I was listening to an interview of Madereka Nyerere, son of late President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, on Voice of America TV programme, hosted by Salim Amin in Dar es Salaam on Sunday, 25th December 2016, Christmas day in Amin’s usual programme, The Scoop.
Madereka’s father, Julius Nyerere, had had a leadership style of selflessness, simplicity, inclusivity, and above all, one which was based on meritocracy and service to the people. He may have had his weaknesses and failures such as his African concept or ideology of Ujamaa or collectivisation or African socialism which failed woefully, but overall he left a leadership legacy which will always be a shining example in Africa. For example, when a neighbouring country, Uganda was under the autocratic rule of Idi Amin and matters came to a head, he marched Tanzanian troops to war and they defeated Amin who fled to exile in Saudi Arabia. No wonder he was called Mwalimu, the teacher. He practised what he professed.
He did not surround himself with much security detail nor with long convoys of cars and police outriders, nor with lots of state paraphernalia to assert his presence as some African leaders do, wasting tax-payers money.
Of course, the late General Murtala Muhammed went to town as president of Nigeria without security detail, and he was gunned down in cold blood by his enemies in downtown Lagos in the late 70s.
Madereka had no favours when growing up in Tanzania as the President’s son as he and his seven other siblings attended ordinary public schools in Tanzania. They had no scholarships or privileges apart from their name which helped them get noticed and it opened doors for them. He in particular was helped by a businessman to go to Milan in Italy for one year to study banking, and later to Ottawa, Canada to gain his tertiary qualifications. His father being a social anthropologist, did not want his children to be spoiled but rather he exposed them to larger life to go through what the ordinary Tanzanian was going through and to let his children achieve social upward mobility by their own efforts, utilising the the social opportunities which the state had offered by way of free education and free medical care, typical of the eleemosynary economics of the time.
Nelson Rohilala Mandela’s sterling leadership, right from his Rivonia trial in the late 50s, to his incarceration on Robben Island off Cape Town, and eventual release in 1990, through to his ascendancy to the presidency from 1994 to 1999, gave Africa another sparkling example of selfless leadership on the African continent. He was a ‘man of the people’.
Mandela did not seek revenge against his enemies, nor did he seek fame, wealth, vainglory, and other material gratification, but rather he strenuously rooted for reconciliation with all, a spirit of forgiveness, and a strident goal of improving the lot of the majority marginalised blacks, and empowering them with education, knowledge, shelter, jobs, and basic social amenities. Perhaps, he was the last scion of the pantheon of selfless champion African leaders in the mould and cast of the Nkrumahs, Jomo Kenyattas, Kenneth Kaundas, Nyereres, Seretse Khamas, Ben Bellas, Gamel Abdul Nassers, Azikiwes, Modibo Keitas, Sekou Toures, and the like.
Of bad leaders we have had them galore in Africa, especially the dictatorial, khakistocratic, kleptomaniac, and sit-tight leaders who do not want to quit power, and who go on to manipulate their constitutions to become life presidential monarchs, and who massage and manoeuvre to bring their children and stooges to take over when they leave the scene. Is the presidency in Africa addictive and intoxicating? What makes it so?
Gaping sycophancy, high levels of illiteracy, myopia, hero worship, our African culture of expecting a leader to dole out largesse to cronies and followers, tribalism, extended family system, poverty, a lack of strong national institutions such as an independent Ombudsman system, lack of social security, lack of strong opposition parties, lack of entrenchment of the concept of trias politica or separation of powers and the rule of law, lack of fearless intellectuals and professionals like Martin Amidu, former Attorney General of Ghana, Anas Amereyaw Anas (intrepid, contumacious, obstreperous, and intransigent, and obdurate investigative journalist in Ghana), lack of freedom of information as the media is gagged and heavily censored in some African countries, inter alia.
Well, I have never been a president so don’t ask me why many of our presidents in Africa have created succession dilemmas in Africa. I will not mention names but they are known. However, I think as someone who had had a nodding acquaintance with philosophy and Greek mythology, there is more reason to it than meet the eye. The bottom line is that many of these sit-tight leaders do not realise the futility of life and the uselessness of pursuing material wealth which is like chasing a mirage in the desert.
A leader is said to be an influencer and one who charts a vision for his people to follow. A leader helps his followers to find alternative means to provision for themselves. Mandela commanded respect wherever he went and he was revered and doted on by friend and foe alike because he stood for his sterling principles of forthrightness, justice, and pragmatism.
In the case of Nyerere, he was not an exception as at the time, being caught in the ferment, crossfire, and throes of the Cold War and the African liberation struggle, there was no other way of sitting on the fence as non-aligned African nation other than being pragmatic and realistic. The dire situation on the ground demanded one to be committal to either the left or the right. Had Africans not had help from the East and from Cuba, the story of the dismantling of the apparatuses of apartheid and colonialism would have been different.
Our pioneer African leaders were down to earth and they denied themselves luxurious lifestyles in order to sacrifice and secure the greater good for the greatest number of their citizens.
Madereka in answer to a question posed by the interviewer about what he thought of the current leadership in Africa, and the legacy he thinks his late father had left behind, opined that majority of current African leaders lack humility and selflessness or altruism, as most are possessed by self-love, narcissism, greed, myopia or parochial interests, and cronyism. They miss the bigger picture and they concentrate on how to consolidate power, using archaic and crude Machiavellian tactics. This makes the author of this article pose the question, ‘Are there no more patriots in Ghana after Kwame Nkrumah, Kantamanto Katawer, Osagyefo Kwame Atuapem, Osabarimba Odumgya, Kurow Twa Mansa, Abobobirim Ebibifuo Satwafuo, Nwomanimfuo Kakabenfuo?’
The author of this article thinks that some African leaders are not at all patriotic as they cling on blindly to power for their own sake and that of their cronies, relatives, tribesmen, party cadres, among others. If one looks at the political landscape of Africa, one is appalled, dismayed, and disgusted with the awful political scenarios in countries like Gambia, Uganda, Congo DR, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Gabon, among others.
Some leaders found themselves in power fortuitously by circumstances while others shot themselves to power by the barrel of the gun rather than by the ballot box, and they have ever since clung on to power by the skin of their teeth. In the process, they have stifled and emasculated democracy, development, and larger freedoms of human rights. Rotation of leadership is a good thing as knowledge and wisdom are not the exclusive monopoly or preserve of one individual or tribe or political party. Ghana has again shown the way in Africa by the peaceful election held on 7th December 2016.
The poet Alfred Lord Tennyson puts it this way, ‘The old order changeth, yielding place to new, And God fulfils himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world………………..’ Soldiers on guard cannot remain forever vigilant and efficient guarding, so there is the military tradition of changing the guards so that those who are tired, fall out and the fresh ones fall in to take over.
Nkrumah’s industrialization policy created thousands of jobs for the masses. One recalls one factory per district policy which Nana Akufo Addo wants to introduce. This had a parallel in Nkrumah’s ‘Work and Happiness for Beautiful Ghana’ era, with Ghana Industrial Holding Company (GIHOC) running outfits like Nsawam Cannery in Nsawam, Pomadze Poultry at Winneba Junction, Afife Rice farm ran by the Chinese, Jute Factory in Kumasi, Bolgatanga Corned Beef Factory, Komenda and Asutuare Sugar Factories, Glass Factory at Aboso, Bamboo Factory in Bonsa, Tema and Takoradi Flour Mills under Irani Brothers, Akosombo and Tema Textiles, Volta Aluminim Company (VALCO) in Tema, Tema Food Complex, Black Star Line, Ghana Airways, State Insurance Corporation (SIC), Afram Plains Irrigation Project, Atuabo Coconut Plantation, Bunso Cocoa Plantation, State Housing Corporation (SHC), NADECO, Drevici Group of Companies, Planned Tarkwa Gold Refinery, Tema Steel Works, Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), Electricity Corporation of Ghana (ECG), Volta River Autnhority (VRA), among others.
To create jobs and take care of youth unemployment, Nkrumah set up the Workers’ Brigade and the Young Pioneers.
The former boosted agricultural output in Ghana and the latter kept the youth patriotic and disciplined. Nana Addo can borrow a leaf from there to solve the problem of youth unemployment. Perhaps, we have to re-organize the National Service outfit by extending National Service to two years and making the first six months purely military training to instil some discipline and sense of patriotism in our youth.
If we want to trace some vestiges of patriotism in Ghana, we shall not have to go far into history. Dr Ephraim Amu of blessed memory composed many tuneful patriotic songs for Ghana such as Y3n Ara Y3n Asaase Ni, Yaanom Ebibiman Eeeeiii, Yieeeee, Mo Nyer Mo Hoooo, among others. Other composers of repute were E. T. Mensah, Essuman of Wesley College, Philip Gbeho, Prof Kwabena Nketia, Atta Annan-Mensah, among others. Our Gospel singers such as Diana Asamoah, Esther Smith, Margaret Mensah, Christiana Love, Ohemaa Mercy, Hannah Marfo, Florence Obinim, Rev Seth Baah, Cindy Thompson, among many others have also kept us up spiritually together as the Ghana nation throughout the world..
Long ago in the mid-nineteenth century, Tetteh Quarshie brought cocoa from Fernando Po (Equatorial Guinea) to plant in the Akwapim area, hence cocoa being our main cash crop now in Ghana. Many Ghanaians in the Diaspora are playing their part for Ghana by gaining knowledge and other resources which can be used to develop Ghana and Africa. I suggest that Nana Addo should elevate the Diaspora Desk at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to a full new ministry to be known as Ministry of Diaspora Affairs (MDA). To be frank, some of the best patriotic Ghanaians are outside Ghana right now. These need to be tapped into for ideas to solve problems at home.
We thank God that Ghana has once again maintained her democratic credentials as a stable nation by smoothly holding elections and heading for a smooth transition. We in the Diaspora doff off our hats to all the political parties for their show of statesmanship and brinkmanship. President Obama in his 2008 address to the Ghanaian Parliament in Accra advised that Africa needs strong institutions and not strong men. This has been proved right in Ghana as the naysayers and doom-sayers who doubted the integrity of the Electoral Commission and Madam Charlotte Osei, were put to shame and public ridicule and opprobrium. Some quack religious leaders made false prophesies on the outcome of the elections while some stomach-direction so-called journalists made spurious pollster predictions. The Ghanaian Security Forces deserve a big commendation, especially the Ghana Police, BNI, and the Ghana Armed Forces for the able and professional manner they went about the election arrangements.
Kwame Nkrumah set up the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute (KNII) in 1962 with Kojo Addison as Director and a Nigerian, Ivan Ikoku, as one of the prominent lecturers. There were others like Kofi Batsa. KNII was a place for political indoctrination and imparting of patriotic zeal. Some District Commissioners such as Awittor of Winneba and Kwadwo Kwakye were schooled in leadership principles, economics, and political science, among others.
The Institute was also open to Freedom Fighters from all over Africa. Right now, some of our leaders lack academic discipline and rigour; they lack patriotism and sense of belonging and putting Ghana first, hence the high levels of political corruption in Ghana. I recommend that our future MPs and Ministers should be sent to Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) to undertake three weeks’ sandwich ‘Ghana First’ Leadership Orientation Course (GFLOC) which everyone must undertake irrespective of their academic attainments or credentials so that they get steeped in the patriotic zeal for things Ghanaian.
On Ghanaian leaders’ legacies, Kwame Nkrumah left us memories of his Dawn Broadcasts, numerous articles in the form of books, action-oriented leadership style of providing infrastructure through carefully planned and crafted Seven and Five Year Development Plans, and having an array of prominent people in his think-tank, including people like Ayeh Kumi, Geoffrey Bing, Sir Arthur Lewis, (Nobel Laureate in Economics), Arthur Nurske, Neustadt, E. N. Omaboe, Prof Kwesi Abraham, Prof Ofosu Armaah, Connor O’Brian, among others. Nkrumah was action-oriented and he had a passion for the welfare of all Ghanaians and Africans. His agenda was Pan-Africanist in orientation and perhaps too wide.
Kofi Abrefa Busia ruled Ghana from 1969 to 1972. He set up the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) with the aim of sensitizing Ghanaians about their human rights. However, before that, some of us in our Civic Lessons in elementary school had learnt about Active, Good, Passive and Bad citizens. Shall we say that right now there are many more bad citizens in Ghana than at any other time in our history? Busia also focused on improvement of drainage and sanitation in Accra, as well as on rural development.
General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong who ruled from January 1972 to August 1978 was a pragmatist who introduced Operation Feed Yourself (OFY). That was a big legacy which needs to be rekindled because basically we are an agricultural country. A nation which cannot feed itself but depends on food imports cannot survive. Acheampong left us with a legacy of ruling by military fiats, caveats, and decrees.
Rawlings staged a coup in June 1979 and he was a very action-oriented leader as he personally led students to go to the bush to evacuate cocoa beans for export, going on route-marches in Accra, participating in fixing damaged railway lines, using his helicopter to evacuate the injured to hospitals from accident scenes throughout the country, going to cadre school/military camp at the University of Ghana, Legon to personally train cadres on how to fire the gun, among other heroic and symbolic actions. However, his nadir was the extra-judiciary killings and the gagging of the press under his watch. His reign also saw unprecedented exodus of Ghanaians into the Diaspora.
Dr Hilla Liman took over the Presidency in October 1979 until December 1981 when he was overthrown by JJ Rawlings who had earlier on handed over power to him. Liman’s government was characterised by severe economic hardship and high levels of political party corruption during the time of party stalwart, Nana Okutwer Bekoe. Essential commodities such as textiles, soap, flour, milk, rice, and practically everything, including ordinary local gin known as Akpeteshie, were in short supply as those commodities were hoarded and given to party cadres to profiteer. Below is a table showing my own ranking of all our Ghanaian presidents to date.
Ranking of Presidents of Ghana
Best score is 10, poorest score is 0.
1. Kwame Nkrumah 91%
2. John Kufuour 83%
3. John Atta Mills 80%
4. Kofi Abrefa Busia 78%
5. Jerry John Rawlings 74%
6. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong 73%
7. John Dramani Mahama 71%
8. Hilla Liman 68%
The pass mark is 60%.
Rawlings’ second coming from December 1981 to January 2000 was episodic as his reign of terror and implementation of bizarre economic panaceas crafted by Kwesi Botchwey led to mass exodus of many Ghanaian professionals. His intemperate behaviour and impatience led to flouting of human rights and the rule of law was set aside. Be that as it may, he left us a legacy of discipline in the public service. He left behind the current constitution which was promulgated in 1992. He supervised the reform of the local government and its domestication and decentralisation to its current configuration of District and Municipal Councils, in an attempt to bring government closer to the people at the grassroots. That exercise of reform needs further reform as the current structure of local governance is in tatters. It is dogged by incompetence, lack of transparency, and inefficiency in service delivery at the local government level.
John Agyekum Kufuour took over from 2000 to 2008 and left us an indelible mark of statesmanship and calm behaviour in the face of provocation. He was a housekeeper leader as he stabilized Ghana’s economy and improved the producer price of cocoa. He worked assiduously to promote the Akuafo Pa Kookoo project which led to fair prices for cocoa farmers. He worked tirelessly to have Ghana’s external debt cancelled and for that act, he conferred on himself a gargantuan gold chain, an act which did not go down well with onlookers. He endeared himself to Ghanaians by carrying out reforms in education such as changing the SHS to a 4 year period instead of 3 years. He also introduced a social cash transfer system to support the elderly as well as introducing the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). His greatest acts were to free the gagged media, open the airwaves and setting up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which led to national healing and forgiveness. What a singular act!
However, he was seen as biased in public appointments, appointing his brother as Minister of Defence. This kind of thing has persisted up till now which does not augur well for Ghana. Mahama and the outgoing government are glaring culprits of this anti-Ghanaian trend of appointing public officials on tribal and political party lines. Ghana cannot and will not develop if we subsist on mediocrity instead of meritocracy.
The late Prof. John Atta Mills took over in 2008 and his leadership style earned him the nickname of Mr ‘Go Slow’. Being a lawyer, he was meticulous in his actions. However, Ghanaians were impatient to see tangible economic results. His own party members crucified and criticised him without end until his unfortunate demise in 2012. He left us his legacy of ‘Dzi Wo Fie Asem’ or Pay Attention to Domestic Policy.
John Dramani Mahama of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) is handing over power on 7th January 2017 to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo of the National Patriotic Party (NPP) who is the incumbent President of Ghana.
What legacy has President Mahama left Ghanaians? I think he will be remembered as the President who promised a lot but did not have the time and wherewithal to execute his grandiloquent and grandiose plans of infrastructure development in the form of airports, inter-changes and by-passes in the cities, construction of numerous senior secondary schools and universities country-wide, hospitals, power plants, seaports, among others. Many Ghanaians are still struggling with power outage which is locally dubbed as ‘Dumsor’. Mahama is said to be an addict of Twitter, Facebook and other social media. We hope his fans and many admirers will pursue him and have their paths crossing many times on WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Perhaps, because Ghanaians considered Mahama as a profligate spender or spendthrift who has incurred a gigantic national debt, he will be remembered as a risk-taker leader. I hope his successor will not re-echo a known former Ghanaian leader who said in the Twi dialect, “Y3ntua. Kafo didi” which translates as, “We shan’t pay. The debtor must also eat.” There are international economic guidelines for external borrowing which state that external borrowing should be used for capital projects only and they should not exceed a certain percentage of GDP. Furthermore, they should not create generational debt or heavy tax burden for future generations or create crowding out effect for the private sector, or cause removal of subsidies, or let the country be perceived by outside investors and creditors as a bankrupt and debt-ridden non-creditworthy country.
What do people look for in a quality leader? A good leader is one who listens to the pleas of the people and takes the expert advice of his advisors. He takes action to address some of their concerns. He is not one who is impervious to reason. A good leader is one who has passion for national development, one who is empathetic, visionary, exemplar, one filled with humility, action-oriented, fair and just, flexible, tolerant, long-suffering, patient, open-minded, broad-minded, astute, selfless, prudent, and hardworking. Above all, he is one who knows how to delegate duties and tasks to the right people at the right time in the right manner, and offers support. As they say, delegation of duties is not abdication of responsibility. A good leader is also bold and fearless when he stands for a noble cause.
Welcome to the Ghanaian Presidency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo. Will Nana prove to his sceptics that he is the best President Ghana never had or at the end of his tenure, the best President that Ghana ever had. As Jimmy Cliff said in 1966, ‘Time will tell’. We pray for God’s guidance for him and his team to succeed, to lift Ghana up to greater heights.