Several months ago, Ghana celebrated 58 years of independence with the usual pomp. I stayed out of it all because truthfully speaking, I’m not feeling proudly Ghanaian at the moment. I’ll tell you why.
In 1995 when I arrived in Ghana for my grandmother’s funeral, my intention was to stay for 2 weeks. But I fell in love and ended up staying for 5 years. I returned to the UK in 2000 but 2 years later missed Ghana so much I returned and was to stay for another 9 years. Between 1995 and now, I’ve been living in both Ghana and the UK. You see, I fell in love. No, not that kind of romantic love you’re thinking of. I fell in with love with Ghana. The people. Their warmth. Their hospitality. Their eagerness to always lend a helping hand and please others.
I fell in love also with the country. Yes it was not ”developed” like the country I had left behind – the public transport system was (and still is) in a shambles; the roads were not only untarred and dusty but full of potholes, a lot of things didn’t (and still don’t) work, for example, something as simple as getting your car registered can end up being a nightmare. So you see, the systems in place were not solid and life in Ghana was far different from the one I knew in the UK. Yet I felt at home with these people. I felt I was a Ghanaian. And proud to be one. Despite this, I could see how our traditions, cultures and way of life were fast eroding. Right before our eyes, we were throwing away everything Ghanaian and emulating everything American or foreign. Coming from the UK, I was saddened by this and I guess that made me want to hold on to my memories and ideas of Ghana. So in a way, this made me even more proudly Ghanaian. I would go on and on about the good things Africa was and can be again. I would spend hours debating with anyone who only saw the negative in Ghana and Africa. I was a proud Ghanaian/African and wanted the world to know it. So what has brought about this turnaround? You may well wonder what has happened to this African woman?
So much. Where to begin? Maybe with the fact that after 58 years of ”Independence”, some of my fellow Ghanaians cannot still think for themselves. Yes, I said Ghanaians. And I’ll keep saying Ghanaians throughout these reflections. Now, you can choose to add ”a few”, ”a minority”, ”a handful” or as you see fit. Because these are my reflections. And right now, this is how I’m feeling. Obviously everything I feel here will apply to only some Ghanaians. At times, it will be many, at times it will be a few. But for the sake of my reflections, allow me to leave it simply as Ghanaians.
Ok, so where was I? Ah, I was saying that after 58 years of ”Independence” some Ghanaians cannot still think for themselves. Let me expand on that. From the child in pre-school to the people that lead us, Ghanaians are not encouraged to think for themselves, and this shows every day when they fail to use their common sense. For example, common sense will tell you that before you get into a car, you must know not only how to drive, but all the rules of the road. It saves lives. And makes driving a bit less stressful. But oh no, not in Ghana. They can just get a car and teach themselves to drive. As for a licence, either they can buy one or rely on giving the police 5 cedis each time they’re caught without one. Like children, some Ghanaians never fail to remind me that common sense is indeed far from common. I was raised in a system where common sense is used daily. So therefore I no longer feel I’m Ghanaian in that respect.
Another reason why I’m not feeling proudly Ghanaian at the moment is the loss of the very characteristics in Ghanaians that I fell in love with. These days, gone is the hospitable Ghanaian who was always eager to please. Back in the days of my arrival, say your car broke down, believe me when I tell you, from nowhere, people would magically appear and help you. Because that’s what humans do for each other. Just recently in February 2015, my car went into a gutter (don’t ask). To my left (and I counted) were 9 young men. Not one of these boys came to my aid. None I tell you. And that is the common behaviour of some Ghanaians today. They are not going out of their way to help you. And even if they help you, they do so out of a desire for money. I once had a boy ask me if I would pay him to give me directions! Ghana post-1995. Whereas I found Ghanaians to be kind and nice, now I find the personality of some Ghanaians to be one of passive aggressiveness, jealousy, and rivalry. They pull other people down at all costs, and ask, what is your financial value to me, what will I gain from a friendship with you? And I say to myself, what happened? Why did Ghanaians change? Or did they? And I’m forced to think, maybe, just maybe the Ghanaian did change.
Time for a possible explanation. Before ”democracy” was introduced to Ghana, freedom of speech was not allowed. People lived in fear for a long time. This made everybody act nicely towards each other. You never knew who was listening. So the Ghanaians took on a pleasant personality. They put up a front. This was a time when people left home and greeted a random stranger with a ”Good Morning”, to which a ”Fine Morning” would come in response. But now there was democracy, people could say what they wanted and didn’t feel the need to hide their true feelings. So now when they go out, they couldn’t care less about you having a good morning or not. On the one hand, Ghanaians are still practising ”Give it to God”, whilst on the other hand, they’re out visiting every shrine to bring down their enemies. So yes, again, I feel less proudly Ghanaian at the moment.
My third reason is the worship of everything foreign. From believing only the IMF can save Ghana and thus indebting us, to a radio presenter being judged based on his/her ability to ape the American accent, Ghanaians love everything foreign. Recently at work, some new equipment was brought in. And the first thing that one of the employees said was how wonderful the white man was. So I asked him how he knew it was conceptualised, designed and produced by a white man. His response? ”Can a Ghanaian do this?” To which I too replied with another question, ”Why not?”. What happened after that may have to be a whole new reflection. But let’s just say I hope I left him with some serious thinking and research to do. How about Kristo Asafo, who is living and producing cars right here in Ghana? I don’t want to go to history. I want to use an example of someone who is here now. Any Ghanaian can visit Kristo Asafo and see for himself that a black man can do anything he sets his mind to. The British get vexed when UK factories are closed and jobs are rather created in India. The British will tell you they can do it, if not better, just as well. The Ghanaian will tell you they can’t do it.
58 years after ”Independence”, the indiscipline, desire to see others fail, politicisation of every issue, plus a whole heap of other wahala make me question whether or not I’m feeling proudly Ghanaian. I’ll always be Ghanaian by blood. And I’ll always be proudly African; as I still believe the African will rise up again. The time will come again when the African recognises their true worth. For now, I’m just out of love with some Ghanaians. But hey these are the reflections of an ordinary African woman