Opinions Tue, 14 Aug 2007

Leadership: A President from Ghana

As Ghana’s 2008 general elections closes in, what type of leadership Ghana needs has become a recurring subject, sometimes even unsettling, despite figures like Prof. John Atta, Nana Akuffo Addo, Mr. Aliu Mahama and Edward Mahama hovering on the scene. The broader views are that Ghana needs a visionary leader to replace the incumbent John Kufour in 2008. The Ghanaian media are, as ever, obsessed with the leadership issue, too, as if the democrartic dispensation, with its political parties and insitutions, does not have a process of selecting leaders to contest for offices and run the development process. Some talks even border on autocracy and a blind search for visionary leaders as you just go and pick visionary leaders from anywhere despite the running democratic institutions. Good or bad, the democratic process selects its own leadership in an on-going process.

Aptly, some of this worrying talks of leadership has occured because of some utterances and behaviour by some politicians (not that other African states’ are any different, witness the acrimony in Nigeria in the periods leading to its just ended general elections with which the departed Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo had sustained rancour with his deputy, Mr. Atiku Abubakar, over petty issues, and some Sierra Leoneans saying their learned politicians have destroyed their country due to greed and selfishness). Former United Nations chief scribe, Mr. Kofi Annan, and good number of Ghanaian traditional rulers have advised Ghanaian politicians to be civil, as Ghanaian traditions demand, in their utterances as if they are some immatured group. Prof. S. K. B. Asante, a long time figure in the Ghanaian diplomatic and policy-making scene, has been so unhappy with some of the emerging leadership concerns that he described “some presidential aspirants” as “living in fantasy world.”
The leadership conundrum is so unnerving to some Ghanaians, at least some of its elites and some party big-wigs or apparatchiks, that the thought emananting from the political scene sometimes make it seem that there are no leaders capable of tackling Ghana’s progress. The impression is that some of the aspiring leaders appear simultaneously not to know and understand Ghana. This is when Kwame Nkrumah and J.B Danquah floated away. Never satisfied and salivating for perfect leadership, as if the world is perfect, critics argue Nkrumah and Danquah were impatient; Kofi Busia and Hilla Limman too slow and dull; and Jerry Rawlings too hot-tempered and missed the great opportunity to make Ghana a great nation.

Balanced leadership – that’s what some Ghanaians are longing for. In this sense, some argue a John Kufour leadership – simultaneously balanced and calm in the face of not only opposition heckling but also a Rawlingsian provocation. But Kufour emerged from the democratic process, no matter how fragile it is, after long years in the rough-and-tumble of the Ghanaian political scene. Some Ghanaians think the long-running military leaders are no better – no visionary among them, troubled more or less by moral and disciplinary problems. The argument in Ghanaian/African development circles, drawing cases from other developing world, is that the various military regimes should have used their military might as a foundation for Ghana’s speedy progress as South Korea, Chile and Brazile, among others, did. The long-running military juntas also stifled the growth of holistic leadership needed to midwife democracy as a bulwak for progress.

It is from such despicable background that Prof. Asante is worried about Ghana’s leadership and its impact on democratic growth. “Democracy had come to stay in Ghana but remained fragile enough to require a mature, strong, steady, visionary and knowledgeable political leader to protect it” (Aug 5, GNA). That’s democracy needs leaders to grow it, and not just any type of leaders, but leaders who have thorough grasp of Ghanaian history, norms, traditions, values, and how to play this in the global development game. With shadows of military coup hanging at the background and some politicians’ utterances inimical to democratic growth, Prof. Asante, like most Ghanaian democrats, is convinced that “this is a crucial matter for high-level consideration by all the political parties that are in the process of selecting party flag bearers.”

In the final analysis, pretty much of the questions of Ghanaian leadership today, as the progress of Southeast Asia leaders and their countries demonstrate, involve how confident are Ghanaian leaders - in themselves, in their people, in their country’s progress, and, more critically, in the foundational norms, values and traditions that form and run the Ghana nation-state. In a mixture of extremely long-running colonial rule, that heavily suppressed African values and traditions for growth, or post-independence African elites’ weak grasp of Africa’s values and traditions in its progress, Ghanaian/African leaders have had problems with confidence in their leadership process within the development process of their countries. And this may be why Prof. Asante held that, "Indeed we need a leader who has a deep and intimate appreciation of where this country is coming from and where it needs to get in the shortest possible time." That’s a leadership, no matter the level, that have solidly thorough grasp of the core Ghanaian environment.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi