How do we refer to the year 2010? Is it Twenty Ten, Two Thousand and Ten or Two Thousand Ten? Does it really matter what we call it?
All we know is that 2009 is gone and a new year has begun. Besides, it is quite inconsequential, considering that the name we give to it would not change anything, except, perhaps cause us to rebrand and recycle the problems in the previous year.
Well, experts say we got it wrong in 2009 when we started saying Two Thousand and Nine, because every year in the 20th Century was pronounced ‘nineteen something.’ According to the National Association of Good Grammar, “Twenty follows nineteen. Two Thousand does not follow nineteen.” So, maybe it will be Twenty Ten. But Two Thousand and Ten doesn’t sound bad either.
All the same, the resolutions have poured in, so have the prophetic proclamations. Visionary church leader Mensah Otabil has called it a year of breakthroughs. Others have summoned impressive religious jargons to welcome the New Year. It is either a year of multiplication or a period of revelations and good dreams. On his part, the President of the Republic, John Atta-Mills, is hopeful for a better Ghana. But for that to happen, we must be prepared to die for our dear nation, his New Year’s Day speech has said.
In all these, however, the significance of who we are as a people should not be lost on us. Suddenly, we have become a very proud people-proud for all the good reasons. We stick out like a sore thumb because we are known to have conducted a few things in our national life quite well, at least compared to the apology that has become a trademark for some of our neighbours. The December 30 issue of the Economist praises our country’s democratic credentials and our way of doing things, even if it is not so impressed with our $16billion GDP. These are also times when the Ghanaian Diaspora is seen as a symbol, than just a national.
Once again, we are a beacon of black Africa, having showed some good examples for our neighbours. And these have not been as a landscape is to the eye of a blind man; the world has been watching. Important world leaders, including America’s first black President, have paid us homage. Even other worthy national and individual achievements that we failed to acknowledge or only hurriedly mentioned have caught the eye of nationals across the Atlantic. So, while some Ghanaians who have no idea how the lead of a story is composed have condemned our journalism, in some cases wishing us dead, preferring that Ghanaian writers tasted the massacre of Rwanda, an unassuming investigative journalist of an Anas Anas receives a memorable mention in the speech of an American president. Oh then, the Under 20 world Cup glory.
But you and my youngest niece know that our great nation is not as great as it has been projected. Not when Nigeria is breathing down our neck, with our Abeokuta and Delta brothers fearing for their own nation’s health and the health of their Chief Executive. There is, in the words of IMANI research director, Bright Simmons, a growing cynicism in our system, perhaps due to the very liberal approach towards the dissemination of opinion. But we have also become quite tolerant even if the national temperament has not been tested very well. Of course, we still lack in the midst of plenty and thirst in the showers of abundant rains, but we have contained ourselves well and lifted our chin above fatal limits, despite the resultant fatalities. We have done the ostrich in many ways but we have done well not to have become a veritable ostrich. So, we can look forward to a prosperous 2010 and maybe succeed in doing a few things anew, to make the proclamations of our religious leaders meaningful.
Proclamations remain proclamations until somebody dares to put some action into them. We said these same good things in 2009, and all we did was to cough through the year. We shared our hard-earned possessions with armed robbers and watched our very lives cut short by fellows who only live next door. We lived in filth and saw promises broken –not the point of a gun, as it happened in Dennis Brutus’ Apartheid South Africa - but by our laziness and sometimes sheer cowardice. We talked so much and accomplished too little. Where we could, we hid behind figures to frustrate reason and complicate the problems. Many lived to see a new year but a lot more were only lucky to have paid a punitive price for just being Ghanaians. They may be paying a higher price in 2010 because even the very fortunate Ghanaians would be living behind a glorious national façade that makes us think good of ourselves because others are in a more terrible situation. War has not broken yet on our soils but we know there are warmongers who would not hesitate to pounce on our very sovereignty if it did.
Even as a proud people, we do not seem to have defined a Dream for ourselves. We know the American Dream. What is the Ghanaian Dream? The other day, a Nigerian businessman attempted a definition of the Ghanaian Dream: One house, one car, one wife and one job. Well, we are not exactly caught in this lonesome oneness, but we sure need to get a Dream. Years ago, the Ghanaian Dream was to travel abroad, work harder in the cold than you ever would in Ghana, plant a house somewhere in the capital, ferry a car home and return to enjoy the goodies with a pretty-faced parasite. Today, even though the Golden age of Business didn’t quite succeed, folks are able to save millions of dollars while living in Ghana, and travel abroad to buy all those comforts in a day. There are Ghanaians who have bought houses abroad, not on mortgage, but with cash, just like Sani Abacha did. And frankly, folks are not as hungry to stowaway themselves in cargo ships to the shores of rich countries as they did years ago. There is still an escapist mentality pervading many a poor Ghanaian mind, but there is a new underlying feeling that folks are prepared to make their Dream happen in Ghana. And so far, there are vague signs of a Dream, even if it lacks definition or form.
Well, how true is the American Dream, anyway? Triumphant capitalism, the brand practised in America, is harsh and brutish. Many Americans do not live to see the Dream; they live a nightmare all their lives. The Dream is for those who, in the thinking of Arthur Miller, never dealt fair with a stranger. They are those who go into the jungle at a very early age, tearing down obstacles and manipulating chances until they convert into opportunities. And then, they cease those opportunities with both hands. They dictate how much of the national cake is sufficient for them. American capitalism is cruel but it gives people reason to dream. Money is not handed out to the poor scrounger, but there are opportunities for them to better their living. In the end, there is provision for nearly everybody to buy into the bigger national Dream, even if people can’t have a dream of their own. That is how good institutions work. That is how China is working. That is how India is working. And that is how we would work.
In 2010, we would behave like Harrison Ford: We would not wait for miracles to happen; we would create them. We would not wait for luck to strike; we would strike our own lucky moments in the midst of all misfortune. We would not wait for Nigeria to take us by surprise; we would help ease tension in that country. And we would not leave it to politicians. Instead, we would be up in the air, believing that whoever built an empire or changed the world sat where we are now. We would believe in our heroes but we would do more than they did. Today, our institutions of state are more stable and our democracy is no more an experiment. Our people understand the challenges facing us than they did twenty years ago. What they don’t understand is why we managed not to do much to meet them. Our people want to stop wondering what went wrong and start asking how we would share the surpluses we have accrued from our businesses. Our people want to see a much better Ghana- not as a political statement- but as an economic reality.
Before that happens, however, we may wish to know what our worst faults were in 2009. Like 2008, 2009 was all façade. As we pray for Nigeria, not knowing what events are in the womb of time, we should not forget that we still haven’t quite gotten over tribal politics, and it is at its polarising best. Even after a bitter war and the ensuing genocide, Rwandans are perhaps more united today than we have ever been. While we worry about the influence of an Akyem confederacy in political organisations, and the electoral might of Ketu South alone, Rwandans no more refer to themselves as Hutus and Tutsis. They are Rwandans while we are Ewes, Gas, Asantes, Bonos and Dagombas.
2009 also saw a laughable but very dangerous combination of normal and paranormal forces that threatened the very health of our institutions of government. The smooth transfer of power from the NPP to the NDC was a national glory and the continent’s pride, but the almost shameless flexing of political muscle within the ruling NDC was nearly counter-productive. Nobody directly called for a confidence vote but the temperature was so bad that an elected president of a Republic had to come forth to remind the electorate that there was only one president and one government. What had the man done wrong or not done right? There were no ready answers except the feeling that things were not going right. What things? Nobody knows. The founder of the ruling party threatened to leave it. So did other notables. In the end, we could only agree on a misnomer and term the coups within the NDC as checks and balances. But they were not; they were coups.
Then somebody decided to do something very unusual: He wrote a book, telling us why the NDC won the 2008 elections, or rather why the NPP lost. The book launched itself before anybody would read a page. At what point does it become untimely to introduce a reading material about a process that would perhaps never end? You would think a tradition that prides itself on having the men would put a greater premium on scholarship than the uninformed reviews the document suffered. Anyhow, Arthur Kennedy did good.
For me, our lowest moment in 2009 was when an Appeals Court judge pronounced a fatal judgement on the journalism trade. By Jove, we must be lucky we are still in business. But perhaps, the most revealing Christmas shocker was the death of Dan Lartey. Is it not refreshing how death domesticates even our known unknowns? A former Commonwealth Hall president, Benjamin Akyena remarks: Did Lartey truly mean this much to us?
Source: Benjamin Tawiah Ottawa, Ontario [email protected]
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