By Kwesi Atta Sakyi
When Lal Bahadur Shastri, a one-time Indian Prime Minister died in 1966, he was found to have only a few rupees in his pocket, and that was all he had in the whole world. When India got independence in 1947, Mahatma Mohandras Gandhi, alias Gandhiji, India’s foremost freedom fighter and founding father, told his people that they should be insular, patriotic and self–reliant by growing their own food, weaving their own cloth, making their own salt, and embrace an inward-based development paradigm. Late General Ignatius Kutu Akyeampong also introduced Operation Feed the Nation in 1973 in Ghana, which saw an unprecedented agricultural revolution in Ghana.
In contrast, we in Ghana are addicted to eating imported perfumed rice. Nkrumah wanted Ghana to be self-reliant so he started the Afife Rice Irrigation Scheme, set up Nsawam Cannery, Bolgatanga Meat Factory, Bonsa Rubber Factory, Komenda Sugar Factory, Asutuare Sugar Factory, Tema Drevici Food Complex, Kade Match Factory, Asiama Oil Mill, Aboso Glass Factory, Kumasi Jute and Leather Factories, Kwabenya Atomic Reactor, Akosombo Textiles, VALCO, among many others such as the establishment of the indigenous news agencies, GNA, Ghana Bureau of Languages, Ghana Information Services, and the establishment of transportation corporations such as the Black Star Shipping Line, STC, Ghana Airways, among others.
Gandhi’s advice to Indians has worked for them. India is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world, among a constellation called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). Indians are exporting cars such as Tata and Mahindra. Indians are among the leading IT nations in the world. Past Indian leaders such as Jawaharlal Pandit Nehru, Indira Gandhi, among others, had attended some of the best universities in the world such as Oxford University, University of London, London School of Economics, among others. India has benefitted from quality leadership, as their pioneer leaders laid a solid foundation for the country for its take-off.
China has become what it is today, the largest economy in the world, partly because of the foresight and patriotism of its leaders such as Mao Tse Dung, Chou en Lai, Hu Jin Tao, among others. Chinese leaders built the largest Hydro Electric Dam in the world, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze Kiang River, with installed capacity of 22,500MW, which is powering their industrialization and making it the most attractive destination for inward investment.
The Chinese consume western education voraciously, as they are the largest number of foreign students in US universities. Besides, they are entrepreneurial, visionary, hardworking, and highly patriotic and disciplined. We lack self-discipline among our political leaders in Ghana as they engage oftentimes in nepotism, tribalism, ultra-partisanship. Even well-meaning national intentions of state leaders are misconstrued into NPP or NDC foibles or whimsical caprices, as every wee bit of action of a political leader is trivialized by some of the miscreants in the irresponsible and unprofessional media.
Patriotism and leadership should permeate every facet of the Ghanaian body fabric, for meaningful development to take place. We need patriotic leadership from the front, and not from the flanks or from behind, what some have termed ‘go-slow’ or reactionary leadership. Our leaders should be proactive and should exhibit what the Frenchman, Henri Fayol (Father of General Administration) dubbed ‘prevoyance’ (something similar to clairvoyance: you remember the Italian Nostradamus of 16th Century, The man who saw tomorrow?)
Other constellations of fast growing economies are MIST (Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand). Then we have the Asian Tigers of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and recently Vietnam. Gandhi taught Indians to use Ahimsa or the strategy of non-violence to wrest freedom from their colonial masters, the British. Indians, Japanese, and Chinese all show a high sense of patriotism by way of adherence to their traditional foods, clothing, and moral norms.
They depend less on imports as they grow their own food and they are net exporters. They have not forsaken their traditional ways of farming, yet they have embraced western technologies in agriculture and industry. That is what we lack inGhana and Africa, because we quickly embrace western concepts such as MOSANTO’s GMOs, and jettison our own indigenous seeds to our utter detriment.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the charismatic, maverick and astute one-time president of the USA once intoned,’ Ask what you can do for your country, and not what your country can do for you.’ What legacy do our current leaders want to leave for our future generations? Unsustainable national debt? Uncompleted state infrastructure, such as the everlasting eyesore and death-trap of the Accra-Kumasi Highway? Once, when I went to Ghana, my sisters and brother asked me why I did not want to become an MP or Minister of State because those people or government functionaries are drawing hefty salaries.
I guess my siblings do not understand me well, and I bet they wonder why I am abroad and yet I cannot let some goodies and spillover of wealth rub on, on them. Are we in leadership to serve or to feather our nests? Patriotic leaders have become very scarce indeed in Ghana, what with the free-for-all show going on with MPs drawing hefty perks and allowances, and entitled to gargantuan loans?
I would like to see a new type of leadership emerging in Ghana where state resources are not wasted, and where officials minimize on hotel bills and foreign travel, and leading by example. We must be circumspect in public expenditure, as is the case in Botswana, and go for Value for Money concept by sourcing parliamentary chairs from local quality suppliers such as KPOGAS near Malam Junction on the Kaneshie-Weija Road. When our MPs approve state loans and public expenditures, they should be extra careful in ensuring that we do not buy a pig in a poke.
We should also be wary of gifts of Trojan horses. We are yet to see altruistic and selfless leaders emerging in Ghana. We are yet to see leaders who have empathy, and who work tirelessly to improve the lot of the suffering masses who gave them the mantle to govern.
Our voters should be highly discerning in voting in our leaders because we should be wary of unscrupulous characters who use treating, gerrymandering, logrolling, deceit, bribery and corruption, jinabu, kalabule,3hy3 wo bo, and other Machiavellian tactics to win power, only to turn their backs on the electorate and then they begin plundering state resources ad nauseam, and they start dealing in hard drugs or psychotropic substances such as heroine, crack cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis, opium, among others. Such leaders are not leaders but dealers, and they are not patriots.