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Politicians and the Vision Thing

Thu, 11 Oct 2007 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

The impending 2008 general elections has unearthed on its path “vision” as one of its political marketing buzzwords. Its excessive use reveals its emanation from Ghanaian cosmology and its corresponding Judeo-Christian climate. Almost all the politicians talk as if they have “vision” while their opponents have not – but the “vision” game rolls on from all sides of the political spectrum. Cosmologically, the “vision” mantra makes the politician a bit of a supernatural figure in a society where superstition is disturbingly as critical a part of its progress as any other attribute. The Ghanaian politicians’ feverish reminder of the Ghanaian electorates that they have “vision” reinforce their perceived unique ability, as a Big Man or Woman, to see beyond the ordinary electorate and have vivid grasp of Ghana’s development challenges through their acclaimed power of imagination. Through eloquence, mired in supernatural imageries, Ghanaian politicians’ projects the image that they have unusual wisdom in anticipating Ghana’s future progress.

A group in the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) calling itself Friends of Atta Mills says Professor John Atta Mills (a former Vice President under President Jerry Rawlings and the elected presidential candidate of NDC) has the best vision for Ghana’s economy - please elect him.” Dr. Kwame Addo-Kufuor, a former Defence Minister and a presidential aspirant of the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP), talks of having a vision and Africa’s developmental problems reflecting “visionless leaders who could not evolve pragmatic policies to better the lot of their people.” Dr. Papa Kwasi Nduom, a former Economic Planning & Regional Cooperation Minister and leading presidential aspirant of the Convention Peoples Party, says he has a “vision” of Ghana where Ghanaians “can continuously create wealth to improve their worth and welfare...Can come together, seek to build a society of disciplined individuals with a passion for excellence. We can raise the average income of its citizens to US$10,000 in our lifetime.”

More informed by their traditional cosmology than anything else, the 56 ethnic groups that formed the Ghana nation-state are traditionally “vision” obsessed. From various shrines and oracles to traditional herbalists/healers, prophets/prophetess to Malams, juju and marabout mediums to priests/priestesses and vast array of spiritualists across Ghana, “vision” is critically part of Ghanaians daily lives, and to say that you have a “vision” for the progress of Ghana, despite its implications, is as influential as saying you have the material anti-dote to Ghanaians’ developmental challenges. Such thinking and conviction is informed by Ghana’s history and progress. From pre-independent to post-independent, various Ghanaian leaders have not only projected themselves as “visionary,” but have demonstrated so, sometimes with exaggerations. Armed with immense “vision,” and drawing heavily from the forces of his Asante cosmology, the legendary Okomfo Anokye was able to bring together disparaging families, clans, tribes, ethnic groups and tamed other hostile elements to form and create, perhaps, one of the greatest empires in the world, the Asante Empire, with the “Golden Stool” as its symbol.

From 1940s to 1950s, Ghana’s Founding Fathers – Dr J.B. Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah, J. Tsiboe, Paa Grant, Akuffo Addo, William Ofori Atta, Ako Agyei, Dr Aggrey, George Ferguson, John Mensah Sarbah, King Ghartey IV of Winneba, Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh I and Obetsebi Lamptey – in the face of oddities to tackle independence challenges floated vast visions that helped them not only secured Ghana’s independence from British colonial rule but also the consolidation of the 56 ethnic groups that make up Ghana. Aside from this, both as Prime Minister/President of Ghana and in his years on the heated pan-African scene, Kwame Nkrumah (September 21, 1909 - April 27, 1972), not only projected himself as a top-rated “visionary” but also his stunning grasp of Ghana’s and Africa’s future progress through the power of his imagination – African High Command, the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union), United States of Africa, the Tema Township, the Akosombo Dam, among long list.

But vision is a complicated subject. As a transformational issue, it emanates from vast array of attributes including creativity, deep understanding, spirituality, history and experiences, challenges and struggles, thoughtfulness and passion, confidence and faith, patience and calmness, balance and bravery, immense reflections and meditations, despair and relief, and fuller understanding of one’s environment, especially the norms, values and traditions that make one’s society. Nkrumah’s “vision” was informed by his long-running struggles in life – despite its spiritual undertones; vision doesn’t come out of nothing. This makes vision a dynamic issue, constantly changing to meet current challenges. Nkrumah’s vision of the 1960s may have to be modified today in relation to contemporary Ghana’s challenges.

Today, when Nana Akufo-Addo, 63, a former Foreign Minister and a leading contender of the NPP flagbearership, and his handlers argue that he has the “vision” to lead the NPP and Ghana, they are in fact speaking of his years of struggles not only against brutal military dictatorship and human rights abuses for the past 30 years but also ideological tussles: from his transformation from Marxism to socialism to conservatism and liberalism within the rough-and-tumble of the Ghanaian political arena. As General Secretary, of the nation-wide People’s Movement for Freedom and Justice, Nana Akufo-Addo was influential in bringing about the collapse of Gen. Kutu Acheampong’s brutal juju-marabout driven Supreme Military Council junta. The foundation for Akufo-Addo’s vision comes from such struggles, the history and values of Ghana. Such struggles, variously undertaken collectively with Ghanaians, have taught Nana Akufo-Addo that Ghanaians have “can-do” spirit and that he has tremendous confidence in Ghanaians’ capacity to progress. And it is from such vision that Nana Akufo-Addo envisions “Indigenous Capitalism,” drawn from both Ghanaian traditional values and the dominant neo-liberal free enterprise, as Ghana’s future developmental road-map.

As the 15-year-old Ghanaian democracy grows and more qualified people enter the political arena, pretty much of how they intend to solve Ghana’s problems will be informed by their contending visions of Ghana – as Dr. Nduom envisions, raising the average income of Ghanaians “to US$10,000 in our lifetime” so as to break Ghanaians’ circle of poverty. For the endgame of all the politicians’ visions, as had been the case with Okomfo Anokye and Kwame Nkrumah, is prosperity. The visions will help deepen the politics of issues, minimize politics of insults, and clear many a misconceptions about Ghana’s progress in a developmental climate mired in some historical distortions and misunderstanding.

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

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi