There was one key aspect of Ghanaian life which the President missed in his State of the Nation Address – national values. From Rawlings to Atta Mills, from Mahama to Akufo Addo, no SONA has invited Ghanaians to ponder our regrettable but inevitable decline into a folly. In the ensuing parliamentary debate, no MP wondered about the President’s silence on the state of the nation’s morality.

At the vetting of ministerial appointees, not once has our value system taken centre stage.  

In the Fourth Republic, as moral turpitude sank threateningly, the Ghana Education Service bowed to pressure to include Religious and Moral Education in the curriculum, but at best, we have tinkered with the subject, and in a rather desultory way.

My own preference is for moral, as opposed to religious, education. I am envisaging a curriculum that exposes our children to the deeds and achievements of high achieving role models, achievers whose life advertises honesty and integrity, rich or poor.

On a number of Ghanaian TV stations, the picture is that of a people desperate for money. Mallams, prophets and fetish priests, without any compunction, invite people to “come and double your money”.

In one such episode, the fetish priestess collects a token amount from the customer. By clever cinematic manipulations, which most viewers are unaware of, a Ghana-Must-Go bag appears. The “lucky” customer opens the bag, sees tonnes of money and literally swoons with ecstasy. In the ante room, there are tens and hundred others impatiently awaiting their fate in a queue

Incredible! Is this the type of media freedom envisaged by the framers of the 1992 Constitution – to encourage such acts of depravity? Do the unsuspecting millions of viewers not have equal right to protection under the Constitution?

When UT Bank began to offer “a loan in 48 Hours”, all was well for a year or two. Then, one after the other, in quick succession, the nostrils of more business people began to dilate. They smelled money, and that was the beginning of the end. Within a year, we couldn’t count on the fingers the number of loan companies that had sprung up. “Come for money,” they screamed. You thought they were selling chewing gums.

Examination malpractices will occur here and there, and it is not only in Ghana but for a cheating spree on a mass scale, where parents levy themselves to enable school authorities to bribe off “stern” external invigilators, where school children go on a rampage because they weren’t allowed to cheat, where cheating has become so massive that WAEC, Ghana, has imported mathematical sets costing $3.2 million to fight it, that is a problem.

Is it the fact that our governments have been too busy building roads and toilets to notice the collapse of morality? To President Akufo Addo I offer a Fante proverb that says that if you cannot find time to seek a cure for your illness, you will find time to die. Because dubious banking practices crept in while governments slept, Ghana has recently had to spend as much as ¢20 billion to clean up the financial sector, while corruption costs us $3 billion annually – moneys that could have solved all the road challenges in rural Ghana and provided water to every home.

Something has gone wrong.

We’ve lost our values. If a person has no values, nothing is important to them. They are sociopaths, wilfully immoral.

A person with values is attracted by achievement, courage, dependability, friendships, honesty, Integrity, kindness and sincerity, sense of accomplishment and being well respected.

What is wrong is that the society does not punish wrong doing enough. People get away with evil. Somewhere in Africa, not too long ago, there was a sense of personal shame.

Unfortunately in Ghana, we have lost it. There is no shame in being exposed in the media as a thief. The values of the street have become the dominant values.  

To top it all, there is a shortage of role models. Politicians, religious leaders etc have failed to live up their role. Appointment to serve has become an opportunity to illegally amass wealth – to acquire a mansion and a gleaming 4×4 vehicle. The youth are watching, and copying.

Finally my question. Suppose government suddenly decides that it wants to do something about values, which Ministry or Minister will be charged with that responsibility?

Everything seems to point to Culture. Question is, if culture is the way of life of a people, what is the Ghanaian way of life? What is the cultural value in a mother exposing her nakedness to her child, and advertising it on the internet? In Ghana, we are getting to that point in our existence where there are no rules for behaviour. That threatens to be the new culture.

Go into the streets. Take a look at Ghanaians. We have become a little lower than human beings, a state of being which I describe as sub-human. Any wonder, therefore, why even after striking oil, we are no better in our circumstance, because selfish greed will fight equitable wealth distribution. That is why discovering oil has done little to change lives.

But there is still hope for the future. The name of that future is called Values. Values are morality: you cannot legislate it. It cannot be imposed. It must be planned and well thought through, or it will be resisted.

A Ministry for Values, please! 

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The writer, Enimil Ashon, is a former Editor of the ‘Ghanaian Times’ and now a columnist of the ‘Daily Graphic’.