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Angry Ghanaians Want Their Country Fixed

The past week has seen social media awash with a hashtag #fixthecountry which underpins and registers the frustrations of many angry Ghanaians who are thoroughly tired of the excruciating state affairs of the country. Such simmering frustration that culminated into this ubiquitous social media hashtag is a product of a hodgepodge of rising cost of living, joblessness, power shortages, fuel hikes, poor infrastructure, among other economic and political hardships.

Indeed, this is not the first time Ghanaian youths took to the street or social media to register their displeasure at the dismal state of the country. In 2014, for example, the #OccupyGhana movement trod on a similar path and garnered unflinching followers who later mounted physical protest straight to the Jubilee House, Ghana’s presidential palace. Vehement as they are from the outset, these movements are usually short-lived, only active during the regime of a particular government. This begs the question of whether such movements have no political strappings. Take the #OcuupyGhana movement, for example, that was politically active about 7 years ago in a different political arena, but has now been conspicuously silent in the midst of the current far-reaching economic affliction. Verily then the ulterior motives of the #fixthecountry movement might as well be politically oriented.

In any case, the focal point should not be about the political paraphernalia of these movements but about the underlying economic and social downturns that compel the otherwise independent, neutral ordinary citizen to join the movements. Movements, regardless of the tacit machinations of their origins, exploit the frustrations of the abject masses for their ends. Movements alone do not and cannot effectuate any political force on the government unless they appeal to the hopes and aspirations of the people.

The social movement call in Ghana is no different. The cause is calling on all concerned Ghanaians, especially the youth, to embrace the call as a rounded force to put the government on its toes and make things work to attain a better Ghana that serves all but not the few. Today, the combinations of economic hardships in Ghana range from rising prices of goods to power shortages, and from high youth unemployment to wanton corruption. Prices of cement, for example, have shot up more than 50 percent within a space of 12 months (Prices went up more than 75 percent from March 2019 to March 2021).

Rising youth unemployment is a big problem for many graduates not just because it makes living conditions harder for them, but learned skills perish overtime if unused. A 2020 World Bank report reveals that Ghana’s youth unemployment rate (12%) and underemployment rate (over 50 percent) are both higher than the sub-Saharan Africa’s unemployment rate. Public corruption perception is all disturbing as well. The Trading Economics Corruption Index shows that whereas Ghana was ranked 56 in the corruption index in 2015, she dropped dramatically to 81 in 2017, only improving to 75 in 2020. A dominant sentiment also came from vehicle users who decry at the recent fuel price hikes. Fuel prices reached an all-time high this week, hitting about GHC 6.1 ($1.07) per litre. A car with 65 litres tank capacity will, therefore, cost about $70 to fill up. In perspective, the Nation Builders Corps (NABCO), the only youth employment scheme in the country currently, pays  about $120 a month.

Another mounting, disturbing problem is intermittent power supply. Traditionally, this is not a new problem. Its persistence has bedevilled the country for long; it has cost the collapse of businesses and interfered with the smooth flow numerous economic activities. It was also one of the major downfalls of the immediate past government that yielded way for the current government. The mantra that they had a repository of competent personnel and knowhow to permanently solve the country’s perennial power problem was among the leitmotif electioneering campaign messages of the current government. However, to the extent that 5 years into government the same problem still engulfs the country validates the call for mass protest of this kind.

The level of insecurity, media oppression and lawlessness are equally disturbing. It is not unusual for so-called party vigilante groups to interrupt and stop court proceedings to free their member(s) who stand on trial. Journalists are harassed, intimidated, and receive constant death threats. A locus classicus is Ahmet Hussein-Suale, a sterling undercover journalist, who was shot dead in broad daylight in the capital city in January 2019 months after he and his team worked on football-related corruption reportage. Since then no one has been prosecuted or even charged for the offence given the obvious leads. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has enumerated the serious attacks and hidings Ghanaian journalists underwent for the years 2018-2020. Not surprising then is that fact that the #fixthecountry organisers have been refused police approval to carryout their planned physical protest on May 9, 2021.

Probably, all these culminate into or stem from Ghana being recently classified as low-income developing country in the IMF’s 2021 April Fiscal Monitor. Ghana trailed 13 African countries that were ranked as Emerging and Middle-Income countries, most of whom had previously trailed Ghana.

In effect, the recent developments in the country have been so lousy and gloomy for the majority of the people. Consequently, political movements that plan to roll out (un)organised protests to spew out their anger and frustrations with the abysmal social, political and economic conditions, is likely to gain sudden and absolute momentum among average Ghanaians. It is so with the #Fixthecountry movement, but as to the longevity and success of the cause it is too early to gauge. It is just enough that young people want to speak out against the ills in their country and get things fixed.

Iddrisu Kambala Mohammed

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