Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Yesterday's men and tomorrow's youth

by Ato Imbeah

At a recent delegates conference of the Ghana Democratic Movement (GDM) in London, attended by members from the USA and the Continent, a number of speakers touched on vital issues about Ghana of today and its leaders and the youth of tomorrow. This writer reviews the issues and offers a solution.
Flt-Lt. Rawlings and Justice D.F. Annan (second from right) at OAU Liberation Committee Conference. An effective combination of youth and old age?

The Ghana Democratic Movement, chaired by J.H. Mensah, a former Finance Minister, and boasting in its ranks such men as Dr. De Graft Johnson, the former Vice-President, Mr Vincent Bulla, a former Minister of Trade and Industries and Colonel Annor Odjidja, a former director of the military intelligence, has called on all Ghanaians with "diverse political opinions to unite and overthrow the illegal, vicious and murderous dictatorship regime" of Flt-Lt. Rawlings and his associates whom they described as 'evil men', who perpetrate monstrous atrocities. In unity, they believe, is the strength they need to fight for democracy.

Many people abhor military regimes. for various reasons, that of Rawlings not an exception. Whenever the military take over the reins of government of a country they send the hands of the clock of that country many years back and the short circuit solution to problems they indulge in only saddle the particular country with a hit-and- miss system of government, operating to the disadvantage of everyone except themselves. Their actions are usually riddled with inconsistencies and injustices, seething the national atmosphere with rumours and making it a hot-bed for 'action groups' who come out to demand an alternative to such a lottery system of government.

These 'action groups', like the Ghana Democratic Movement, make their demands not because they want to be heard but because they have a stake in the state, and a state is supposed to be a union of men for the purpose of acting as partners in the realization of a common purpose. The state has the duty to watch over the interests of all citizens, and any government, especially a military government which is always under the shadow of being overthrown should, to some extent, be modelled on the consultation of peace and

Ghanaians warmly welcomed back Rawlings on the political scene but the unfortunate killings of the judges and other innocent people really left a sour taste in their mouths, for Ghanaians believe that there is always a stain on the man who takes a human life, regardless of his motive and that debt to the life spirit has to be repaid.

But as regards the death of the three generals and others found guilty one way or another, the Rawlings regime may defend itself that there is a greater stain on the soul of a man who sees evil and does nothing about it, for to ignore evil is to encourage its growth. The delegates conference of the GDM could have passed by as just one of the panelists stated in his presentation the harsh description of the regime and even the attack on Rawlings himself, but for the personalities involved; these politicians who prove to be too hard in their calls to the young people to support them.

All of them are the politicians of yesterday who, deprived of their power today, are calling on the youths of tomorrow to let them try again. They are calling for the institution of democratic principles in Ghana, which is fair enough, but they have forgotten that when our mothers and fathers gave them the mandate to rule they only saw the art of government as something of a rigid repose and failed to nurture it with new innovations which could have made it impossible in the first place for the soldiers to come running to the rescue. It became fashionable in their yesterdays for one man to own his clothes and another a whole village.

They never befriended the poor nor the immigrants, they never encouraged science nor cherished the arts, neither did they foster religion nor proposed any generous policy. These galant men of yesterday advocate for democracy because of persons, all have equal rights in virtue of being identical in nature, and while all rights of all persons were assumed to be equal in virtue of their access to reason, they ensured that their rights in property were very unequal. And for these defects many Ghanaians became despaired of their country. Their insensitivity when in power placed the country at the mercy of any waves of chance, and Ghanaians since then have been paying unwilling tribute to governments founded on force, and there will always be government of force when men are selfish.

During their yesterday, they thought human rights were only about law, but a man has a right to be employed, to be trusted, to be loved, to be revered. But the power of love, being the basis of a state was never tried. Can they tell the youths of today that their methods of administering the country were so excellent that all competitions to them were hopeless? Such delegate conferences are nothing but fig-leaves with which the shamed souls of yesterday attempt to hide their nakedness, and because they know how much was due from them that they are impatient to show some petty talent as a substitute for worth.

Everyman's nature is a sufficient advertisement to him of the character of his fellows. His right and wrong must be their right and their wrong. The admission of shortcomings before they overstepped the truth of their office and have therefore come into false relations with the people. No doubt they are appealing to the youths.

Society always consists, in the greatest part, of young people. The old, who have seen through the hypocrisy of statesmen die and leave no wisdom to their sons, too deprived in life, and with ignorant and deceivable majority it would have been easier for these politicians of yesterday whose utterances of today are nothing but smokescreens for their deeds of infamy to carry the day, but the Ghanaian youth is not only a 'yes' or 'no' man, but ready and willing to give his voice on every measure and secure the advantages of efficiency and internal peace.

The military regime in Ghana is very unfortunate because that is not the traditional role of the military, and whenever they come to power, the whole nation is conscripted in its activities and the liberal principle of governance cannot prevail in politics. The military are not the majority in Ghana, and the rulers need to be responsive and institutionally answerable to at least a majority of those they rule. The military cannot be in power forever.

There is the need, therefore, for the Ghanaian youth to design a reform of property, a right to be employed, loved and trusted. They must know that society need not be an illusion to them. It is very fluid and there are no such roots and centres and that any man of strong will who sees the masses as the origin of his strength and sustenance can become the centre of the move- ment and compel the system to gyrate round him.

Whatever tender dreams they dream today, whatever prayer they utter today, whatever imaginary scenes they paint today but shun the ridicule of saying aloud, shall be our future resolutions. The youths of many countries when their nations faced setbacks rallied together and redeemed them.

In 1664 the painful and deadly malady, the plague, killed thousands of the people of England with a violence unknown before and in 1666 as the ferocity of the plague was abating, London was gutted by fire and five-sixths of the city was reduced to ashes. But as the fathers and mothers attributed these calamities to the judgement of God and submitted to the plague with humility and penitence, and the fire as being the malice of man, the youths got together and with the aim of improving natural knowledge acquired a claim as the principal focus of scientific activity in the world. That is why their people are now less subject to fire, famine, pestilence, and all the evils which result from a want of command over, and due anticipation of, the course of nature.

The Chinese not so long ago redeemed their land, so can the Ghanaian youths.

With such dedication and total sacrifice, when they do not let themselves be encumbered by material gains, they shall be able to come out with a form of government based on necessary foundations, not one which imposes any measure on the people because they can get sufficient voices to make it a law. It is time the youths showed all and sundry that they have national self-respect and pride, that they deem it the highest honour to love their motherland and are willing to contribute their all to her reconstruction, and as they learn from foreign countries and draw on their experience to aid the reconstruction from Ghanaian realities.

Apart from the rapid technological progress of some societies, the whole world is undergoing rapid social change too, and although social scientists give names like nationalism, the disruption of traditionalism, the evolution of rising expectations to these manifestations, the resources needed to be harnessed for the success of a social change are means in men, in mobility, in popular support, and in capacity of leadership. Ghana never lacks these. But the youths must come together to make the most of the pos- sibilities, opportunities and aspirations now open to them.

There is the need to enrich the lives of all Ghanaians with their vitality and sensibility, they must ponder deeply on the questions of justice and equity, strive to develop the arts of government and administration and lead their countrymen on bold adventures in politics, economic ventures and social changes.

If the politics of yesterday gives them nothing to be proud of and today's administration of the country alienates them, then they should now mark the turning point of history, but not under the armpits of yesterday's voices, for the old garment cannot stand the strain and stress of the new.

The national secretary of the GDM Germany, Mr Kofi Afrifa, and his members presenting a protest note to the Ghanaian ambassador in that country is alleged to have called on the PNDC to take measures to redress what they called "traumatic" economic situation in Ghana. Ironically, Colonel Odjidja called for those presently supporting the government to redress that "traumatic" economic situation to be lobbied that it is not in their long term diplomatic and economic interest to support the PNDC. The new wine never will agree with the old wineskin. As the fermenting youths are ready to expand their tomorrow from today, yesterday men are still contradicting even the wisdom we always claimed they possess. When such two unagree- able groups sit together, the cata- strophic outburst will set all teeth on edge.

The youths of Ghana do not want the military forever in power, for their presence constitutes political stagnation. There is no shame in such a fear, but need that be their immediate anxiety? Are they prepared to take over when the regime yields its place?

The youths of Ghana do not want the military forever in power, for their presence constitutes political stagnation. There is no shame in such a fear, but need that be their immediate anxiety? Are they prepared to take over when the regime yields its place?

The average African politician, be he civilian or otherwise, tends to lack curiosity and initiative and it has become clear that his powers of observation are relatively undeveloped, his ability to arrange and interpret facts is poor and most of them lack precision in the use of words.

Sensationalism and self-elation are the platforms on which they thrive. That is why most of them do not listen nor tolerate the expression of other ideas. That is why most African prisons are full of political prisoners; that is why poor management and inefficient utilisation of African nations' money in the drain; that is the reason for the inability of Africans to find solutions to food crisis and proper use of energy, that is why President Botha of South Africa used their internal bickerings to justify his unwillingness to change the wheels of the apartheid system in his 15th August broadcast.

There have been blind leaders of the blind in the past, but the era when we clapped to every utterance of any leader is no more. Blind faith is one unpardonable sin. The youths must learn to believe in justification not by faith, but by verification. In his fervent, emotional speech of understandable exaggeration, Dr. De Graft Johnson referred to the armed forces as made up of social outcasts and people with doubtful backgrounds.

Is this his open-minded observation a sign that when per adventure the pendulum bargains of politics swing in his favour he will advocate for an Immorality Act Bill so that Ghana's future military men become men of purer bloods?

The old antics of these politicians are still there. The memorial services for the three generals or whosoever and whatever principles they stood for was very unnecessary, for these men were only taking advantage of the tradition that the oath at the tomb of one's ancestors is the most binding in existence, and as was done by the proscribed PNP government at Dr. Nkrumah's graveside, by drawing from their followers such an oath, certain parties have bound them ever closer, no matter the many disadvantages to them.

Life for these men of yesterday is even sweet on the graves of their fellow men.

The Ghanaian youths of tomorrow who want to take over the reins of government must not only learn how to make a more correct response when they are confronted with similar prob- lems of yesterday but more generally to gain firmer control of their behaviour by understanding better their own ways of working. And they can learn to make better judgements if they are aware of the factors that influence their formation.

That is why it is very necessary for them to shake themselves of yesterday's influences for "he that would pass the latter part of life with honour and decency, must when he is young, consider that he shall one day be old; and remember, when he is old, that he has once been young. In youth he must lay up knowledge for his support, when his powers of acting shall forsake him; and in age forbear to animadvert with rigour on faults which experience only can correct.”

talking drums 1985-09-23 ghana yesterday's men and tomorrow's youth paa willie j.h. mensah deGraft-Johnson