The good book tells us that “where there is no vision the people perish”. It portrays the blessing of the spirit as the ability of the old men to dream dreams and the young men to see visions. I venture to suggest that without leaders of vision to inspire the people the nation will face a bleak future.

Ghana has come this far because we had men and women of old like Mensah Sarbah and Kwegyir Aggrey who fought to preserve our heritage and self-respect. The work of the patriarchs has been continued in recent times by men like J.B. Danquah and Kwame Nkrumah who gave vision and purpose to the nation.

Danquah inspired the people with confidence in themselves and beckoned them to rise up and shape their own future. Nkrumah dreamt of a great and prosperous Gold Coast with a metropolis of renown men and women whose culture, science and industry commanded the respect of the world and whose leaders laboured untiringly and cheerfully for the well-being and prosperity of the people.

To quote Nkrumah himself, he said, “And across the parapet I to see the vision of African Unity and independence her body besmeared with the blood of her sons and daughters in their struggle to set her free from the shackles of imperialism. And I can see and hear springing up cities of Ghana, becoming the metropolis of science, learning, scientific agriculture industry and philosophy.”

The dream fired the imagination of the people before and after independence. Many saw in leadership an opportunity to serve and to achieve. The greatness and prosperity of the nation, not self and ethnic advancement, was the aim of many who became leaders. Thus K.A. Gbedema did not try to replace Nkrumah when the leader was in prison. On the contrary he laboured expertly to get Nkrumah elected to realise the dream which many shared.

I would suggest that the vision, which focused the attention of Nkrumah and his collaborators, enabled the nation to overcome ethnic and religious tensions which seriously threatened the nascent state. It further resulted in institutions, industries, and projects which were established to realise what was seen across the parapet.

Nkrumah’s great rival J.B. Danquah also had a dream. His was a great Ghana built essentially by individuals acting freely in a just society. The two visions gave rise to two ideologies which the followers of the two leaders have generally pursued since independence.

Unfortunately the two philosophies got entangled in the ideologies of the cold war.

Relevance to the Ghanaian situation were not dispassionately discussed and assessed. Today with only one superpower in existence ideologies have been relegated to the background and ideas and ideals appear to have no place in politics in Ghana.

But all the major powers have their ideology. They all have a system of ideas and ideals, which inform their political, economic and social policies. Only the naive believes that the leading world states do not promote and preserve the perceived national interest even to the extent of attacking another state for a vital asset on the grounds of a concocted security threat.

Only the naive believe that the major powers do not base their political, economic and social policies on a system of ideals and ideas which are modified according to time and circumstances. Of course political parties in these countries have different ideas on particular issues. But these different ideas are promoted ultimately to advance national interest and not to impede it.

And what is the national interest of Ghana? This depends on the national vision. If we dream of a Ghana whose system and practice of government and governance are praised by nations we acknowledge as our peers; if we want a Ghana whose economy is praised as robust while the people complain of poverty; if we want a Ghana whose youth are bereft of any dignity and hope and who line up at foreign missions daily for visas to flee the country; if we want a Ghana whose citizens believe that they are independent when the budget is subsidised by other nations; then the national interest will be promoted and maintained by the careless and lazy policies and strategies we have practised for so many years in the recent past.

I am afraid these policies cannot save us from our present predicament. We cannot move the country forward, eradicate poverty and build the brave new prosperous Ghana even with the help of the oil finds if we continue with incoherent, uncoordinated myriad of projects and institutions. We need a plan which will determine what we can do and what we do with the resources available to achieve desirable ends leading to the realisation of the grand design born of the national dream.

Our political parties should therefore tell us of their grand design. They should tell us of their dreams and the ideology or ideas and ideals which would guide their plans. They should present their manifestos which would indicate not only what they would do but their aims and ideals.

Without such an undertaking, we would continue to be fed with promises such as the following vague statements:

“We would vigorously promote education at all levels and make it relevant to our needs, we would pay the withheld salaries of NAGRAT.”

“We would expand and improve the health delivery system and address the shortage of health personnel.”

“We would keep inflation down and maintain financial stability in order to promote economic development.”

We should be spared the meaningless debates which such assertions and promises generate. The party manifesto for example should indicate how any expansion or improvement in education is to be financed.

It should also indicate the rationale of new measures or proposals. For example, why should the Agricultural Development Bank advance money to pay the youth in questionable employment while it does not adequately do its job of promoting agriculture through reasonable credits and other assistance.

The questions are many but we should ask them. This is not the time for vagueness. The political parties should come out with the vision which will enable their ideologies to liberate our minds to the intellectual processes necessary to build that viable economy and social and political systems in which leaders serve and not defraud.

Credit: K.B. Asante (Voice from Afar)/Daily Graphic