By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
Speaking at this year’s National Arts and Culture Festival in the Brong-Ahafo capital of Sunyani, I presume, President John Dramani Mahama was reported to have decried what the Ghanaian leader observed to be “a rapid decay of Ghana’s cultural and moral values.” In the main, Mr. Mahama pointed to a fast-creeping culture of child homelessness and acute disregard of adult presence among the country’s youth (See “We Are Losing Our Moral Values – Mahama” Citifmonline.com / Ghanaweb.com 12/7/14).
Ever since I can remember, and I am nearly the same age as President Mahama, our cultural and moral values have been in rapid decline. Those who lived and/or grew up in the heady Nkrumah era of the early 1950s into the mid-1960s claim that, indeed, it was Nkrumah’s abrupt and radical breakaway from the hitherto conservative and traditionalist-oriented United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) and the opportunistic emergence of the rabble-rousing and Leftist-oriented Convention People’s Party (CPP) that marked the apocalyptic beginnings of the cultural and moral decadence with which Ghanaians are steeply confronted today.
The period under discussion marks the infamous era of the strongman syndrome that U.S. President Barack H. Obama spoke to Ghana’s Parliament about in 2009, that is, the era of the neocolonialist “One-Man Imperial Dictatorship,” in which Mr. Kwame Nkrumah arrogated himself the power and authority to exclusively determine who qualified to be enstooled or enskinned as a chief in the country, based primarily on which traditional ruler or chieftain supported the riotous policies of the CPP government (See Richard Rathbone’s Nkrumah And The Chiefs: Politics Of Chieftaincy In Ghana 1951-60).
As a self-appointed National Kingmaker Non-Pareil, Nkrumah also reserved the power to summarily destool or remove and elevate chiefs to paramountcy status, very much like a Luggardian protocolonial governor. It was this peremptory and abject disregard and disdain for traditional authority that decidedly marked the beginning of the radical breakdown of our moral and cultural values. And it is also significant to observe that this is the political tradition to which President Mahama belongs.
Now talking about moral decay on the postcolonial political front, for example, you had a 49-year-old Prime Minister Nkrumah dating a 19-year-old Achimota School girl. This kind of “Sugar-Daddyism,” properly speaking pedophilia, was rankly replicated among the members of the three branches of government, in particular among members of the executive and legislative branches of government. Most of these Sugar Daddies, as was the case with Prime Minister Nkrumah, had children who were older than these teenage girlfriends.
It would, of course, create an unhealthy competition between these Sugar-Daddy politicians and and their own sons for the affection and romantic loyalties of their daughters. This patently unhealthy situation was the moral equivalent of incest. And the latter kind of inexcusably corrupt behavior has been well known to break down the vital traditional bond of mutual respect that ought to exist between mature adults and the young adults the former ought to be mentoring.
And today, even as I write, the situation remains pretty much as it was nearly sixty years ago. And so, perhaps, rather than lamely and vacuously blame rapid urbanization for causing the precipitous breakdown of the moral fiber and cultural values of Ghanaian society, Mr. Mahama would do himself and the rest of the nation great good by looking no farther than among the ranks of his own political associates and cabinet appointees.
Urbanization can be envisaged to play only a minor part of the problem, insofar as the frenetic jockeying for employment opportunities and its attendant emergence of ethnic chauvinism and tribalism in a visceral bid for communal and/or ethnic self-preservation. But even on the latter front, progressive leadership has been widely known to remarkably meliorate inter-ethnic strife and resentment.