You may have my bag but not my friends.
An exhortation on not allowing circumstances and people who know no better rob you of the wealth of intercultural relationships in our diverse, complex and globalized world.
MYSTERY OF THE MISSING BAG–WHY ME?
I was the last one to walk out of the airport arrival hall at Gold Coast in Australia. I had all the customs and immigration officers to myself, nearly a dozen, yet I gave them absolutely nothing to do. I not only had nothing to declare, I had no bag! Apparently, my only checked-in bag on the three-and-a-half hour NZ 179 flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Gold Coast, Australia had never been loaded onto the plane in the first place. I had waited and waited in vain for it until when nearly everyone on this very full flight had left the baggage hall and Carousel 6 was literally bare, I approached the Baggage Counter to complain about my missing travel companion.
The chap at the Air New Zealand counter was very nice but his assumption that I was going to be in Gold Coast ‘forever’ fascinated me (I’m surprised I wasn’t annoyed).
“Oh sorry sir but your bag will be delivered to you at home tomorrow,” said he.
“Tomorrow? Who told you I’ll still be here tomorrow,” I quizzically retorted.
It was obvious he felt he was doing me a great favour by offering me special at-your-door delivery but I was not amused. Not only did I need the items in my bag today; I was not going to be in Gold Coast in the morrow. This was a 24-hour meet and greet and off to Adelaide, another two-and-a-half hour flight to the western half of the Australian subcontinent.
By now my mind had begun to formulate various plausible permutations why I alone (for I saw no one else approaching the Baggage Counter to lodge a complaint) had my bag delayed. Why me? What was so unique about me that my bag would be singled out for NOT delivery? The only other thing I knew made me different was that I was the only Black African on the flight. Did this have to do with anything?
Interestingly, as I passed through the Auckland airport earlier I had taken a photo in front of the All Blacks memorabilia shop and tweeted “I wonder why I feel so #welcome. #AllBlacks vs #WhitesOnly. How the times have changed–this one, for the better. #NewZealand rocking it!” Did someone spot that and nab me? Was I too quick to praise New Zealand for progressive race relations? Did this bag saga really have anything to do with my Black skin at all? It is easy to read racism into nearly everything once you’ve been a victim of that dehumanizing attitude and act, I must admit. I resist that. I resent that, even.
MYSTERY OF INTERCULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS–SO WORTH IT
All those thoughts and feelings totally dissipated once I set eyes on the last two people left in the welcome area: Julia and Billy-Jo, two of my special friends from the 1997 cohort of the World Vision Youth Ambassadors! Sooo worth the hustle! I had had the privilege of being a World Vision Youth Ambassador for Ghana in 1996 and had the additional honour of returning in Julia and Billy-Jo’s year as a staff intern, together with Claudia from Colombia.
Julia had represented Canada back then and for her, this was our third in-person meeting since 1997 (Prague 2015, Ottawa 2021 and now Gold Coast 2023). But Billy, I had not seen in-person at all since our teenage years! Billy-Jo (yes, she was the first lady I met called Billy–she was way ahead of the gender conversations today!) was the Youth Ambassador from New Zealand. Again, the first Pacific Aboriginal I had ever met, a beautiful Maori, inside and out. Billy’s since become a senior nurse, married to Matt (great guy!) with whom she has three children and migrated to Australia. Interestingly, both Julia and Billy-Jo’s husbands are called Matt. Julia’s Matt is American while Billy’s Western Samoan.
What an incredible day of food, fellowship and fun we had all day, at home and at the Burleigh Beach. The unadulterated love, the open-hearted learning, the deep laughter… What a precious gift we received from Dr. Jerry and Mama Ruth Chang of World Vision Taiwan a quarter-of-a-century ago, a gift that keeps giving, even today.
Now I’m glad our children are getting to know each other as well. The gift ripples on. Just before my family permanently headed to Ghana after a dozen years of being resident in Canada, Julia’s two girls and my brood had a whole day together at their home, right outside of Ottawa, Ontario. In fact, even in the midst of the jamboree we made a WhatsApp video call to Ghana for my older girls to say “hi” to their Canadian sisters. And now that I’ve met Bella and Asher, Billy’s last two (the oldest is away playing rugby and doing school in New Zealand), we have already started conversations about getting them to visit Ghana!
MYSTERY OF INTERDEPENDENCE
Friends, that’s how it ought to be. People are people, made in the image and likeness of their divine Creator, and made to link up with that source, live, love, learn, and lead, leaving a good legacy. Becoming a World Youth Vision Youth Ambassador was a life changing experience–50 young people from 50 different countries. That opened my mind a lot and opened the world to me. As I’ve said before, “My heart expanded and has never been able to shrink again.”
Back to the mystery of the missing bag. For sure I felt very special, having been singled out for some (or no) reason. For good or ill, that’s a conversation for another day. Suffice it to say, this has been a fascinating week, beginning on Monday March 6 in North America (Toronto, Canada and Houston, Texas, USA) with a celebration of the land of my birth’s Independence Day and her renaming from ‘Gold Coast’ to Ghana. I was now ending the week in another Gold Coast, of Australia. The same chaps christened and colonized both; on either side of the equator. What we really need in this world, from individuals to nations, is interdependence; not dependence or independence per se. We were made for this! And we all ought to live the way we were purposed to in order to flourish personally, as families and communities, in the corporate world and among the commity of nations.
In the mean time, you can have my bag but you won’t rob me of the richness of interdependent, intercultural relationships. Never!
How to Apologize Properly: Seven Succinct & Sturdy Steps.
Let’s talk about apologizing properly. Some people are too prideful to apologize when they err (including me, sometimes). That’s so wrong. But even for those who know they are in the wrong and want to make things right, they often still get making things right wrong.
Imagine my shock, when l was scheduled to have a meeting with one of the top CEOs in Africa and l kept waiting and waiting and waiting and… this person wasn’t showing up. So I signed off from Zoom about 20 minutes later and sent a message: “I hope you’re okay…” etc. etc.
It wasn’t until the next day when this leader sent what was supposed to be an apology. All this person said was, “Apologies.” End of story. What?! I was shockprised. “Is that how to apologize?” I soliloquized. Then l began to understand why only a couple of weeks earlier one of my close friends who is also a top executive of a Ghana Club 100 company shared with me how one of my daughters had totally shocked him. Apparently, she had stepped on him or something of the sort (l forget) but that wasn’t the source of the shock. It was how she apologized. That so astonished him and he said to himself, “I’ve got to learn how to apologize this way.” He is now actually teaching his family that this is how to apologize properly henceforth, when you do something wrong.
This is the way to apologize, for acts of commission (doing what you’re not supposed to do) and omission (not doing what you’re supposed to do) alike:
- Mention the fellow’s name: “Anyele.” “Frankie.” Mentioning a person’s name calls their attention, makes it personal, and connects us to the caller.
- Spell out your offence: “l missed our appointment” or “l did not put the money in the bank like you had asked me to”
- Acknowledge you erred, openly admitting it: “l am wrong”
- Let them know you regret it, verbally articulating it: “I am sorry”
- Ask for their pardon: “Please forgive me.”
- Wait for their response (hopefully they can process right there and then and also give you a response in the affirmative).
- Thank them (no matter the response).
So here’s an illustration of how my CEO friend should’ve apologized: “Yaw. I totally missed our appointment and stood you up. I am wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me.” This is the way to apologize properly. Just saying “apologies” or a half-hearted “oh sorry” in a huff doesn’t cut it. I am learning to do this better and better because I realize that sometimes when I’m not really really sorry I don’t want to go through this process and certainly don’t want to make the above string of statements.
Giving the other person the opportunity to forgive you by saying “please forgive me” is very empowering for the offended party. It kind of disarms the offender simultaneously too. I hope you’ll practice this and that true transformation will transpire because you are truly deeply sorrowful for what you did wrong even if it’s the slightest thing. Remember, “Ms. ABC, I did XYZ. I am wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me.” Then await their response and thank them. This is the proper way to apologize. Some even go an extra length to state what they’re going to do to make things right and/or renegotiate the promise.
I am wary of people who are not self-aware enough to recognize they’ve done wrong, whether upon self-reflection or via feedback. And I don’t trust those who won’t say sorry after they’ve been made aware of it, and do it seriously and sincerely. I won’t do business with them because they have low integrity. Of course ,the first layer of integrity is keeping one’s word. But when inadvertently through extenuating circumstances one is unable to, to keep one’s integrity we still need to acknowledge that our integrity is unraveling (not just pretend we never gave our word in the first place) and then still honour our word by apologizing in the above manner and renegotiating.
Apologizing properly is not a trivial matter. It has saved personal relationships, families, communities, organizations and even nations. Let’s begin to take apologizing properly and sincerely seriously: on a personal level, then in our families and communities, ultimately in our corporate world and national life. Now, go and do likewise and teach the people at your workplace, on your team, and even your spouse and cubs to do same. That’s the way to go.
FROM PROFESSOR TO PICKETER: The Lost Generation and the Missing Money
Ghana is neither worth living for nor dying for. That’s how many feel at the moment. Honestly. Think about this: I’ve known Uncle Kweku since his graduate student days on the University of Ghana campus. I was only a lad then. He would later complete his graduate studies, an MPhil in linguistics, and top it up with a PhD from Oregon, USA.
After an illustrious career as an academic (see his brief bio here on the University of Ghana website) he not only retired as a full professor but even served as Pro Vice-Chancellor of Ghana’s premier university. What do we find the illustrious son of Ghana doing these days? Picketing on the premises of Ghana’s Ministry of Finance to demand that the government exempts his and fellow pensioners’ bonds from being sequestered in the dubious Domestic Debt Exchange (DDE) programme. I know for a fact that virtually all of Prof. Kweku Osam’s pension monies are in these bonds. Ei! A former Chief Justice also picketing alongside the other day is reported to have said, “I am over 70 years now. I am no longer government employed, my mouth has been unguarded, and I am talking, and I am saying that we have failed.”
“BACK TO THE FUTURE”
When Uncle Kweku overtly verbalized to the media in an interview on one of the picketing days that he would dissuade his children from ever investing in the Government of Ghana’s financial instruments because “they are risky,” he seemed to have read my mind. Seriously. For while I agree that it is despicable to draw the aged into this DDE debacle and punish pensioners who have planned well for their future and lent their own monies to government to work with, I have an even greater concern for the young people of the country who might take decades to recover from this rude shock. It has taken years to grow a savings and investment culture in Ghana.
As previously started in an earlier article on this matter, “I am pained that, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’ (Ezekiel 18:2). For over 20 years now, The HuD Group and I have championed a culture of savings and investments in Ghana, and had the JOY of seeing thousands heeding the call, especially young people.” I recently met one of the young men I used to travel the country with to inspire and teach young people to form investment clubs and start investing. He’s currently the managing director of a major investment company in Ghana. He intimated how this whole DDE disaster made him shed several kilograms over a month, being at the receiving end of verbal and other forms of abuse from frustrated and fearful investors. At the time we spoke, people were withdrawing an average of 100 million Ghana Cedis each day from his outfit. He had already dispatched 2.5 billion Ghana Cedis when we held our conversation.
BACK TO THE PENSIONERS
So what exactly are we working for? The calibre of pensioners-turned-picketers is disheartening: doctors, engineers, civil servants… If retired professors and chief justices are protesting, what about the no-namers and the many who are too old or too ill to hit the streets? I am privy to a WhatsApp message Prof. Kweku Osam sent that was meant to be just informational, but ended up being very transformational for me:
The last time I took part in a public demonstration against a government of Ghana was in May 1983, as a fresh graduate student. That was when students in the country rose up against Rawlings and his PNDC. Today, God willing, I’ll join fellow Pensioner Bondholders to protest at the Ministry of Finance. The government should leave Pensioner Bondholders alone. Touch not the Pensioner Bondholders.
Think about it: Uncle Kweku began his working life protesting the government. Forty years later, he is ending his working life with yet another anti-government protest. Virtually all his lifesavings is now being held at ransom by a government that has misled and mismanaged her affairs, Covid-19 and Russia-Ukraine notwithstanding. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness between the 1983 protest and the present one on the eve of our sixty-sixth independence commemoration, Ghana itself is a pensioner by age, without much to show for it. We’ve got to do better for our people, old and young alike. Seriously.
Prof. Osam’s generation–my parents’ generation–is the same one the current Finance Minister, Uncle Ken, belongs to. It is the same crop of people who plotted military coup d’etats a generation ago in their youth. Now they won’t exit quietly either, not without a financial coup de grace. With trepidation, dare I call them the lost generation? And they did not only lose themselves and their way, they lost money–theirs and ours.
But to what will my generation and those following rise, having clearly observed that Ghana is not worth living for and Ghana is not worth dying for? That’s how many feel at the moment. Honestly. Think about it.
The Fathers’ Appetites Have Soured the Children’s Futures
The following slightly edited version of this article was first written and posted on Dr. Yaw Perbi’s FaceBook wall on January 31, 2023. At the time, that last day of January was the deadline to tender in eligible Government of Ghana bonds in the controversial Domestic Debt Exchange (DDE). There have been scores of passionate responses to the trending article that we have decided to reproduce it here so people are able to document these for posterity.
I am pained that, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’ (Ezekiel 18:2). For over 20 years now, The HuD Group and I have championed a culture of savings and investments in Ghana, and had the JOY of seeing thousands heeding the call, especially young people. Financial Whizzdom, is what we called the campaign.
I wrote three personal finance books and executed a triple launch of Financial Whizzdom, Financial Whizzdom Nuggets (a summary) and Financial Whizzdom through Investment Clubs. It was around that time that Uncle Ken became a mentor to me. He was intrigued that a medical student would be so adept at the world of finance. He not only loaned us some money to finish the project (which we fully paid back within three months or so) but he also passionately spoke at the triple launch. The year was 2004.
Many like-minded people came together to push a savings and investments culture among young people. We traveled the length and breadth of Ghana, doing several seminars and workshops. Medics Investment Club (which really is the first investment club in Ghana per the National Association of Investment Clubs definition) became a model for many who also started their own investment clubs around the country, from university campuses and nursing training colleges to even secondary schools. No wonder I’ve been christened “the grandfather of investment clubs in Ghana.”
The many who wanted to join our investment club at the University of Ghana Medical School but who couldn’t (we had set the maximum for 20) were mobilized into a collective investment scheme we called ‘Mutual Medics.’ At the peak we grew to about 300. We sacrificed student loans, ice cream money and even extra-curricular fun and entertainment to save for our future. Almost none of us have withdrawn the monies we invested almost two decades ago.
Today, January 31, 2023, is the deadline for the trustees of this mutual investment scheme we set up way back in our medical school days to inform Databank for sure whether or not to tender in our eligible bonds in the Government of Ghana’s Domestic Debt Exchange (DDE) debacle. Our fund managers had 70% of the total value of the fund in government bonds, which in normal times and normal places with normal people are supposed to be very low risk, even tempting some advisors to say ‘no risk’ (nothing is ‘no risk,’ not even life itself!).
This DDE is supposed to be a voluntary move but in reality it is a case of “choose your poison.” If you drink this one you will die, if you drink the other one, you will surely die. I am pained for myself, colleagues, fund managers, and the whole investment fraternity in Ghana, especially the younger generation. How did we get here? Indeed, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
Even more heart-wrenching is that if this should happen under any Finance Minister’s regime, not under the watch of the very mentor who, as far as I know, has spent his whole life building the very financial culture, structures and systems that seem to be now crumbling at his hitherto dextrous hands. The irony.
I am pained. Very much. Whoever has eaten our money, killed our dreams, buried our hope and compelled us to come for unfashionable haircuts that make us look like our misery will have to make it up to us, somehow, even if it is their children or their children’s children. In the mean time, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ Ah!
~By Dr. Yaw Perbi
Photo credit: Opinion Nigeria
We shall do well to document as many of the responses we’ve garnered so far as possible. This issue warrants a national conversation, at the least. A national demonstration for all those equally pained might also be in order to send a strong message to the current government, who in spite of all the pain they are inflicting on the citizenry, have shown no significant sense of regret, repentance or even austerity.
O National Cathedral of Ghana: My Hopes and Fears Have Met in Thee.
In the interest of full disclosure, first of all I am a Bible-believing, Jesus-following, Spirit-filled African Christian. Secondly, at the time of writing, I have no membership of any political party—just a citizen who passionately loves his motherland and has served both major political parties when called upon. Finally, I comment on the National Cathedral of Ghana matter primarily as a missiologist and leadership scholar. These thoughts were largely shared on the Cit FM/TV current affairs programme The Big Issue on 21st January, 2022. The crux of my submission, that the project be halted and audited, was also carried on Citi News Room here.
THE THING THAT I FEARED HAS HAPPENED
My first article on the proposed National Cathedral of Ghana in August 2018 was entitled in a manner that exposed the battle that raged within me upon hearing the president of the Republic of Ghana announce his vision to put up a national cathedral. It was an inquiring heading: “National Cathedral: Vulgar or Virtuous Venture?
In it, I confessed “my unwholly holy initial thoughts, honest-to-God,” sharing my initial skepticism about the project, mainly concerned about it being a mere political scheme to siphon monies, only with a nice religious façade. Secondly, I questioned the prudence of it amidst the poverty and sheer lack of basic infrastructure and public services in a developing country (NB. This was before Covid would hit and make everything that was bad, worse). Thirdly, I was wary of the perilous path of Europe where centuries old grand cathedrals now only stand as emblems of a once-upon-a-time vibrant Christendom while the faith itself is dying today, precipitously. Even then, one need not cross the oceans to note the dangers of religious opulence over pragmatic faith. Just look next door, right across the Ghana border to the near-white elephant of the Notre Dame de La Paix in Yamoussoukro, whose proposed community-impacting hospital as an attachment to assuage the papacy’s guilty conscience is till yet to see the light of day, thirty-two years later.
As I studied the cathedral proposal further, especially as an African missiologist, its merits rose above my cynicism and mounting hopes tamed my fears to the extent that I was willing to give the project a chance, even my support. In fact, not only was I present at the foundation stone-laying, I wrote a cogent trilogy about how even the president might not be fully aware of the extent to which Almighty God may be using him to accomplish His glorious purposes in and through Africa, especially considering this unique moment in history where the once derided “dark continent” now has more Christians than any other continent and will double that lead by 2050, with more Christ followers than the next two continents (Latin America and Europe) combined! In fact, a summary of the trilogy even made its way into the Cathedral’s published magazine.
Over the last couple of years since then, I have found my faith in the project on a slippery slope back to where it first began, with supposed scandal after seeming scandal and allegation upon allegation that rival the corporate sins of the Arthur Andersons and Enrons at the turn of this century (if not making them pale in comparison), that do not befit an edifice for the King of kings. The opacity in the project’s financial dealings, including estimated project costs, eye brow-raising fund transfers and amorphous government seed money, make nonsense of the God who is light, in whom there is no darkness at all. The purpose of this rejoinder is not to dive into each of the smudges and spots on the project but to put on record that while I have enumerated prior at least a dozen reasons this could be a virtuous project, like ‘the greatest man in the East’, for me too, “the thing I greatly feared has come upon me” (see Job 3:25-26). I seek to document for posterity my revised position on the National Cathedral of Ghana for not only are my values being violated, the very faith in whose name this edifice is being erected is endangered.
NOODLED & NUANCED
This cathedral matter is a very nuanced one and thus requires the highest levels of leadership competence, care and character to navigate it. What do I mean? Four things. First of all, the president is not a king; he cannot just pronounce edicts, fiats and decrees at an enlightened citizenship. Secondly, we don’t live in a theocracy, but in a fairly vibrant democracy (although admittedly we are a pseudo secular state with our national anthem and pledge referring to ‘God’). Thirdly, private-public partnerships can be a tricky dance. And finally let’s face it, things are hard socioeconomically right now!
As if all of this is not enough, the president in particular hasn’t shown the kind of great leadership in casting vision (constantly, compellingly, creatively) and galvanizing the people from the grassroots. To make matters worse, the government itself has lost the trust of the Ghanaian people with its economic mismanagement, real and imagined, poor emotional intelligence in matters like this and poor consultation culture–from this cathedral issue through the recent e-levy saga and even current Domestic Debt Exchange debacle.
Then the process itself has been fraught with paucity of information and poor communication, poor governance (really governance 101), low accountability and too much opacity. In fact, in my frustration the other day while preaching on an Ephesians chapter five text about leading and living in the light I bellowed, “Stop the Cathedral in the name of the Lord!”
Don’t get me wrong. There are pluses about this project. Many. Between my initial article and the subsequent trilogy you will easily find a dozen cogent reasons why this could be a virtuous venture, including how the cathedral is more than a building (although the Africanization of it, its tourist attractions and income generation nature per se are all something to write about). The fact that the cathedral has a mandate to be a convenor of national conversation and debate warms my heart.
If the government had kept to its initial promise of providing “just the land” and only “seed capital,” I’ll be at peace. It is for the body of Christ to build this cathedral to the glory of the LORD, but considering the nature of Christianity in our Ghanaian public sphere and the prime place of faith for the African this is a nuanced matter. Any good government would have a keen interest in this matter, hence the sense in situating the NCG in the country’s capital city’s ceremonial core to provide “the missing link” (words of the architect) as a final piece of a national puzzle. Apparently, the other national pieces are all already in place: the people’s place (international conference centre, national sports stadium), the people’s representatives’ place (parliament building and State House), the peoples’ heroes’ place honouring the dead (Osu cemetery and adjoining military cemetery).
Granted, it isn’t everyone who is able to appreciate that we are a building a nation here; not just an eclectic collection of utilitarian infrastructure. That’s how come although we still have children learning under trees we still have national stadia and presidential edifices like Jubilee House and Peduase Lodge. To build or not to build this cathedral is really a nuanced and noodled matter that requires a certain high level leadership that I, honestly, haven’t seen on the horizon.
THIS ISN’T A ZERO SUM GAME
As a missiolgist, I believe that even the president does not fully know or understand the magnitude and implications of his vision. His initial vision may have been personal but vision is often progressive and it is possible He is being used by the Sovereign God in ways the man himself cannot fully comprehend, let alone the masses crying out against this vis-à-vis the impoverished state of the state. In order not to repeat the dozen or so cogent reasons why this project can be worthwhile, I will strongly encourage you to take a look at trilogy 1, the second part and the final installation, all from March 2020.
GOING FORWARD: SEVEN STEPS
1. STOP! STOP! STOP!
This may very much sound and look like the ‘STOP WORK’ in red paint on uncompleted building projects by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) yet, I see red flags all over this project that require concomitant red paint markings all over it too. This is not from the AMA this time. Just “we the [Ghanaian] people” saying, “STOP WORK!”
Secondly, let us get any of the so-called ‘Big Four’ global auditing firms in the country to do a thorough audit of the NCG secretariat, board of trustees and other associated names like JNS Talent etc.
Sometimes those AMA signs not only read, “Stop Work” but continue with “Produce Permit.” I would say for this cathedral project, in conjunction with step one, let us also “Stop Work and Produce Audit.” The result of the audit will help clarify our next steps—if even this project should continue at all, and if it should, how.
3. CALL FOR CONVERSATIONS AND DEBATE
Let us on purpose have a broader conversation and debate of the best minds and hearts for the way forward. “In the multitude of counselors there is safety,” said the wisest man that ever lived. And this is a sagacious king who could’ve easily ignored the counsel of others. Interestingly, he put up the most magnificent temple in the whole world in his day, for YHWH. Even Africans like the Queen of Sheba travelled long distances to come and see. If we want to see the reverse today, others come from elsewhere to behold the magnificence of the NCG, then we had better consider wise, broad-based consultation.
In my humble opinion, this government has been unbelievably militaristic; so non-consultative! Yet the thing is that even if people do not agree, they will support the project, or at least not be as antagonistic, because they have been seen (recognized) and heard. Conversations and debate will cause the significant groundswell needed for such a massive national venture with international ramifications.
4. GIVE OURSELVES TIME
If from the pause, audit, conversations and debates it becomes apparent that this project should continue, then we must give ourselves time. This cathedral doesn’t have to be built by 2024 and ready for a January 2025 swearing-in. That is precisely part of the problem with this project: the fact that the president is in a hurry to put this up while he is in office.
While a sense of urgency is good, undue pressure because of time crunches leads to many mistakes and often unethical behaviour, no matter how hitherto virtuous one’s cause. For example, this strange exchange of over two million Ghana Cedis between a whole national project and a private individual’s company obviously happened because apparently the project couldn’t wait for government funds to clear (this issue is under investigation, and rightly so). Besides, things are über hot in the economy right now, Ghana’s caught up in a socioeconomic inferno. It is wisdom to let both the times and tempers cool off.
If this is truly a national cathedral and not H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo’s pet project, then it should stand the test of time by traversing other administrations—perhaps two or even three terms down the line, including opposition parties—and be owned by all and sundry. If is by the good people of Ghana it for the glory of Almighty God, then we are not in a hurry. When we are not in a hurry we can think properly, do things appropriately, follow due process… Time is money and time will save us a lot of money—and a multitude mistakes.
5. TRANSPARENCY! TRANSPARENCY! TRANSPARENCY!
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5, NIV). Even some corporations have more transparency and better governance than the current supposedly religious project. Anathema! If this is truly an edifice to the Most High God then there cannot be even a hint of inappropriateness and misappropriation. As it stands now, not only has there been too much darkness and opacity surrounding a building that is to be a Lighthouse for the nations; too many allegations and suspected scandals that even some ordinary government projects cannot rival.
My mind goes to another cathedral project’ in ancient times where it was said, “They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty” (2 Kings 12:15, emphasis mine). I’m afraid we cannot say this of the NCG people or process so far.
6. LET GOD’S PEOPLE BUILD GOD’S BUILDING
The government of Ghana has done more than enough, giving the land. And way more seed than was my impression at the start of the project. If this sanctuary is really for the LORD then let’s let the Body of Christ in the country build it. And yes, we can! Christians have literally put up thousands of edifices strewn across the length and breadth of the country, ‘from Gambaga to Accra, from Wiawso to Keta.’ Let the Church do this for the glory of Almighty God. We thank the generous government of Ghana for the head start but no more government/tax-payers’ funds, please.
Let God’s people be able to say, like in Nehemiah’s day, “The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build.” Whenever God gives a vision, He also makes the provision. But if this venture isn’t of God, then we are on our own; it will be hard.
For a number of great cathedrals that have been built, people have felt so privileged to be a part of the history-making that they have voluntarily given, not just of their substance but of their very selves. Carpenters, masons and other artisans and professionals have offered their services for free, and not the case of exorbitant amounts being paid to the current architect and others. In my opinion, the celebrated architect should feel so privileged to do this for God and country that he does this gratis! You tell me how much we paid the designers of our national flag and presidential stool; or composers of our national anthem and pledge.
7. WORK AS PASSIONATELY ABOUT OUR ‘SOFTWARE’ AS WE ARE ABOUT THIS ‘HARDWARE’
By software I mean our values, our paradigms and attitudes etc. The nation is so full of poor work ethic, corruption, filth (environmental and figurative), incompetence, dishonesty, lack of integrity etc. yet we want to build a magnificent cathedral for God. There is so much grievous poverty in the lives of the majority yet we want to put up this ceremonial and celebratory infrastructure at a cost of $400 million in the heart of Accra. The scriptures are replete with what God requires of us, first and foremost, and it is not so much physical buildings as that our spiritual, social, mental and emotional states reflect His glory; also, that our physical bodies will be hallowed as His temple. So as we are excited about the hardware (physical building of a cathedral), o how I pray that we are equally excited to work on our values, attitudes, morality, ethics, true selves, true faith and integrity. We also ought to disciple our sectors and systems of Ghanaian society so that these reflect a people that believe in a righteous and excellent God, the Most High.
Despite the bold vision of the NCG, we haven’t as a people or leadership displayed the kind of competence (eg. vision casting, convincing communication, broad consultation), character (eg. transparency, accountability) and compassion (eg. sensitivity to the present economic plight of the Ghanaian people) that a project of this magnitude demands.
I believe if we took the above seven steps, that should put us in good stead and hopefully lessen the painful memories and bitter aftertaste that this project would otherwise bring us. I do not believe the NCG is an entirely vile venture; but neither will it be entirely virtuous without great leadership in its purpose and process. Repentance and restitution must take place where the audit finds wrong and the best way forward forged as a body politic. The virtues in the idea of a national cathedral can be redeemed and the dead and near-buried hope and glory resurrected. This project can still bring God glory and bestow blessing on not just Ghana but the nations of the world if we would be quick to vanquish the evils that crouch at the foundation and front steps of this edifice. But for now, both my hopes and fears of these past six or so years have come to a head in this embattled National Cathedral of Ghana project.
It was heart-warming to find that a couple of the National Cathedral’s Board of Trustees members, namely Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams and Rev. Eastwood Anaba, reiterated my January 21 call above to ‘stop work and produce audit’ barely two days later, January 23, 2023. It was soon followed by a formal press release by the chair of the Board, Rev. Prof. Opoku Onyinah the next day, following a January 23, 2023 Board of Trustees meeting at which they agreed to engage Deloitte, one of the Big Four accounting firms in the world, to carry out an audit.
The hope expressed in the final paragraph of the said press release is mine too: “It is the hope and trust of the Board of the National Cathedral of Ghana that once these nagging issues are satisfactorily dealt with, the public interest and confidence in the project would be restored and rekindled to enable the citizenry to contribute generously to complete the Cathedral to the glory of God.”
Not Investing in Yourself in Hard Times Doesn’t Make Things Any Better.
Hello! It’s a new year and guess what? It’s a blank cheque and we’ve got to grow to be able to meet our goals. I like to say, you’ve got to grow to goal. In other words, you’ve got to move from who you are today to what you could be in order to score your goals.
My YP Team and I know these are tough economic times and people are scrambling to make ends meet but I can tell you one thing for sure: your refusing to grow or not investing in your personal growth is not going to make things any better. In fact, your guarantee that you are going to come out of this time is actually investing in your personal development and professional growth today.
So, I greatly encourage and highly recommend that you to sign up for this year’s 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth Mastermind. Every year we’ve hosted a cohort, these people have moved, grown! People have changed in their lives. People have literally moved into their own homes, moved countries, moved jobs… Why? Because when you make a move, you grow; and when you grow, you move!
So, sign up today! Sign up now, right here. Even if for some reason you do not have all the money and you want to make an arrangement, we would be flexible because we know times are hard but we want you to grow. After all, if all of us grow, all of us can succeed together. Put in the investment NOW!
I have done that many times, signing up to grow when things have been hard, and I’ve reaped a harvest in the drought. If you know anything about investing then you are aware that we invest all the time–in good times and not-so-good times, when the market is up and when it is down. I would have never owned properties in Canada and the United States if I hadn’t put in nearly $20,000 in learning. I wouldn’t have been a John C. Maxwell Certified Coach if I didn’t put in some $10,000 about 10 years ago. Within months I had used the knowledge, skills and toolkit to recoup all the money back and more!
Guys, it costs something to get something. So, invest in your personal development and professional development today. Sign up for the Growth Mastermind. It’s not a matter of whether or not it will won’t work, it does–without fail. Don’t throw your hands up in the air saying, “I don’t have the money. ” No! Rather ask yourself, “how can I get the investment required because I need this to grow?” Let’s make it work. Yes we can! Yes we will!
Here’s to your growth, success and significance in 2023! Make the move here.
On Saving a Nation.
The story is told of a man who traveled from a developing country to a more economically advanced one in search of a better life. Upon arrival, the man was shocked to find that no one managed the local milk shop. Customers would take what they needed from the refrigerator, leave the exact amount of money for their purchase, and be on their way. Neither the milk nor the money was under lock and key. This would never happen in my country, he thought.
The only thing that surprised the man more than the honor system of the unmanned milk dispensary was the price of the product. The milk was cheaper here, even though his country had more milking cows than people—and in turn produced more milk. How could this be? Then it finally hit him. The higher price at home included the additional costs of dishonesty and thievery.
In his country, locks would be purchased for the refrigerator and money box. A worker would be hired to conduct the transactions. Another person or two would be hired as security, in addition to needing expensive CCTV cameras. This is not to mention the added logistical and utility costs from inefficient or unreliable systems. It all adds up, reflected in the price of a single bottle of milk.
What the society of the man’s home country lacked in cultural values, it paid dearly in economic value—in other words, a higher cost of living than a country with a higher standard of living.
The commercial cost of values
What makes a nation great and strong, ultimately, is its people and their values. Societal values determine what people consider good or important, and this informs how they act. If we consider present-day Ghana in this context, we are likely to be disappointed.
Money and material possessions. Greed and selfishness. These values permeate our society. So I thought it wise to speak to the issue of values in terms of commercial costs. My hope is that even those who place money and materialism and personal gain above all else—including the common societal values espoused in our national anthem and pledge—will realize that real values, such as service and integrity, still affect their bottom line. They will make more money with them, than without.
Consider that Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest men and most successful investors, advises leaders to look for three things when assessing job candidates: intelligence, initiative, and integrity—but to weigh integrity above all else. If a worker lacks the latter trait, Buffet says, “the first two will kill you. Because if you’re going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb.”
It is with near-total trust that we poke an opaque tin of milk and pour out its content without a second thought. We’ve got to trust the regulator, trust the manufacturer, and trust the entire supply chain. A friend and former senior manager in a company that produces perishables once told me that the company would destroy whole batches of product at the slightest hint of compromised quality, because the negative cost of their brand being brought into disrepute would be much greater in the long run than the temporary loss of the thousands of dollars flushed down the drain by an honest act.
Values at the core of a nation
Little drops of values at the individual, family, organization, and sector levels of a society eventually coalesce to make a mighty nation. This is how I have long thought of Ghana. As a mighty nation, rich in social and cultural values to emulate.
I grew up in the early 1990s, when neighboring countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone were decimated by war. Hordes of refugees made their way into Ghana. As a World Vision Youth Ambassador, I toured refugee sites in the country with donors, and the tentative nature of life in tents made me tear up. I have always been grateful to God that Ghana in my life has been an island of peace in a sea of strife.
But bombs and bullets are not the only way to destroy a country. Rather than exploding in external violence, a society can implode through internal valuelessness. I fear Ghana is on this path. I see it all around. We have swung from one extreme to another in a few generations. My grandfather cared little about money or material possessions. He was not alone. How often can we say such things now?
Too often, money and materialism seem to the motivation for the world around us, even at the peril of our lives and at the cost of future generations. Look no further than the dastardly acts of inordinate illegal mining (galamsey), stinky corruption in politics and public service, brazen cheating in exams, rampant illegal practices which combine modern internet-based fraud with African traditionalist rituals (sakawa), food sellers using dirty (waste) water to cook, changing expiry dates on expired medicine or outrightly selling fake medicine… need I go on?
Building the Ghana we want, rooted in values that matter
I worry that in our hurry to catch up with the rest of the industrialized world, we are focusing on infrastructure, industry, and education without a values-based foundation. For instance, STEM education is being touted as the panacea for the challenges we face. But what use is STEM without roots? STEM or any other body of knowledge must grow from a deeply rooted network of shared social and cultural values and norms. Otherwise, patients needlessly die, shoddy infrastructure inadvertently collapses, common funds are looted, and justice is denied.
Ghana is at a crossroads, not just economically, but also culturally. There is a commercial cost to values that must be recognized and incorporated into the policies needed to set Ghana on a more prosperous economic course. Thankfully, influential Ghanaians are talking about it.
Earlier this year, the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), which is based in Accra and was founded by Dr. K.Y. Amoako, a Ghanaian, organized a retreat at at the Peduase Valley Resort for more than 50 people representing various civic and political stakeholder groups and organizations in Ghana. The topic of conversation was a new initiative that is set to launch officially in the coming days: the Compact for Ghana’s Political and Economic Transformation.
A roadmap for a stronger democracy and lasting economic prosperity, the Compact is a hopeful approach because it is rooted in strengthening our common values. I attended the Peduase Valley retreat, and values featured heavily in the discussion. It was stressed that the quest for Ghana’s economic and political transformation is meaningless unless it is underpinned by a radical shift in our mindset and values.
Indeed, the discussion focused on identifying values we can glean from the national anthem, the pledge, and the lyrics of “Yɛn Ara Asaase Ni,” written almost a century ago by Dr. Ephraim Amu, one of the fathers of our nation. From the conversation, values such as honesty, selflessness, hard work, and loyalty stood out.
Such discussions must continue in Ghana. Particularly, the all-binding value of integrity needs to be ingrained in every stratum and segment of our national life if we are to realize a greater Ghana, rooted in values that matter rather than tarnished by ones that do not.
Although less dramatic, a definite way to destroy Ghana without bombs or bullets is by eroding the very values that birthed the nation, slowly but surely. “Whether or not this nation prospers,” goes the resounding anthem from Dr. Amu, “clearly depends on the character of the citizens of the nation.”
Dr. Yaw Perbi has practiced medicine in both his home country, Ghana, and with the United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire as a U.N. peacekeeper. He is the founder and Global CEO of The HuD Group, inspiring holistic emerging leadership development in 25 countries on all continents. He is co-founder of PerbiCubs, an edtech company impacting over 8,000 children in Ghana. Yaw is a Fellow of the Africa Leadership Initiative as well as the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
Meet Kathleen Addy, the Lady with Gravitas for Civilitas
Kathleen Addy is the Republic of Ghana’s National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) chairperson, appointed in 2022 by the president of the Republic from her Deputy Chair of the Commission role. Ms. Addy had been in charge of Finance and Administration since 2017. Kathleen is highly regarded as a civic activist with particular interest in women’s empowerment as well as accountable and responsive governance, and has supported different civil society groups fighting for good governance and women’s rights in Ghana.
She was once upon a time a Research and Communications Officer at the Center for Policy Analysis focusing on Women’s Economic Empowerment and was the Afrobarometer Communications Manager at the Center for Democratic Development. Kathleen holds a first degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Communications from the University of Ghana, Legon. She is also an alumna of Achimota School and Holy Child School. In her role as a Chairperson of the NCCE, Ms. Addy brings her expertise and vast experience in the development sector, as well as her passion and drive to bear on the work of the commission.
Gravitas was one of the ancient Roman virtues that denoted “seriousness.” It is also translated variously as weight, dignity, and importance and connotes restraint and moral rigour. It also conveys a sense of responsibility and commitment to the task. Kathleen’s got gravitas. Meanwhile cīvīlitās, the feminine Latin word that speaks to politics and the art/practice of government, also connotes courteousness, politeness, dignity, civility, moderation, and restraint. Not only has Lady Kathy got all these, she has a passion to see every Ghanaian born of a woman possess these, and in abundance too, hence her passion for civic education.
INTEGRITY AND A NEW GHANA
At the just-held Live2Lead conference, the First Lady of Civilitas began her submissions with a chuckle, as she noted with candour how the public sector from which she hails has become the poster child for lack of integrity. She herself shared how coming from think tanks and CSOs, she got a culture shock when she first landed in the public service in 2017. “A lot of people don’t even know what the wrong thing is because wrong has been normalized,” she asserted.
But she ended with a ROAR. By the time she had shared how ‘friends and family’ who expected favours like getting an upper hand in the commission’s hiring had had a rude shock that she only gave them enough support to follow due process, the audience would doff their hats for such a principled public sector leader. We trust that the many public sector folks sponsored to attend were inspired to also lead with integrity, right in the corner where they are.
Live2Lead Ghana was wildly successful. We give glory to God. The plan to strategically rope in the public sector was a good idea and well-executed. We are grateful to all our corporate partners whose generous sponsorship made this possible, and the participation of several emerging leaders from our schools and universities. The dozen or so organizations and companies who ensured 10 or more of their leaders were present are true patrons of a Ghana that can be lead in integrity for the common good. One bank sponsored nearly 60 of their leaders, while another invested in 40 of theirs. Poco a poco, intentionality about leadership development will become a culture that rewires our nation for growth, success and significance.
God bless our homeland Ghana with gravitas for civilitas, and make our nation great and strong.
Meet Uncle Ebo, the People’s Uncle.
Everyone calls him “Uncle” without even thinking twice about it. Whether young enough to be their son or old enough to be their grandpa, “Uncle” is everyone’s uncle. A voice of reason, counsel in season, James Ebo Whyte, affectionately known nationwide as “Uncle Ebo” is the people’s uncle, hands down.
Mr. James Ebo Whyte is the CEO, heart and brain behind Roverman Productions. He is nationally acknowledged as an accomplished, award-winning playwright and highly sought-after motivational speaker. James Ebo Whyte constantly challenges Ghanaians to think more about the world they live in and the contribution they make to it. Just the day before the October 7, 2022 Live2Lead conference at which he was speaking, he unveiled to his drama troupe his 51st play in fourteen years! A hearty congratulations to the prolific playwright.
INTEGRITY IN THE ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
At Live2Lead 2022, Uncle Ebo was the only gentleman among three distinguished leading ladies from the corporate and entrepreneurship spaces as well as the public sector. Their first job was to respond to the submissions on “Leading with Integrity for the Common Good” made in the earlier hour by Patrick Awuah, founder and president of Ashesi University. Uncle Ebo held our attention as he raised issues of integrity in the arts & entertainment segment of Ghanaian society that he had with intentionality decided to counter, like giving kickbacks from corporate sponsorship. He uttered with conviction, “there are sponsorships we know we’ll never get for our plays because of this.” And he’s fine with it, as he knows that integrity comes at a cost.
One of the most amazing feats of Roverman Productions has been putting up a new play every quarter for the last decade-and-a-half and resolving to always start on time, also a matter of integrity. In fact, one of the participants at Live2Lead, a corporate governance expert, interjected that one reason she chooses to go and see Ebo Whyte’s plays is that she can guarantee they would commence on time. Again, Roverman has gone against the tide by ensuring pristine toilet facilities at their play venues and three levels of security at events to ensure patrons have a heavenly experience and leave with no bitter taste in their mouths. To the people’s uncle, excellence in these areas is a matter of integrity.
OF TEENAGE FOLLY AND GAMBLING
We intentionally wanted to leave the Live2Lead conferees on a note of hope, especially hope in Ghana, and Uncle Ebo did not disappoint. While admitting we have mega challenges in the nation he reminds us that we’ve not only been in worse times but also that in the annals of nation building globally, at 60 years Ghana is only a teenager. The national happenings that leave us in consternation are akin to teenage tantrums and this too shall pass. We do have quite a degree of national folly though, which we need to be cured of, he confesses.
Uncle Ebo’s belief in Ghana is so solid that his parting words were the following: “Whoever bets against Ghana will lose.” For a full buffet of this scintillating conversation look out for a recording of the hitherto livestreamed video (currently only available to paid participants) or invite Live2Lead to rebroadcast in your context (company, community, church etc). You don’t want to miss Live2Lead 2023 on October 6, next year, Deo volonte. Pinned on the first Friday of each October, National Leader Day after National Leader Day, building a leader at a time and one centre of excellence at a time, we shall surely get to the Ghana we want. And who knows? Perhaps sooner than other nations have.
Meet Eric Thomas, a Fireball to Light a Fire Under You!
Eric Thomas, Ph.D., is a critically acclaimed author, world-renowned speaker, educator, pastor, and audible.com Audie Awards finalist. ET, as he is better known and affectionately called, has taken the world by storm, with his creative, common-sense approach to living a successful, satisfying professional and personal life. Through a significant social media presence and regular domestic and international tours, “ET, The Hip Hop Preacher” has become a global phenomenon!
As CEO of his Consulting Firm, ETA LLC., Dr. Eric Thomas has led his team through the doors of dozens of hugely successful organizations and Fortune 500 companies such as General Electric, Quicken Loans, AT&T, Nike, Under Armour, New Balance, and UPS and continues to consult for major league sports franchises within the MLB, NBA, NFL, MLS (various United States sports leagues).
YOU OWE YOU
That’s Eric’s philosophy of life, and his topic at Live2Lead on October 7: You Owe You: Ignite Your Power, Your Purpose, and Your Why. Come learn the key principles of how to turn a mentality of struggle into strength, resulting in enduring success. Eric Thomas shares his urgent message to stop waiting for inspiration to strike and take control of your life, using stories of his past and lessons learned as examples.
He will help identify how you can rewrite your life’s script and capture the attention of all kinds of people in a multitude of different environments. Sharing these critical first steps will help you with understanding yourself and the world around you, finding your why, accepting that you may have to give up something good for something great, and constantly stretching toward your potential.
Pump up your personal, professional and leadership game at this year’s Live2Lead conference. Register now through this link. Nag your organization until they join this rising movement of learning leaders that will transform society by becoming a Patron of Live2Lead. A Patron company is one that sends at least 10 leaders to Live2Lead, and this year they range from mining companies like Goldfields to banking greats like Stanchart. There’s no way we can have at least 100 such Patron organizations and companies in Ghana and not transform the nation, one leader at a time, one centre of excellence at a time. Together we can change our country and continent for the better! Let’s do this! Register here, and NOW.