PAGA — The development of every society is dependent on various factors. Societies in general are driven by the attitude and mind-set of its people. The mind-set of the people is derived from the kind of higher ideals that govern the aspirations of that society. Indeed human nature and our basic existence as a people in the world is built on altruistic fundamentals. The very nature of creation and the birth of human civilisation is premised on the principles of selflessness because God made us selflessly in his own image. Most religious traditions extol this virtue.
Socioeconomic development can basically be defined as our increased ability to deal with nature and the environment and involves an increase in independence, skills, creativity, self-discipline and material wellbeing. This definition of development is only realisable if we have a selfless attitude in everything we do as a polity.
The primary signification of the concept of selflessness is that, it is the thread that would first bind us above and beyond the ‘impossibility’ mind-set in our quest to develop our society. The idea of selflessness is not only dimensionally about the care for others but it also encapsulates the notion of self-preservation for the sake of the collective good. It is fundamentally anchored on the justifiable idea that, the more you work for the interest of others, the more you seek to preserve your own human existence in the wider scope of human interaction.
Development as a process requires many ingredients of which leadership forms a part. Leadership as a broad idea encompasses many prerogatives and selflessness should be a central trait in a leader. Leadership in whatever context should be an altruistic exercise aims to uplift people from one stage of development to another. The intertwining imperatives of leadership and selflessness contribute immensely to making development a prescient and an organised undertaking that yields monumental benefits. Selflessness within the framework of governance should recognise the ideas of generational equity, moral responsibility, hard work, interdependence between the government and the governed, love, justice and propriety.
The foundational principle of nationhood is selflessness. It is about humility and submissiveness to the cause of the greater ideals of the people. The current development challenges facing Ghana includes at the broader level a lack of selflessness and patriotism in all aspects of public and private life. Selflessness is the panacea to socioeconomic development of Ghana.
History is replete with many examples of how selfless leadership at both the individual level as well as the community level has engineered monumental changes to the understanding of the human existence and its perfection. Selflessness has been the driving force of many great civilisations in the historical epochs that mankind has gone through. The idea of selflessness spurred the creation of one of the most stupendous civilizations in the history of man, the famous Kemet.
Selflessness indeed charged the founders of our nation into the boulevards of every nook and cranny of Ghana to drum home the importance of decolonisation that bestrode our liberation from the yoke of imperial domination. The notion of selflessness engaged the mind of Tettey Quarshie when he picked the cocoa seed from Fernanda Po and brought it back to Ghana. Today Cocoa has become the major revenue earner for our country. Selflessness indeed formed the bedrock of the bond of 1877 and the subsequent political movements that sought to liberate the Gold Coast from the shackles of political bondage. It is a virtue whose remnants can be found in every part of our historical literature both at the community level as well as continental level.
The selfless political struggles that led to independence were not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills, a contest to determine the meaning of liberty, propriety and conscience. The superior arguments in these battles were won and Ghana was born. The birth of Ghana itself is considered as a developmental milestone if one considers the literal exegesis of what constitutes development. The birth of Ghana is a testimony to what selflessness can do to a people if they have the audacity to hope and the sheer courage to trust their humanity.
In the round up to independence, most of our forebears held no elected offices, they were not physically imposing and most were not educated, but they led the protests, they used peaceful means to match as a people who endured hundreds of years of brutal violence and indignities, they did not seek any special treatment but equality and prosperity for their generations. That was socioeconomic development being witnessed under the spectre of selflessness.
Rosa parks (1913-2005) was an African American Civil right activist. In Montgomery in 1955, park refused to give off her bus sit to a white man. Her action led to the Montgomery bus boycott, an organised city-wide protest against segregation of African Americans in the United States of America. This particular selfless act of defiance opened a new chapter in the history of the civil rights movement in the United States. Today Blacks enjoy some freedoms and economic rights in a country that still hounds Black lives despite the fact that the US often touts that it is a beacon of freedom and liberty.
The nation of South Africa was liberated from the shackles of Apartheid by Nelson Mandela and other leaders who endured years of incarceration. Nelson Mandela for the sake of peaceful coexistence among Blacks and Whites in one country fought and suffered for this cause. He stood up against injustice and gave his youthful years to the fight for equality and prosperity for Africans in their own country. He was imprisoned for more than 25 years for standing up against segregation, indignity and disrespect.
Today, South Africa ranks as the second biggest economy in Africa by (Gross Domestic Product) GDP after Nigeria. The GDP of south African currently stands at $360.6 billion dollars as at the year 2013.The growth of the South African economy is attributed to enterprises of both blacks and whites and this has been made possible by the selflessness and visionary leadership of the late president Nelson Mandela and the other leaders and members of the African National congress (ANC). That is selflessness spurring socioeconomic development!
The development narrative of Africa and indeed Ghana has been one mixed with great exploits of selfless heroes and heroines as well as putrid and reprehensible bellicosity and foolery of dictators, maniacal political mavericks as well as political sadist of the highest ilk.
The recent story of Ghana is not too much of a delight but we have been able to fashion peace for 59 years. We have experienced technological development in every aspect of our lives. We have achieved laurels in sports and couched democracy among other achievements. What has changed from positive to negative is the imperative of citizenship. The willingness of an average Ghanaian to risk everything for the sake of this country. The development narrative from the viewpoint of many Ghanaians seems to be getting bleaker and mostly viewed from a pessimist spectacle.
Ghana has been plunged into a socioeconomic abyss due to a myriad of problems of which waning patriotism and lack of selflessness from our leaders played a part. We have sold our conscience as a people for mere pottages of corruption and greed. Ethics in public service has indeed been dramatically replaced with tribalism, cronyism and corruption. Political institutions have been engulfed in organised thievery and plunder of state resources. Corruption has permeated through our entire social fabric and continue to cloy our nation back into nothingness. Gains that could have been made in our strive towards national redemption and rapid development continue to pulverise under noisome and unacceptable political and social pillage in all aspects of public life.
We have been inundated with a society where greed takes the centre stage in almost all discussions. It starts from the podiums of churches and transcends into the valets guiding the dead men in the cemeteries. Our society is increasingly becoming one where charity is been replaced with celebrating huge egos and cults of personality around them. Many spend their time thinking of their status rather thinking of the greater good. There are countless examples of situations where the overarching goal of the wider society has been vitiated solely for the satisfaction of a greedy few in the country. We cannot develop socioeconomically if citizens continue to act sub rosa all with a misguided notion of ripping the rest of us off for their own egoistic needs. Indeed, Ghana is riding on an awful narrow rail between disaster and utter catastrophe if we do not develop a selfless attitude towards national development.
The words in the preamble of the 1992 Constitution states that “we the People of Ghana. IN EXERCISE of our natural and inalienable right to establish a framework of government, which shall secure for ourselves, and posterity the blessings of liberty, equality of opportunity and prosperity; IN A SPIRIT of friendship and peace with all peoples of the world; AND IN SOLEMN declaration and affirmation of our commitment to; Freedom, Justice, Probity and Accountability; The Principle that all powers of Government spring from the Sovereign Will of the People; The Principle of Universal Adult Suffrage; The Rule of Law; The protection and preservation of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms, Unity and Stability for our Nation; Do Hereby Adopt, Enact And Give To Ourselves This Constitution.”
The words of the preamble are sacrosanct and indeed they define the conflicting but necessary imperative that should guide all of us as a nation. This words over the years are losing their sanctity and moral relevance partly because they require selflessness in other to translate them into reality, a reality that should make life better and superior for every citizen. The commonwealth and the social contract principles in this preamble are becoming irrelevant for us as a nation.
The spirit of volunteerism are gradually dying out and this is one of the causes of the economic and social malaise we are confronted with. Unemployment continues to soar, inequality between the rich and poor keeps widening, cholera and malaria continue to kill people in the hospitals whiles political leadership continue to live in opulence and in the full glare of want, misery and squalor.
Our political history is a chequered one that has many lessons for us. We have gone through four democratic republics and five military dictatorships in our 59 years of independence. We have experimented with development philosophies both of the ‘right’ and ‘left’. We have witnessed socialism, capitalism, neoliberalism and classical economic theory in our match towards economic and social development but it has not significantly transformed our nation. We have developed numerous policies in Ghana but because we lack the national selflessness we have not enjoyed the full benefits of those policies.
Our history and experience should be able to teach us the necessity of auxiliary precaution in the exercise of power and nation building. In the increasing globalised world, we indeed can reshape our national aspirations into that which values the expediency of selfless leadership over the ideal of greed. If we respect the urgency of time, we can indeed change the destiny of this country with selfless leadership in all aspects of ourselves.
The daring character of selflessness can indeed propel us from this forlorn current state of to the cherished land of equality and prosperity. We have seen countries where selfless leadership has fought to cleanse the stains of slavery and the anguish of civil wars, the yoke of segregation, and the tyranny of totalitarianism.
As a Matter of fact, the directive principles of state policy as contained in the 1992 constitution is an indirect call for selflessness. Article twenty four contains clauses that explicitly lays down the fundamental principles of selflessness. We can indeed change this country if we cultivate the selfless mind.
Selflessness requires that we take a refreshing but solemn view of our existence as a nation. Selflessness requires that we manifest the creed written into our founding by our forefathers. It’s about making conscious efforts at creating a global identity of a particular civilisation that is bent on rising far above the expectations of the world. It is basically about a national sense of confidence and a conscious belief in a country that has a positive perception of national challenges.
As a matter of principle, it encompasses a national awakening where each citizen takes the quills of honour and justice and is ready to die for the peace of his posterity. It is all about us recognising that, for us to develop, we need to move from a society entangled in resistive forces such as religious and spiritual dogmatism to the unfettered realm of scientific analysis of our development challenges. Selflessness is about every individual within our community aligning their actions with the national aspiration. It requires us to re-dedicate our existence to the courses that yield the best results for us as a nation.
Selflessness requires that we draw a national development plan that considers not just the primacy of our current circumstances but that of our future. Selflessness also means we need to constantly review our policies and plans and submit proposed answers to constructive scrutiny. Selflessness is about good governance at the individual level, where he or she realises that, morality, conscience and rational thinking forms the basis of development within himself and the wider community.
Selflessness means we must have a national aspiration that cherishes excellence and rewards meritocracy. Selflessness means we need a dynamic educational system that expands the imagination of citizens, lifts their sights and offers them skills. We need selfless leadership from the farmer to the president and requires a society that abhors hate, derision, witch-hunting, political vendetta and laziness to that where brotherliness and love serve as the rallying point of our existence.
Selflessness should spur us into initiating policies to reduce unemployment and into maintaining a scientific and technologically savvy citizen. We need to forge consensus over bigotry and decouple nationalism from partisanship. We need to lend batches of respect to divergent and dissenting opinions whiles recognising the wisdom they contain.
Selflessness requires we build first-class road networks within every village and hamlet across the length and breadth of the country. It requires a well-functioning parliament that is completely independent of the executive and constantly keeping the executive to its constitutionally mandated responsibilities. Selflessness calls for a vibrant civil society that continues to point out the flaws in public policy and works with government institutions on rectifying them. It’s also about a vibrant, free and fair media that pays attention to the issues of inequality and social justice. Selflessness is about students who take their studies seriously and strive to achieve excellence in not just academic pursuits but in sports and service to the motherland.
Selflessness calls for the institution of fair taxation and appropriation of resources. It means transparency and accountability should be the driving force of public policy. It means we plan to constantly reduce inflation to the barest level. It involves fashioning a world class investment atmosphere that spurs the development of industries and manufacturing on an increasing basis. Selflessness fundamentally means clearing slums and embarking on urban renewal programs that lift poor families from living undignified lives. It is about a police service that uses transparent methods to recruit people into the service and that which cherishes the rewards of service to the community than accepting of bribes before rendering services to the citizens. It is about us been responsible for the waste we generate and the methods we use to dispose them off.
Selflessness means we have a higher faith in the Ghanaian experiment, that we are a country that is not finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and say that it is within our power to remake our nation to more closely align with our highest ideals.
“We the people… which shall secure for ourselves, and posterity the blessings of liberty, equality of opportunity and prosperity.”
This are not words in our constitution but a call for action, a road map to freedom and an insistence on free men to constantly shape their destiny. This road was started by our fathers such as Dr Aggrey, Kwame Nkrumah, J.B Danquah, chief Dombo, Yaa Asante Waa, Paa Grant, and a host of others who lighted the flame. We do not need to reinvent the wheel but to simply pick up from where they stopped. They were people who went against personal ambitions and took actions that were geared towards the collective interest. The great trait in the founders of our nation was philanthropy and altruism.
Selflessness requires more than singing the praises of the country or avoiding uncomfortable truths, it requires constant disruptions and a zeal to always challenge the status quo. Selflessness is about given minority groups the space and opportunity to aspire and to live dignified lives. Selflessness is not about others making attempts to define their superiority in a country where we judge ourselves by the content of our character and the deeds we pursue on a daily basis. Selflessness means we are always boisterous and young at heart and not constrained by negative habits and conventions. It is indeed the panacea for our development and it enjoins us to not only think of what happens in Accra but what is transpiring in Tamale, Ho or Axim.
We are a capable people who can bear our challenges and rise to the reality of rebuilding a nation on time tested principles such as selflessness. If we try hard, no matter how hard it may seem, the change would definitely permeate through to the passage of laws, the moulding of economic policy and the shaping of consensus.
Without selflessness, we shall continue to witness high levels of unemployment in our country. We shall continue to see our resources depleted and taken away to develop other economies. A lack of selflessness would continue to make our economy a third class economy with an uneducated population. We can only rise to greatest if we have a selfless population that is willing to change the destiny of this country.
It’s an ideal that imposes on us a huge responsibility that involves shedding of tears, the flow of blood and puffs of sweat. It means we need to constantly define to ourselves what it means to be Ghanaian, what it means to believe in Ghana and what it means when we say we are the star of Africa. We should be people who, for truth, must stand fast and suffer long for our generation and the next generation.