ONLY A dunderhead will dare say that the world is not in an economic meltdown mold. To put it bluntly, only a fool will not say the whole world is facing unprecedented economic crises. People who belong to such school of thought are living in Mars; millions of miles away from the reality that we have found ourselves in.
Talking about economic meltdown mold takes me back in time to Nigeria in the 1970s and 1980s. Nigeria had oil boom in the seventies and life became very rosy for the people of that country. Ghanaians and other Africa citizens as well as European citizens trooped to Nigeria in such of wealth. Before Nigeria had their oil boom, the country was poor. In fact, Ghana was so rich that Nigerians came to sojourn in Ghana in search of greener pastures. Those were the golden years of Ghana and we felt safe and living very well. Even Libya was not as prosperous as Ghana because they had not struck oil at all. In fact, majority of Libyans were living on the desert in tents. If you see Nigerian ladies in their numbers in Ghana practising prostitution and their male counterparts desperately trying to eke out a living by doing any menial job, don’t be surprised because, some of our ladies and gentlemen too were doing same in Nigeria when their country did strike oil in large quantities. Suddenly, the pendulum started swinging left and the Nigerian economy began a nose-dive in the early eighties.
Shehu Shagari was in power in Nigeria when the country experienced biting economic crises. In fact, in those days it was not only Nigeria which was facing these economic crises but many countries experienced recessions. The situation was similar to what Ghana is facing today. In the case of Shagari, he took very severe measures to arrest the situation. The government of Shehu Shagari introduced what he called, Austerity Measures. The government decided to cut down the budget, banned the importation of certain commodities which they deemed luxurious, appealed to Nigerians to work hard wherever they may find themselves and invited the IMF to come to the rescue of the country.
Musicians, all over Nigeria, composed songs to advertise the Austerity Measures. They called on their fellow citizens to avoid ostentatious life styles and live modest lifestyles because times were hard. Even the opposition political parties, led by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, joined the campaign for the citizens to see the realities facing the country and help to make the Austerity Measures become successful. The chief advocate of the Austerity Measures was Professor Wole Soyinka, the seasoned playwright. Call it collective efforts and you will not be far from right.
The usual Saturday nights miliki (parties and social gathering where people eat, drink dance and play) gradually ceased because there was no time for enjoyment. Meanwhile, at the peak of the oil boom, some Nigerians suggested to the Federal Government to establish a Ministry of Enjoyment. (Don’t laugh because it was true.) Nigerians, who used to drink beer everyday, stopped and used their monies for something beneficial to their families. The flamboyant lifestyles which were associated with Nigerian businessmen and women became a thing of the past. The sleeping giant of Africa woke up again and life became fine until the Khaki Boys, led by General Buhari seized power again and sent the clock of state ticking backwards. Nigeria has never been the same again. The sages say not knowing history is like being a leave that doesn’t know it was part of a tree. If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday. Philosophy? No, simple wisdom.
The President has told Ghanaians that he is aware of the difficulties the economy is facing and that he will work hard to bring it on track. What is more consoling and reassuring than this? There is an old saying that if you don’t have problems, then you don’t have a job. What the country is facing today will not be the Endless Summer but it will be the beginning of Spring. All over the world, nations are struggling under the burden of high inflation, high cost of utility, shortage of petroleum products, threat of famine etc. and the center seems not to hold. These countries have put the blame at the doorsteps of the Ukraine war and COVID-19. Ghana is not an island in the face of these global challenges but sadly, people who want to come to power by hook or crook are standing far apart from what the civilised world is saying. They have deliberately closed their eyes and ears to the realities and refuse to think. They are enjoying the scenario which is unfolding thinking they could capitalise on the problems facing Ghana and the whole world for that matter to win elections. ‘Rented’ half-baked media men and women are on the loose, refusing to think before they talk because their bank accounts have been loaded with Kufuor dollars. They refuse to read and only talk and act as if they know everything. Poor folks! They are blindly taking sides with the hope that in case their paymasters come to power, they too will join in the distribution of the spoils of war. That is fallacy, and wishful thinking. In fact, that is bullshit. The Akans say if a bad fetish priest says the town where he lives will burn, he should remember he too lives in the same town. (Se okomfo bone se kro beshe a, ono nso te mu bi).
Nigerians were able to uncoil themselves from the grip of that economic mess because they realised they were one people with one destiny. So they supported the government of the day to implement the Austerity Measures. Instead of offering alternative policies to help wean ourselves from the economic recess, these nation wreckers sit on the fence and clap anytime the dollar goes high against the Cedi. They have forgotten that one day, they may also come to power. And who knows, by the time they come to power, worse things may happen. If the government is able to steer the ship of state from the troubled waters, what will these people say again? Continue to clap or mourn?
If Ghanaians were able to survive the 1983 famine which brought the country on her knees, I do not see the reason why we will not be able to go through these difficult times. All these will come to pass and Barbarossa shall rise again. We will continue to seek gold amidst the dross. It is a matter of time. If you care to know, the rain is falling here in my holy village!
BY Eric Bawah