This week’s installment is inspired by a novel written by a Ghanaian author Ayi Kwei Armah. The book, entitled The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born, first published in 1968, is about an unnamed man who struggles to acclimatise with political and social transformation in Ghana as it struggled to gain its independence. But central to the story are events that unfold between 1965 and 1966 when Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, was disposed from office.
The plot of the book hinges on the unnamed man’s struggle to balance between the love for his country, the belief its hope and promise, faith in its natural beauty and the abundant resources which could potentially transform the lives of millions of his people; and the resistance and dismay over the growing government corruption just a few years after independence.
While laden with vulgarity and crude satire, the book concludes that socialism and nationalism are tools used for self-enrichment and perpetuation of colonialism by black leadership. The book is a stern reproach to black African leaders who have unashamedly abused their power worse than the colonialists, while depicting themselves as liberators of the poor masses and champions of African freedom and self-determination. It is from this conclusion that the book derives its title.
In one part of the book, a timberman tries to bribe the man, but he refuses because he believed in the principles of honesty. Back home, the man’s wife is not amused that he refused to accept a bribe — money that could have helped his struggling family. She believed corruption was a normal way of accessing limited opportunities. The man is disappointed by what he thought was an emerging trend contrasting the hope he bore during the struggle for independence with his growing disillusionment with the corruption in government. But the wife reminds the man that he could choose condemning himself and his family to abject poverty for the sake of principles or publicly condemn corruption and face the wrath of the politically powerful.
One day after work, the man meets an old friend, who is now an influential government minister. The minister invites the man and his family for dinner. And again, he is faced with a challenging scenario and he learnt that the dinner was for a self-serving reason. The old friend — a government minister — wanted the man’s wife to buy a fishing boat on his behalf. As a minister, he could not openly make such a huge purchase and he promised to cover the tracks for a small fee, of course. Again, the man is caught between principle, poverty and possible gains.
Realising that the boat would be acquired by dirty money stolen from government, the man initially declines before changing his mind and agreed to his wife signing the papers. That signature on paper saw the death of a possible opposition leader who would possibly fight corruption and get the country back to its track. His ability to spill the beans or fight corruption was now compromised and would mean that he and his wife would be one of the first to face prison because it was their names on the papers.
The fact that the friend was a powerful political figure meant that he had influence over the police, the law and the courts. Fighting corruption was necessary and yet a losing battle. That simply meant that the man and his wife were now complicity in corrupt practices and a part of an autocracy that perpetually undermined the values and principles he upheld as a young man growing up during the struggle for liberation in Ghana.
The book ends in a dramatic fashion when President Nkrumah was deposed in 1966 by the National Liberation Council with the help of international financial institutions. The man’s friend — the now former government minister — was on the wanted list by the army and the police. He sought help from the man and the man helped him escape from Ghana. It was payback time and partners do not let each other down. The book demonstrates how power can be abused and how corrupt tendencies by a leadership can cascade down into the lives of its most ordinary citizens.
However, in our Zimbabwe context, it begs the question: When are true opposition leaders going to be born? Our opposition leaders are in bed with the dictator. They do business and share profits with those they purport to oppose. In courts, they represent and seek freedom for those who abuse them and citizens. They represent the same people they oppose in politics. They pretend to challenge ”stolen elections” when they do not file criminal charges for looted national resources because they are in complicity with the looters. They are part of the ecosystem of plunder. As long as they are profiteering from the establishment, real opposition is yet to come, so is political change.
It is when we have genuine leadership that the future of the country can be guaranteed. Ghana shows us it is possible. It has since moved on and has gone through various stages of socio-economic transformation. They have found the right code. With an economy that boasts of a diverse and rich resource base, including the manufacturing and export of digital technology goods, automotive and ship construction and export, and the export of diverse and rich resources such as hydrocarbons and industrial minerals, Ghana now has one of the highest Gross Domestic Product per capita in West Africa. Due to its economic rebasement, in 2011 Ghana was the fastest-growing economy in the world.
Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity. This article was first published by here the News Day.