What does it mean to be Ghanaian, or for that matter African?

I sometimes ask myself this question, what does it mean to be Ghanaian, or for that matter African? I end up with my tribal identity, which is Akuapem and Fante as the answer. The only idea of nationhood that brings Ghanaians together is 6th March 1957 and a mythical story of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

The question of “What does it mean to be Ghanaian, or for that matter African?” was rekindled recently when I read a book titled “The West and the rest of us” by Chinweizu (1975). In one of the chapters, Chinweizu talks about the cult of liberal democracy and asks if this is the culprit of the demise of all African countries. He starts by asking, are African countries really independent? If so then why are we adopting the Western ideals of liberal democracy and governance? His conclusions are if we are to be independent we have to develop economic independence, create African relevant education, propagate our communal practices within governing and democratic institutions to ensure rural and urban citizens are connected regardless of tribe affiliation.

Why is this important to being Ghanaian? Well as a Ghanaian I have witnessed the failure of our government and leaders to create a framework of values, ideas and principles for the nation to rally behind. Their failure has been witnessed on all fronts in education, agriculture, governance and other sectors, hence Chinweizu’s assertion that, we have followed the Abrofoman’s way into destitution.

Lets look at education; having been a product of the education system in Ghana I can say we have always adopted the “chew and pour” approach. This approach leaves us incapable of tackling our problems critically as students become concerned with grades as opposed to learning concepts that they can translate to solve real world problems. The University Student Association (U.S.A.G) raised the same concerns at their 15th annual delegates congress. If we don’t have the fortitude and vision to change our curriculum for 30 years then we are failing our children’s children and Ghana will have no future. Due to the lack of innovative ideas in our educational system we are left to once again look up to the Abrofoman’s teachings as gold, thus undermining our culture, values, ideas and principles.

On the front of agriculture our government has failed miserably, Ghana has one of the most arable lands and the variety of crops in our country is endless so why would we need any form of Genetically Modified Organisms/Seeds (GMO) to support our farmers and feed the nation. Nevertheless our government is on the verge of commercializing GMO (an Abrofoman’s invention) in our country, instead of finding out ways to support our farmers in our own cultural ways. Chinweizu talks about the importance of Africans to come together to fight the very structures that keep us oppressed and that is what Food Sovereignty Ghana is doing, by taking the government of Ghana to high court, a case that will take place on October 12, 2015. Food Sovereignty Ghana is using grassroots organizing, education and advocacy to bring people together to challenge the premise that GMOs (an Abrofoman’s invention) will benefit the well-being of our farmers and Ghanaians.

When it comes to governance, the West calls Ghana’s democracy one that other African countries should learn from. I beg to differ; the Western liberal democracy does not and will never work for African countries. There is proof, first if it were to work for Africa we would have accomplished it long ago, Ghana gained independence 58 years ago and I would argue that most Ghanaians are worst off today than they where when Dr. Kwame Nkrumah gave his speech at Independence Square. Classic example is our dumsor situation.
Secondly if we are to adopt the Western liberal democracy we are and will be objects of the West, objects that are used to achieve the West’s priorities. Look at all the tertiary products in our world today they are more than likely mined in an African country, yet we reap meager benefits from the production of these tertiary products. While Western multinationals reap gigantic profits.

Lastly, we have to take solace in the fact that before colonialism Africans were governing themselves with their own traditions and cultures. This means that we have the fortitude to build our own governing structures. We must remember democracy is not a Western concept; it is a human concept, people around the globe practice democracy differently.

Chinweizu, talks about how African countries should have stripped away all colonial structures at the time of independence to allow for genuine African thought, ideas, values and principles to guide us to rebuild our nations. I agree with him and believe with all the struggles facing Ghana and Africa we have an opportunity to go back to the drawing board to figure out from scratch what it means to be Ghanaian and for that matter African?

The ideas of Western democracy are currently being questioned in the West by political scientists, social activists, environmentalists, politicians etc, therefore, we as Africans should be doing the same, but concentrate on how we can govern ourselves within African values, ideas and principles. That way we will be able to know what it means to be Ghanaian and for that matter African.

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