DEFICIT OF CRITICAL CITIZENSHIP IN GHANA: A CRITIQUE OF POLITICAL (IL)LITERACY, CIVIC (IR)RESPONSIBILITY AND (UN)CRITICAL FOLLOWERSHIP
Both the theoretical literature and policy discourses on good governance tend to, almost exclusively, focus on the state with scant, if any, attention to responsible citizenship as a sine qua non for effective governance. Inflections to citizenship gravitate towards concepts such as participation and engagement, with extensive privileging of the rights of citizens. While the state, particularly in the African context, is critiqued and the political class is excoriated, there is only minimal critique of citizens as the sovereign and the significance of accountable and responsible citizenship to the success of good governance.
In this lecture, I acknowledge the important role of the state and political leadership in socio-economic and political transformation. I, however, turn the gaze on citizens as a major variable in the equation, with as significant, if not more critical, a role in the extant paralysis of development that the country is contending with. It is the contention of this lecture that many Ghanaian citizens are keen to enjoy the largesse of citizenship and to claim entitlement to the rights and privileges of citizenship, without a commensurate willingness to pay the price of citizenship. That price includes eschewing self-serving individualism; the pathology of aggrandizement and sycophancy; and apathy-induced ignorance. On the flip side, it entails embracing an ethos of critical, ethical, civic-minded, knowledge-seeking, duty-conscious, engaged and introspective citizenship.
The purpose of the lecture is, therefore, not to exonerate the political class and state institutions from responsibility, or to diminish the significance of structural impediments to civic responsibility, but to bring visibility to a crucial but often ignored dimension of the Ghanaian polity. It contends that accountable and responsible citizenship and, by extension, critical followership are fundamental anchors that cannot be compromised or circumvented if Ghana is to become a mature and transformative democracy. This ‘soft systems infrastructure’ is, indeed, foundational at all levels of social organization if the Ghanaian polity is to register substantive, substantial, and positive socio-economic and political development.