By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
July 12, 2010
We have said it before but will say it loud again: Many Ghanaians are not happy with the kind of leaders who have so far managed the affairs of state. We are still what we are today because we lack leaders who know what to do to move the country forward. We are convinced that we have everything that we need to develop at all levels; but we have not had any competent leadership for that purpose, which makes our plight legendary.
All over the world, countries that have made progress have been fortunate to have leaders who understood the circumstances in which they were called to lead their people and ruled with the desire to uplift their countries. They worked hard in office to improve living conditions for their people and to establish their countries as powerful forces in regional and global politics. Those leaders are celebrated.
In Ghana, which of our leaders can we confidently step forward to celebrate? Some politicians may want to bask in the glory of Dr. Nkrumah by setting aside a whole year to celebrate his centenary but let us not forget that despite Nkrumah’s national and international acclaim as a visionary leader, there are large segments of our Ghanaian society that don’t want to have anything to do with him. For whatever reasons, the Great Osagyefo played his part but as a fallible human being, he left behind ugly scars for which his opponents don’t want to forgive him. Such is the tragedy of humanity.
Now, let’s jump this hoop of Nkrumah. Who else can we wholeheartedly uphold as a leader worth celebrating? The military leaders who overthrew the civilian governments (Ankrah, Afrifa, Acheampong/Akuffo, or Rawlings)? Or the civilian leaders whose tenure was cut short by the military (Busia and Limann)? Or those who have led us so far in this 4th Republic? You must be a dare-devil lot if you can settle on any of these. What will be your reasons for your choice, anyway?
Tell me, then, why it is that despite our abundant natural and human resources we are not as developed as those countries that began the march of self-rule at the same time as we did. Why do you think that we are still underdeveloped? Don’t bore me with any condemnation of the colonial master or the IMF/World Bank. I know that we are still producers of primary commodities and don’t dictate the prices of these items at the international market. But should we continue to be producers of primary commodities? The buck stops right here.
There are more cogent reasons for our plight. That is nothing but our leaderlessness and mismanagement of affairs at all levels. We haven’t had the kind of leaders that we need to spur us on toward national growth and development. Tell me that any of our leaders (whether at the local or national levels) is a TRUE leader and you will earn my scorn!
To explain the problem, we may turn to a common aphorism in journalism, which has it that a country deserves the kind of journalism it gets. Carried over into the political context, this aphorism may speak volumes. Will we be right to say that a country gets the kind of government and leadership it deserves? Let’s apply it to the Ghanaian situation—53 years after gaining independence—and do the analysis.
High hopes and genuine expectations for national development underpinned the struggle for Ghana’s independence. The CPP under Nkrumah ruled with the spirit of nationalism and Africanization or indigenization as its driving force. The visionless military NLC overthrew him and handed over to Busia (a liberal democratically minded politician), who was in turn kicked out of office by Acheampong’s NRC (later to become the SMC). The military’s game of musical chairs saw Akuffo replacing Acheampong, only to be chased out by Rawlings and his AFRC. Then, Limann took over only to suffer calamity as Rawlings returned. We know the rest of the story. Ghana is still under-developed.
Evidence on how our past leaders administered the affairs of state is abundant: whether through the projects that their administrations constructed all over the country or the destruction of viable ones for political expediency; whether through their troubling faux pas or unguarded public pronouncements that portrayed them as uncaring; whether through their moral weaknesses (which promoted bribery and corruption, moral decadence, or economic stagnation of the country) or outright nepotism and tribalism (which created enmity between the various ethnic groups); whether through their misguided economic policies or lack of foresight; and whether through an unquenchable thirst for power and its abuse against political opponents or outright incompetence in managing national affairs. In one sense or the other, our past leaders failed in many ways to move us where we should have been by now. There appeared to be something basically wrong with that kind of leadership, which still persists.
President Mills’ leadership style has its ups-and-downs; but he can be said to be handling matters with equanimity and humility. But it takes more than humility to galvanize the people into rebuilding the country. His “Father-for-all” maxim hasn’t so far energized Ghanaians to help him achieve his “Better Ghana” agenda. There is lethargy at several levels as the usual political rhetoric gains grounds.
His leadership style is mocked as “Go Slow” and he is derided for running affairs with a “Team B”; we can all see the fits-and-starts approach that doesn’t encourage us to believe that he is making the difference. President Mills isn’t in any way standing tall above all others in this 4th Republic. He is yet to prove his critics wrong, which may have its own implications for his political fortunes. Under him, however, no destabilizing act has been done to further polarize the various ethnic groups nor has he orchestrated any molestation of political opponents. The status quo reigns supreme.
We have seen President Mills demonstrate selflessness (rejecting per diem allowances, restraining himself from wanderlust, displaying sobriety and humility in his dealings with the people, for instance). That, however, is his major challenge because if he cannot hold those in his government to the same principles, he can’t change the situation for the better. If he can’t crack the whip on his errant followers, he is doomed. A careful monitoring of the situation indicates that the same old order persists. A leader who cannot prevent his followers from abusing their positions of trust is no leader at all even though he may set himself up as a paragon of piety. He will not inspire the people he leads!
Current happenings indicate that there will not be any drastic difference between the leaders that we’ve had so far and those aspiring to replace them. In several respects, we continue to see the “old” faces (those who have either already failed to win the hearts of the electorate at the recent elections or those who haven’t given us anything new to show that they can make the difference). These contenders haven’t demonstrated qualities that one can defend as the requisite leadership acumen that will change the situation in officialdom and have the expected far-reaching impact on the country. Take, for instance, the following issues:
1. The failure of the NDC (and the other political parties) to create opportunities for grooming its future leaders is disarming. There appears to be no workable mechanism for that purpose, and there is no assurance that the party is interested in preparing its corps of future leaders. As is the case, they are waiting for Lady Luck to give them someone. That is a lackluster way of doing politics. Leaders are groomed, not left to Lady Luck to pluck from thin air for a country.
Happenings in the NDC indicate that there is a crisis of confidence in leadership. Judging from the persistent undermining of President Mills and the fact that the NDC’s house is divided at various levels, one lacks any justification to say that it is providing what Ghanaians need or that it is capable of changing the situation for the better any soon. Those gradually rearing their heads as possible choices are not new to us, with all the moral baggage of questionable contents that they are carrying. They are the same old wine seeking entry into a new wine bottle. Duh!
2. Let’s move to the NPP, where five aspiring contestants for the party’s flagbearership are feverishly wooing delegates to the August 7 Congress. We already know these people and they need no further introduction. So far, none of these contestants has been able to go beyond the level of promise-making or condemnation of the Atta Mills government to assure Ghanaians of what new qualities they would bring to the leadership equation. They are all over the country, spitting fire for nothing. This band of fiery, fast-talking conservative democrats cannot inspire the kind of change that Ghana needs to move forward. Some served as Ministers of State and still have many question marks hanging over their capabilities or public image. What new leadership qualities they have is not visible to me. I shudder to think that they will be the solution.
3. The camps of the CPP, PNC, and other minority parties are dormant as if their functionaries don’t feel any compunction to provide Ghana with any capable leader. They appear to have thrown their arms up in despair and resigned themselves to fate. They are waiting to dance themselves lame in the electioneering period only to have their ambitions end in smoke because they cannot provide the good quality leadership materials that Ghana needs.
Considering what we’ve had so far, is there any hope that someone NEW will emerge with the cutting-edge leadership qualities to take over from these visionless leaders that we are already fed up with?
What we expect such a person to demonstrate is not a mere hot-headed charisma that only raises high hopes in the people and leaves them more confused and desolate than expected. We want a leader who really understands what leadership entails—someone who will not seek to do everything by himself and take umbrage at those he thinks don’t do as he pleases; someone who will provide the energy, visionary leadership, and competence to galvanize the people for positive action to rebuild the country.
Such a person must be knowledgeable in the workings of Ghanaian politics and be informed about the factors that have hindered our progress (visionlessness, wayward policies, warped political ideologies, bribery, corruption, nepotism, tribalism and ethnocentricism, plain laziness, grand theft of public property, and outright unpatriotic acts). I am talking about a leader who will enter politics, knowing very well that our institutions of state are weak and must be completely overhauled and retooled to serve their statutory purposes; a leader who will understand the workings of our democracy and allow the principle of checks and balances to work to our advantage and not manipulate the system for parochial personal, ethnic, or political benefits.
Such a person must be prepared to outgrow pettiness in national politics and be ready to take the bull by the horns, not to pander to populist nonsense or cower before so-called power brokers or financiers of his political party who may want to continue pulling strings as they’ve done over the years. Such a person must know how to adroitly use his acumen to confront the odds that militate against our progress.
We need someone who knows how to heal wounds and ensure that our motto of “One nation, one people, one common destiny” is the only guiding principle in choosing people for official appointments or allocating resources for national development. Our country is polarized and must be healed. Above all, we need:
• A leader who is not disconnected from the people he leads because of his dogged desire to place his personal interests above theirs and, therefore, fails or refuses to know the barometer readings of the people’s sentiments against what he does or says in office.
• A leader who will be on top of affairs and listen to the people’s complaints, not only the sugar-coated lies and half-truths that the sycophants surrounding him will compete to dump in his ears.
• A leader who is quick to detect sycophancy from afar and insulate himself against it.
• A leader who will not cause renewed anguish in the people by trampling on their rights.
In all earnestness, Ghanaians have already committed themselves to constitutional democratic governance and are prepared to sustain the 4th Republic. They know that it is the political parties that must provide leaders to manage the affairs of state. That is the more reason why the various political parties must rise above pettiness to create opportunities to attract people with the requisite acumen. Then, Ghanaians will rally around them and support their moves for nation building. Anything short of this approach will keep us running around in circles while other countries make progress. Are we not yet tired of being under-developed as a result of which the people continue to suffer from excruciating poverty and indignity? Or the continuous exodus of Ghanaian professionals to other countries? We need a new crop of leaders to change the situation for the better.