In my last blog post, I maintained that we are all to blame for the current state of the Ghanaian ecomini. My very good friend Nana Addo Ofori-Atta was of the opinion that “we are not all to blame for the state in which we find our ecomini. The problem lies with national leadership over the years”. I promised him that I will respond and today I want to do just that.
I have been thinking quiet deeply about how we can engineer change in Ghana, land of my birth – a theory of change. I still come to the conclusion that the first step in this theory of change is for all of us to admit that we are all to blame and that the change will have to start from us. I am not in any way dismissing the significant role that good leadership can make in this regard. I do however maintain that the impetus for change must come from us all as fellow Ghanaians. If it does not start from us then I am afraid there is only so much that even good leadership can do to bring about the change we yearn for. There are a number of reasons why even good leadership will not help much if people are not ready to change.
Research has shown that (power) structures are fairly flexible and usually adapt to newly elected leaders but these structures tend to regain their earlier shape quickly afterwards. Thus there is a very small window of opportunity within which new leaders can really exert fundamentally changes. Now the interesting part is that these structures are made up of the (in)actions, attitudes, values etc. of individuals. So my theory of change for GLoMB is that when as individuals we begin to change our (in)actions, attitudes and values towards the socio-economic development of the country, we will begin to witness a fundamental change in the fortunes of the nation. The national leaders who have failed us over the years came from among us – i.e. they were first individuals before they assumed leadership. Thus if there is an individual who is only concerned about “me, me and me” then it should not come as a surprise that when s/he becomes a leader he will still be concerned about “me, me and me” but this thing in gargantuan proportions.
Now someone might point out about the great changes brought about by individual leaders like Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah or Lee Kuan Yew who just passed away a few weeks ago. We must however not forget that these individuals operated within a specific socio-political and economic context that is far different from what we have now. This is not to say that individual leaders with great vision are unimportant. As I pointed out earlier leaders with great vision can do so much unless the individuals within the society are willing and ready to do their part by changing their (in)actions, attitudes and values. If people are unwilling to do their part and there is no social pressure for all to contribute then a great leader will be frustrated in his efforts to bring change. If we accept as Nana’s comments pointed out, that we have had a succession of “incompetent” national leaders over the past years then I think we need to look at where these leaders come from. They come from amongst us and so if we all begin to change then I am certain that it will not be long before we get a leader after our own kind – a changed individual who comes into leadership with great vision and comes to meet a people with great vision ready to move our nation in the right direction. It is only in such a synergistic context that real fundamental and lasting change can happen.
So as a Sociologist by first training, I conclude that although structure (leadership) exerts important shaping effects, agency (individuals) play a much more important role in bringing about change – especially when the power of each individual is brought together in a concerted effort. In the end this is a theory but I think there is some promise here…or not?
Below are excerpts from one of the interviews for my PhD research on which I am building my theory of change:
…so sometimes I think we could actually, sometimes you can work without a paper if you want to, sometimes you say that if the paper is not there I won’t work at all, so it’s up to the individual. You go to a place, maybe ministry or something of that sort, sometimes they are even not giving money, in fact they try to push issues, those are the magicians, they will say that how do you do that but others are waiting and they say if I don’t see a penny on the table am not doing it so it’s like, is not every time that the money is there. You can’t really be blaming the one, the owner of the cash because sometimes you don’t know what, so it’s our own attitudes as well, to work generally.
[Is it that there is not enough motivation?]
That is true so but it’s, it’s depend on how you see it, some, the private sector they use to say because of salaries you know to be blunt that is why, but single spine has come to do a very good job making it you know, so now you can see they are at par with these people so what is still your problem that you have to read newspapers throughout you know, that you didn’t produce anything and then you don’t feel bad.
[Maybe there is no work to be done or there are too many people in an office]
Exactly, that is, that is so and cutting them down too, making them redundant too is another problem if you sack and if you cut the pay too, they say it’s not enough, so who do you blame here but like am saying it’s not always, sometimes the job is there but they are not going to do it. Sometimes like the ministries it’s overcrowded, many people are saying it and sometimes you can see that it’s true because you cannot have four people doing just this kind of (shaking A4 papers) work that could be done by one person. So that one is there and those who are not motivated to do the right thing too are there, they are few but in our system the spoilage is plenty, it’s plenty, sometimes you can just be honest and say it’s plenty.