Are We Marching Right?


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Via Cavemen

Every year, the month of March – when Ghana celebrates independence as a nation – creeps up on us with a lethargic monotony. Rehashed choruses of old pledges, charades of congratulations and the doling out of what one can only hope are well deserved awards to a precious few. The annual parade at Black Star Square and the holiday from work and school stand out as really the only things to look forward to. Watching kids mill about animatedly in preparation for the parade march, I can’t help but wonder why there’s a parade in the first place.

Drills used to train militaries to work together and maintain formation are what give the march a larger-than-life feeling. The march is deployed as a formidable psychological weapon. By moving as one, the marching army creates the illusion of a large, united and impenetrable force of focus. Imagine the fear that’ll seize you upon hearing an echo of booming voices and stomping feet coming at the same time.

Students at attention at the Black Star Square. Photo by Bob Pixel.

Marching has always been very ceremonial (as a reminder of the colony) yet, in our country’s case, it is meant to instill a collective and swelling pride and patriotism in Ghanaians. Parades are also a sign of discipline. I also find them to be an outlet for creative expression although I see less of that lately. Parades also give the nation the spotlight to show off military might just in case other nations might have funny ideas. Although in Ghana’s case, I think hiding our strengths best serves us. I have little faith in our defenses if ever there’s a need for them. We’re obviously marching for admirable reasons but the real question is, are we marching right?

My answer is no. It’s been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with only one step but you don’t call moving ten thousand miles in a circle a step. It is tiring and futile.
Pride and patriotism? I wonder about these. While there’s no denying that humankind naturally pledges allegiance to that which they know and are comfortable with, humans can also be quite selfish and act accordingly. I wonder about Ghana, however, where many people find it okay to litter their environments, sometimes because it’s not their home or community, and most other times because they don’t care. Or when Ghanaian businesses find no problem appropriating other people’s creative endeavors and hard work with zero acknowledgement. Or leaders in positions that affect our everyday life, persist in talking a good game about our health and education systems when they fly out of the country to receive healthcare (especially to the colonies) and are the first to send their kids abroad for education. Chale, the list of things is exhaustive.

Discipline? When did you last see an off-duty police officer stop at a red light? Or a cop not harass cabbies on their midnight hustle at one of the many pop-up checkpoints in Accra? Oh! Let’s not even get started on our judicial service.

Unity? Politics is a brutal popularity contest. That has been firmly established. But this driving of a wedge between people in the name of partisan ramblings? Absolute no, no. We keep telling ourselves that Ghana and the country’s people are peaceful, hospitable and loving but I find this to be an uncomfortable half-truth. This sad reality will remain so as long as our politicians continue disagreeing on the best way forward for the country. Yet the same politicians agree wholeheartedly when it comes to supporting their personal welfare and that of those they love.

This is not in any way meant to diminish the strides Ghana has made over the years. There have been strides made, no? I mean, we’ve been celebrating Independence for nearly 60 years now. Somehow though, 1957’s Ghana seems better off than today’s Ghana.

Nkrumah's March. Illustrated by Bright Ackwerh.

Nkrumah’s March. Illustrated by Bright Ackwerh.

As we celebrate on 6th March Ghana’s “(in)Dependence”, perhaps a moment of reflection is needed. 59 years on, are we marching right?

–  Kadi Yao Tay

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