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The Question Of Leadership

Sun, 11 Oct 2009 Source: Baidoo, Philip Kobina

Should Be Put Out Of Its Misery Once And For All

It is ironic that a country that was once called Gold Coast due to abundant deposits of that precious metal, and still is, besides countless natural resources can be home to a people that some of its citizens cannot afford three square meals let alone decent housing, education and medical care. It is akin to the proverbial man who thirsts in the abundance of water. The frustration of Ghanaian thinkers is beyond measure. It is palpable and sometimes it borders on psychosis.

As human beings it’s been a perpetual quest, and rightly so, to dissect the problem and identify the root cause, which we have being doing for a very long time. When this odyssey began we used to blame our colonial masters, though we cannot underestimate the impact of that evil system. With time that excuse lost its lustre and the pendulum slowly, but surely, shifted and rested on our leaders.

When Nkrumah was over thrown the winners of political power tried hard to push him from the plinth he occupies in Ghanaian politics and demonised him to the extent that a myth was created and some of us grew up thinking that he used to drink human blood for supper. Political commentators made a mince meat out of the man; blaming him for all our problems on his megalomania.

Then came Busia who incurred the displeasure of Ghanaians after shedding civil servants jobs and increasing the prices of some grocery items especially milk in addition to accusation of drawing his salary in foreign currency.

The wheels came off when Acheampong took over. The Ghanaian economy entered into vegetative state because the main pillars that supported it had collapsed. The ugly spectre of corruption was immortalised and literally became a national joke with sexual shenanigans that gave rise to phrases that cannot be repeated in respectable company.

From the ashes emerged Rawlings like a phoenix after a brief moment by Limman, which a lot of analysts describe as the lost years of Ghanaian political history. Nineteen years of house cleaning, political and economic reforms, which the nation was flooded with acronyms such as PAMSCAD etc., and Ghanaians, were still struggling.

The tenure of Kufour’s administration was a dream come true. Ghanaians had prayed endlessly expecting a magic wand that never was. From this brief history of leadership in the country we can make a workable deduction since independence to the present.

Busia and Nkrumah were of the same generation and it’s inconceivable to expect anything dissimilar from them. However, Afrifa, Acheampong and Limman were different basically from the youth wing of the first generation. Rawlings and Kufour can be described as the offerings of our founding fathers. We can distinctively have three generations of leaders since independence and would therefore expect them to do things differently. Yet, we don’t seem to have a better memory of any of them. It has become a generational cancer, genetic maybe, that is passed on from parents to their children. So the leadership problem is inherent, perhaps, pathological. It is rather ironic to expect our leaders to behave any differently from us? Whatever happens in our individual lives is a microcosm of what happens in government. Our beliefs, ethos and work ethics etc are what reflects in our leaders. Yet it seem rather convenient for us to be pointing fingers and emptying our arsenal at the wrong target while the solution is right before us in the mirror. We have become expects in fishing out all the ills that goes on in any administration. On the other hand, when the opportunity comes to straighten up things we fall at the first hurdle.

We find ourselves between a hard rock and the deep blue sea – probably a pickle. It will take a collective effort to break free from this straight jacket. Therefore my submission is we should think about how to eliminate it for a better future, rather than the professional accusers that we have all become.

The solution is not going to come from our leaders neither is it going to be easy. It is going to be tough, slow and painful. The latter assertion does not leave our leaders off the hook nor does it mean that I am signing them a blank check. We expect them to take their leadership role seriously. The essence of this piece is to sure up support for their effort because there is nothing so painful as trying to lead when you look over your shoulders and there is nobody there. A leader governs with people. There is not much that can be achieved when we even vote Jesus Christ himself into power and the people around him does not share his vision or better still, undercut him for their selfish ends.

Quite a few leaders in the past such as President Kennedy and Lincoln paid with their lives when they tried to change things. They came against the establishment who had a vested interest in the preservation of the status quo. Change is difficult and it does not mean that we don’t have to try. Success will come incrementally but it’s better than accepting our present circumstances.

Our psychological need to get our problems whisked away by a magic wand drives us towards and sometimes mesmerised by selfless leaders like Castro who grace the stars once in a blue moon but also with a bitter price. We should never ever grave for such leaders because they are aberrations and not the norm. We don’t need any utopian leaders.

It is also equally important to note that we are developing at an unusual time in the history of the world and we need exceptional unity in order to achieve anything close to success. What is eating up a lot of national time is the sort of animosity that exists between the parties. Our leaders don’t have to love each other but for the interest of the country they have to work together. During the American war of independence, it wasn’t that the main protagonists of the revolution did not have any problem. There were serious issues that divided them. John Adams the second President, for instance, was diametrically opposed to slavery and George Washington the First President was a slave owner. Nevertheless, they compromised and worked together for the common good of the new nation.

The level of hostility that plagues our leaders even within the same parties is suicidal. What the leaders will have to know is there is no job experience for the presidency. Any surviving president is an asset to the nation irrespective of how bad he performed. Their time in office is gold mine of experience for any future presidency. We are in danger of substituting political opponents into mortal enemies which if not surgically removed is going to overwhelm us.

The development of the national economy is not going to be achieved on a silver platter. We have to snatch it from the jaws of hell and we cannot fight this battle with one hand tied at our back. We need every arsenal at our disposal to push for the critical mass where the slightest effort will trigger a chain reaction.

Nkrumah once said that the Blackman is capable of managing his own affairs. This is our opportunity to prove him right else we don’t deserve the right to breathe.

Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr London baidoo_philip@yahoo.co.uk

Columnist: Baidoo, Philip Kobina