There are many things uniquely Ghanaian which serve as a source of pride globally, Kente cloth and Adinkra symbols easily come to mind. Conversely, several uniquely Ghanaian concepts detract from the process of nation building, one of the biggest ones being the concept of Ghana Man Time (GMT).
GMT refers to the propensity of Ghanaians to attend any function as late as they can. This has become routine and so expected, that someone has taken the pain to coin a phrase to describe it, to wit, Ghana Man Time. Thus when you advertise a function supposed to start at 10:00am, in Ghana Man Time that’s closer to 12:00 noon.
It’s almost official, and you would be hard pressed to find a function in Ghana that takes off on time. The so-called big men in our society are the worst offenders, attending functions routinely two and three hours late, whether it is to prove their superiority over those ‘peasants’ waiting for them to come give their speech, no one knows. Thus the cycle goes on, people attending functions as late as they can knowing they are probably early enough to catch the keynote speech.
The solution to this conundrum is a very interesting one and one only a Ghanaian could envision. Programs are advertised for two, three hours before they are supposed to start, meaning everyone should be seated by the real start time. It’s almost a social contract, the elephant in the room no one speaks of but everyone adheres to.
When time is taken for granted in such a cavalier fashion, is it any wonder nothing ever gets done in Ghana? Civil servants view their reporting to work time in GMT, meaning the official times are routinely flouted. People in authority in Ghana are not big on consequences either, meaning people are rarely punished for the wrongs they do, so since there is no punishment why not keep flouting this directive?
The cavalier treatment of time has also created a culture of procrastination that permeates every facet of Ghanaian society. ‘Last minute’ is something we are very fond of, meaning doing tasks at the last possible second is very common. Every voter registration exercise, or any form of national exercise with a deadline, you often see the biggest queues on the final day of the exercise.
Even the ‘future leaders’ of our country are big on this phenomenon. Across tertiary institutions students are fond of last minute submission of assignments. It is almost the accepted norm, and I would know because not three months past I gleefully participated in this phenomenon, and friends at other institutions assure me it is not much different on their end.
We often complain of the ills that plague our country, yet in my opinion this is one of the biggest ones. A relaxed approach to the treatment of time means nothing gets done when it should, and deadlines do not count for much. Yet often it is the awareness of an impending deadline that drives application of oneself to a task, thus leading to a satisfactory result.
I guess in Ghana Man Time, President Mahama’s term of office is yet to officially start. We can see how problematic this concept is when we apply it to the most important things, yet it’s almost second nature in Ghana. So the next time you’re in Ghana, apply your westernised concept of time to your social invitations and you would find yourself arranging the place for the ceremony.