Book Review of

There is this beautiful Ghanaian proverb which can literarily be interpreted to this effect: “A newly hatched chick that survives will not lack the opportunity to grow feathers.” It means “when there is life, there is hope.”

Fifty-two years ago (6 March 1957 to be precise), Ghana made political history in tropical Africa. On that day, the Gold Coast became Ghana. How did it happen? At exactly midnight that night, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, flanked by some ambitious comrades of his, mounted a podium at the old Polo ground in the city of Accra and proclaimed:

“At long last, the battle has ended; and Ghana our beloved country is free for ever.”

The visionary Nkrumah then made a seemingly harmless statement which turned out to make him the African man of the 20th Century. He declared, “The Independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African Continent.”

Yes, it is important to tell the true story of the Independence of Ghana so that our children, their children, and their children’s children will know exactly how Ghana became a nation of “Freedom and Justice.” At the time Dr Nkrumah made that legendary declaration, only about eight out of 53 countries in Africa knew what independence was. In West Africa, all the 16 countries were clamped in the jaws of Colonialism. As for South Africa, she was deep in the throat of a hateful and horrible creature called “Apartheid.”

Ghana’s independence was not granted to our forefathers on a silver platter. In other words, our forefathers did not eat to their fill, drink, booze and went to bed and started snoring then someone went and called them to get their independence. Not at all! As a matter of fact, the independence struggle did not start on the 6th March 1957 when that celebrated proclamation was made.

If Osagyefo Dr Nkrumah talked of the end of a battle, we must ask ourselves what kind of a battle he was alluding to. Again, it must be borne in mind that it was not only Dr Nkrumah who single-handedly fought for Ghana’s independence. But he was the locomotive or the vanguard indeed! It is therefore imperative that any time we celebrate the independence anniversary of this blessed land called Ghana, other equally important national heroes must be accorded the recognition they deserve.

For example, homage must be paid to war veterans like Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey who were gunned down like common criminals on 28 February, 1948 at the Christiansburg, Accra. What crime did they commit? They were only going to present a petition to the Colonial Governor of the Gold Coast. They were only fighting for their ex gratia awards after they had been in war front for years.

It was their blood that galvanised the momentum and served as catalyst for the legendary BIG SIX to go for the gold -the INDEPENDENCE. The BIG SIX included Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Dr J.B.Danquah, Mr. Obetsebi-Lamptey, Mr. Ofori Atta, Mr. Akufo-Addo and Mr. Ako-Adjei. These were collected and dumped in jails across the country; were they armed robbers? These are among the greatest national heroes we must pay homage to whenever we celebrate the independence anniversary of Ghana. This is why our National Pledge reminds us in part: “…I promise to hold in high esteem, our heritage won for us through the blood and toil of our fathers; I pledge myself in all things to uphold and defend the good name of Ghana.”

Today, as we celebrate the 52nd Anniversary of Ghana on the theme: “Unity and Peace: Pillars for National Development,” the least that we can do is to renew the promise and the pledge to our father and mother Ghana.

Besides the historical and political significance of the independence, what can one say about the economic achievements of Ghana since independence? Even the political journey of the nation since independence has not been all rosy at all. For the uncountable military coup d’états of the 60s, 70s and early 80s had dealt some deadly blows to democratic governance of the nation.

Fortunately, however, since the coming into being of the fourth Republican Constitution of 1992, which was ushered in by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) on January 7, 1993, Ghana has been enjoying change of government through democratic elections instead of military coup d’états. This trend of affairs is commendable.

Just last year, 2008, for the first time in her 52 years of nationhood, Ghana scored high democratic marks among nations in Africa when the New Patriotic Party (NPP) another democratically elected Government successfully completed its constitutionally mandated term of eight years and handed over to NDC again. The beauty of this culture of “moko aya ne moko aba”( let someone go for someone to come)is progressive for the advancement of Ghana.

It is against this backdrop that the theme for this year’s anniversary celebration “Unity and Peace: Pillars for National Development” is most appropriate. It is common knowledge that without peace and unity, no meaningful development can take place, not only at the national level but at the District and Regional levels as well. This explains why the people of Ghana must pat themselves on the back for the just-ended peaceful general elections.

Now that the elections are over, there is the need for the nation to put all political games behind it and focus on national development agenda in unity. First, the leadership of the nation itself must be seen to be interested in peace and unity for national development. Selfishness, partisanship, greed and corruption must be reduced to the barest minimum if not eradicated entirely.

There cannot be peace and unity if political leaders are seen to be interested in their own welfare to the neglect of the majority of the people who elected them into office. The current hullaballoo about proposed ex-gratia awards for ex-Presidents, Members of Parliament and other public holders is a typical example of how political leadership can create disunity and disharmony among the populace leading to agitation and unrest instead of unity and peace for national development. It is gratifying to note that H.E. President J.E.A.Mills is making efforts to use constitutional means to review the whole saga of ex-gratia awards. If this is not done there will be no peace and unity and there will be no national development.

Ghana is not a poor country by nature. It is common place that Ghana is such a blessed land endowed with all kinds of resources including gold, diamond, bauxite, cocoa, timber, arable land, rivers, good rain fall patterns and abundant sun shine all year round. And yet Ghana is endemic with poverty. After 52 years of independence, if the nation’s natural resources had been effectively and efficiently managed, should a Ghanaian child go to bed without a meal? After 52 years of independence, should any Ghanaian child be denied basic education? Something might have gone amiss!

Besides natural resources, Ghana is equally endowed with human resources. She is blessed with some of the best brains in Africa if not in the whole world. One can cite the immediate past UN Secretary-General Busumuru Kofi Annan and others in international bodies to symbolise the human resource base of the country. These are just a few reasons why Ghana could have done better than she has done so far after 52 years of nationhood in terms of socio-economic, political and cultural prosperity.

Now one can speculate that a solid foundation has been laid for the economic take-off of the nation across board. Various sectors of the economy including Agriculture, Education, Health, Transportation, Communications, Investment, Tourism, Foreign Policies, Sports and others seem to be in a better shape today than they were before independence. For instance, the Capitation Grant, National Health Insurance Scheme and the School Feeding Programme and have created opportunity for some school-going children to be in school and be given at least one meal a day free of charge. The new government can improve upon what is in place for national development.

The National Health Insurance Scheme has come to stay, but there is more room for improvement. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is gradually but steadily taking roots in society. Ghana is on the Information Super High Way through the Government of Ghana Portal. Ghana has a comprehensive ICT Policy already in place. The National Portal needs to be revamped to make it a real electronic gateway in the true sense E-Government.

The previous Government started establishing what is referred to as Community Information Centres (CICs) in all the 230 electoral constituencies throughout the country. This is a viable strategy that concretely ensures that ICTs are taken closer to rural people who are in majority in the country. It is hoped the new administration will continue with this project and make it better for national development. Again, the discovery of oil in commercial quantity during the 50th anniversary celebration of Ghana was very opportune for this blessed nation, just to mention but a few.

On Tuesday, February 17, 2009, a delegation of Norwegian oil experts, led by that country’s Minister for Environment and International Development, Mr Erik Solheim, called on the Ghanaian Vice President, H.E. John Mahama at the Castle Osu, Accra. Among other things, Vice President Mahama, disclosed that the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) was being restructured so as to reposition it to make it more responsive to meet government’s programme of making Ghana a wealthy nation in the not too distant future. Naturally Ghana can only become a wealthy nation in the near future only and if only the people of Ghana collectively make Unity and Peace as Pillars for National Development.