When I heard the news in the early hours of Monday, 21 August 2023 titled, “Ghana’s Paa Kwesi Asare wins 2023 BBC News Komla-Dumor-Award,” borrowing from Martin-Luther-King’s “free at last, free at last, thank God we are free at last,” I heard myself say,“Home at last, home at last, thank God it is home at last!”
I was elated because finally, for the eighth award since its inception in 2015, a Ghanaian had won the BBC’s coveted award.
The Komla-Dumor-Award was created by the BBC in 2015 in honour of Ghanaian journalist Komla Dumor who worked for BBC World News and was the main presenter of its programme “Focus-on-Africa.” He died at the age of 41 in 2014.
I have lived in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda. Since BBC instituted the “Komla-Dumor-Award,” journalists fromthe three countries have dominated the award winning twice each. Zambia has won it once! For me, Ghananot having won the award to honour a Ghanaian, was a source of silent pain which hurt my pride as a Ghanaian.
Previous winners are as follows:
1. 2015 - Nancy Kacungira (Uganda). Runner up - Paa Kwesi Asare (Ghana)
2. 2016 - Didi Akinyelure (Nigeria)
3. 2017 - Amina Yuguda (Nigeria)
4. 2018 - Waihiga Mwaura (Kenya)
5. 2019 - Solomon Serwanjja (Uganda)
6. 2020 - Victoria Rubadiri (Kenya)
7. 2021 - Not awarded
8. 2022 - Dingindaba Jonah Buyoya (Zambia)
9- 2023 - Paa Kwesi Asare (Ghana)
The award brought me joy because of the pessimism expressed about a Ghanaian winning, as every year since 2015 saw fading hopes as non-Ghanaians won.The pessimism reminded me of one of Boxing’s greatest trainers Angelo Dundee. Among the boxing legends he trained are “the Greatest,” Muhammed Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman. Asked how he motivated boxers to the highest levels, he answered “criticism is good, but encouragement is better.”
He explained that, while he criticised his boxers a lot, he encouraged them a lot more. He added that, constant criticism without encouragement only destroys.
Unfortunately, Ghanaians appear not to have the patience we have for foreigners, for fellow Ghanaians. While we bend over backwards to please foreigners even if their activities harm us, we are intolerant andquick to criticize our own, often not constructively.Our FM radios/televisions are replete with daily insults hurled by Ghanaians of all ages irrespective of status,at fellow Ghanaians.
Ironically, despite the malice we dispense so generously, we claim to be a religious people. Obviously, we only make a show of religion. Again, we do not appreciate, praise and reward merit, success and achievement. Meritocracy has given way tomediocrity.
The more I think of Dundee’s dictum, the more I ask questions like:
Why are we so intolerant and hard on ourselves and see nothing good in one another simply for having a different viewpoint?
Why do we find it so difficult to praise Ghanaians on our achievements, but so easy to find fault and criticize destructively?
Why have disrespect/arrogance and indiscipline replaced the traditional values of respect for elders and authority?
When the interviewer in a radio-programme asked a‘man-of-God’ what he thought was the strongest attribute of the Ghanaian, he answered “Traditional-Ghanaian-Hospitality.” Asked who the hospitality was directed at, he said “to foreigners.” However, he could not convincingly explain why Ghanaians direct hospitality to foreigners but not to compatriots.
A contributor quoted the old saying “Charity begins at home” and suggested that, if Ghanaians could not be hospitable to Ghanaians but could to foreigners, then it smacks of hypocrisy/insincerity and dishonesty/pretence in our national character. She asked how a people could be so unkind to their countrymen/women but shower kindness on foreigners.
She called for respect for one another as Ghanaians first, above narrower considerations like ethnicity, religion/politics, and strongly advocated a discontinuation of the culture of insults and violence by leadership and followers alike if we are to progress as a country.
Asked in an interview in Germany about Ghana’s greatest passion football, a famous Nigerian ex-international footballer had this as his summary for Ghanaian footballers;
“……flair……. talented……………but underachievers.”
He explained that despite all the talent Ghana has produced, we have not done as well as one would have thought.
He stated “I know that Ghanaians are so talented and always produce great players. But they always have issues with coming together as a team. I don’t know whether it is ego problems, but the big players seem to fight one another. That is why they are underachievers!”
Certainly, we are operating below our optimum as a nation not only in football, but in all spheres! An octogenarian friend stated, we do things selfishly “with malice-aforethought!” We must relearn the virtues of respect/humility. We must also remind ourselves of Abraham Lincoln’s famous dictum, “a nation that does not honour its heroes will not endure long!”
In all human endeavours, Leadership is the most important single factor hence the saying “leadership is cause, the rest is effect!” Leadership is best by example. Good leaders solve problems and inspire, not explain why problems cannot be solved.
Let us be minded that endless destructive criticismbased on politics/ethnicity/religion, takes us nowhere as a country! Remember Angelo Dundee’s dictum “criticism is good, but encouragement is better!”
Paa Kwesi Asare winning the 2023 Komla-Dumor-Award is a breath of fresh air in the prevailing gloomwhich should remind us that, Ghana can do better than we have if we eschew pessimism and encourage one another.
Leadership, LEAD! Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!
By Brig. Gen. Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
The writer is a former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya and Council Chairman, Family Health University College, Teshie, Accra