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RE: Africa's Complicated Leadership Past-The case of Ghana

Sat, 2 Jul 2005 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Lans Gberie's piece "Africa: a Complicated Leadership Past" (Concord Time/allafrica.com, June 16, 2005) is not only interesting reading, more so revealing the stupidity of African leaders, but demonstrates his grasp of the complicated nature of Africa's leadership complexities but also it reveals how over time since independence Africa leaders, from Ghana's first president Kwame Nkrumah, who Lans dwelt on considerably, to Cote d'Ivoire's Felix Houphet-Boigny, try as they did, left distortions in their leadership and development path, which is symtomatic of the entire Africa, simply because despite their high sounding education and intelligence could not rule within the ethos of African cultural values but Western development values, a situation that partly set the stage for most of Africa's crises.

Lans, as Gberie, a historian-journalist PHD candidate at the University of Toronto and currently senior fellow at the Accra, Ghana-based Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), is fondly called, also cited African top writers such as Nigeria's Chinua Achebe to illustrate Africa's complicated leadership but yet still none of them advocated grounding Africa's leadership in Africa's cultural values or because of colonialism mix Africa's colonial legacies with her cultural values as the World bank is saying today. While earlier leaders - Nkrumah, Houphet-Boigny, Eyadema, Nyerere, among others - struggled not only with leadership but also development, in Lans piece we can infer how there are no attempts to ground their leadership and development deeply in Africa's cultural values or paradigms as other ex-colonies such as Singapore, Japan, Malaysia or South Korea have done.

Even between the two titans Nkrumah and Houphet-Boigny, who Lans used to illustrate Africa's leadership complications, Nkrumah went for Marxism/Socialism and Houphet-Boigny Capitalism, and none failed to root their leadership deeply in African cultural development paradigms or mix their colonial leagicies with Africa's values, and the result, as Lans himself tells us in passing, "the coup" that overthrew Nkrumah "may have been instigated or encouraged by the CIA, but it was not unpopular, and it is idle to dismiss the relief of Ghanaians at Nkrumah's overthrow - as some people insist on doing - as a brainwashed reaction. Nkrumah was so much in a hurry, one might say, that he left so many of his less sprightly fellow citizens sulking behind. That vital link appears not to have been forged."

For Africa's so-called complicated leadership has come about simply because African leaders, Western educated and hooked on Western values, and unable to mix their Western education with African cultural values, have not grounded their leadership in African cultural values which has resulted in crises and distortions here and there, I will look at the case of Ghanaian leaders since Ghana is the first country in sub-Sahara Africa to have got independence from colonial rule and was not only a light to other African states but also was heavily copied by other African states.

More than most African countries, Ghana demonstrates, as we infer from Lans piece of Nkrumah's inability to mix Ghanaian cultural values with the British colonial legacies and thus alienating traditional institutions from the leadership-development drive, how "large middle class intellectuals and ideologues, people with very high ideas about reclaiming Africa for Africans and ennobling the black man" failed, and are failing, to ground their leadership in Ghanain/African cultural values or mix Ghana's colonial legacies with Ghanaian/African cultural values in their both their leadrship and development drives. Unlike most post independent African leaders, Ghanaian leaders, I mean the civilian ones, to some extent the military ones, have been highly educated in the Western sense. The first president Nkrumah had degrees in philosophy and theology. Prime minister Kofi Busia had PHD in sociology. President Hilla Limman had PHD in political science. Jerry Rawlings has high school General Certificate of Education and has European and Ghanaian parentage. And the incubent John Kufour has Master's degrees in law and philosophy.

Like Rawlings, all the military leaders who passed through Ghana's leadership path had no university dregree, which means they should have had less of Western values in their head and should have been able to ground Ghanaian leadership and development in Ghanaian/African values as the Malaysians, Brazilians, Japanese or South Korean have done in their development and governance. Despite their low dose of Western education though they got their military training in Western values, which should have let them come closer to the people, Ghanaian miliatry leaders from Gen. Joseph Ankrah to Gen. Akwesi Afrifa to Gen. Kutu Acheampong to Gen. F.W. Akufo to Fl. Lt.Rawlings have been blinded by the long-running colonial rule and its ensuing images, which have made them think the colonialists' leadership values are better than Ghanaian/African ones, and like their civilian folks, continued with the Western leadrship values.

Throughout Lans piece and the examples he drew from Nigeria to Togo to Cote d'Ivoire to Sierra Leone, the lack of African traditional values in the leadership and development process created weak links between the leaders and the people, between the rural and urban, between the traditional ruler and the national politician, between traditional values and the colonially-imposed values. In some disturbing fate, the core Ghanaian political leadership ethos since independence from British rule in 1957 have wheeled around Capitalism and Marxism/Socialism (now re-tooled Social Democracy by the main ooposition National Democratic Congress), military rule or civilian rule, and there have been no attempts to formally appropriate Ghanaian traditional values in the country's leadership and development struggles, though this is coming gradually as circumstances force the country for self-reliance, which includes relying on one's innate cultural values to solve one's leadersip and development problems. The mediation of the Ghana's National House of Chiefs, a conference of traditional rulers, of the bad blood between President Kufour and ex-President Rawlings, using Ghanaian traditional values is case in point.

If South African President Thabo Mbeki is doing well, who Lans gives "thumps up" for his leadership works in Africa, it may be because his African Renaissance project, which aims to open up the continent's cultural values, refine the inhibiting aspects and add the refined parts to the good parts and fuse them with the enabling aspects of the global culture, has imparted decisively on his leadership values. There will be less African leadership complications if, as Ghana's Dr. George Ayittey of the American University in Washington, D.C. and author of "Africa Unchained" and other books on Africa's development, wrote me, "...the African CHIEF or KING is" recognized as "Africa's most important human resource, indispensable" not only "in economic development" and but also participant in national leadership. Why? Because "He is closer to the PEOPLE, understands their needs and problems. Yet, after independence, we stripped the chiefs of their traditional authority and marginalized them. We never bothered to consult them when we drew up grandiose plans to develop Africa. We dismissed the chiefs as "backward and primitive" and never fit into the plans to industrialize Africa. We neglected agriculture in any case. South Africa is repeating this foolish mistake."

Lans is right in saying African leadership is complicated, but the only way to solve the complications is to mix Africa's cultural values with the colonial legacies in the continent's leadership designs. This is the challenge of the "large middle class intellectuals and ideologues, people with very high ideas about reclaiming Africa for Africans and ennobling the black man."

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

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi