Do Ghanaians need a woman President?

Wed, 4 Jan 2012 Source: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

1st January 2012

Yesterday, 20th September 2011, Zambians voted to choose a new

president and among the 10 presidential aspirants, there was only one

woman, Edith Nawakwi, a former Minister of Finance, Agriculture and

Energy (three ministerial portfolios) in the previous government of

late President Frederick Chiluba. Today 21st September, marks the 102

years of the birth of our national founder, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah

of blessed memory. Personally every 21st September rings a bell for me

as my father and mother died on the same date in 1971 and 1997

respectively. May their souls rest in perfect peace.


Currently, the greatest litmus test of the amount of democracy in a

particular country is the gender parity. The reader can verify for

himself/herself from the list of past women leaders provided at the

end of this article. Countries which currently have women leaders

include Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Britain, Belgium, Netherlands,

Denmark, Bangladesh, Germany, Thailand, New Zealand, Finland,

Philippines and Liberia, among many others. Female political

leadership seems to be the global norm and the in-vogue game or trend.

In the past, we have had women prime ministers and presidents and

those who hit the headlines include Golda Meir of Israel, Indira

Gandhi of India, Margaret Thatcher of Britain, Sirimavo Bandaranaike

of Sri Lanka, Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway, Mary Robinson of

Ireland, Macagapal Arroyo of the Phillippines, Megawati Sukarnoputri

of Indonesia, Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan,

among many others. Some succeed their husbands, fathers and mothers

whilst others fought their way to power (Jone Johnson Lewis). Famous

women opposition leaders, past and present, include Edith Nawakwi of

Zambia, Samia Yaaba Nkrumah of Ghana, Aan San Su Kyi of Myanmar,

Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Sergal Royale of France, Sonya Gandhi of

India, among others. It seems for the past 50 years or so, there has

been an explosion of women presidents and prime ministers on the world

stage and could this be attributed to the rise of liberalism, feminism

or what? Women are asserting their civic rights more and more in the

political arena and even in corporate boardrooms, ostensibly posing a

threat to male chauvinism and dominance. Could the emergence of the

sisters of Eve (euphemistically referred to as the weaker sex) be

attributable to many women attaining higher education or the decline

in male-centred cultures and attitudes? Is male dominance on the

decline and on the mend? We all recall the Beijing and Cairo

Conferences on Women which seem to have applied the pressure on

governments to rethink and reform their unbalanced male-centred

policies and statutes. Women ascendancy could also be partly

attributed to the singular action of Britain in 1911 when it

enfranchised women. Also we should not forget the enormous impact of

the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which opened the

floodgates for women and minorities to asset their rights. The role of

women in history is well documented and we could not forget the fiery

spirits of women leaders like Boadicea of Britain, Joan of Arc of

France, Olympias of Macedonia, Cleopatra of Egypt, Hatshepsut of

Egypt, Nefertiti of Egypt, Queen Amina of Zaria, Nigeria, Yaa

Asantewaa of Ghana, Candace Kush of Kush (Ethiopia), Rosa Parks of the

USA (racial discrimination activist), and Eleanor Roosevelt, among

many others.

Nowadays, women are coming out of their cocoons to bask in the

political limelight. It is the view of conservative male

traditionalists that women should be kept at arms length and be

consigned and relegated to the kitchen, as their roles are

biologically and socially circumscribed ad constrained. The 1948 UN

Human Rights Declaration was a watershed as it set the tone for

closely examining the rights of all human beings, irrespective of

their race, colour, age, gender, faith or their station in life.

Paradoxically, Muslim nations such as Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and

Indonesia have produced female leaders, to the discomfiture of so many

so-called advanced democracies in the West. Now we have the first

woman head of the IMF in the person of Christine Lagarde of France. In

deed, women have come of age and even the sky is not the limit for

their ambitions and aspirations. Women empowerment and liberation has

sent many a shiver down the spines of many male women-haters or

misogynists and misanthropists. The Scandinavian countries such as

Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland have been identified as

the best places on earth for women to live in as in these countries,

women are accorded more rights with men than in other countries.

According to Geert Hofstede’s global research on national cultures,

carried out some decades ago, these Scandinavian countries evince the

feminine culture of being caring, non-competitive and not being

masculine or aggressive. In many advanced countries, they have enacted

progressive and forward-looking legislation to increase the population

of women legislators and business executives. In Africa, Rwanda is

singled out as faring very well in this area of gender parity. Now in

many progressive countries, there are many women legislators and board

members in multinational corporations. There is the view held that

women are by nature meticulous and relatively incorruptible, and as

such they are less likely to doctor the figures and cook the books or

mess up the accounts.


Comparatively, women are said to be the largest contributor to our

GDPs as they undertake a lot of subsistence farming and bear the

heaviest brunt of the upkeep of the family. The famous Ghanaian

educationist, James Kwegyir Aggrey, said many decades ago that, ‘if

you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a

woman, you educate a nation.’ How relevant this is in our time when

women are playing a yeoman’s role in our economic growth,

multi-tasking as mothers, wives, bread winners and care-givers.

Therefore on this premise, should Africans, and for that matter, Ghana

experiment with promoting women to become presidents? Currently, Ellen

Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia is the sole female president on the

continent of Africa and I bet you, she must be feeling lonely at

annual AU (African Union) summits which are male-dominated. With

education as a vehicle of upward social mobility, many women these

days are voraciously reading their way up the ladder of advancement.

Some intrepid ones among them have broken the glass ceiling to emerge

at the top to rub shoulders with their male counterparts at the top

echelons of society. My sojourn in Nigeria two decades ago as a

teacher informs me that that country has some extraordinary and

talented women who are intelligent, aggressive, determined and highly

educated. Can we in the foreseeable future expect to produce a female

president in Nigeria or Ghana? Many countries now have adopted

affirmative action to employ more women and minorities at the

workplace so as to be representative of the composition of their

populations. This has led to embracing forward-looking policies such

as equal work for equal pay, equal opportunities employer, reverse

discrimination, girl-child accelerated education, and educational

quota system for girls, among others.


A few weeks ago, the premier political party in Ghana, the

Conventional Peoples Party (CPP) with socialist inclination, elected

Ms Samia Yaaba Nkrumah, daughter of our first republican president

(Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah) to the position of Chairperson of the

party, the first of its kind in Ghana. This is a giant leap for

Ghanaian women as it will galvanise them to believe that, “yes we

can’. Let us hope Samia will rekindle the fortunes of this slumbering

giant and colossus of politics in Africa. I think the platform has

been set for her to campaign relentlessly towards the forthcoming 2012

presidential elections and with age on her side, she must be eyeing

the 2016 presidential elections too. I think Ghanaians are tired of

gerantocracy (government by old people). In the past, we have also

experienced some form of plutocracy or aristocracy (government by the

patricians or rich people). I can bet that Ghanaians are eagerly

looking forward to tasting the rule by a woman president. Being a

predominantly matrilineal society, a female president will be much

welcome in Ghana, especially among the majority Akan tribe in the

South and Central Ghana whose culture is matrilocal, matrifocal,

avunculocal and female-inclined. For example, all the chiefs and kings

in Ghana owe their positions to the queenmothers who are the thrones

behind the throne. From our independence in 1957 to the present time

(54 years) we have been ruled by only male presidents. Does it mean

that Ghana has not got what it takes to have a woman president? We

have women Vice-Chancellors, women directors, and women justices and

women professionals. Currently, our Chief Justice is a woman and the

Speaker of Parliament is also a woman. There are other women

ministers, deputy ministers and members of parliament, but then they

are grossly outnumbered by their male counterparts. Or are Ghanaians

so biased as to make their national leadership patrilineal/

patriarchal? There is nothing in our current reigning 1992

Constitution which debars women from standing as presidential

candidates. Are we in Ghana and Africa only interested in phallocacy

(rule by male-symbolism)? How about having a woman symbol for a charge

(cuntocracy or pundendacracy)? If we elect a homosexual president,

then we will have a homocracy. If a lesbian, then lesbocracy. Rule by

women in general is termed gynecocracy or gynocracy. If our lady

president becomes infatuated with topless dresses, we shall then have

a mammocracy. What if she is married to many men? A polyandrocracy.

When a country has the worst from of people in power, we have a

khakistocacy. If a leader is there for a short period, then we have a

hobocracy. What if the lobbyists such as the Tea Party in the USA come

to power? We call it lobocracy. Rule by a tyrant or despot is an

autocracy or tyranny. If we get the mob (remember the Parisian mob of

1789 and the people power sweeping North Africa and the Middle East?)

in power, we have mobocracy or ochlocracy. What if young people or

infants ascend to power? We shall term it a puerocracy or

infantocracy. And where there is no authority or breakdown of law and

order, anarchy. Until a female president is elected in Ghana, we shall

not experience the fruits of feminocracy. Rather, we shall continue to

have malocracy, which sometimes can be malicious, maleficent,

malfunctional, malevolent, malignant and not at all magnanimous. Such

a situation can maledict (curse) us and we shall be our own

malefactor. In that case, the malcontents (disgruntled women) in our

female population who are impatient to ascend to power can lead a

Lysistrata-like strike action against the male population and our male

spouses in Ghana will be seen going about with swellings in their

pants! Let us hope it does not come to that. Remember it happened

recently in Kenya a couple of years back? They were following the

example of what transpired in the Greek drama written long ago by

Sophocles with Lysistrata the heroine in the play. To avert such a

disastrous national calamity in Ghana, perhaps we men have to concede

and condescend to the aspirations and ambitions of our female

presidential aspirants. What do we call sex blackmail? Bearing in mind

the Millennium Development Goals and its maturation in 2015, can I

suggest that either Samia Yaaba Nkrumah or Nana Konadu Agyemang

Rawlings or any female contender for the presidency in 2016 be

declared unopposed to honour our women and to fulfill one of the

cardinal challenges and objectives set out by the UN in the MDG. This

is to avert the impending sex strike by our women, who are hankering

for their first female president. Readers should advise me as I am

currently in a dilemma at my workplace where women have taken over as

HODs and they are driving us men crazy. What happens where your male

boss allows his spouse to be reigning and calling the shots right,

left and centre? Is it in consonance with corporate governance for a

spouse to hold three positions and even hijack the job of her husband

as overall boss and HOD? Is this spousocracy? On a serious note, if a

woman is leading a political party which is made up solely of women,

we call it a hen-party. I don’t believe Samia Nkrumah will allow the

CPP to become a hen-party because the shadow of his revered father

will loom large in the background and she must live up to expectation

by galvanizing the party into top gear, ready for 2016. She will need

to network and bring on board big time sponsors and strategists.


If a government is made up of many professionals and intellectuals,

(remember that of Dr Busia in 1969?), we have a technocracy. In

Africa, this often does not work well. But if the government glows in

red tape, excessive procedures and paperwork, we then have a

bureau-cracy (cf. Max Weber). A theocracy is where the government is

run by a representative of God or a Priest. An example of a theocracy

is the papacy in the Vatican in Rome. Sometimes, one wonders whether

Ghana has turned into a theocracy. What with the proliferation of

churches and the riot of many denominations, some fake and some

genuine. Are we experiencing a form of government which I term

glossolaliacracy? ( rule by speaking in tongues?). In Zambia, the late

former president, Frederick Chiluba (may his soul rest in peace),

declared Zambia a Christian nation. Does it mean that Zambia does not

recognize or entertain other religious faiths? Every country on earth

is first and foremost a secular state, Zambia being no exception.

Academics from time immemorial have volubly written and pondered on

the great schism between the church and the state and have concluded

that the two are not coterminous as they have divergent goals, one

being spiritual and the other being mundane. Be that as it may, our

President, John Atta Mills, is short of declaring Ghana a born-again

nation. Perhaps, declaring a nation a Christian nation will be

apotropaic (capable of warding off or parrying evil).


Will electing a female president in Ghana be equally apotropaic (ward

off evil) and will it bring us good luck? Will it stir up in us the

Oedipus and Electra complexes? Will a female president endear us to

the outside world and increase tourist arrival at KIA (Kotoka

International Airport)? Will it help us bridge the social gap between

the haves and have-nots as women are motherly and caring? Will it

challenge the men of Ghana to work extra hard by saying, ‘what a woman

has done, a man can do much better? Come 2016, Ghana should fulfill

her obligations to the international community by electing a female

president. Will it be Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings or Samia Yaaba



1. Indira Gandhi, India – PM 1966-77, 1980-84

2. Golda Meir, Israel – P< 1969-1974

3. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Sri Lanka PM, 1960-1965, 1970-1977, 1994-2000

4. Corazon Aquino, Philippines President – 1986 – 1992

5. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway – PM 1981, 1986-1989

6. Vigolis Finnbogadottir, President, Iceland – 1980 – 1996

7. Tarja Kaarina Halonen, Finland, President 2000 –

8. Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain, PM 1979 – 1990

9. Mary Robinson, Ireland, President – 1990 – 1997

10. Mary McAleese, Iceland, President 1997 –

11. Ruth Dreifuss, Switzerland, President, 1999 -2008

12. Jenny Shipley, New Zealand PM – 1997 – 1999

13. Kim Campbell, Canada PM 1993

14. Edith Cresson, France, PM 1991 – 1992

15. Agatha Barbara, Malta, President 1982 – 1987

16. Isabel Peron, Argentina, President 1974 – 1976

17. Dame Eugenia Charles, Dominica, PM 1980 -1995

18. Milka Planinc, Yogoslavia, PM – 1982 – 1986

19. Benazir Butto, Pakistan, PM 1988 – 1990, 1993 – 1996

20. Violetta Barrios de Chamorro, Nicaragua, PM 1990 – 1996

21. Khaleda Zia, Bangladesh, PM 1991 – 1992

22. Tansu Ciller, Turkey, PM 1993 – 1995

23. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Sri Lanka President 1994- 2005

24. Sheikh Wasina Wajed, Bangladesh, PM 1996 – 2001, 2009 –

25. Megawati Sukarnoputri, Indonesia, President, 2001 –

26. Janet Jagan, Guyana, President, 1997 – 1999

27. Dilma Rousseff , Brazil, President 2011 –

28. Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand, PM 2011 –

29. Julia Gillard – Australia, PM 2010 –

30. Helle Thorning Schmidt, Denmark, PM 2011 –

31. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia, President

32. Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo, Philippines, President 2001 –

33. Helen Clarke, New Zealand PM 1999 – 2008

34. Vaira Vike Freiberga, Latvia, President 1999 – 2007

35. Jennifer Smith, Bermuda PM 1998 – 2003

36. Elisabeth Domitien, Central African Republic – PM1975 – 76

37. Mame Madior Boye, Senegal, PM 2001

38. Sylvie Kinigi, Burundi, PM 1993 – 1994

39. Agathe Uwilinyimana, Rwanda, PM 1993 – 1994

40. Mireya Elisa Moscaso de Arias, Panama, President 1999 – 2004

41. Brthe Pascal TRonillot, Haiti, President, 1990 – 1991

42. Maria Liberia – Peter, Netherlands Antitles PM 1984 – 1986, 1988 – 1993

43. Pamela Gordon, Bermuda, PM 1997 – 1998

44. Claudette Werleigh, Haiati, PM 1994 – 1995

45. Reneta Indzhova, Bulgaria, PM 1994 – 1995

46. Susanne Camella –Romer, Netherlands Antitles, PM 1993, 1998 – 1999

47. Hanna Suchocka, Poland, PM 1992 – 1993

48. Maria De Lourdes Pintasligo, Portugal, PM 1979 – 1980

49. Lidia Gueiler Tajada, Bolivia, PM 1979 – 1980

50. Kazimieira Danute Prunskiena, Lithunia, PM 1990-1991

51. Angela Merkel, Germany 2005-

52. Michelle Bachelet, Chile

53. Christina Kirchner, Argentina


Lewis, Jone Johnson, Women Prime Ministers and Presidents; 20th

Century – Global Women Political Leaders, About.com Guide

http://womanhistory.about.com/od/rulers20th/a/women-heads.htm pp1-3

Accessed: 19/9/11

Women Political Leaders-Historical and Current

http://www.infoplease.com/pa/A080154.html Accessed: 22 September, 2011


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Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta