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How Ghana became perennial underachiever; a story of Otabil’s golden fish

Source:  Ghana, a country with great promise after independence has been on a downward spiral year after year, thanks to a small minded citizenry living in a restraining culture and under wayward governments.

That is Dr Mensa Otabil’s summary of Ghana’s great story of misery, one with “sparks and glimmers of hope” but steeped in perpetual deterioration.

He was the keynote speaker at this year’s Festival of Ideas and once again the founder of the International Central Gospel Church in a parable of a Koi fish, [what Ghanaians call a golden fish] in an aquarium, told the story of Ghana’s depressing slide into oblivion and how the country can regain the glory it was noted for in the early ’50s.

Ghana, he said, has produced a few leaders only in civil and public service, with corporate leaders whose influence are anything but global.

“There are no locally grown world class entrepreneurs. That has not happened yet,” he pointed out, insisting there is something about the Ghanaian space, culture and government that limit the potential for growth and global excellence of the average Ghanaian.

The Golden fish 

Dr Otabil said the Ghanaian is like a Koi fish or the golden fish; depending on which space it is kept in, it will grow and function according to its limitation.

According to him, a golden fish in a pond he saw in a hotel was 2 feet long. But he has the same golden fish in an aquarium which is only 2 inches. Yet, when that same golden fish is put in a lake it will grow to 4 feet.

So what is it about the Ghanaian golden fish which can grow in a lake but for years has been forced to grow in an aquarium?

The preacher man minced no words in prescribing what he believes has been Ghana’s greatest challenges- “subsistence thinking by the citizenry,” and a clueless cluster of governments who attempt to help the average Ghanaian but only end up stifling their growth.

Like butterflies growing from their pupae, Dr Otabil believes the Ghanaian must be allowed the space to grow and expand by themselves. Only then will they fly. But when, an external factor – government- comes in usually with a misdiagnosed solution, the end result is failure.

“The challenge I believe facing this country and all of us, first at the personal level, is small thinking. Just thinking for yourself, wife and husband, children. And when we get slightly successful, we get overwhelmed by our own success…”

The whole culture is steeped in smallness,” he said but that is an exercise in futility, he added.

“We have to be big to create opportunities for others to be big; create an ecosystem for others to flourish,” he indicated.

Government, the problem 

Dr Otabil was emphatic governments, past and present, have played a major part in Ghana’s years of stagnation.

“When the government becomes too much involved in our lives they mess us up,” he said. The government must focus on nurturing infant industries with cheaper capital to enterpreneurs.

“My desire is to see a see a country whose government is committed to its core business – ensuring a sane, sensible environment – and which does not intrude into the space of the citizens.”

“In every good society the politicians formulate the policy, the public servants implement it and the people use the policy and make it work,” he said, adding, that is the way the Ghanaian can achieve success.

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