By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
December 2, 2009
As a Ghanaian, do you feel let down by your leaders (at the local, regional, or national levels)? How do you feel whenever the name of any of them (past or present) is mentioned? Agitated or elated? Do you have fond memories of any? More importantly, do you ever wonder why such leaders are not honoured with the naming of national monuments after them, for example? Or why most of them are quickly written off like bad debts and forgotten as soon as they leave office?
These are disturbing questions whose answers may sadden the individual. Our country lacks effective leadership, and the truth about it must be told. Whether it is the Head of State, political appointees, chiefs, or church leaders, there is always cause for concern. It is no exaggeration to say that over the years, we have not had the kind of leadership that will galvanize the citizens and mobilize the country’s abundant human and natural resources for progress. We are still underdeveloped and ravaged by corruption, nepotism, and tribal politics because we lack effective leadership to redirect our energies to better use. It is a national crisis. Frustration (and anger) at this leadership problem is evident. Many of our leaders are not celebrated nationally nor is their worth acclaimed as a source of inspiration. Of all, it is only Dr. Nkrumah whose name still sticks to some monuments (Nkrumah Circle in Accra, Kwame Nkrumah University in Kumasi, and Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum). If our leaders were “heroes” worth celebrating, their memories would have been immortalized as has been done in the United States and other countries.
The recent attempts to remove Busia’s bust from the public space in Sunyani (in the regional capital city of his birth-place) is just an inkling of the repudiation. Paradoxically, however, our leaders have named places after foreign leaders, for example, as Rawlings did to the Burkinabe Thomas Sankara (changing Acheampong’s Redemption Circle to Sankara Circle). When Kufuor named a street in the Kawokudi area in Accra after Nigeria’s Obasanjo, Ghanaians poured out their repugnance. Then, ridiculously, he went ahead to award himself national honours, imitating the lizard that falls from the tall iroko tree and praises itself if nobody will praise it. Thank you, Chinua Achebe.
Accra has a “Rawlings Park,” which is just a mockery of the June Four venom that led to the burning of the Makola Number One market at that very place. The naming of Accra International Airport after Kotoka and the retention of that honour over the years is the height of folly and our leaders should be ashamed for glorifying treachery. It is an insult to our constitutional democratic aspirations!
This leadership crisis is pervasive and has wreaked much havoc. In the public and private departments of national life, those entrusted with leadership roles have not been able to leave lasting footprints on the sand of time for which the society will be proud. Just look around you to see the numerous abandoned government projects and programmes and the wanton scrapping or re-designation of Ministries, Departments, Agencies, and other institutions and you will conclude that this leadership problem is responsible for our woes. Our country cannot make any progress in this circumstance, and we must not continue to overlook the leadership crisis in public discourse.
Although it will be difficult to assign one specific definition to “leadership” and uphold it as a desirable quality for all office holders to have, it is not difficult to know who a good leader is. Every observer can tell our leaders from others elsewhere whose leadership has solved their countries’ problems at several levels. Our national leaders have not had the requisite qualities to move the country forward. Obviously, we have had leaders with many qualities; but they have been leaders who led by only pointing the way. This kind of leadership is ineffectual. Here is what we’ve had so far (the civilian leaders first):
• Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, an energetic leader with much love for his country but full of personal ambitions to be the be-it-all-and-end-it-all, dictatorial, and mindless of the fact that there are many ways to land a fish. His personal ambitions couldn’t make Ghana fly. • Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia, a renowned scholar but weak leader whose loyalty was torn between Britain and Ghana. With the true “Mate Me Ho” spirit in full gear, he spearheaded a political system that did all it could to suppress everything associated with Nkrumah, and earned the scorn of many Ghanaians, including those who overthrew his government. Elitism doesn’t galvanize ordinary people for national development.
• Dr. Hilla Limann, considered an outsider in the CPP family, brought in by Imoru Egala as a compromise candidate but effeminate and keenly interested in personal indulgences that created room for Okutwer Bekoe and his cohorts to rule Ghana through him. He also led us nowhere.
• John Agyekum Kufuor of the NPP, whose conduct in office is too fresh for me to attempt dissecting. Ghanaians can still see the evidence of his personal greed and the impact of his laissez-faire approach. In retirement, he is virtually invisible locally although active in international engagements purely for personal gains. An agama lizard in a village will remain an agama lizard in town. • John Evans Atta Mills, whose uncharismatic leadership style has been criticized by his own NDC as lacking “bite.” In effect, the so-called “Father-for-all-Ghanaians” mantra doesn’t appear to be catching on. He has slightly over three years more to prove his critics right or wrong. Whether his leadership qualities will yield the expected results is in the womb of time.
• The military leaders (Gen. Ankrah, Afrifa, Acheampong, Akuffo, and Rawlings) have nothing to recommend them except their debauchery and mismanagement of affairs. Jerry Rawlings who overthrew a civilian government and did all he could to lay the foundation for the 4th Republic, is charismatic, still up and about (an amalgam of a military-cum-civilian leader), making his presence felt. Rawlings has taken on his shoulders the task of building Ghana the way he wants it built, forgetting that it takes more than personal charisma to build a country.
Despite the different periods in which these leaders ruled the country, one common feature about them is their “leaderlessness.” They failed to provide the country what it needed to progress despite the hard work of the citizens. The country has remained a producer of primary commodities that has to panhandle in the international donor community and accept the cut-throat conditionalities of the vampire Bretton Woods institutions (the World Bank and IMF) to be able to survive. That Kufuor ushered Ghana into the club of Highly Indebted and Poor Countries (HIPC) is no accident. It is the culmination of all that the weak leaders have done over the years to bring the country to its knees. Since independence, the country has not had any consistency in the agenda for national development because of three main factors:
i. Poor quality of leadership at the highest level—considering the caliber of those who have been
Heads of State—mediocre, disgruntled, or self-acquisitive and shortsighted people.
ii. Divisive political party influences—the result of entrenched political party positions and
conflicting strategies for mobilizing resources for national growth/development. Most people should know that Ghana has not had any long-term development programme after the overthrow of the Nkrumah government and the burning to ashes of his national development programme. All succeeding governments implemented short-term programmes (e.g., Busia’s Rural Development Programme; Acheampong’s Operation Feed Yourself; Rawlings’ infrastructural development programme and the Vision 2020, which the NPP supplanted with something too amorphous for comfort. As for the Atta Mills government’s plan, everything appears to be tied to the NDC’s manifesto.
iii. Senseless intervention in politics by disgruntled elements in the Ghana Armed Forces and their
civilian collaborators, producing so-called agenda of national liberation, national redemption, or people’s revolution that sapped the country’s growth. Countries are not built through ad hoc measures and “zombism.” These problems have added to others to draw our country back. Additionally, state institutions that should be supported to prepare leaders for the country at various levels have been turned into vicious political propaganda machines and used to suppress initiatives. How can our country have the requisite pool of well-trained leaders to move it forward if things continue to be done this way? Our religious bodies have not been able to provide the requisite leadership nor have our traditional authorities. The daily misconduct of the church leaders themselves is worrisome. The church houses have become synonymous with greed, hypocrisy, and damnable conduct. Our chieftaincy institution cannot escape blame either. The numerous chieftaincy disputes in various parts of the country are a pointer to the rot that exists in that sphere too.
Sadly enough, the various political parties do not have any mechanism for preparing their members for leadership roles. Everything is tied to how much money the individual can raise to buy his way into leadership positions and then turn round to demand contracts to recoup what had been spent to be in office. Where will our true leaders come from? Let’s be bold enough to admit these lapses and take prompt steps to tackle this leadership problem. It is our bane!