As President Akufo-Addo puts together his government, many wait with eagerness the change he promised.
A sachet water saleswoman I encountered at the Kasoa New Market shortly after his December 2016 victory expressed this hope saying: “Nana has come. Change has come”.
What makes you so sure? I quizzed. She said, “Nana promised us change [during the campaign]. That’s why we voted for him [and] I expect my life to be better [under his presidency].”
Kuukuwa is just one of many Ghanaians, whose hope in this government, can be described as limitless.
An alternative line: But how many of the changes Ghanaians are so looking forward to are actually within Nana Addo’s power to effect? How many of those changes lie solely with the people who so desperately look to politicians for help when they themselves are the only ones really in a position to significantly better their own lives and communities?
If only we can change our mindsets, attitudes, beliefs and even our education, then real improvement in our lives and that of our country can take place under any governing party.
Surely, we expect the Akufo-Addo-led government to pay off its political debts, namely to build a factory in each district as well as a dam in every farming village, while simultaneously reducing taxes and utility tariffs.
These, as a 2005 CDD/ODI Policy brief No.1 explains, can remove “the immediate obstacle to a more dynamic process of economic change [which has a lot to do with] the policy environment – specifically the absence of the conditions for doing business in a modern, competitive way in a global economic system”.
Thus, carrying through with his promises to reduce corruption and redirect the nation’s resources to useful purposes and ensuring political stability will go a long way to affect our nation’s economic health and increase financial opportunities for Ghanaians.
But is more money really the answer to all of our problems? Will restoring the allowances of trainee teachers alone fix our education system so that our children receive the type of education they need to lead successful and secure adult lives? Will restoring the allowances of nurses alone improve our hospital mortality rates or get people living healthier lifestyles to avoid the hospital in the first place?
While others have hope akin to faith, I have doubts.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines “change” as follows:
•To make or become different
•To take something you have bought back to a shop and exchange it for something else
•To form a new opinion or make a new decision about something that is different from the old one
•To improve the bad parts of your behaviour
For the most part, change, as the President promised, has more to do with Ghana’s economy and that is what majority of us seem to have bought into. Yet that will not absolutely improve our lives and that of the nation.
What we really must do is improve our mindsets and, with it, some of our bad behaviours, the ones that lead to many of the problems we look to our leaders to fix. It is only by taking on a more personal responsibility that real change will come.
For instance, how well will our lives be if we keep on gleefully littering and indifferently choking our drains with human excreta? Will the resultant floods suddenly cease because Nana Akufo-Addo brought about economic change? Will cholera suddenly no longer have an optimal breeding ground?
On a less physically dangerous level but of perhaps even greater danger to our quality of life, how can we keep up with this culture that allows us to be late for every occasion? How about our lack of entrepreneurial spirit and non-maintenance culture? How our inability to maintain a reading culture and the lack thereof in imbibing same in our children?
Do we expect President Akufo-Addo to bring about that change? Well, he can’t, and it will be no fault of his any more than it was the fault of the previous administration.
To the new President’s credit, he recognises his own limitations and sees his role as our nation’s highest leader not just as a provider but as a motivator. That’s why during his investiture speech, he said he expects all hands on deck. That is why he urged us to be “citizens [and] not spectators; responsible citizens [who will be involved in] building our communities and nation”.
Change really starts with a shift in our attitudes, beliefs and mindsets; this happening simultaneously with changes in the economic environment will improve our lives.
To quote President Barack Obama, “…change only happens when ordinary people get involved,” “and they get engaged, and come together to demand it”. But that demand cannot be just of our political leaders. We must demand it first and foremost of ourselves and each other.
Which is why I would ask my new friend Kukuwaa and all of you Ghanaians out there, what are you going to do to inspire and effect the changes we so desperately desire in our communities, our country, and our individual lives?
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