Are Blind African Elites Finally Seeing the Light?

Published on 16th January 2007

To advocates of opening, refining, and appropriating Ghanaian cultural values for development, talks by some elites are emerging in this direction. From Health Minister, Courage Quashigah, Jerry Rawlings (former President), Dr Moses Adibo (former Director of Ghana Medical Services), to Chieftaincy Affairs and Culture Minister, Sampson Kwaku Boafo, there are signs that Ghanaian elites are gradually thinking about their country’s development process within their indigenous values first.

A country cannot progress sustainably if some values within its cultural base inhibit its progress, no matter how rich it is. The strategy is to understand yourself – that’s your environment or culture – first, be convinced that certain values inhibit progress, refine values that cannot work in today’s development settings, then mix the refined and the already good values in the context of the on-going global development values in your progress.

Ghanaian and African elites, perhaps overwhelmed by getting independence from European colonialists, could not think holistically about their respective society’s development process in the context of their indigenous values first and the enabling aspects of their colonial and global values second. If they thought in such approaches, it would have helped them to not only get rid of counterproductive impurities within the culture but also prominently open up their cultural values for policy-making in the overall development process.

Courage Quashigah’s admonition that Ghanaian elites should think more about refining the inhibitions within their culture as a way of opening up Ghana’s progress, once again, demonstrates the intense implications of the Ghanaian/African culture in the development process. Quashigah’s thinking comes on the heels of former President Jerry Rawling’s insight into how juju does not work. Rawling’s military regime confronted this inhibiting issue by executing a juju priest involved in a ritual murder in the very village he committed the act, to prove to gullible Ghanaians that juju and progress cannot go together in the development process. Dr. Adibo observes that Ghanaians of all stations of life are driven more by superstitious beliefs. Diseases, such as convulsion are not supposed to be handled by hospitals but spiritual churches.

Remarks by Rawlings, Quashigah, and Dr. Adibo are heavily drawn from their experiences in the Ghanaian development process. They not only tell us the implications of the culture in progress but the fact that elites, as directors of progress, have a long way to go in their attempts to develop Ghana. Earlier elites, either because of colonial propaganda that despised African values, had weak grasp about development.

It is this lack of thinking within Ghanaian values that a large number of Ghanaians still think “that the death of someone is always caused by an old lady," as Dr. Adibo puts it in the Accra-based Ghanaian Times. If asking questions helps refine issues, then Dr. Adibo asks Ghanaians to ask themselves, "How come it is almost always an old lady" who causes death?

Of extreme relevance in this context is Rawlings’ current thinking, which will help brighten certain aspects of the Ghanaian/African values. Having ruled for almost 20 years and helped usher in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) programs, after years of wrong development thinking disasters, Rawlings has the remarkable leverage to think through Ghana’s development process holistically – revealing what worked, what didn’t work, why it worked and why it didn’t. More than any other Head of State, Rawlings exemplifies some misunderstandings at Ghana’s development front. His initial revolution has come about because of some inhibitions within Ghana’s development process.

Rawlings’ long-running revolution, and later civilian democratic regimes, failed to hybridize Ghanaian indigenous values with the country’s colonial and global values. From his initial socialist rantings, his remarkable marriage with the World Bank, IMF and other international development agencies, dabbling in some socialism, and  his utterances both as a private, retired President and high-profile public official, Rawlings had touted certain aspects of culture such as dabbling in juju, that are irrational and unhealthy for progress.

Now, there is an about-turn in his development thinking. Maybe, he was initially immature and had not thought deeply about the implications of certain parts of the Ghanaian values in the country’s progress, before mounting his revolutions. Many Ghanaian elites fall within this rank. Today, Rawlings, matured, older, reflective and meditative, could contemplate on pains of Ghana’s development process from his vast experiences, struggles, contacts, international exposure, and Ghana’s development history, and help sow a better and genuine development thinking based first on Ghana’s indigenous values, her colonial legacies and the enabling aspects of global development values.

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