Patriotism has left the blood streams of Ghanaians. Everyday on social media, at least five people on my feed type the words ‘I for lef Ghana’ (pidgin for I have to leave Ghana), simply because they don’t see a promising future here. There is very little to believe in, to hope for, to be proud of.
In 1994, my father booked a ticket from Germany all the way back to Ghana, with his family of three. Everyone thought he was mad – I was just a year shy of getting German citizenship, my sister had just been born, and he was living a comfortable, impactful life, working with the Ecumenical Mission.
‘Stay a little longer. At least give the children the option of getting another passport.’
But his mind had been made up. He left the very week his appointment ended. He wanted to come back home, where kwadaa and kani were easy to find. He wanted to wear his agbada and cloth everywhere, nod his head to the rhythm of highlife music, and contribute his quota to the development of his beloved Ghana.
For him, Ghana was home.
You see, he had broken bounds with his fellow Ɔdadeɛ to watch Nkrumah pronounce Ghana as ‘free forever’ in 1957. He had ardently followed the stories of all African leaders who were pushing for an authentically African rebirth. He gave his children authentic names that told the stories of their birth. Patriotism was oozing out of his veins. Daddy unfortunately passed away in 2012, but I can only imagine what he would have thought if he were alive today.
Today, people take more pride in associating with their tribes or the high schools they attended than the land of our birth. At least, those associations provide some sort of benefit. The same cannot be said for Ghana.
Every sector – education, health, transport, sports, arts, trade, tourism, and the Godfather of them all, finance – is riddled with a plethora of problems. There are the officials who have blocked the nerve endings of their consciences with corrupt money, a system that stifles and frustrates change, and a people who have reluctantly accepted and adjusted to the status quo.
Ghana should not be where it is. We have had several pivotal moments in history where people had hope in the future of the country – in recent times, when Mahama took over after Mills’ passing in 2012 because he did not have the burden of pleasing his kingmakers; the Occupy Ghana demonstration in 2014 because a movement of intentional citizens were rising and when Akufo-Addo won the 2016 elections, because the insensitivity of the then Mahama administration.
Time has shown that each time hope arose, it was deflated as quickly as it sprung up.
I recently saw a tweet about important first date questions, including how close you are to the national cake. It has become apparent that our leaders, irrespective of the colours of their party flags, are not thinking about the future of the country.
The focus seems to be on making as much money as soon as possible while in power. The closer you are to the national cake, the bigger the slice you get. Even if you are just a foot soldier, the crumbs will find their way to you.
This is why the fight to claim or retain power is a fierce one. No government can deny how being in power somehow insulates you from the problems of the ordinary Ghanaian.
I for lef Ghana.
We think it every time our cars struggle to claw their way out of potholes deep enough to pass for dams in pitch black darkness, only guided by our headlights and ‘pothole memory’.
When we turn on the radio and hear politicians defend the indefensible while we and our loved ones bear the brunt of their short-sighted decisions, we shake our heads and mutter it under our breath.
It crosses the mind of the doctor who has to use the torchlight from his phone to perform surgery.
The young man, whose salary can no longer support the very basic life he and his wife live, tunes into another YouTube video on how to immigrate to Canada before his first child is born.
The old woman who has saved and invested all her money in order to have a fairly decent life and pay for her medical check ups has lost all her money, with no remorse or empathy from those who lost it.
The business owner contemplates closing down a business that is suffocating under the weight of multiple taxes.
The average person is gradually being priced out of everyday things- a good meal, a cold drink.
The dreams of working hard to buy a house or piece of land for the average working professional look more and more unrealistic, with every wave of inflation.
The young professional who wants to enter politics to change the course of the nation is faced with unpalatable choices – work your way up the existing corrupt parties or suffer the heartbreak of watching citizens exchange their votes for a 200 cedi note and three cups of rice.
The regular citizen who is not interested in politics is even afraid to point out that the barest minimum that any self respecting government provide should not be a campaign point, for fear of being attacked by a legion of loyal foot soldiers.
The voices of those who constantly speak out are getting dimmer. They are getting tired of speaking to governments that refuse to be accountable to citizens, tired of pointing out the patterns of corruption and double standards, tired of the insensitivity and arrogance of those who can’t feel our suffering. They are tired of fellow citizens whose loyalty is based on tribe, personal benefit and tradition.
With every passing day, the people of Ghana bury that love under a rubble. They brush away that nudging feeling that the future looks bleak. Feelings of patriotism are no longer invoked when they hear the national anthem.
Some day soon, everyone who can, go lef Ghana.
‘Where are you going?’
‘This is your home. There is no place like home.’
My home wants to kill me. The house is on fire and the people who should be leading the fort to turn off the fire are fascinated by the flames and are dancing to songs of celebration, because somehow power makes our leaders blind, insensitive and obstinate.
Yen ara asaase ni.
With every passing day, this feels more like fiction for the ordinary Ghanaian.
Keni Ribeiro is a storyteller who has chronicled hundreds of Ghanaian experiences in short stories on her award winning blog, http://www.keniribeiro.com.