Redefining the Ghanaian Nation-State

Published on 20th November 2007

To see how Ghanaians are increasingly comprehending their nation-state, look no further than Women and Children Affairs Minister, Hajia Alima Mahama. She told the Parliament of Ghana that about 100 Community Child Protection have been set up to ensure that laws relating to culturally-influenced “forced or early marriages and other offences against children are checked.”


Despite the trouble of taking almost 50 years before attempting to know and understand Ghana, Ghanaian elites – timid and rudderless – are showing deeper and broader grasp of Ghana as a development project from within Ghana’s foundational values. It is a departure from years of high proclamations, emptiness and actual practices, as Alima demonstrates. This state of affairs is partly due to the fact that Ghana was created not by the 56 ethnic groups that form Ghana, but by the British colonialists, based on their development values/paradigms or to use a Biblical term, from their “image.”


Such mismatched practices in the Ghanaian environment have created developmental complications – with the average Ghanaian wrongly feeling that European values are superior to his. Ghanaian elites are finding it difficult to reclaim and secure their nation-state from within their innate cultural base. The informal economic sectors, which form over 70 percent of the Ghanaian economy, for instance, are not strategically considered when national development planning is being undertaken. The elites’ weak grasp of Ghana is seen in a financial and banking sector that does not reflect strategically the Ghanaian environment. Ghana’s informal economy is yet to see a successful application of the concept of traditional micro-credit (which can variously be called “Osusu” in Ghana), so as to open the hugely untapped wealth in this area for progress. The genius of the Muhammad Yunnis microcredit concept is the ability to bring the informal economic sector into the formal economic sector part of which involved extending “small loans to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans and done so without collateral.”


While attempts are being made to free women from excessive patriarchy and other practices that undermine their progress, it is not enough. In most parts of Ghana, girl-children are still forced to be betrothed or are the subject of dowry transaction. This cuts them from education and meaningful contribution to national development.


Added to Alima’s is Prince Kofi Amoabeng’s insightful observation of the issue of the “Big Man” syndrome, more appropriately the projection of dominant “Elders” or the “Aged” or patriarchy over both gender in the development process against all progressive rules and practices. Amoabeng, the Chief Executive Officer of Unique Trust Financial Services further observes that rules are twisted to suit tribes, ethnic groups, Old School boys and girls, Big Men or Big Women and people in high offices, no matter their age.


The attempt to comprehend the Ghana nation-state from within the traditional values has been more of big talks and no substantial appropriation in national development planning. Maxwell Owusu, an anthropologist who partook in writing Ghana's constitution and creating Ghana’s decentralized District Assembly architecture, reveals that Ghanaian traditional values have been on the national development radar, sometimes even used to justify the overthrow of governments such as that of the President Kwame Nkrumah government in 1966. But all these are weakened in terms of bureaucratizing them with the ex-colonial development paradigms. Significantly, Owusu quotes the former Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) regime’s “The Directive Principle of State Policy” that enacts “the adaptation and development of traditional cultural values as an integral part of the growth and development of society.”


Despite the multi-ethnic make up of Ghana, it is possible to comprehend the nation-state from within Ghanaian traditional values, and its corresponding appropriation for policy-making, bureaucratization and consultations for progress.

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