In the true spirit of nationalism and with the virtues of patriotism let me share with you a sad reality about a menace that stares at our nation’s destiny in subtlety but has boldly become an obstruction of excellence even in its cunning silence. It is all about mediocrity. Friends, mediocrity is a destiny hijacker which seems to have become Ghana’s staple food.
Before I tackle the crux of the matter, permit me to share with you James Aggrey’s “Parable of the Eagle” which I fervently believe that our fate as a nation and our future thereof has an invisible umbilical cord firmly connected to it.
“A certain man went to the forest seeking any bird of interest he may find. He caught a young eagle, brought it and put it among his fowls and ducks and turkeys, and gave it chickens’ food to eat even though it was an eagle, the king of the birds. Five years later a naturalist came to see him, and after passing through the garden, said: That bird is an eagle, not a chicken. The next morning, he rose early and took the eagle outside the city, away from the houses, to the foot of a high mountain. He picked up the eagle and said to it: Eagle thou art an eagle; thou dost belong to the sky and not to this earth; stretch forth thy wing and fly! He threw the bird, but it looked around and trembled as if new life were coming to it; but did not fly. After many attempts the naturalist then made the eagle look straight at the sun and threw it. Suddenly it stretched out its wings and, with a screech of an eagle, it mounted higher and higher and never returned.”
Friends, even though Ghana has made some significant gains after 64 years of independence, our story could have been written in gold. Truth be told, much has not been done to reflect our true status as the “gateway to Africa”. Just as the king of the birds was languishing with fowls, Ghana has for some time now been feeling comfortable in mediocrity, unfortunately. I dare say we seem to enjoy it like a staple food. Leadership is critical to the advancement of every group to a higher level; however, poor leadership has reduced us to mere spectators on the continent while others strive towards excellence.
Political leadership which should have been the main driving force in our development has not really corrected much. The nation is sailing on a ship where winner takes all syndrome is now endemic thereby shoving all-inclusiveness to the aft. Partisan politics has eaten into the moral fabric of political actors thereby influencing their nationalistic will to elevate the nation to a higher pedestal. During the early days of Nkrumah, we were known as the leaders, the first at this and the first at that. But now what is our story? We are living on past glory and that, my friends, is mediocre! Can we compare ourselves to Rwanda? That is a nation coming out from a genocide but has never looked back. For them, good leadership has been the key to their soaring higher and that’s worth emulating.
Hold on, before you get cheesed off, I am not trying to create the impression that the leaders we have had and still have are failures and corrupt. Far from that. Inasmuch as they are recognized internationally as great and I agree, at least to some extent, they do not have the best of images locally due to inefficiencies in certain figures surrounding the leaders. Politics of family and friends and nepotism has been with us since independence and not a new phenomenon. All of these I must emphasize hinder proper progress because they breed corruption and we all must admit that we have not done well in that department. If leadership in the country is going to be handled with a ‘Ghana First’ mentality, then we can cleanup the system for the better.
Our educational system cannot be left out from this discourse. I have a firm conviction that the conscience of every nation resides in good education where knowledge is gained and the application of it brings enormous transformation to the lives of people, the youth especially. Strides have been made in that sector and legends have been produced, reforms have been created and gains have been made. The legends are the educated ones and the reforms in the areas of the economy, social and infrastructure among others, are the applied knowledge gained from education.
But we should not clap for ourselves, at least not yet! Applause can be reserved for the right moment. What then is the right moment? The right moment would be when we make conscious efforts to propound theories and principles that address our local needs with an African perspective rather than sticking to western theories, some of which were introduced since the colonial days. Ghana’s problems cannot be solved by only Western philosophies. Some may help, but our cultural orientation is far different from that of the West and so are our priorities. We have dwelled on Western philosophies for decades, yet, we have not been able to mount up wings like eagles to dominate the global space. Let us not chicken out from the need to confront our own issues.
Another right moment to applaud is after we have addressed the educational infrastructure needs and put them at where all students would have equal access. It is good that education is free from basic to high school level. That has always been a constitutional requirement. Now is the time to improve on infrastructure because what we have currently especially in remote areas of the country adds up to the status quo – mediocrity! Equal opportunity is key. If we desire to put more people into schools, then we should equally desire for infrastructure expansion because that would in effect enhance quality and not just quantity. We have shirked quality for quantity for long and we must endeavour to alter the narrative by creating a necessary balance. When this is achieved, coupled with quality teaching, then we can spread our wings and soar higher and whiles we do that the applause can flow.
Fellow Ghanaians, we are in the era of entrepreneurship and the enabling environment must be provided for ingenious people to make the move. The most advanced countries have thrived on the ingenuity of a few pacesetters who used their entrepreneurial skills to help their nations industrialize. The likes of Ford, Bill Gates, Rockefeller and others used their talents to make their country great economically. We can also do same and rock shoulders with the giants. In Africa, Aliko Dangote for example has paved the way to signify that the Black African can also be entrepreneurial. There are entrepreneurs in Ghana like Siaw Agyepong of Jospong Group and Daniel Mckorley of Mcdan Group and others, but we can do much better to reach the level of the superpowers just as Nkrumah envisioned over half a century ago. That would help us to become a giant of industrialization on the continent and stand toe-to-toe with the likes of America and China (who’s now exporting cocoa). Just think about it!
Ladies and gentlemen, suffice to conclude by repeating that mediocrity is a destiny hijacker. We seem to have enjoyed this staple food for far too long and this must change. We are not too young to make a change neither are we too old to turn the situation around. Just as the naturalist released the eagle to reach its full potential in the skies, so must we release ourselves from the shackles of mediocrity and beautify our skies with our potential. The sky is for us to dominate because we are the kings amongst all birds. In the true spirit of nationalism and patriotism, once again, let us all endeavour to take charge of our common destiny and rule. Our case may not be new but in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “let us think anew and act anew”.