In the past week several Ghanaian youths showed that they are not all about selfies and Tik Tok trends. In the grand tapestry of societal aspirations, the youth seem to have found themselves at a crossroads where the weight of bad governance and constantly worsening economic turmoil bears heavily down on their shoulders.
At the recently ended Occupy Jubilee House Demonstration, many Ghanaian youth took to the streets to register their frustration at the current state of things as far as the Ghanaian economy and governance is concerned.
“They [government] are not giving respect to the law, and when you want to speak about it, they stop you from doing so. Should we sit quietly as the country continues to deteriorate?” One of the protestors expressed angrily.
Another protestor who seemed to have reached her limits and could no longer handle the exasperation caused by a disappointing governance system lamented; “Nana Addo, we are tired of you. We are tired!”
With a faltering economy, and a system of governance that just does not sit well with them, many young people have been protesting. So, for three days they defied the police and danced in the rain while voicing out their displeasure.
Addressing the group of protestors after day two of the demonstration last week, Oliver Barker-Vormawor, one of the organizers and leaders of the Jubilee House Demonstration said:
“It is important that we maintain momentum, that we achieve for our generation and the next generation, a new constitution that is built on social justice, a new constitution that secures for us all accountability, respect for the rule of law. That must change in our lifetime. This is what we are asking of you.”
It is a call to protest that many young Ghanaians seem to be embracing actively and with the help and vast reach of social media, the intensity is increasing.
The Ghanaian youth in recent times has developed a penchant for activism which usually revolves around organizing, mobilizing, and taking action to address issues that they are passionate about or that directly affect their lives and future.
“We are tired. You are pushing us against the wall. We don't want to fight. We just want peace. We are just holding placards. Please, don't push us to the wall,” Deborah Enyonam Dabor, one of the protestors told TV3's late night program Ghana Tonight.
Social media has driven the recent activism among the Ghanaian youth. At the height of its advocacy, OccupyGhana which railed consistently against the ills of the country during the John Mahama administration was also a largely Facebook driven campaign with many of its key actors hugely popular on the platform.
When the actor Yvonne Nelson rallied against the stress of power cuts under the same administration in her DumsorMustStop campaign, it driven heavily through Twitter but youth advocacy did not start with the boom in social media.
Private legal practitioner Martin Kpebu explains that from the Kume Preko demonstration in 1995 led by the President Akufo-Addo against the imposition of the Value Added Tax, to the 1983 demonstration by the National Union of Ghanaian Students which was also against the then government of Jerry John Rawlings, there is evidence to the fact that youth activism in Ghana is not a thing of only yesterday.
“Before Kume Preko, when you read the Presidents history in the 70s, he was tackling Acheampong(former president). He was general secretary of one of the movements and then Paa Willie, his uncle was the President of the movement. And at that time, they were young. He, Tsatsu Tsikata, Dr. Yaw Graham and other people. Youth activism did not start today,” he explained.
It is a matter of being able to strike a perfect balance between activism and nuisance. The private legal practitioner advises that the youth be intentional about not committing some probable crimes in the course of their activism.
“There are laws that are against spreading false information, causing fear and alarm, so that one be mindful. Except that in nature, it is the case that you will always have attention seekers. Once you draw a number of people, some will be attention seekers, for some, it will be mental health. There will never be any situation where everyone is perfectly sane. There will always be situations where people have mental illness yet they have access to X and other platforms, but that shouldn't overshadow the good work that youth activists are doing,” he added.
Indeed, youth activism is a testament to the enduring power of youthful idealism, and reminds us that the seeds of change are sown by the hands of the young.
By Manaseh Apurum