Ghana celebrates its 60th Independence anniversary from colonial rule; a nostalgic moment that calls for deep refection on how far we have come as a country, what remains to be done, and how it we hope to get it done. Sixty years in the life of a nation is no mean achievement no matter how one decides to evaluate the past years. More, importantly how we chose to celebrate this occasion of “Ghana, our beloved country” becoming free forever speaks volumes about the psyche of the nation. In this opinion piece, Participatory Development Associates draws attention to how we celebrate this joyous occasion of Independence.
A familiar scenario...
Trickles of sweat slide down the side of her face. The sun is high and beating down on her head. Her cropped hair has turned brown from the light film of harmattan dust settled on it. The day is March 6th 2017 and she is excited. She has missed class numerous times and even had to borrow a uniform just to be here. She lined up at 6am and has been standing for 3 hours. She is lined up at the Independence Square, Accra or at the Jubilee Park in WA, in her peach and brown pinafore, surrounded by classmates – all ready to march and proudly bare their school’s banner to the President of the Republic of Ghana and his cabinet or representative. The president finally arrives. Suddenly there is commotion a couple lines to her left. The day is never complete without the token students who faint, that is, those who cannot take the heat, the thirst and the hunger. A couple hours later and it’s finally her turn to march. She swings her arms and legs to the beat of the military band. She snaps her head abruptly to the right to salute the president, perfectly in sync with the rest of her battalion. After 5 minutes, she is back to her resting place; in line and under the scorching African sun. All too soon, it’s all over.
Now the question is: How is this yearly tradition benefiting society? It is about time we rethink how we choose to celebrate our country’s single most important holiday. For the record, marching is not a bad thing. For those who line up each year on March 6th, it instils a sense of pride as students, policemen, soldiers, etc. show off their regalia to our nation’s leaders. It is important for the president to address the nation, the state of it and make himself visible to the general populace. But does this marching honestly have to take place each and every year?
Now picture a different scenario...
The day is March 6th. The time is 6am. Groups of policemen, soldiers, school children, pastors, teachers, chiefs, carpenters, doctors, ministers, MPs, market women, district executives, the president and his family are crouched over...planting trees! Preparing the soil, adding manure, putting seedlings in the ground, transplanting fully grown trees, and watering them. To add sentimental value, placards are added to each tree with the names of the people who helped to plant it.
We need to be concerned about deforestation, desertification, heat, dust and the sicknesses the harmattan season brings; the filth that is engulfing almost every part of the country; and the waning sense of patriotism – dedication to service in the development of Ghana, our Motherland. Why not do something about it? Why not, for example green Ghana? Why not make the theme of each 6th March – ‘A Clean and Green Ghana’, planting trees in our school compounds that are permanently brown from dust, our hospitals, our houses, along major roads in the Accra and all regional and district capitals. We do learn the benefits of trees in school. We spend hours in the classroom learning Agricultural Science. Wouldn’t this be the best way to apply this knowledge?
March 6th is the perfect time for Tree planting day because it falls just before the rainy season. This would also be a chance to revive the now defunct Parks and Gardens department which would provide the saplings that would be nurtured a full year in advance and to provide care for the trees after they have been planted. Such a movement should be championed by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. If this is done every year, instead of marching, gradually, this whole country will green up. Our public spaces would be beautified; we could take pride in our surroundings. According to the World Population Review, there are approximately 28,620,069 people in Ghana if only 1 million of them plant trees that day; we would have a Ghana with one million more trees. Being involved in the planting will teach us the value of the trees, to care for them and not to vandalise them. It would give visitors a better impression of this country.
Yet, Sixty years in the life of a country is a very significant milestone worth celebrating but in a different way. It presents an opportunity for us to evaluate the past Sixty years; how far have we come? What were/are the challenges? Could we have done better? How best can we approach the next Sixty years and make as significant improvement in the country’s development agenda. These among others should be our preoccupation during the Ghana @ 60 celebrations. Would using Independence Day to green our environment not be a more meaningful exercise to honour our forefathers and instil a sense of patriotism? It is important to recognise what needs to be done in this country, to make it healthy for future generations, and make doing it a nationwide activity so there is an added significance to our independence day. Hence, let’s put a stop to the ritual of Marching past the president every year, especially with the involvement of school children and refocus our celebrations in ways that will instil patriotism for development.
This article has been edited and republished by Participatory Development Associates. The original article was written by Essi Haffar and published by PDA at www.pdaghana.com