read the clauses, w will sign anyway… The system must be straightened to address this issues… It took me two days to finish reading 🙂

  3. Wow is all I can say. So much insight my Prof.

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