Michael Collins is not a name which will resonate with many Ghanaians. So, who is he?
In his non-title-loving society, US Air Force Reserve test-pilot and astronaut, was officially Maj-Gen Michael Collins. On 28 April 2021, the two-star General died at 90, “lifting off” to eternity, as he had done in spacecraft in life.
On 20 July 1969, the world watched in amazement as Neil Armstrong said “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” as he became the first human to step on the Moon. Minutes later, the second crew-member Edwin Aldrin became the second man to do so.
Michael Collins was the third crew-member of Apollo 11. He did not step on the Moon because he was the commander of the craft Columbia which orbited the Moon while Armstrong and Aldrin landed in the Lunar-Module Eagle.
On his death, Collins was eulogized as an “American-hero” for his contribution not only to Space exploration but to America after his retirement as an astronaut.
Taking a leaf from “American-hero,” I ask myself, who is a “Ghanaian-hero?”
Before then, what were the antecedents to this moon-landing in 1969?
Soon after the end of WW2 in 1945, the Cold War between the capitalist West led by the USA, and the Communist/Socialist East led by the USSR started. Space became the target of scientific/technological superiority. Captured German rocket scientists on both sides were immediately deployed. The challenge was the first to send man to Space and back safely.
So important was this race that, in 1958 US President Dwight Eisenhower (Gen Rtd) created the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) to spearhead America’s preparations.
On 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut/astronaut became the first man to journey into Space and orbit the earth in his Vostok spacecraft. This was a blow to American national pride.
Three weeks later, American Rear-Admiral Alan Shepard went to Space as the second man to do so.
Following America’s “defeat,” on 25 May 1961, President Kennedy challenged NASA to land an American on the Moon by the end of the decade. This audacious proposition by the President was considered MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. However, on 20 July 1969, Apollo 11’s crew of Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin landed on the moon while Michael Collins orbited the Moon for 29 hours.
America thus avenged the technological defeat at the hands of Russia in 1961 with Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins becoming “American-heroes.”
So, who are “Ghanaian-heroes?”
During the 1979 uprising/revolution, established Ghanaian businessmen like Dr Ephson, Mr Darko of Darko Farms, BK Mensah of International Tobacco, Mr Appiah-Menkah of Apino Soap, Mr Siaw of Tata Brewery etc were all declared “thieves” by the revolutionaries and persecuted. Many potential “Ghanaian-heroes” were hounded out of the country.
In the 1980s, I had regular arguments with a colleague on Ghana’s direction. To his description of Ghana as visionless and a “basket-case,” I accused him of being unduly pessimistic. Four decades later, can I call him pessimistic?
To a question posed by a TV host in September 2009 involving three kids averaging ten-years-old on who their hero/role-model was, they all said OBAMA! When the shocked host asked for a Ghanaian hero, they said they had none. Asked why, they answered
“all our politicians do every day on radio is to insult each other. What are we supposed to learn from adults who have no respect for themselves and each other?”
Shell-shocked, I could only burry my head in shame.
Unfortunately, in 2021 the situation has not changed. Insults are still dispensed freely to anyone who does not endorse their political views.
Ghana can boast of heroes like HE Kofi Annan, the seventh UN Secretary-General, Mrs Mary Chinery-Hesse, Ghana’s first female UN Under-Secretary-General, Lt Gen EA Erskine the first black Force Commander of a UN Mission (UNIFIL), and Azumah Nelson, World boxing Champion in two divisions.
Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah remains tall not only in Ghana, but in Africa and the world.
But is this all Ghana is capable of?
Maj-Gen Michael Collins’ death and being eulogized as an “American-Hero” made me question how many Ghanaians are seen by the average Ghanaian as “Ghanaian-Heroes.”
Unfortunately, as my late Professor Kwame Gyekye said, we have a knack for not appreciating the good in fellow Ghanaians. Laughing heartily, he would say we all have PhD (“Pull him Down”) degrees. Otherwise, why should destroying Ghanaian businesses be the focus of a revolution?
Ghanaians! Let us grow our Ghanaian-heroes!
Leadership, lead Ghana!
Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!
Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association
Family Health University College
Source: Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)/ [email protected]
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