I only ever knew one of my four grandparents – my mother's mother, Efua Egyimba. We all called her "O'Lady". She was quite a character.

O'Lady teased us mercilessly, and assigned hilarious nicknames to her favourite grandkids. I had two nicknames: "Se ewu", meaning dead teeth or rotten teeth, was the first nickname, on account of the fact that for many years, I had two discoloured front teeth, but it's the second nickname I earned from O'Lady that I want to tell you about today: "Adaka Toh", meaning Empty Box.

I was barely ten years old when I went to boarding school. As a ten year-old child who had never lived independently, ST Augustine's College was a pretty intimidating place. My parents dropped me off on the first day of school, with a bulging bag full of books, a heavy trunk full of clothes, and a chop-box bursting  full of food. By the end of the term, I had lost everything. Every single stitch of clothing, every book, every bowl, plate and spoon was gone. Not even one sock survived. My grandmother took one look inside my barren trunk and collapsed with laughter. "Adaka Toh! Adaka Toh!" she chanted with glee, while tears of mirth flowed down her face.

My second term was also very tough. The bullying continued, and I didn't come home with much of what I left with. Of course, my parents were furious, but with superhuman patience and equanimity, they took me back to the tailor's to be measured for a fresh set of uniforms, the bookshop for a new copy of every lost textbook,  and then sent me back to school to lose them all again. Of course, O'Lady was always waiting to welcome me back home with her cackling laughter and a fresh chorus of "Adaka Toh" chants.

Yesterday, I visited my parents in Cape Coast, and we spent some time remembering O'Lady. Of course, my "Adaka Toh" nickname came up, and we all laughed about it. In the quiet moment that followed, my father smiled, and said: "If only she could have lived to see you now. She would have been so proud of who you've become."

My friends, several of us are living the Empty Box Syndrome today. Many people got paid just last week, but already, their salaries are gone, and they face a whole month with an empty box. Traders bring in goods, and by the time the month ends, the cedi has depreciated so much that their profits are all eaten up and they are back to Square One and an empty box of profits. People repent on Sunday, and by Monday, they are back to their destructive old habits again, their box of good intentions already empty. As a country, we have continuously mismanaged our economy to the point where our coffers are bare, and have been forced repeatedly to go back to the IMF with our empty box to beg for paltry crumbs (Of course, this time around. we're told we didn't go for Paltry Crumbs, but for Policy Credibility. Well, if you want to be Politically Correct about it, be my guest).

The truth is, this Empty Box Syndrome is a self-perpetuated cycle. At school, I was losing my stuff because I was being bullied. For a long time, instead of doing something about it, I was waiting for the bullying to stop before I could keep the stuff my parents had worked so hard to buy for me. In the same way, workers are waiting for a pay rise before they can save, traders are waiting for the cedi to stabilise before they turn a profit, Christians are waiting for the rapture before they change their ways for good, and as for Ghana… hmm.

Last week, I read this article by someone calling themselves Craig Murray, supposedly a British former diplomat. He was of the view that the IMF, the World Bank and the western world in general were conspiring to keep Ghana poor – that they just wanted to get our hands on our resources. Several Ghanaians read that article and shared it on their Facebook walls and social media groups. At last, we had a villain to blame all our country's woes on. Only Ghana can mismanage our economy, go begging to be saved, and then blame the saviour for our sorry state.

Has Malaysia ever gone to the IMF for a bailout? Even in 1997, when the whole Asian continent was in economic crisis, Malaysia – a country that gained independence at the same time Ghana did – refused to join an IMF programme, because they did not want to be subjected to the harsh conditionalities that came with it. So they thought outside the box and found other ways of dealing with their problems.  We have chosen to go to the IMF three times in thirty-odd years, because we can't figure out a way to stop our box from being emptied, and we want to blame our problems on the ones we go grovelling to? Did they come to us or did we go to them?

My friends, today, we must wake up. If things are going badly in your life, take responsibility. If you find someone or something else to blame for it, you might feel better for a minute, but you also have to wait for that person or thing to change, before your situation improves. By blaming someone for your predicament, you place your fate in their hands. Blame yourself and take back your destiny.

The year I finally decided to face my bullies, I took home a full trunk. Even my chop box had some provisions left in it. Other boys in my year were still bullied, but not me. I could not change the bullies' behaviour, so I changed mine instead. I decided it was my own fault that they were able to take advantage of me, and once I decided I was the cause of my own circumstances, all I had to do was change myself, and my circumstances changed too.

Find ways of cutting cost to make your salary last longer. Diversify and invest wisely to insulate your business from the falling cedi. Change your routines and habits to avoid temptations that will cause you to backslide your way to yet another altar-call next Sunday. Take responsibility for your own situation and change it for the better.

As a nation, we have had many chances. Our trunk has been filled many times. In 2011, we were the fastest growing economy in the world. It took us only three years to become the country with the worst performing currency in the world. We can blame others for our despicable situation until the cows come home, but how can you live a filthy life, fall sick, beg a doctor to cure you, and then blame your illness on the hospital bills?

My name is Kojo Yankson, and if I'm successful, I'll take the credit for it, so if I fail, who must take the blame for my Adaka Toh?

GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!

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