President Peter Mutharika was worried. His country’s leading budget donors had just withdrawn support – measuring up to 40% of natural revenue – for the 2016/ 2017 fiscal year due to lack of seriousness on the part of the government to implement public finance management reforms. In a year when Malawi faces an acute food shortage crisis – the worst in a decade according to some reports – due to drought, late and erratic rains as well as extensive floods that destroyed farmlands, homes and crops last year, the cut in donor support was a big blow to his regime and he needed a solution to appease an increasingly unsettled population.
Then, he had his eureka moment: national prayers. President Mutharika urged his citizens to turn out and take part in a program of intensive prayers for his country. The well-attended event dubbed “Dedicating Ourselves to God in Seeking National Peace and Prosperity” took place in January 2016 at the Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. In various sermons held that day, men of God called on the people of Uganda to be united in facing calamities as well as to refrain from sin in order for blessings to be showered on the nation. The president, who was accorded the honor of reading 2 Chronicles 7:12-14 also blamed the withdrawal of donor funding on alien customs like homosexuality and not mismanagement of funds by his government. At the end of the program, prayers were offered for a slew of topics including commencement of the rainy season, help in dealing with violence against women and children as well as corruption and political inclusiveness.
On Tuesday, February 16, 2016, Malawi recorded its first cases of deaths directly connected to hunger. Two children died after eating raw, poisonous cassava when they were hungry while their parents were away searching for food. This is one of the effects of the harsher food shortages the country is currently undergoing with reports of people forming large queues in order to buy maize in some areas.
We haven’t got to that stage yet in Ghana. Our president hasn’t called for a national prayer conference as a possible solution to our problems. However, some comments in the last few weeks by some government officials are worrying especially as they all follow the same pattern. It seems prayer has become an almost default answer to the problems we have in the country. Last week, Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak, a member of the parliamentary select committee on health called on Ghanaians to appeal for divine intervention by praying for rainfall to put an end to the meningitis outbreak in Ghana. Sampson Ahi, the deputy minister for water resources, works and housing urged Ghanaians to pray for rains in order to combat the acute water problems that have developed in some parts of the country. The deputy minister of transport went even further by describing the near sinking of a ferry on the Volta Lake last week as a blessing as it allowed the relevant authorities to detect a fault which can now be fixed.
Ghana is a deeply religious country and the belief in a higher power and its influence in all facets of life is deeply woven into the fabric of society. However, we have a serious problem if we have to wait until the near loss of lives and property before we detect issues with our infrastructure. The meningitis outbreak, acute water shortages, and transportation disasters are not new occurrences in Ghana but continue to happen periodically because we don’t properly plan for dealing with them. We don’t need a deity to deal with acts of corruption, power outages, and security problems. The government and its people have a responsibility to themselves to ensure that all these problems are properly dealt with and resolved.
We need to begin taking responsibility for our actions as well as realize that the biggest help God has given us is the knowledge and ability to decipher our problems and solve them ourselves. Calling on God while we sit on our hands will solve nothing. After all, as is often said, God helps those who help themselves.
Author: Senam, threesixtyGh Writer