Why do our 'Smart' Leaders perform poorly in Government?

Thu, 22 Oct 2009 Source: Owusu-Nkwantabisa, Nana

I've pondered the question above a few times and I am sure some of the readers have also. Why do the educated elite screw up royally when they finally get an opportunity to be in government?

Of course, the obvious answer would be corruption but my question is, why do hitherto passionate people who wanted to see their country do well (just like you and I)and who risk a lot to enter government, all of us sudden compromise their integrity and chase after young girls, cars, and big houses? Are the pursuit of national interest and self-interest mutually exclusive?

I am an addict to this forum. I read it about 4 to 5 times a day especially when I have a bit of down time. So, I have read Spio's letter, Ato Ahwoi's reply, Osafo-Marfo's piece on Competence and J.H. Mensah's write-up post the last election using soccer metaphor to encourage harmony.

Anyone who read any of these articles referenced or Nana Addo's speeches can rest assured that we have some intelligent men who walk the corridors of power in Ghana. While Kufuor may not be the most eloquent and Dr. 'Boom' may be brush and vindictive, there is often substance in what they say.

So my question to these men and to the readers is 'why is so difficult for them to figure out that while millions of dollars are spent on ceremonies and some infrastructure, common sanitary conditions in the country are not available?

I was appalled to read the enclosed article: http://www.helium.com/items/1534869-travel-to-ghana where a traveler to our beloved country recently described her horrific experience when she needed a bathroom after visiting the outdoor crafts market in the popular tourist district of Accra. Granted, this is an individual experience and perhaps the lady may have found a toilet if she had perhaps hitched a cab and stopped at a hotel; an upset tummy however may not be tolerant of all that planning.

There is so much fun and excitement in Ghana to compensate for one negative experience but I am sure my dear readers have similar concerns about the lack of basic facilities in places where they ought to be while government procures expensive cars for politicians etc. Our priorities tend to be misplaced and that makes me wonder how our 'smart' leaders apply their knowledge.

Let me recount a personal experience to emphasize the point I am making about misplaced priorities and really how our leaders act dumb yet are so book smart.

In my days in the famous Republic of Okponglo, (Sarbah Hall Annex B, University of Ghana for our readers who may not be so familiar with Ghana), only two of six toilets on every floor worked. I bet the situation might still be the same today. When the 'ladies' visited, it was embarrassing to take them to the bathrooms. This was typical all around campus. This was the late 80s and times may have been hard. Regardless, PNDC Landcruisers abounded on campus and we can't blame the government here. The university and our own student leadership had their priorities misplaced. Students even raised funds to go to UNICASAR games (triangular games between Katanga, Castford and Sarbah) but were oblivious to our sanitary conditions. After being appalled by this condition for sometime, I spearheaded a campaign in conjunction with the Central Committee of the'Republic', where we refused to release funds that we had contributed for the games in one year and used it to make sure that 4 toilets were functioning effectively on each of the 5 floors. Readers, would you believe that myself and a few members of the Central Committee -Amok, Kwame Sarks, Kholi etc were threatened with dismissal from the University? Of course, we are Okponglo Republicans and had balls so we fought it hard until the Senior Tutor dropped the case. We were heavily sanctioned for tampering with University property. Think about this readers -'tampering with University property'.

Are we so selfish that we lose sight of the big picture once we assume office? As people hail Nkrumah, I wonder if they will ponder on his selflessness. Are we so consumed by the need to drive flashy cars to convince ourselves of success that we overlook basic amenities? Ghanaians are architects and town planners in Botswana and they make sure that these amenities are available. Why do we fail to do the same at home? Is our bureaucracy failing us or these days is it partisanship - us against them syndrome?

Ghanaians, let's wake up. We cannot afford to be complacent. We've had some rough years in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Let's seize the opportunities currently presented and let's finally harness our excellent human resources. We can do just as well as Singapore and enjoy even better governance than Botswana. Let us be known for more action than talk.

This writer strongly believes that national development and individual self-interest are not mutually exclusive.

Nana Owusu-Nkwantabisa knowusu@yahoo.com

Columnist: Owusu-Nkwantabisa, Nana