Ghana: Retracing the Lost Glory

Published on 23rd May 2006

First came the national destructive cancer of crab or Pull-Him-Down (PHD) syndrome. It was closely followed by massive examination crimes at universities and an appalling national disgrace that involved a Member of Parliament (MP), Eric Amoateng, being arrested in the United States for alleged drug trafficking. The National Union of Ghanaian Students (NUGS) took the cue crying for a panacea to its serious moral problems amidst a national outcry on major Ghanaian cities’ awful sanitation problems and Vice President Aliu Mahama’s “failed” war against indiscipline and moral decadence. Now, the rot at private minds is eating away at public responsibility, seeing Ghanaian cities turning into wastelands.


Helpless, the ruling elites have gone into soul-searching and are talking of a national orientation, more effectively, a national re-civilization, to halt the seemingly moral decline, which has serious implications in Ghana’s national development. The outcry of concerned citizens has prompted the addition of a national orientation to the Information Ministry to re-civilize Ghanaians, especially her youth, who appear directionless and mired in general spiritual weaknesses. The “characteristic attitude of resignation,” as President John Kufour phrases it, is not only seen in the behavior of Ghanaians urinating, defecating and spitting in public, which has ricocheted in the form of diseases such as malaria, Ghanaians chief killer, but serious moral issues like the Pull-Him-Down syndrome, a practice where Ghanaians destroy each other in the nation’s struggles for progress.


The destructive PHD syndrome is easily inflamed by certain negative cultural practices such as juju-marabou, witchcraft and some of the disoriented booming spiritual churches. Kufour’s national orientation is not new: from the superb values of the 56 ethnic groups that make up Ghana to the various governments Ghana has come to experience, any time there is fall in a morals, which undermine progress, concerned citizens rise up to regenerate morality and discipline. This is born out of Ghanaians traditional beliefs that at the heart of all progress is sound morality. Okomfo Anokye and other traditional sages/spiritualists extolled this in their respective nation-states’ creation and progress.

Aptly, Kufour’s re-civilization program is partly captured in development theorist Jared Diamond’s "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," which argues that among the five major reasons for the collapse of societies are environmental damages, such as poor sanitation and how the society responds to internal and environmental problems, as the ruling elites and the mass media are doing. From the Centre for Civic Education, which was headed by the late Prime Minister Dr. Kofi Busia in the later part of the 1960s, to the Jerry Rawlings’ military juntas, Ghanaian political elites have grappled with civic virtues and progress. However, the increase in population today means increase in civic tribulations, with its attendant sanitation crisis. It demands an all out attack not only from the increasingly burdened mass media, but also traditional institutions, civic society, and the booming religious bodies that have intense grip on the minds of Ghanaians.

Re-civilizing Ghana? Yes. Why? Because Kwamena Bartels, the Kufour Castle’s national orientation czar, says there is something wrong with Ghanaian civilization and that the best way to re-civilize the Ghanaian society is through “national orientation.” Part of the reason for re-nurturing Ghanaian “nationalism,” as Bartels says instead of re-civilization, and by extension patriotism, as Foreign Minister, Nana Akuffo Addo’s “redefining patriotism” indicates, is to deeply open up Ghanaian indigenous traditional values and mix them with the “Western” values. Despite National Orientation being added to the Information Ministry, the emerging issue of re-civilizing the Ghanaian society in the bid to tackle its development challenges is to bring the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), which deals more with constitutional education, and the National House of Chiefs, which is reservoir of traditional values, on board the national orientation game, especially in minting the orientation policies. 

In a country dazzled by the success of Asian countries, Bartels can go the Singaporean way by raising Ghanaian traditional secular customs, practices, and attitudes in her new national orientation. During the 1990s, in the distinctive Singaporean way, as part of her national orientation, the "Singaporean identity" was extolled in the form of “proper balance between cosmopolitan and traditional values” in her national civic education. This preoccupied the Singaporean leadership in their development process, making the country not only one of the most disciplined in the world but also one of the cleanest. In this sense, Bartels and the elites should appropriate the rich Ghanaian traditional values such as the concept of communalism by blurring and melting the seeming dichotomy between “Western” and “Ghanaian” habits and behavior in the national orientation program.

In this sense, Ghanaian roots and values drawn from the 56 ethnic groups that form Ghana will drive the new national orientation. This will make the national orientation reflect distinctive Ghanaian meaning in the discussions and day-to-day decisions of Ghanaians such as orderliness, discouraging littering, driving properly, and slum clearance.

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