Friday, 30 January 2009

Celebrating Obama

For a minute on Tuesday, 20th January, it seemed as if the whole world was enchanted. Every one's attention was arrested by one event-the swearing in of America's new president Barack Hussein Obama. The occasion invoked great feelings of accomplishment, relief, happiness, joy and definitely hope in people all over the world. Many commentators have effectively deliberated on the subject and its implications for the world's future. But i would like to add my own voice to the discussions making the rounds.

Obama's elevation to that position of great honour is a product of sacrifice, hard work, dedication, faith, and a great deal of perseverance, relentlessness and optimism unseen in leaders around the world. In addition, the occasion aroused strong emotional feelings among the African American and minority communities in the US. This feeling has been shared by black people everywhere-in Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. The emotional arousement that the Obama inauguration ignited, especially among black folks, is due to the unpleasant experiences of slave trade, colonialism, segregation and apartheid that the race was subjected to in the world's sinful past. The trials of those old bad days, though they have been long gone, had left a feeling of unequalness, timidity, hopelessness, and lack of self expression and identity in an entire race of people.

Thus, for many blacks in the US, President Obama's emergence has been a great awakening, renaissance and appropriately a liberation; it is a primer preceding the final step of the journey to equality. Back home in Africa, the joyous reception given to the news is ample proof that we on the mother continent share in the joys, anxieties and expectations of our kith and kin in the diaspora. For many on the continent, the Obama inauguration has also raised hopes of Africa increasing its share of the American development aid, an unlikely event in the advent of the global financial crisis. Followers and fans of great African and black leaders of yore would also rightly rate Obama in the lofty group of the Marcus Garveys, Kwame Nkrumahs, Julius Nyereres, Martin Luther King Jrs. and Nelson Mandelas.

But Obama is a phenomenon that transcends race. It is testimony to how dreams, positivity and passion can transform the life of a person. It is an indication of the triumph of his message of hope over fear and misdirected aggression. It is also an exhibition of how one determined person is set on a path to change the history of the USA and effectively the world. He carries on his shoulders the dreams of men and women, blacks and whites, literates and illiterates, Christians and Muslims, the world over. Obama, as indicated by many analysts, also reflects a new way in which America relates to the rest of the world, which would hopefully tone down the rising wave of anti-Americanism.

Fianlly, Obama's decison to focus on domestic issues may just be what America needs to come out of its current economic doldrums. His economic stimulus package, and focus on developing sustainable energy sources, is a step in the right direction and would go a long way to reignite the global economic engine and promote environmental conservation.

In summary, Barack Obama is being celebrated the world over for his illustous achievement, and elevating the image of America in the world. His presidency is an indication of greater things to come for the entire world. The world is watching closely how things unfold in America in the next few years. Yes we can!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Smile The Beloved Country, Smile at The Storm

When South Africa's Alan Paton wrote Cry The Beloved Country in 1948, it was to protest against the injustices that pervaded South African society at the time. Paton's book sought to highlight fear, sabotage, racial segregation and looming entropy infiltrating South Africa in those days, in order to force the world's attention to his country's direction. Paton aptly demonstrated that the restrictive governance system, in which South Africa was operating in yester years, was inimical to both whites and blacks and when left unchecked, could ultimately lead to the destruction of the country. The book however ended on a positive note, indicating that all was not lost for South Africa, and that after all there was light at the end of the dark tunnel. That dark tunnel turned out to be the oppressive system of apartheid. Cry The Beloved Country has been rightly adjudged to be one of South Africa's greatest literary successes, attracting in its wake rave reviews, movies, plays and other inspired work.

The current Ghanaian situation is no where near what pertained in the South Africa of those days. On the political level, Ghana has just emerged out of a very close elections, scoring full marks (or nearly full marks) in the process. Never mind the hegemony and cross-party accusations that characterised the days leading to the final declaration of results. Socially, there is relative peace in the country with largely equal opportunity for all irrespective of ethnic, religious, gender or political leaning.

However, the critical hurdle that the country has to climb comes in the form of development and social progress. Fifty-two years into the post-independence period, Ghana is still struggling to come to terms with basic developmental landmarks such as education, health, agriculture and now ICT. Poverty still stares the masses closely in the face. It is as if the life of chronic deprivation, want and squalor have hugged our people so tightly, the way super glue sticks to stuff, that they cannot disentangle themselves. Here in lies our shortfall as a nation.

In a related development, the World Bank has waved red flags at the current state of the Ghanaian macro economy. Recently, the World Bank country director warned in a January report that despite recent growth, both the fiscal and balance of payments deficits of the country were "unsustainable." Additionally, we are currently enjoying a respite due to the rapid decline of the price of crude oil on the international market. But I ask myself the question: "if this trend should continue, what are the implications for the country in mid 2010 when we start exporting oil?" I am no economist, so i leave this to those who are more qualified to answer. But my lay mind tells me that things are going to be quite tough within the next couple of years and we must brace ourselves for it. Also we should lower our expectations with regards to the potential revenue we would get from crude oil sales.

But all is not lost. The resilient Ghanaian personality has been through some pretty rough times and come out strong. We have been through colonialism, many coup d'etats, famine and we are still moving on. What is required now is a concerted broad-based social initiative to lift the country out of the quagmire of poverty and underdevelopment, and to pull the chestnut out of the raging flames. That positive Ghanaian attitude that refuses to waver in the face of the storm, the tendency to smile calmly, irrespective of the situation at hand, must be called into action.

To wind up, struggle, politically, socially and economically, threaten the development efforts of many countries. Ghana's current situation should not be a disincentive to the country's known hallmarks of hardwork and excellence. I therefore exort every Ghanaian to put their hand to the wheel and do service to the motherland. Yes we can! Smile the beloved country, smile at the storm!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Celebrating The Beauty of Ghanaian Democracy

So on January 3, the dust settled and the new president in the person of Prof. J.E.A. Mills was declared by Uncle Kwadwo Afari-Gyan. There was rapturous cheer from the 50.23% of the Ghanaian electorate who endorsed the NDC in the second round of the 2008 presidential elections. Understandably, most of the remaining 49.77%, who voted for the NPP in the second round, heaved a sigh of relief that all was over. Bottomline-About 95% of Ghanaians were happy about the way the elections went and how the democratic process dictated the choice of the country's leadership for the next four years.

Ghana's solid democratic credentials were further enhanced on January 7th, when the new parliament and head of the executive were sworn into office. The icing on the cake was the unanimous election of the Rt Hon Justice Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo as the first Ghanaian female speaker of parliament. This was ample demonstration that Ghanaians are comfortable with having female leaders in senior positions, as two of the arms of government are now being run by women. I await the day that a worthy daughter of Ghana takes up the presidency of this republic.

Then the inauguration ceremony proper gave us many reasons to celebrate. All the key actors on our political stage were there to grace the occasion, indicating that the new president enjoyed goodwill across the political spectrum. Again the acceptance speech of President Mills was very heartwarming. His friendly overtures to the losing contenders, especially Nana Akufo-Addo, and his promise to build a just, secure, prosperous and better Ghana is an exhibition that he has what it takes to be a good president. We expectantly await the actual implementation of all the lofty ideals beautifully encapsulated in his speech

Following on the heals of all these great achievements, considered by many connoiseurs as trailblazing by third-world standards, Ghana has been receiving great applause by her peers in international circles. Congratulatory messages keep pouring in from far and near, and the country's general goodwill in international circle is increasing daily. From Togo, through Nigeria, Libya, UK to Canada, Ghana is once again being celebrated as the darling of the international community and her accomplishments touted to be worth copying by those countries who are still wallowing in the scourge of dictatorships. Never mind the fact that some of these countries are also struggling with their own systems of government!

What the Mills presidency has to do is to take advantage of this goodwill and continue chalking ground-breaking developmental landmarks, like President J.A. Kufuor before them, in order to further the development agenda of Ghana. One other major task of President Mills is for Ghana to be more vociferous with regards to her traditional foreign policy initiatives which has been aimed at exploring the possibility of African unity as envisioned by the country's founding fathers.

In summary, Ghanaian democracy is definitely on the rise taking into account all the exciting developments of the past few weeks. We look forward to all the parties involved in the governance of the country working together that it moves forward. The successes of Ghanaian democracy are definitely worth celebrating!