For any of you who might have spent time in Ghana, you’ve likely heard that shout: “Oh, Ghana!”  It is a good-natured expression of frustration with the everyday annoyances that make life what it is in Ghana.  Power cuts out in the middle of a World Cup match? “Oh, Ghana!”  Traffic completely stops in Cape Coast because the local herd of cattle have gotten into the road? “Oh, Ghana!”  Anyway, you get it.

Well, today’s “Oh, Ghana!” moment comes courtesy of Ghanaian President John Atta Mills, who has taken a particularly depressing stance on the turmoil in Ghana’s neighbor, Cote d’Ivoire:

“Ghana is not taking sides,” he said, pointing out that “We have about one million Ghanaians living in Ivory Coast who could be victims of any military intervention.”

Super, the head of state of the most legitimate democracy in West Africa, and arguably all of sub-Saharan Africa, has decided not to cash in any of that legitimacy to help resolve a fairly clear electoral situation right next door.  Of course, this ignores the fact that there are many millions more Ghanaians living along the border with Cote d’Ivoire that could be affected if things go badly, or that cross-border flows of Ivorians trying to escape conflict could pour into Ghana, which lacks the capacity to adequately address their needs.  Further, Mills’ response to the crisis is . . . prayer.  Prayer is fine, but it is no substitute for working in this world for a solution.  No, Mills’ stance is a depressing bit of hedging one’s bets.

The good news, I suppose, is that there is nothing inherently Ghanaian about this attitude toward the situation in Cote d’Ivoire.  Nana Akufo-Addo, the New Patriot Party’s (NPP) presidential candidate in 2008 (and likely in 2012), issued a statement earlier this week that more or less addressed the absurdity of Mills’ position.

“Much as most of us Ghanaians believe in the efficacy of prayer, prayer cannot be a replacement of or substitute for an active policy of Ghanaian diplomacy and engagement. It is said that heaven helps those who help themselves.”

Amen.  Now go, Ghana.  Do something now.