Group CEO of Hollard Ghana, Patience Akyianu, on Saturday, February 29, 2020, urged Ghanaians to ensure that the values they espouse reflect both in their words and in their actions.

Delivering a keynote speech at the 8th National Public Relations and Communications Excellence Awards on the topic “Ghana beyond the ordinary: The value of values in our national discourse” she said the conversation about the importance of values to our society starts with understanding what we value as a people.

“Ultimately what drives our choices and behaviour and translates into progress or the lack thereof are the values we hold dear as individuals and collectively as a society,” she said.

She observed that almost any public or private institution worth its salt has crafted a set of values, and these values represent core beliefs and shape daily behaviour.

Values, therefore, form the basis of culture, she said.

“So let me ask you; what are our values as Ghanaians? What is our culture? And please I don’t want to hear vague answers like Ghanaians are hospitable. I may start screaming uncontrollably if I hear someone, especially people in positions of authority say this one more time.

“My personal view when I hear people say this is, we are being hypocritical. For those who don’t agree with this view, can you tell me how our so-called hospitality has contributed to the much-needed development in our tourism sector for example, and whether in general, we are a people who really help each other to make progress in life,” she stated.

She said our values should not only reflect in the words we speak but even more importantly in our actions.

“Values come from within and are formed over time. Simply put, as Ghanaians, our actions and behaviour in most instances do not reflect the values, we say we espouse,” she said.

What are our values?

She explained that the core beliefs and principles that shape our judgement of what is important in life are instilled in us right from childhood.

“Growing up, what did our parents, uncles, aunties and grandparents attempt to teach us to value? Respect, humility, truthfulness, right? In one breadth we were taught to tell the truth all the time but in another breadth, you were told because you have to respect your elders if even you know an older person is lying you can’t say that.

“How have cultural norms like a child must be seen but not heard helped us as a nation? As a result of so much suppression in childhood, many of us on the global stage appear overly modest and therefore timid, which sometimes goes against us. So right from the onset, there is confusion in our minds as to what our true values really are,” she observed.

Her second point on why our values do not reflect in our actions touched on the nature of our education.

According to her, whether it is through civic education or the formal educational system, there have been attempts to introduce national values through our national anthem, national pledge and the coat of arms.

“The national anthem, for instance, projects values such as boldness, true humility, fearless honesty and courage and the coat of arm has freedom and justice written boldly on it,” she said.

The process of indoctrination, however, in her view, has not been effective.

“Many of us were taught to recite the national pledge without really understanding what we were saying. I presume the objective of teaching the national pledge in our primary schools was to instil values such as patriotism, integrity, loyalty, service and so on. But let’s be honest, looking at the manner in which we were taught, was this attempt successful? I am grateful though, that I went to a secondary school which held us to very high standards of behaviour. Even after many years of leaving school, many of us old girls of Wesley Girls High School still try to abide by our values of ‘Live pure, Speak true, Right wrong and Follow the King’,” she said.

She then turned to the values from a religious perspective, noting that Ghanaians are so religious it is shocking there is still rampant corruption in Ghana.

“For us Christians, it is clear what values God expects us to live by. Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy and excellent, think on these things and put them into practice and in addition, learn to be content with what you have, the bible admonishes us in Philippians 4:8-11.

“Ghana would be a great place if the many people who claim to be Christians actually live by this code of conduct. My heart bleeds when I interact with people from all walks of life and realize no matter what they say their beliefs are, ultimately only one thing really matters to them- Money! And they will do virtually anything for it,” she stated.

She said it is important for every Ghanaian to prioritise our value system in the national discourse, but without a national consensus on what our values should be as Ghanaians, we will make very little progress as a country.

Going forward

She said going forward, our national strategic plan must clearly articulate and define what values every Ghanaian must espouse.

“Just like how companies set values that govern the daily actions and behaviour of their employees, our leaders need to boldly come out with values to guide us as Ghanaians and more importantly lead by example,” she recommended.

She added: “As a corporate leader, my personal values are first and foremost integrity (my reputation is the most important thing for me), authenticity (with me what you see is what you get), excellence, diligence, passion, dedication, stewardship and accountability. These have been my guiding principles throughout my entire career and by the grace of God, have accounted for my success.”

She concluded by charging public relations and communications professionals not to allow the embers of the conversation on the value of values in national discourse to die.

“You must lead the national discussion to craft a set of values that will propel Ghana forward. Take a stand, Hold leaders accountable and use your influence to steer the discourse towards values such as excellence, integrity, accountability, respect, stewardship, patriotism and real public service (not the GETFund kind),” she said.