The other night, I watched a movie called ‘The Age of Adeline’. It tells the story of a woman who never grows old.

For decades, she stays exactly the same, even as her child and grandchildren and generations beyond grow old and die. 

After the movie was over, I wondered what it would be like to be able to have a conversation with my great, great-grandchildren.

After a while, I realised that such a conversation would actually be quite embarrassing for me – in fact, it would probably sound something like this:

My dear future generations, I am sorry.

I’m sorry for landing you in this mess.

I’m sorry for using up our country’s natural resources, digging them up, cutting them down and selling them off to the lowest bidder in exchange for a fistful of cedis in our back pockets.

I’m sorry for not putting away that fistful of cedis, so it could grow and multiply for you to benefit from when your time came.

I’m sorry for electing leaders who could hardly manage the present, let alone plan for the future. With my vote, I erased any hope of achieving your potential and assured your continued global comparative disadvantage.

I’m sorry for idly looking on as our leaders borrowed billions of dollars in your name, thereby guaranteeing that you would all be born into debt and poverty.

I’m sorry for selling off our land and building haphazardly on what was left, not thinking about you, or the chaotic cities we were building for you to inherit.

I’m sorry for pretending to fight corruption. The time we wasted patching it up instead of resolving it permanently, set our nation’s development back several decades. You inherited a nation that is far behind where it should be. And that’s our fault. Us and those before us. I’m sorry we deliberately kept our institutions weak so that we could exploit it for our personal gain and get away with it. 

I’m sorry we stood idly by and never questioned those negative aspects of our culture that kept us travelling backward, away from progress. We should have said “enough”. We should have said, “Nobody else does things this way anymore”. We should have said, “We can only move forward by trying something different” But we kept our mouths shut and went along with it, even though it made no sense to us. 

I’m sorry we did nothing to solve our problems, and left them to fester and grow into the crises you are having to deal with today.

I’m sorry for polluting our earth, spoiling our children, diluting our culture, lying, cheating and stealing your future from you even before you were born. I’m sorry we failed to plan for you, squandered your birthright and left you an inheritance of debt, defeat and disappointment. I’m sorry we weren’t better. I’m sorry we weren’t our very best for your sake. I’m truly sorry.

Now, I wonder whether they would forgive this long list of wrongs.

If we’re lucky, maybe they would. But to be honest, why should we wait to find out? If after having this morning’s glimpse into the future, we do nothing to change our ways, if after imagining this embarrassing conversation with our descendants, we do nothing to right the colossal wrong we have been perpetrating against them… that, they will not forgive.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and I may never meet my descendants, but I must make sure they never consider me an apology of an ancestor.