I have been waiting here for more than an hour for the first “Trotro” to turn up at the Kasoa terminal of the popular Tema Station in Ghana’s capital, Accra; so that I can deliver the first sale of local rice from our family farm. What catches my attention now is not the time I am losing, which is critical man-hours for me though, but the unchanging situation of economic vulnerability that has baptized much of sub-Saharan Africa; where we say Ghana is a beacon of democracy and political stability even if the dividends of this accolade are yet to be realized in the realities of daily lives.
A yonder, I see two young women in conversation, a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes on the table serving their platform. Elsewhere, this beautiful baby would be lying in a cushioned cot or baby-sitter with a variety of dangling toys swinging in her curious view, here and there; under the eagle eyes of its career woman cum caring mother perhaps still recovering from prolonged baby blues and postpartum norms.
But here, with the pain of child birth long forgotten and the joys of motherhood veiled by the harsh conditions in an inner-city shanti, this baby not born in a manger now has its sphere of life clearly cut out in an unpredictable (to say the least because the future awaiting such a beginning is of significant predictability) circumstance.
This is not an uncommon reality in this part of the global village. It is the norm that has found its way in numerous texts of the development industry. It is the face of at least the first seven Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) arouses us to pursue speedily when he declared 2020-2030 the Decade of Action for the achievement of the global agenda for transformation. This transformation we have been waiting for so long!
Tema station was designed as a main terminal for commercial passenger vehicles, commonly called “Trotro” in Ghana, but the critical housing deficit and draconian jaws of the phenomenal informal economy has seemingly endorsed into legitimacy, if appalled by legality, of critical service providers such as Kayayo and vendors who virtually begin and complete their mortal life cycle here; with intermittent vector movements to their hometowns.
This is why I was not again surprised when after a few minutes, at the same spot, a mother “constructs” utilizes and demolishes a bathroom and dressing room for her toddler.
The project was SMART, for in a few minutes she had accomplished her, perhaps, first objective of the day; and the little life was off skirting about a normal health threat: the never-ending sanitation problem which has endured every clean-up campaign organized by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA).
Another “naughty” child, as some of us adults like to refer to children doing things we don’t like but don’t also seem to really want to solve, is seen visited upon by the “wrath” of a “caring father” who doesn’t won’t to lose beloved pension-child to Tema Station’s uncertainties; he gives the expected spanking before exhibiting the rare fatherhood that has left many a fatherless children littering Accra’s busy streets and markets.
These two children, girl and boy, are typical of the random sampling statistics on child delinquency, teenage pregnancy, youth unemployment, unstable marriages, recycled poverty and disappointed old age awaiting us in 2030-2045 when the current UN- driven SDGs have expired and the low-side mixed report is produced as a pre-requisite for another global development cycle.
Will things ever change?
The Biblical book of Ecclesiastical is a stack representation of how changeless the norm of human existence may be: nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastics vibrates with repeated examples of how both the wise and foolish, rich and poor, powerful and vulnerable, young and old, now and then may forever remain the same and head towards the same ending.
Its refrain, “vanity of vanities all is vanity” is underpinned by the context of mortality to which we will all submit; and qualified by the reality of the immortality of our soul and the eternal judgement awaiting each of us like how the Supreme Court awaits anyone who flouts the constitutional rights of citizens and people living in Ghana.
The last verse in Ecclesiastical thunders:” For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastics 12:14). It is this hope of accountability that encourages us to know that things can change!
Life is consequential. We will all reap what we sow; and as a country and people, Ghana and Africans (indeed all humanity) must rise up to greater responsibility with hope beyond mere wishes. This is the view shared by all of us who go to bed thinking about how to make our country and sub-region, work efficiently for the good of all in a manner that ensures the increasing unwarranted inequalities is overcome by true meritocracy in wealth distribution.
We the ordinary people, including the guy who sorted my momo cash-out so I could quickly pay the Trotro mate for my farm rice delivery at Kasoa, agree we must do “Whatever it takes” to make the system work well for everybody!
How can transformation happen?
here are several perspectives to this, so a linear monolithic logic won’t cut it. Any holistic approach may have to comprehensively analyze multiple contexts, concepts and practical policy and programming contents of a creative development approach that targets wellbeing rather than selfish convenience. Such an approach must be simple but not simplistic because the challenges are comprehensive so the solutions must be encompassing but not complicated.
The multiple components of solutions, with their numerous elements and respective systems fairly framed to efficiently address by properly diagnosed problems must be framed into a cohesive harmonious productivity-oriented (not mere production) engineering machine undergirded by spiritual morality, that near-transcendental component of reality guiding our sense of right and wrong.
It’s critical to understand the kind of foundation we are putting in place for this concept of comprehensive solutions.
Let’s be careful of two extremes: first, those who think there is nothing like God nor the devil and that spirituality is mere superstition, designed by the smart to outwit the gullible and second, those whose idea about God and spirituality is all about “miracles”, unintelligent superimpositions and religious slough sloth and greed.
In between is a delicate set of nuances presenting an interplay of multiple dynamics across the spectrum of reality that seem to defy both north and south of our global economic hemisphere.
The global north has become almost atheistic, over-materialistic and power drunk with the continuous power-struggle between east and west and making talk about fingers on the nuclear knob still perceivable in this day and age of UN strides in peace making: Russia China and Iran on one side; Europe and America on the other; with Africa’s pretentious and opportunistic non-aligned posture strategically serving our present need.
On the other hand, the global south is seen as backward and dumb; silly beyond true repair and good only as paper partners who should not have equal space and power on the UN Security Council. This sophisticated inequality between the global north and south has created a moral disability that the probably hollow spirituality of the world’s religions are struggling to resolve.
This disability is what continues to worsen the situation of our physically impaired kith and kin and made my walk back to the office after delivering my bag of farm-Frisch Ghana rice, an experience of many cogitations as I passed by this long serving street beggar across the street towards the Auditor and Accountant Generals’ Department in the enclave of Ghana government machinery, the Ministries area in Accra!
To be continued