Somebody posted on the GLU Forum [Ghana Leadership Union] an article about Nigeria?s new Finance Minister and some strategic moves the woman has made to help turn our big brother nation around, and I can?t help but stop and thank God or Allah for answering to the long prayers of his suffering people. Of course I am hoping that Ghana might get such leadership and Minister(s) who are genuine and can help turn things around too (smile).
The article by Nora Boustany of the Washington Post of May 10, 2006 is about Madam Dr. Mrs. Okongo-Iweala, and her strategic moves on the Nigerian mightily tainted economic floor! If I have forgotten any of her titles, I hope my brothers will forgive me, for I know how important titles are to my brothers. A PhD with credentials from MIT and Harvard and former World Bank Economist, this woman was hired to run the Finance Ministry in Nigeria in 2003 by President Obasanjo. I have to admit that my confidence in Economists was very low, judging from Ghana?s history where the only good thing our economists could come out with was to tax and keep taxing the ones they thought had money to buy goods and cars! No other creativity!
This news about Nigeria is the kind of news that makes my blood warm with Joy! I am in awe and so overwhelmed with joy that Africa?s woes may be coming to an end.
About 42 years ago around 1964, as a young school kid I heard a speech by a Nigerian representative of an organization in Accra plead for Ghanaians to ?come over to Macedonia and help? them. I was a child and did not see the funny side of this irony. Why should little Ghana come and help? It takes leadership, my friends, and Ghana had the leadership at that time under mighty Kwame Nkrumah for the whole Africa. Today some Nigerians still think Ghana is a better place to walk at night without a personal gun, but the reality is coming to roost as Ghana cannot even deliver water and stable electricity and reliable phone service in the most affluent of the capital such as East Legon where many Ministers including the one in charge of Water Works live. Small businesses and ATM machines each need to have their own power generators costing over $10,000. The power from the mighty Volta Dam and Akosombo dam is not being managed under the right effective leadership!
Nigeria represents the hope for Africa, far more than South Africa or Ghana. Why?
Nigeria is the largest market and the greatest potential for any negotiations just as China was discovered by Richard Nixon of their potential around late 1960s early 1970s. Over my 37 years of adult first hand observation, I have noted that Nigerians have a different personality than Ghanaians. My grandmother taught me that it is better to be hot or to be cold, but never lukewarm. I was a kid and it took me long in life to realize the wisdom of an African woman. Ghanaian are cool, and Nigerians are hot! Cool people don?t survive well under global competition. Anybody who knows Americans know they don?t like to take second place in anything. It is their culture and others in Europe may not like them for that. Even though considered crooked in nature, Nigerians are perhaps the only people in Africa I know who will pass the test of what we in business like to call SCA ? Strategic Competitive Advantage, if you train them. Whether you like them or not, you have to respect any group of people who don?t feel themselves inferior to any and who always try all ways and means to make life or events work! Yes, like all people some of those means have not been commendable. My friend Nigerians are brilliant just like Ghanaians claim to be, and they are the one culture that is aggressive and not kow-towing to the other cultures of Broni [white-man]. Nigerians will wear their long robe attires be it 90 degrees F or 20 below, even though they don?t mind putting on the monkey suit once in awhile also. Even though Christian and other religions may appear to soften them and they also look up to Heaven for some Manna to drop, they don?t feel inferior to anybody. Even when proclaiming big Christian Churches in Ghana, Nigerians found a legal way to siphon large amounts of money from Ghana right under our legal smart noses. We Ghanaian hide under beds under the sound of a gun, don?t let us deceive ourselves. Our parents taught us that peace was better than social justice. Now that I am old, I can say that they were wrong!
We Ghanaians are nice people, but from over 40 years of careful observation of human pain and competition, little do we Ghanaian leave our footprints on the surface of the world like Nigerians do. Nice people may go to Heaven, but on this earth we have failed miserably since every Ghanaian would rather put money in their own water reservoirs and underground sewage septic tanks than implement a decentralized system where districts and towns can work under one elected leadership to collect money and provide such services. In half a century after independence Ghanaian cities still cannot name their streets and number houses, simply because perhaps every leader or Minister thinks they would be asked to pay taxes themselves if the did that for the towns and communities. Our current President has been aptly called the ?gentle giant? and our rural folk like him since he takes no responsibility to implement any changes, neither any acts of commission or omission. President Kufuor thinks every single problem should have a full Ministry assigned to it and the people love him for creating such jobs, even though insider stories indicate that sometimes government payrolls are delayed for months, since nobody is in charge! Some have suggested President Kufuor?s gentle demeanor helps brings peace to the region and a few token awards. We also have promises to write-of our debts from our Western brothers, but we have to drive our rice farmers out of jobs as we imbibe all hooks and acts on globalization! A $million grant helps make the Ghanaian press feel good and keep shouting motivational empty rhetoric.
Like it or not, Ghana has been under a curse for 40 years now. Anybody who is sitting on what was described in the 1970s as the second largest deposits of gold and cannot find a penny, and declare bankruptcy [HIPC] is under a curse. All our neighbors have oil but Ghana does not, and tons of gold and other mineral deposits under our soil still finds no leadership since Nkrumah was overthrown, who can dig it and sell. Reports of ten trillion cedis missing in our audited accounts from 1992-2000 [GhanaHomePage, 2006, March 21] still goes with no effort to investigate. Despite these, our women will take off their cloths and spread on the dust for their leaders to walk on, and Ghana is claimed to be the tenth happiest place on earth [GhanaHomePage, 2006, January 8]. Isn?t that an irony of a culture that cannot compete, cannot fight and are still happy? President Kufuor criticized the constitution of Ghana before coming into office, but once his 5 bullet-proof Toyota Landcruiser arrived, and he has enough entourage around him everywhere they go to say ?Nana eeba ooo? [literally translated as ?The King is coming?], he claims today that the constitution is alright. In 5 years he has still not caught up evaluating and hiring 230 districts chief executives and Ministers of state and Regional Ministers, whiles 70% of the people do not have water.
Such is the irony of life in Ghana that this story of Nigeria having a Finance Minister who can at least use part of her education and experience, and has strategic thinking skills, is a delight to hear. The story cites as an example of the rare strategic thinking in Africa: "We started to publish figures in a bulletin inserted in newspapers, such as the revenue from oil, how much went to local government for what, and people began to ask questions: Why is there no chalk, why are there potholes in our roads?" she said. The bulletins sold out every time. ?It unleashed a whole conversation on how much resources states and local government were allocated and how they used them," she added? [Washington Post, 2006, May 10]
This writer is hoping and counting on Nigerias rising and teaching us soft-hearted and kind-spirited Ghanaians a few lessons. We may repay them at the gates of Heaven but on this earth they have lessons for us to learn. The story says Nigeria has been able to pay off their debt burdens of over $30 billion in a very short time. I say Praise the Lord! Can anybody give me an Amen? It has been a shame indeed for Africa?s mightiest population to be dominated for so long and showing only 3% growth rate for 10 years despite all the oil revenues and all the educated Nigerians across the globe! God has a way of deliverance [now we have to turn to God since Physics can?t explain all]. With an honest person in charge who does not seem to need a free car and money for her family, and strategic mindset such as these publications in the papers, Madam Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is using what we called strategic thinking to help her country turn around! In charge of their finances she is doing great, and I?d say perhaps can do greater if our mostly Moslem brothers will allow a woman to smell the seat of power for change! I can even see that coming since Pakistan has had a woman President before. If these people get good leadership in 10 years they will turn around in no time! They can retrieve their educated people from all over the globe and no Economic Hit Man can stand the maneuvering minds and spirit of the Nigerians.
Nobody can tell a people who are desperate not to keep praying. Let us keep up the prayers since that is what we do best. However, let us work hard and with smartness, and keep our eyes open for change, like the birds of the air always strategically look for change anytime they are perked on a tree looking for chick-lets. Look for new leadership since this one may not drop from Heaven. In the writers? recent research work on leadership performance in Ghana [to be published], it was found that 73% of all participants put blame on or hold leadership responsible to supply essential utilities and services, and about 90% of them are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. The question is what do we do about it? Our culture of Gyae-ma-no-nka [let-it-be] and Fama-Nyame [give it to God] is hurting us indeed. We have lost discipline, our society and leaders do not punish crime, and we cannot give everything to God almighty to do for us! - Let us learn to be aggressive and stand up to our MPs who don?t ever show up till election time and don?t seem to have sensitivity to the needs and suffering of their constituents. - Let us stand up to the Party that is telling us who to vote for and reject such Western political maneuvering tactics that do not work for us. - Let those overseas learn to channel their money where their mouths can be and support their local leaders they can trust or at least they can call on to account and demand accountability. - Let us learn to stand up and face our Ministers and MPs, and demand an amendment to the 1992 constitution to allow the people to elect their own District and Regional Chief Executives. That is what democracy involves, and we must demand our rights just as our Nigerian brothers and sisters seem to be doing now, luckily through the skills of a dedicated leader in their Finance Ministry. Isn?t it interesting that Nigeria is being saved by a woman? Hmm! Our mothers perhaps taught us the right stuff! That is what leadership is all about ? using skills, strategy, management, and executing.