‘Beware of the young doctor and the old barber.’ These were the words of Benjamin Franklin; one of the greatest inventors and philosophers the world has ever known as reported by the Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1733. Close to three centuries later, the world still struggles to properly explain these words.
It is easy to take Franklin’s words as a warning against the acceptance of change while others may also take the same words for a warning against the refusal to accept change. This paradox has remained a headache for even some of the world’s greatest thinkers. In order to inspire growth and development therefore, many people have resorted to accepting the ‘old barber’ in the statement as a warning against the refusal to accept change.
Prior to the 2020 Ghanaian general election, I wrote an article on the development of Ghana’s democracy since independence with a critical look at the voting patterns and the changes that took place over time. The comments and reactions on that article which was read by over forty thousand (40000) people, made me realize just how much people want change yet are not willing to effect it. I asked myself if it was just a portion or the entirety of Ghana’s population that have this problem and in order to find the appropriate answer, I decided to take a critical look at the occupants of the country’s presidential palace; the flagstaff house.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo; the president of the republic of Ghana during his days in opposition, has made his position clear on how the country should be ruled and the direction in which the country needed to go. On many platforms, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo talked about the modernization of the country’s agricultural sector and a total industrialization scheme. However, I was a bit taken aback when on the 7th of January 2021 during his inaugural speech, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo decided to advertise ‘Akpeteshie’; a local gin that is yet to see the light of modernization and proper approval from the Ghana Standards Authority or even the country’s Food and Drugs Authority. I asked myself why the president did not advertise the country’s yam, ginger, garlic, onions or even the vehicles being made by indigenous businesses like Kantanka Automobile.
Another time the president’s actions seem to fall short of his purported desire for change was during the aftermath of the Ameri scandal when the president did what our leaders always do; not let ‘heads roll.’ This action and subsequent similar ones tainted the white cloak the president was wearing in November 2016 when he said during a New Patriotic Party Party political durbar that he is not corrupt and he has never been corrupt. If the president desires change as much as he preaches, what then is preventing him from effecting that change? Could it be ‘the old barber’ syndrome?
The other part of the statement which talks about the ‘young doctor’ has also generated a lot of debate even among some sages. However, the statement could refer to a person who wants change, effects that change and is passionate about that change yet does not have the requisite experience to keep the change up. Usually, the change fails and the work of the ‘young doctor’ is undone in the twinkle of an eye. This second part is what checks the other part and maintains a certain level of equilibrium, making the whole statement a complicated paradox. However, after a critical look at my primary target for this discussion, this statement points some accusing fingers at the vice president of the republic of Ghana; Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia.
Since occupying the office of vice president in 2016, Dr. Bawumia has demonstrated his resolve to leave a legacy of evolution in all the sectors of the country. His first major achievement was the paperless system that was aimed at reducing unnecessary traffic and also corruption at Ghana’s ports. He also championed the mobile money interoperability, the online company registration arrangements and other major economic digitization efforts. As commendable as these efforts are, we must note that most importers and exporters still rely on agents to clear their goods at the ports. The registrar general’s department still does not do 100% of the work online, one would still have to be there in person and also, the many challenges overwhelm the mobile money interoperability structure. The vice president’s enthusiasm is therefore facing collapse at every turn due to the lack of the requisite experience to think the ideas through before implementation.
Ghana at this point just like the president who desires change yet does not effect it and the vice president who effects change but does not have the experience required, is caught between the anvil and the hammer of democracy’s game of uncertainties.
Could this be a classical case of ‘the young doctor and the old barber?’