Is Ghana Ready For A Woman President?

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 Source: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

21st September 2011

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 Nkrumah?


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

Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta