- Frustrated, he asked if Ghana was worth dying for. When I said yes, he fired BUULU (fool, in Ga) at me.
Written By Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd) - When complimented for his high sense of responsibility, hard work, teamwork and humility, a respected radio broadcaster replies that, his is service to God and country!
The Latin motto PRO DEO ET PATRIA translates into English as “for God and country.” The phrase is often used to show the highest commitment to one’s country.
Not surprisingly, a famous educational institution like Yale University identifies with the motto.
Indeed, in a well-known operation, the code for mission accomplished was, “for God and country!”
While the reference to God makes obvious sense to religious Ghanaians, that to country may not be that obvious, hence the question, why country? Indeed, why Ghana?
At the foot of his grave at the Arlington National Cemetery where a perpetual flame burns, American President JF Kennedy’s famous quote “my dear American, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” is inscribed.
In the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Italy, Ethiopian runner Bikila Abebe joined the team as a last minute substitute for champion Wami Biratu who got suddenly taken ill.
Unable to get his size of running shoes from the organisers Adidas, Abebe decided to run bare-footed.
He did not only win the race, he set a new world marathon record. Later, asked why he chose the difficult option of running bare-footed instead of insisting on Adidas providing him shoes, his answer was:
“I wanted the whole world to know that my country Ethiopia has always won with determination and courage.”
When Tanzania’s JS Akwari limped across the finish line in the 1968 Olympic Marathon race in Mexico City, Mexico 7,350 feet above sea level, he was the last of the fifty-seven runners who finished the race out of seventy-five who started.
Asked why he did not stop running after a bad fall which dislocated his shoulder at the twelve miles mark of the twenty-six miles race, but limped in pain to finish the race, he stated that, “My country Tanzania did not send me five thousand miles just to start a race. They sent me here to finish the race.”
At the 2015 Austin, US Marathon race, Kenyan lady runner Hyvon Ngetich was in a comfortable lead for twenty-three miles.
With only three miles to finish however, she started feeling dizzy but pressed on. With two hundred yards to finish, she fell down. Refusing a wheelchair offered her, she crawled to finish third.
Asked why she risked her life to finish the race, she said “I did it for my country Kenya!”
Now my question! Do Ghanaians believe in dying for our country? Better still, since the best leadership is by example, have Ghanaian leaders taught the led to die for God and country?
When we completed our Masters programme and both qualified to do our PhD, my senior retired colleague Numoe did not understand my desire to return home.
I explained that as a serving military officer, I could not stay on for four more years like him.
Additionally, if I failed to return home, I would block the opportunity of officers being allowed to undertake oversea civilian courses in future. Worse still, I would be declared a deserter and can never return to Ghana confidently for fear of being arrested, tried and jailed anytime.
Frustrated, he asked if Ghana was worth dying for. When I said yes, he fired BUULU (fool, in Ga) at me.
I admit that there are patriotic Ghanaians who will happily die for Ghana. Unfortunately, many seem to think like Numoe. They give examples of leaders who come not to serve Ghana but to plunder. For many, other selfish considerations underpin their desire for high office.
In the examples given, Abebe, Akwari and Ngetich patriotically risked their lives to die in their words “for my (their) country.”
Leadership has often been said to be cause, while the rest is effect. It is likened to a snake. Once the head is cut, the rest is a lifeless rope.
Ghanaian leaders, remember President Kennedy’s dictum of asking what you can do for your country, and not what Ghana can do for you.
Lead by example! Selflessness, Integrity, Decent language and Accountability are essential qualities to demonstrate to Ghanaians.
Corruption, Nepotism and Insincerity must be eschewed.
Once leaders lead positively, the led will follow positively. That way, Ghanaians will be imbued with patriotism and happily die for God and country. Remember, Ghana is the only country we have!
Let not Numoe call me a fool again for answering yes, to his question “is Ghana worth dying for?”
Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!
The writer is a former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya