“I am inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa because all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really…. I hope that everyone is equal but people who have to deal with black employees find this not true…You should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”.
__Prof James Dewey Watson
By now regular readers of this column must be getting tired of the above quotation. Indeed, I am brazing myself for a call from a former minister of the Kufour administration, a medical officer at that, who is a regular reader of this column and who does not see eye to eye with the quotation above and my views of the ability of the blackman to successfully manage his own affairs. Before anybody joins the dissent voice, one should find out who is Prof. Watson. Prof Watson is an American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick. Watson, Crick, and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material”. Indeed, what must also be noted is that Prof. Watson has been condemned in the most vilifying, vitriolic and virulent manner by some of his peers for his remark. Some have called him a racist.
Transparency International (TI) with its international secretariat in Berlin, Germany, is the global civil society movement leading the fight against corruption and working on the ground through chapters in more than 100 countries and over 30 individual members worldwide. TI raises awareness of the damaging effects of corruption and works with partners in government, business and civil society to develop and implement effective measures to tackle corruption. Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) is the Ghana chapter of TI. As the Board Chairperson of GII, I have had the opportunity to attend the Annual Membership Meeting (AMM) of TI in Thailand, Brazil, Malaysia, and Panama. To the uninitiated, all these countries are deemed to be part of the third world fraternity, euphemistically described by the United Nations as developing country.
For the avoidance of doubt, Brazil successfully staged both the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games in a space of two years, no mean achievement. Malaysia has staged the Commonwealth Games before and hosts the Formula 1 race. Thailand boasts of both underground train and overhead train network system. Panama, an isthmus of about fifty kilometres across operates an engineering feat, the Panama Canal and has a capital referred to as the jungle city of concrete and glass. All these countries were years back underdeveloped. However, today they can all be safely classified as developed countries. Let us take Malaysia. Ghana had independence six months ahead of Malaysia. The population of Malaysia consists of the native Malays, and people of Indian and Chinese origins. Malaysia combines the monarchy and parliamentary system of government. Malaysia boasts of zero poverty and zero unemployment. The ghetto areas of Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia looks like a walk through certain parts of Kanda. The government of Malaysia intends to declare Malaysia an advanced country in 2020 which is only a political statement of intent as Malaysia is already in the league of the advanced countries.
Ghana, the first black African country to achieve independence, attained independence status 60 years ago and declared itself a republic three years after independence. Ghana does not have the sort of racial problems which confront Malaysia. Ghana today, is a very poor HIPIC country with majority of the population wallowing in abject poverty while a greater proportion of the educated and non-educated citizens are unemployed. The economy has virtually collapsed with the currency on a downward spiraling journey. Since independence, corruption and incompetence in governance have taken the centre stage in the management of the national affairs with shameless impunity and the epicentre of this diabolical situation safely enclosed at the State House. The unacceptable and worrying factor is that Ghana does not lack educated brains, i.e. persons who have had formal education. The national landscape is littered with persons with doctorate degrees and persons spotting professorial titles before their names. Today, our universities can decree that persons without doctoral degrees are not qualified to be employed as lecturers on our university campuses. The country has one of the most vibrant culture of people with high level professional qualifications. However, the story ends there.
Among some of the virtuous and the villains the country has produced from among its educated class are the first African President of the United Nations, the first black African Secretary-General of the United Nations, the first Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations, the first African Commander of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in the Middle East, the first Black African heart surgeon, Financial Wizards, Financial Engineers, Greedy Bastards, Old Evil Dwarfs, Babies with Sharp Teeth, Leeches, Liars, Thieves and others. With a rainbow coalition of this educated class, Ghana should not find itself in the deplorable situation where national budgets can only be read after approval from the World Bank.
Education should form character. Education should help fashion out solutions to problems and not create problems. Education should make the educated humble. Education should instill the fear of god in the educated. Education should banish greed and ostentation. Education should bring out the patriotism in the educated. Education has failed to achieve all these in the educated Ghanaian in particular and the African in general. This is the fact Prof. Watson was making reference to. Today, when Ghanaians look at Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Brazil, Panama, we can only recall the frustration of some disenfranchised citizens as recorded in the Living Bible: “It is indeed a magnificent country (Singapore, Brazil, Thailand, Malaysia, Panama) – a land flowing with milk and honey. But the people living there are powerful and their cities are fortified and very large. The land is full of warriors, the people are powerfully built. We (Ghanaians) felt like grasshoppers before them, they were so tall”
What made the difference? Read Prof. Sule Gambari, former Nigerian Under-Secretary at the United Nations: “Africa failed to produce a productive middle class but instead had produced a parasitic elite that lived off the fat of the land through non-productive activities dependent on political patronage” – simply put, Africa has produced the educated elite who indulge in the practice of legal corruption.
By Kwame Gyasi