True In(ter)dependence; Reverting to Democracy

by Ewura Larbi

Imagine that midnight. The night Dr Kwame Nkrumah declared our freedom, with a very famous speech, marking the major win of that year. Just imagine the scene for a moment.

Increasing heart palpitations, blood rushing to heads, goosebumps dancing on skins, the cool night winds of March blowing; most probably the freshest air anyone present had ever breathed, were all experienced in some form by someone there.

As they stood on those grounds, now the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, there were mixed emotions. The people, especially those who fought for this victory to materialize, had experienced the self-actualization phase of Abraham Maslow’s Pyramid of needs. I’m certain though, that in spite of the adrenaline rush of such a remarkable win, a question lingered in the recesses of many minds, from Dr Nkrumah, down to the farmer on the grounds listening attentively. Would this victory live on for progeny? The democratic Ghana that was carefully birthed with blood sweat and tears?

In part of that future, I did live when I was younger. An announcement at the school assembly during February would offset a flurry of activities. Students would be selected to represent the school at the prestigious Independence Day Parade. Only the enthusiastic and well-behaved students made the list, and of course, the fit. That was my only disqualification. I neither looked nor felt fit enough to stand at attention on the Independence Square grounds until the march-past would end.

But I was not sad, because I always took the front spot of the TV at home, watching the ceremony through fascinated eyes. And I would love the display of culture and most importantly, seeing the president inspect the national guard. Such is a surreal moment, that leaves an impression on a child whether present on the grounds or watching at home. You’re motivated to be and do something great for your country. But here’s the thing, it happens again and again, year after year, venue after venue. And then, you realize we are just going through the motions. The nation’s problems worsen, the citizens keep complaining, and sadly, nothing seems to change for the better. Then you become jaded, wondering if democracy was even worth it at all.

Well, who could say it is, beyond reasonable doubt? What if this question wouldn’t be at all, if we were practising the original democracy? Imagine again, this time, the day democracy after development, was implemented in Ancient Greece. Although it began with only men having a voice, the people could finally choose their own leaders peacefully, and the leaders were accountable to the people. It was a give-and-take. The key part being that people’s voices were not only heard, but also pivoted change. 

To its core, democracy is firmly rooted in interdependence as a government chosen by the people, working for and with the people. Not one occupying office and making the citizens feel ‘used’ for lack of a better word. However, a cursory survey of most democratic states including Ghana, would produce similar responses. The people feel like weathered coins, changing hands between one political party and the other, like pawns in an extremely rigged game of chess. It’s hard to believe that that’s democracy. And yet, this article might probably go down as just one more statistic, one more shared opinion, or one more unheeded view. Yes, democracy has afforded me that, the right to share my opinions. However, in it’s true sense, it is a wasted freedom of speech, if it doesn’t go beyond ear drums into minds, into policies, and into action. 

Often fond of celebrating our ‘achievements’, culture, and heritage on Independence Day, we have neglected the recurring ills. Our nation’s waters bemoan the day irresponsible mining was born. Each year, our standard of living mocks us in the face because ‘she’ is so expensive, we cannot afford her. And of course, not a year goes by without youth unemployment spikes. What has not been said? If you asked me, I’d say nothing. But what has not been done yet? Too many. And we each are responsible one way or the other. 

This year, as the national parade occurs once more, the media promotes cultural celebration and citizens mark the holiday, this status quo does not suffice. If a government heeds the people and the people aid the government, we have our true independence. As we commemorate this day, is it unpatriotic of you to do nothing? I wish I could answer that or suggest to you how to celebrate our 67th Independence. But unable to, I’d leave you a provoking question. Would the future bless the day our independence was born because you were in a past that truly upheld it?

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