African News

Re-Civilizing Ghana

24 June 2006 at 13:07 | 1375 views

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, in Accra, looks at attempts by the ruling elites to re-civilize Ghanaians in their development process following spates of moral crises and says such a project should first be grounded in Ghanaian/African values.

First, there is the national destructive cancer of crab or Pull-Him-Down (PHD) syndrome, then there were the massive examination crimes at universities, then in an appalling national disgrace, Member of Parliament (MP), Eric Amoateng, was arrested in the United States for alleged drug trafficking, then the National Union of Ghanaian Students (NUGS) came out of its cocoon that it has serious moral problems and needs help, then there was the on-going national outcry over the major Ghanaian cities’ awful sanitation problems. And try as he did, Vice President Aliu Mahama’s war against indiscipline and general moral decadence “failed.” Now, the rot in private minds is eating away at public responsibility, seeing Ghanaian cities turning into wastelands.

Helpless, the ruling elites have gone into soul-searching and are talking of a national orientation, more effectively, a national re-civilization, to halt the seemingly moral decline, which has serious implications in national development, and might rebound against Ghana in her development process. Still, the negative public attitudes that have caused the need for re-civilization have reacted naturally to the core Ghanaian indigenous values, and the result is the ruling elites, informed by the outcry of concerned citizens, added a national orientation to the Information Ministry to re-civilize Ghanaians, especially her youth, who appear directionless and mired in general spiritual weaknesses.

The “characteristic attitude of resignation,” as President John Kufour phrases it, is not only seen in the behaviour of Ghanaians urinating, defecating and spitting in public, which has ricocheted in the form of diseases such as malaria, Ghanaians’ chief killer, but serious moral issues like the Pull-Him-Down syndrome, a practice where Ghanaians destroy each other in the nation’s struggles for progress.

The destructive Pull-Him-Down syndrome is easily inflamed by certain negative cultural practices such as juju-marabou, witchcraft and some of the disoriented booming spiritual churches. Kufour’s new national orientation is not new: from the superb values of the 56 ethnic groups that make up Ghana to the various governments Ghana has come to experience, any time there is a fall in morals, which undermine progress, concerned citizens rise up to regenerate morality and discipline to re-civilize society for progress. This is borne out of Ghanaians traditional beliefs that at the heart of all progress is sound morality. Okomfo Anokye and other traditional sages/spiritualists extolled this in their respective nation-states’ creation and progress.

Aptly, Kufour’s re-civilization program is partly captured in development theorist Jared Diamond’s "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," which argues that among the five major reasons for the collapse of societies are environmental damages, such as the extremely poor sanitation scenes of Ghanaian cities today, and how society respond to internal and environmental problems, as the ruling elites and the mass media are doing. From the Centre for Civic Education, which was headed by the late Prime Minister, Dr. Kofi Busia, in the latter part of the 1960s, to the Jerry Rawlings’ military juntas, Ghanaian political elites have grappled with civic virtues and progress. However, the increase in population today means increase in civic tribulations, with its attendant sanitation crisis, demands an all out attack not only from the increasingly burdened mass media, but also traditional institutions, civic society, and the booming religious bodies that have an intense grip on the minds of Ghanaians.

Re-civilizing Ghana? Yes. Why? Because Kwamena Bartels(photo), the Kufour Castle’s national orientation czar, says there is something wrong with Ghanaian civilization and that the best way to re-civilize the Ghanaian society is through “national orientation.” Part of the reason for re-nurturing of Ghanaian “nationalism,” as Bartels says instead of re-civilization, and by extension patriotism, as Foreign Minister, Nana Akuffo Addo’s “redefining patriotism” indicates, is to deeply open up Ghanaian indigenous traditional values and mix them with “Western” values. Despite National Orientation being added to the Information Ministry, the emerging issue of re-civilizing the Ghanaian society in the bid to tackle its development challenges is to bring the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), which deals more with constitutional education, and the National House of Chiefs, which is a reservoir of traditional values, on board the national orientation game, especially in minting the orientation policies.

In a country dazzled by Asian countries successes, Bartels can go the Singaporean way by raising Ghanaian traditional secular customs, practices, and attitudes in her new national orientation schema. During the 1990s, in the distinctive Singaporean way, as part of her national orientation, the "Singaporean identity" was extolled in the form of “proper balance between cosmopolitan and traditional values” in her national civic education. This preoccupied the Singaporean leadership in their development process, making the country not only one of the most disciplined in the world but also one of the cleanest. In this sense, Bartels and the elites should appropriate the rich Ghanaian traditional values such as the concept of communalism by blurring and melting the seeming dichotomy between “Western” and “Ghanaian” habits and behaviour in the national orientation program.

In this sense, Ghanaian roots and values drawn from the 56 ethnic groups that form Ghana will drive the new national orientation. This will make the national orientation reflect distinctive Ghanaian meaning in the discussions and day-to-day decisions of Ghanaians such as orderliness, discouraging littering, driving properly, and slum clearance.