“Of Age, Wisdom and the Presidency”
By Dr. Samuel Adjei Sarfo
Of all the things people say against Nana Akufo-Addo, the most untenable is the ill-conceived notion that he is too old to be president. One might justifiably entertain misgivings about his incapacity or unwillingness to impose some quantum of discipline on his pugnacious and cantankerous followers. One might rightfully question the wisdom of his utterances like “all die be die”, given his political stature and intellectual adeptness. One might validly question some of his histrionics which might sometimes be overboard and open him up to ridicule………But to have doubts about his ability to rule Ghana on account of his age is just pure poppycock!
In the first place, age is an abstract concept. Many chronologically young people may be physically unfit and look twice their age on account of their economic circumstances, genetic configuration and unhealthy lifestyles. So a person’s younger years is not necessarily any warranty of his fitness for any purpose. Conversely, a person’s advanced age is not necessarily proportional to his intellectual maturity and sagacity: The wisdom of Solomon is not coterminous with the age of Methuselah. But one thing is for sure: an older person is more likely to have seen more of the vicissitudes and whirligigs of life than a younger person. Deductively speaking therefore, older people tend to possess life’s core experiences than younger people, and their perception on things tend to be more realistic, objective, serene and balanced.
Ghana’s leadership problems arise from many reasons and sources, but a major factor for the dearth and death of quality leadership in the country is that too many young and inexperienced people have ruled this country since independence. When Rawlings spoke of babies with sharp teeth, he was certainly talking from his own experience, having himself been the most infantile of Ghanaian leaders with the sharpest teeth. Nkrumah was thirty-eight years old when he was invited to Ghana by the UGCC in December 1947 to become the party’s General Secretary. Four years after, at age forty-two, he was already the leader of government business. At that time, his entire work experience within the country had been less than five years as a pupil teacher, before he left the country for ten years to study in both the United States and Britain.
After his overthrow, General Ankrah became Head of State from 1966 to 1969 at the relatively mature age of fifty-one. Then followed Afrifa at age thirty-three in 1969 (five months); Edward Akufo-Addo at age sixty-one from 1970 to 1972; Acheampong at age forty-one from 1972 to 1978; Fred Akuffo at age forty-one from 1978 to 1979; Rawlings at age thirty-two in 1979 ( and then thirty-four from1981 to 2001); Hilla Limann at age forty-five from 1979 to 1981; John Kufuor at age sixty-three from 2001 to 2009 ; John Atta Mills at age sixty-five from 2009 to 2012, and John Mahama at age fifty-four from 2012 to the present.
The average age of all the presidents, both past and present, on their assumption of office is around forty-eight years; but this figure reveals a certain leadership pattern when we break the age groups into two. When we do this, we find that those who became Heads of State of Ghana at the young age of between thirty-two and forty-five years (i.e. Nkrumah, Afrifa, Acheampong, Akuffo, Limann, Rawlings) ruled the country for a total of forty years comprising over seventy percent of the entire time of our nationhood; while those who ruled at the mature age of fifty and above (i.e. Ankrah, Edward Akufo-Addo, Kufuor, Atta Mills and Mahama) have ruled for a total of seventeen years comprising less than thirty percent of the entire time since Ghana became a sovereign independent nation. The performance of these two groups of leaders during their tenure is a matter for juridical debate but at least we could posit that the younger leaders are responsible for seventy percent of our present fate as a people, whether good or bad. Also, one thing is for sure: if we consider the dictatorship of the leaders and their concomitant propensity for self-aggrandizement, we find that the culprits are the younger leaders. Most of these younger leaders also came into power through the back door (Either through coup d’etat, betrayal of trust or pure political chicanery) after several failures within their own academic, economic and social lives. They also displayed the propensity to perpetuate their rule (i.e. Nkrumah, Acheampong and Rawlings). In other words, they are the bad actors in our political history.
The older group on the other hand shows no trend for dictatorial tendency, treasonable adventurism or political chicanery. They also show ample evidence of being self-made: people who rose through the ranks to qualify for their positions in life.
Based on these considerations, it is obvious that Ghana has had too many young and inexperienced leaders. These young leaders are responsible for the mediocre leadership and crass dictatorship which Ghana has so far suffered. Therefore we could posit that the older the president of Ghana, the better insofar as the preservation of our rights as a sovereign people and the protection of our democratic dispensation are concerned. These old and experienced leaders exhibit a deeper understanding of our liberty and rights because they are more realistic, objective, serene and balanced in their judgment. And having successfully arrived at the very apex of the social hierarchy by dint of hard work, they only seek to leave a legacy of virtuous life for which posterity will well remember their name.
Thus we must view the advanced age of Nana Akufo-Addo in the benign context that he is more experienced, realistic, objective and balanced, and being a septuagenarian is not a disadvantage but his greatest qualifying credential for the ascendancy of the presidency of Ghana.
Samuel Adjei Sarfo, Doctor of Jurisprudence, is a general legal practitioner in Austin, Texas, USA. He writes the column called “Thoughts of a Native Son” for the New Statesman. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org