Opinions Tue, 9 Jun 2009

The Young Ghanaian Politicians

Experiences from the last 2008 Ghana elections seems to be gradually sinking in, but the losing party, the NPP, seems not interested in learning but in seeking power by any means possible. Due to the inactivity of the executive branch and silence of President Mills, the NDC seems to be giving them enough room to make the NPP have hope.

Recent utterances by Dr. Arthur Kennedy seem to indicate a young man trying to make his mark. Question is: is he in the right direction? Myjoyonline of June 4, 2009 quoted this:

“A leading member of the New Patriotic Party, Dr. Arthur Kennedy, says the only coup in Ghana's political history which can be justified is the 1966 one which toppled the country's first president. Dr Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown on February 24, 1966 while on his way to Hanoi, Vietnam for peace talks”

After the January ex-gratia revelations, Dan Botwe seems to have indicated he was opposed to the massive ex-gratia award for ex-President Kufuor. Minority leader, Mensah Kyei-Bonsu made a similar statement, but now there is silence as President Mills does not seem to want to make an executive decision! Alan Kyeremateng has not said much after the NPP loss, and all that seems to be happening is the NPP taking advantage of the vacuum in executive direction to score some political points.


It looks to me over the last 40 years of active engagement with the puzzle and riddle of Ghanaian politics and changes in governments, the greatest mystery to me is the observation that no matter how educated some of our people are, in politics they seem incapable of evaluating strictly what is in the best interest of the nation and people, but will go to every extent to win power!

The 2008 turnover is the last and confirming example. Despite the fact that the nation lacks the basic infrastructures like good designed roads for safe and expeditious transport of people and goods, reliable delivery of water, electricity and modern up-to-date telecommunication systems, I never heard clearly either the NPP candidate (Nana Akufo Addo), or the NDC candidate who won (Prof Atta Mills), a clear emphasis on the basic needs and requirements for building a modern economy! All they talk about are numbers from the Economists, most of which seem to lack practical meaning and understanding of what they say. It is indeed ridiculous to tell anybody with any education that the economy of Ghana is improving when our leaders cannot deliver reliable supply of the basics – Water, electricity, sanitation, roads, decent clean hospitals and environments, and expect investors to simply come and invest their money!

During the election period we heard Nana Akufo Addo reciting numbers about the NPP's contributions, and Prof Mills making promises he obviously may not have had the clear plan to accomplish. The apparently young sophisticated ones like Dr. Kennedy think they are smart and recite what some UN group said should be the level of development for us - called the Millennium Development Goals! Not to belittle anybody but honestly any leader or candidate who sits for some UN group to tell them when to have 50, 90 or whatever percentage of their people be in school, have water, girl education, deaths due to malaria, etc, is not too smart. Period!

A friend on our GLU forum, Gilbert, argues these men and women are equally smart, but another member, Professor Mike, has helped recently by adding to the debate the extra fact that anybody who obtains Western education and does not work in the field of knowledge for some years before returning home would render the education have very little meaning and application to the society. I will add preferably in a “competitive field or enterprise”! I think this is the best explanation for the disgrace on the continent by our leaders, not counting the greed and selfishness. Americans are no less greedy or selfish than we as Ghanaians are! How come we don't steal and we get our projects completed when we work in America or the West but can't do it in Ghana? The system in Ghana has broken down and it takes a total paradigm shift and change in attitudes and mindset to know we are working for ourselves when elected or appointed to public office! Similarly when a public officials is suspected of any public corruption of crimes, a speedy investigation, indictment and prosecution should be standard procedure, as we throw away the “forgiveness” and fama-Nyame (give-it-to-God) culture.

Kwame Nkrumah stands so tall even though he did not have foreign experience; however, I think he got his hands-on training by working with the Colonial Government as Head of Government business from 1952 to 1957 till the British finally granted Ghana Independence! That was a very valuable experience. Having said that we must know that every soul is at a different level of development, and men like Kwame Nkrumah with the love and dedication for nation do not come but once in a while.

Many of us are very disappointed in the pace of our new President, Prof Mills, and compare him every day with Prof. (President) Obama of the US - similar academic training, but only difference being personal characteristics and the short (relatively) experience President Obama had in Illinois State Legislature and the US Senate. Experience in Ghana, therefore, seems not very relevant in helping any of our leaders move ahead to meet the global challenges for our common development. Defining even common interests, setting priorities, making simple Goals and setting basic elementary management milestones for needed projects and expressed vision or promises seem hard for our Ghanaian Presidents to do! Why! It is so hurtful to see our people, colleagues, school mates and friends disappoint us after all the Western education! What the African candidate seems good at, it appears, is finding whatever it takes to win the power! Kennedy and some of these young politicians give very eloquent well prepared speeches at meetings, but one can tell many are not ready.

CAN WE LEARN? The sad thing talking about Ghana's development is that young men like Kennedy, instead of learning from whatever Nkrumah and Busia, or Limann, Acheampong or Rawlings did and building on it, they rather focus on ideological lines and forget even to learn to emulate the good practices started by Nkrumah for public service. Nkrumah’s regime was not perfect, as all human organizations are not, but it was clear they tried to serve the public! Visions were set into goals and Plans were made with time deadlines. Projects were completed and one could have a sense in the late 1950s and 1960s Ghana was moving forward – not as a slogan, but for read! According to the former Chief Engineer of Ghana Water Company, whom I interviewed in summer 2004, since 1965 there has been no major expansion of the water treatment facility in Accra. Why is that? Folks, let us learn from the past and build on whatever Nkrumah left! The anti-Nkrumah faction have succeeded in selling every state project, including Ghana’s shipping lines, the Airlines, the factories, the distribution companies, and telecommunication company, and now even the water we drink is under new management who have not made a single improvement despite loans of $500 million taken in January 2006 in addition to a grant of $103 million in January 2005 by the World Bank.

Such callous disregard for the welfare of the people of Ghana cannot ever be forgiven and swept under the rug of history. Nkrumah's goals were not necessarily to push ideology like some preacher-man, but rather to build a nation with the delivery of services for all, in all regions, and create jobs through the establishment of the basic infrastructures for national development and needed factories; and he had a 7-year development Plan! The talk of motivating people using jingles and songs and training is part of any modern leadership, called OD or organizational Development. It was the needed self confidence instilled by Nkrumah that sent many of our students overseas to compete at par with their Western counterparts.

The only difference in achieving the national goals, even after his era ended, would have been the style or methods! A 4 lane road is a 4 lane road in America as in Russia and China! Water through pipes does not change color be it under Socialist or Capitalist leadership! The difference, however was that the post-Nkrumah groups of leaders and public officials have had no desire at all to serve the society, even when well paid with benefits and ex-gratia; they only seem to serve themselves!

If our nation is ever to develop, young aspirants like Kennedy, Alan Cash, Dan Botwe, Kwesi Amoafo-Yeboah, Spio Garbrah, and all of the younger ones need a total overhaul of the old paradigm of seeking power and rather focus on what needs to be done and how they would get them done. The old ideologues like Nana Akufo Addo and Prof. Ocquaye should retire very soon, since they are not about to change. Ideology tends to cloud the judgment of many of our people, including even the young ones on our Ghana Leadership Forum. Let us debate and dialogue on issues and problems. All candidates have something to say and we should not shut off the new candidates as they did in the last 2008 debate. We should find ways to check this corruption that has emerged in the delegate selection process. The BNI, if they want to justify their existence, should be active during all elections and arrest those bribing delegates and those soliciting bribes. It is during such debates of what and how to develop Ghana, how to solve our problems, that the people will have the chance to differentiate the greedy intellectuals from the honest real potential leaders for our nation.

God Bless Ghana!


Kwaku A. Danso

President, Ghana leadership Union (GLU) Email: k.danso@comcast.net (2009-0604)
Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.