Politics Wed, 31 May 2006

Arthur Kennedy. Of Institutions And Individuals.

The euphoria that has surrounded the presidential ambitions of Mr Arthur Kennedy, particularly in the diasporan cyberspace community, is a telling revelation of the mental state of a section of the so-called diasporan elite that Mr Kennedy and others hope would be the salvation of the country. Now I am not particularly against Mr Kennedy, or anyone else, running for the presidency; myself I would run if I could first afford to cure a debilitating bout of ?kookoo?, but it is the superlatives heaped on him from some of our diaspora intellectuals that intrigue me. Here?s a couple to share. One Okyere Bonna, chief acolyte to Mr Kennedy, and of a curious organization called Ghana Leadership Union, himself a cumbersome mix of tradition, christian mysticism and garrulity, eulogizes Mr Kennedy in, ?Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false?

Dangerously competing with the aforementioned Bonna is our illustrious Prof. Kwaku Asare, a man who has the singular distinction of filing frivoulous lawsuits in an equally frivolous Supreme Court of Ghana. ? Of Mr Kennedy, the frivolous filer says, ?To be president, it is IMPERATIVE that you have a feel of the inner workings of govt". Further Prof Asare says he is willing to ?bet my last pesewa that Arthur K has a better feel of the inner workings of government? than most of those in power today.

All evidence attests to the integrity and humility of Mr Kennedy. He has the conventional attributes of leadership. Humble beginnings, perseverance through persecution, triumph and success; a success story. If it were in the USA, where institutional capacity is well founded, such attributes might be enough to qualify some one for the executive presidency. Even humble old Jimmy Carter got there didn?t he? Being in Ghana where, in reality, the president has aslmost unfettered powers if he chooses to, to direct the course of ?development? I chose to subject Mr Kennedy?s development agenda to some critical analysis. What is particularly interesting is that Mr Kennedy represents a transitionary period in Ghanaian politics when a new generation of leaders is trying to wrestle power from the ?old guard?. It becomes pertinent to acquaint ourselves with the idea-set of a member of this ?tiger? generation.

On the Presidency and governance, Mr Kennedy writes that the country ??requires a President who would stand for the new Ghana where things are done differently and where Government is truly by the people and for the people. Such a person will put together a government of Ghanaians from all corners of the earth, who have integrity, competence and compassion for the least of our citizens and can execute policies and programs. Then he will hold them to account for legal and ethical violations of their offices and poor performance. We should have a results-oriented government that knows the difference between talk and action. One that knows instinctively that leaders who ask for sacrifice from the people must, if they are serious, demonstrate that they are making the same sacrifices that they demand of others. In this campaign and my presidency, I will be, with passion, the voice of the poor and a champion of their concerns. I will seek to appeal to the better angels of our nature, to lift the nation?s sight and to point us to a better future.?

A brilliant display of eclectism. Part rabble rousing student leader, part populist politician and part religious zealot all rolled into one. ?Ghana where things are done differently?: ?Government is truly by the people and for the people?: ?Government of Ghanaians from all corners of the earth?: ?Results-oriented government that knows the difference between talk and action?. ?The voice of the poor and a champion of their concerns?: ?The better angels of our nature?.

All hail Apostle Arthur Kobina Kennedy and his adoring acolytes!


Thinking I was being too much my usual cynical self, I decided to consult Mr Kennedy?s health care policy. After all the man is a doctor and runs a successful health care business. The first statement he makes there says he will bring back ?tankase? ( health care inspectors). Deliciously, my mind travelled in time to the good old days of those hagard looking no-nonsense uniform-and-colonial helmet-wearing ?tankase? who reeked of ?agbaa?, demanding ?something? if you wanted to avoid being ?summoned? for not cleaning your open sewers. Good going Mr Kennedy, good going. You have appealed to ?the better angels of our nature?.

Seeking further enlightenment, I consulted his policy on jobs. The policy rests on the plinths of ?land reform?, ?building of rural infrastructure?, ?introduction of the widespread use of credit? and what he calls ?administrative and bureaucratic simplification?.

Geoffrey Bing, one time Attorney-General of Ghana, wrote of Busia, Danquah and the UP intelliegensia that, for them, so long as they could glibly mouth-off the platitudes of democracy, ?like the rule of law?, ?property owning democracy? etc, they actually believed they lived in an real democracy. Mr. Kennedy stands the risk of falling into this category of aspiring leaders. Land reform and its implications for rural development definitely constitute the core underpin of any positive development program for Ghana. They are also the of platitudes of current World Bank development theories. Anyone who has undertaken an in-depth study of land reform the world over, would know that it is a relentless and comprehensive program of social engineering. Like a revolution, land or agrarian reform, to quote Mao, ?is not a dinner party?. Yet even the current president, Mr Kuffour, believes he has a land reform program going. It would therefore be in the best interest of Mr Kennedy to actually come out and define clearly his program of land reform. That sure would win him more obsequious acolytes. More than those he has recruited by being ?with passion, the champion of the poor.? Perhaps Prof. Kwaku Asare could take a respite from his Sisyphian preoccupation with trivial lawsuits and help him devise a detailed agrarian reform program.

There is a conventional wisdom that says it is individuals that make an institution and so a good president with good dedicated men could bring good governance into our country. True enough, but let us not forget too that, often times, institutions become so entrenched that they assume an organic life of their own and they can make or unmake their individual inhabitants. In Ghana, the central state, headed by the central government and backed by its horde of public officials and coercive units, is one such institution of power. Mimicking its purpose in the social contract, the central state lives only for the pursuit of its narrow interests and rewards its members richly from the exploitation of the rural poor. In partnership with the central state, and in reciprocal dependency is the traditional state, headed by the chiefs who preside over a mode of production that is suited for only subsistence and slavery. These are the twin realities of institutional power in underdeveloped Ghana today.

I do not believe most Ghanaians who enter politics have greed and avarice as their motivation. And certainly Mr Kennedy is accomplished enough that, were he elected, he may well be above the conduct of presidents whose children purchase $3 million hotels in the space of time that it takes to wait your turn in line so as to defecate at the public KVIP. But the parasitic central state has corrupted many a well-intentioned man and if all Mr Kennedy seeks is to sanitize its leadership, to separate the presidency from parliament, to elect all district chief executives, etcetera, etc cetera, the central state will eat him up whole. And his chief acolyte, Kwaku Azar will be on ?Say it loud? spewing verbal venom, and resume the filing of frivolous law suits in President Arthur Kennedy?s frivilous Supreme Court.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.
Source: Yeboah, Kwesi