A couple of days ago, I published a short article, “Requiem for a Country” on this website. Today, I opened my email and was surprised to get this note from a reader:
Dear Mr. Asiedu,
Your article made me weep. You said what many cannot express so eloquently. We are doomed. I look around and the only solace l have is in prayer. What have we done to deserve this? Will we ever come out of this mess?
Thanks for a fantastic article.
First, thanks for your kind words, Christiana. I am sorry “Requiem for a Country” brought you tears. It was not meant to induce weeping; rather, like an impending hanging, it was meant to focus our minds not only to clearly diagnose our problems but to rally for permanent and meaningful solutions to them.
The troubling thing about our political circumstances here is there are no countervailing forces to arrest the country’s precipitous and perilous decline: parliament is a laughing stock of a rubber stamp; the judiciary is a compromised lunatic asylum with the courts turned into gaming halls where bribery, rather than merits win cases. Sadder yet is that the ruling elite really doesn’t care about the well-being of those whose lives they’ve been elected to improve. If they did, you wouldn’t see 10-year old children, who are supposed to be in school getting an education, begging in traffic. Time and again, they disappoint us. Time and again, as gluttons for punishment, we vote them back to give us more of their deadly, suffocating quintet of arrogance, chicanery, hubris, incompetence, lassitude.
I am glad to learn you find solace in prayer for our problems. I confess though, I have succumbed to a new one of the seven deadly sins your faith abhors: I envy you – lust was the last I ran afoul of. I envy you because I, too, wish I could find solace in a passive activity that would work wonders on our problems. While I applaud your faith, my experience informs me and hard social science data show prayers have never worked as solutions to real-life problems we create and often can solve ourselves. If there is a God – and I know you and billions have faith in one – I half suspect she’s rather busy dealing with bigger and more dire problems of humankind – climate change comes to mind – to worry about our self-inflicted wounds, our failure of imagination and the lack of initiative to better our own lives.
She already gave us Ghanaians a nice piece of earth here: sun-splashed, brimming and glittering with gold, sparkling with diamonds, green with timber, fish-filled rivers, bauxite. She expects us to till it, work it and make it flourish to nourish us. If we don’t, no amount of prayers will get her attention. She’s too busy doing a little more for those who have used and improved what she gave them. She helps those who help themselves.
Tragically, part of our national problem may very well be the avoidance and transference of self-determination, personal agency and responsibility to a higher being residing in that blue spacious firmament on high. Loving the path of least resistance, we embalm ourselves in stifling spiritual rituals as we drown in our problems.
The people who brought us their Christian faith do not pray away problems, they sit, assess and figure things out, and not only come up with real and meaningful solutions but work hard to implement them, refine and tweak them in a way that changes and often improves the lives of a majority of their citizens. They just developed a vaccine against a deadly global virus within a year! What did we do?
On each and every Saturday, we happily flock to funerals of friends and family members who died of hypertension, malaria and diabetes – all preventable and curable diseases. Then on Sundays, come rain or come shine, we play the temporary avoidance game by donning on our finest clothes, smelling of talcum powder, Florida Water and cheap knock-off perfume some enterprising Lebanese imported from Dubai and sold to us at a hefty profit, go to church, pray for three hours, tithe for salvation and return to our problems unsolved.
Prayers – even from the hallowed altar of a new imposing boutique Cathedral – won’t clean the gutters, neither will they farm the vast arable land the Chinese are happy to take off our hands. And, I doubt the Chinese say a prayer before they drive the tractors to till our land or pour libations on the bulldozers to mine our gold, leaving us with the poisoned murky rivers our people, who once depended on them for millennia, now have to do without.
To your question, “What have we done to deserve this,” rhetorical as it may be, I can hazard an answer: We have not sinned. We have failed to acknowledge and recognize our shortcomings – we lack the skills, tools, and focus to solve our own problems and refuse to take the time, put in the effort to acquire the talents that will help build our nation; we have failed and continue to fail to plan; we have failed to work our land and put in an industrial productive base; we have failed and or refused to change some of our culture-based distractions, as the rest of the world changes around us; above all, and devastatingly, we have failed to THINK ourselves out of our problems. Christiana, for Christ’s sake we import toothpicks and onions.
Finally, to your question “Will we ever come out of this mess,” hopefully yes, and the sooner the better. However, until we come to real terms with our fluorescent shortcomings, until we face hard truths and decide to work indefatigably and relentlessly at our problems until we get real selfless, caring, compassionate and thinking leaders who see a larger good in prioritizing policy over politics, function over dysfunction – that is, leaders who focus on ideas and policies, not personalities – people who think about how to clean our open gutters, reflect on reforming our archaic legal system and not what Asiedu-Nketia is wearing to an NDC soiree, I daresay I share your sad sentiment that “We are doomed.” It is dreadful enough to make one want to learn French, decamp to Lome and watch the whole catastrophe unravel from a safe remove across the border!
And as sure as the sun follows the moon, we will borrow ourselves into re-colonizing debt, mortgage our collective future and leave our progeny destitute in punishing penury. And for this, I too nightly weep.