Feature Article of Wednesday, 7 September 2011
Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta
By Kwesi Atta Sakyi
Sunday, 28th August 2011, Lusaka, Zambia
Exactly a year from now, Ghana will again go to the polls to elect a President and parliamentarians. What are the stakes for President John Atta Mills and Nana Akufo Addo? At 61 years, I have never voted in my life, having spent the best part of 31 years in the Diaspora in Nigeria and Zambia. However, this time around, I registered to vote next year, to exercise my franchise to give my mandate to whomever I deem fit to rule me. Who do you think I am going to cast this one precious vote for? Your guess is as good as mine. I think after reading this piece, you should be able to discern which part of the political divide I belong to. Till that realization dawns on you, my precious vote is my secret. It has often been harped on that the frequent changes in government in Africa bodes ill wind for the development of the continent as there tends to be discontinuity in many laudable programmes which get jettisoned and abandoned by successive governments. In the case of Ghana, we have had a notorious and unenviable record of changing political leaders just like a fashion-conscious lady changes her clothes and hairdo. At the last count, we have had 10 political leaders since independence in 1957. Our leaders to date have been Osagyefo Dr Kantamanto Oseadeoyo Odumgya Kwame Nkrumah, Lt Gen J A Ankrah, Lt Gen A.A. Afrifa, Dr K.A. Busia, Lt Gen Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, Lt Gen Frederick Akufo, Ft Lt J.J. Rawlings, Dr Hilla Liman, John Agyekum Kufuor and the current incumbent, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills. This high turnover rate, on average, gives 5 1/2 years of tenure in the hot seat. Nkrumah survived 9 years after independence, Acheampong ruled for 6 years, J.J. Rawlings ruled for 19 years and Kufuor reigned for two terms of 8 years. Albeit, our leaders have comparatively fared better than in some African countries where some leaders have glued themselves to the political saddle for upwards of four decades. All this is because of constitutional aberrations, political machinations, greed and lack of vision of some of these sit-tight presidents. Since President John Evans Atta Mills mounted the saddle of office, the media in Ghana has experienced an unprecedented spike of disquiet and kerfuffle, much to the discomfiture and embarrassment of sedate and sane political commentators and watchers. Many unpalatable, invidious and unprintable insinuations and aspersions have been cast against his rule or misrule, not least from his own political stable and by those who should have known better. Of course, a leader cannot escape political flak and some amount of villification, unless he is a despot or demagogue like Stalin, Hitler, Napoleon or Idi Amin Dada. What at all do Ghanaians expect from their political leaders? Having lived 11 years in Nigeria and 20 years in Zambia, and being a Ghanaian to the hilt, I have come to the sad conclusion and realization that Nigerians and Ghanaians are some of the toughest subjects to govern in the world. Is it because of lack of education or something deeply etched and ingrained in our DNA? We seem to be the most impatient people on earth, compared to the other people I have encountered in my travels in Southern Africa. In the case of Ghana, we seem to have too much voice to exercise or cause many exits of our political leaders. The story is told of a very beautiful lass who resisted many suitors at her prime. Eventually, the devil himself dressed up as a handsome young man and he approached this defiant and stubborn girl. The girl immediately fell for him and he took her away into the forest to a big tree which he claimed to be his abode. I am sure the girl started singing, ‘Sasabonsam fie na maba yi’ (I have come to the home of the devil). The moral of this story is left to the reader to unravel. Ghanaians seem to have too much voice as to make a mockery of democracy, pillorying and paroding our elected political leaders with no end in sight. People who know next to nothing about the intricacies and nuances of governance mount the rostrum and start pontificating nostrums (panaceas) concerning national affairs. They are the loudest who know next to nothing. Well, what do you expect in a democracy gone bonkers? This reminds me of the story of a man and his son who embarked on a journey, riding an ass. They were on a trading mission to sell their merchandise. Every town they got to, they were laughed at for being weird, crass and unorthodox for riding their ass in a particular way. At first, it was the man riding with the boy trudging and running alongside. When they exchanged positions with the boy taking the saddle, the people in the next town would have none of it. The duo decided eventually to carry the ass and upon reaching a river, it fell into the river, and being an assy ass, it got drowned. In Ghana, I think the Yuton driver, Professor Atta Mills, should be given a break to chart his own oceans with support from his driver’s mate and passengers. The passengers have paid to be ferried to a destination and by tacit agreement through the social contract, they have given their mandate to the driver to use his professional skills to make the destination a reality. Onlookers who do not wish to come on board should hold their peace. Am I sounding apologetic? These are sound, apolitical and scientific hard facts. Finito! Yesterday it was Egya Atta with Team B. The other day, it was about appointing incompetent greenhorns and nincompoops. At every turn, he is the butt of the typical wicked Ghanaian jokes and derision. We forget that leaders are appointed and anointed of God and they come in many styles and shades as even within the Toyota brand of cars, we have Lexus, Camry, Cressida, Corolla, Ipsum, Starlet, Corona, Corsa, among many others. We have democratic, laissez-faire, autocratic, missionary, situational and ceremonial/token leaders. I presume Rawlings was an autocratic leader and Prof Mills is either a democrat or a laissez-faire leader. Someone suggested in management circles that leaders are born and not made. This is the Great Man or Traits Theory of the Greeks, Romans and ancients which has long been debunked. John Adair proposes the action-centered leader who encompasses a holistic approach of attending to the needs of all stakeholders by being task-oriented, people–oriented, result–oriented and organization- oriented. Prof Mills comes across as having a leaning towards the Dionysus culture of being a country-club or people-centered culture. Of course, he has not pandered to the Spoils System of populating the corridors of power with NDC cadres and footsoldiers and this is a sore point with NDC patriots and founders. Roger Harrison and Charles Handy profess that we have 4 typologies of culture, namely Zeus (power) culture, Apollo (role) culture, Athena (task) culture and Dionysus (people) culture. Prof Atta Mills neither belongs to the power culture nor the task culture. He seems to be inclined more towards the role culture than the people culture. No doubt, an academic is a professional who exudes professional excellence of rigorous adherence to standards. In politics, numbers and people matter and Professor Mills should take note. Personal magnetism or personal charm counts. What of the Hitlers, Nkrumahs, Churchills and the Kennedys of this world? When we consider another leadership model of Mouton and Blake, the Grid Model, we encounter five typologies of leaders with the worst being in the coordinate (1,1), least concern for task results and least concern for welfare of followers. This is dubbed impoverished leadership.
The (5,5) coordinate is termed mediocre or middle-of-the road leadership where both concern for task results and people welfare is lukewarm and average. The other variant is the (9,1) coordinate which identifies a leader with Taylorite mentality of achieving high results or performance at any cost, ignoring the welfare of workers. Its opposite is dubbed country-club or laissez-faire (1,9) coordinate where a teleological, eudaemonistic and people-centered approach is adopted by the leader at the expense of task outcomes. It borders on hedonism or pleasure seeking. The (9,9) coordinate is the best action-centered and team-centered approach which scores highly on both concerns for task results and followers welfare. To you the reader, where do you think Kuffour, Rawlings, Atta Mills and other past leaders belong? Another model is the time dimension model of leadership proffered as an organization evolves and grows. At the beginning of every enterprise, we need a champion leader (Nkrumah), a tank commander leader with less intellect than brawn (Acheampong)/Rawlings), a housekeeper (Busia/Liman/Kufuor) and a lemon squeezer (Atta Mills). It has often crossed my mind that Ghanaians should one day try Busumbrum Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, as their President. Former Secretary-General, Kurt Waldheim of Austria went on to become President of Austria. Back to the topic after the digression, since Egya Atta came into office in 2008, the freedom of speech in Ghana has been given a shot in the arm. What legacy will Egya Atta leave Ghanaians, should he lose the 2012 elections? Will he be remembered as one who never batted an eyelid even when his vociferous, villainous and vicious media attackers threw mud at him? Is he going to be remembered for his laidback and non-committal Dzi Wo Fie Asem (Mind Your Own Domestic Affairs) reaction to the imbroglio in Cote d’ Voire? He got it right and was highly commended by the UN. Nana Akuffo Addo was baying for Ghana to send in troops, which could have thrown us into a minefield. Is Prof Atta Mills going to be remembered for the stalled progress on the dilemmatic STX multi-billion housing deal? Or is he going to go down well with the Ghanaian electorate for his nonchalance and refusal to inhabit the custom-built presidential palace put-up by his predecessor and variously called Jubilee House or Flagstaff House? Kufuor is alleged to have left us a legacy of a huge state debt which Egya Atta says his government has tirelessly worked to amortise or retire. Was Kufuor a big spender and is Egya Atta a frugal miser or a Shylock? Kufuor spent a fortune to make 250 medals and medallions which he hung around the necks of 250 patriots and heroes and at the end of the ceremony (beamed live on national TV), he hung the longest chain medal around his own neck. He beat Napolean to his own game when he snatched the crown from the Pope and crowned himself. We all remember Kufuor’s HIPC- labelled public toilets which never got used during his tenure. What about Kufuor Bankye (Cassava Project) at Ayensuako in the Central Region which amounted to nothing, yet it was touted to create thousands of jobs? What of the pogrom of the Ya-Na in Yendi or the Accra Stadium stampede? Kufuor will be remembered for appointing his brother to a cabinet position and his close relatives to populate the diplomatic circuit. And for all these immodesties, an Oxford-trained philosophy/political science/economics major and a London-trained lawyer. Above all, what about the controversial sale of Ghana Telecom to Vodafone? Back to Egya Atta, is he going to be remembered for commissioning public projects commenced by his predecessors? Or is he going to be applauded for non-starter projects like STX? Of course, under his watch, Ghana has struck oil and we are an oil producing country. What about the rueful Single-Spine utter mess which has got the army of teachers beside themselves with unbridled rage and frustration? Should Egya Atta be remembered for re-christening our secondary schools from JSS and SSS to JHS and SHS? Are these not cosmetic, symbolic and token acts? Or will Egya Atta be remembered for commissioning the revived shuttle train service between Accra and Tema? What about the large increase in the number of international airlines flying Accra and which have made Accra their hub? Should Egya Atta go on record for having the largest number of armed robberies and highway men under his watch? What about the ubiquitous janjaweed Fulani herdsmen causing mayhem? What about the posse of Ecowas 419 fraudsters lurking in Accra from Nigeria, Liberia and Burkina Faso? These are internet fraudsters and shady business people from neighboring countries. On a positive note, under Egya Atta’s watch, Ghana has recorded an upsurge in cocoa production, hitting the 1 million tonnes mark. We will have sweet memories of the Ghana Black Stars mesmerizing the whole world with their dazzling performance at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Ghana has also chalked many firsts in Africa, being declared the first in Africa for press freedom or freedom of speech. We have graduated into a Middle Income Country (MIC), we have been touted as the fastest growing economy in the world at 12% p.a and one of the best destinations for investment, the 42nd most peaceful country in the world and 3rd in Africa. We are the only country in Africa which has been visited by three successive and consecutive US Presidents. If Ghanaians do not have short individual and institutional memories, then the tally for Egya Atta shows more pluses than minuses. However, as a balanced and unbiased/apolitical observer, I should employ the maxim of audi alterem partem or listen to the other party to the argument. What about Nana Akuffo Addo, the NPP Flagbearer in the 2012 presidential race? Nana has performed on the global stage as an astute Minister of Foreign Affairs. At the UN, he chaired a General Assembly Committee during the Iraqi Crisis. His oratory prowess and self confidence is boundless. He has a sharp wit and has good persuasive and negotiation skills. He is an erudite lawyer and an alumnus of the University of Ghana, which happens to be also my alma mater. In the heady days and throes of the AFRC/PNDC revolutionary era, when freedom of speech was heavily gagged and incarcerated in Ghana, Nana Akuffo Addo, the late Prof Adu Boahen and the late Dr Paul Ansah stood staunchly their grounds to fight for this inalienable right for all Ghanaians. They fought street and gutter battles against khakistocracy, mobocracy, anarchy, statism and oligarchy. He displayed exemplary intrepidity, obstreperousness, valiance, intransigence, contumacy, adamancy, and fearlessness. We may recall that Ghanaians, including myself, are scions of the famed (or notorious) Kormantse slaves whom the white slave masters dreaded as incorrigible, stubborn, contumacious, intrepid and rebellious. I think by nature, Ghanaians need iron hands. Of course, we know that negative reinforcement theory of sanctions or punishment can be iatrogenic and counter-productive (cf. B.F.Skinner et al.).. Maybe, we have to alternate between soft power and hard power. We may at one time or the other need strong and robust leaders to serve as the father-figure authority. Nana Akuffo Addo, being a lawyer like Prof Mills, it is inferred that should he come to power in 2012( Insha Alahu), he will observe the tenets of the rule of law, due process of the law, transparency, probity, accountability, and all the ingredients of good constitutional governance. Nana exhibited transparency and exemplary honesty during his tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs as he resisted the temptation to feather his nest or engage in insider-trading as he did not join his colleagues to scramble for the prime land abutting and juxtaposing Jubilee House/Flagstaff House. It is a pity that Nana Akuffo Addo is today being demonized and slandered in the media as a drug dealer. In law, you are not guilty until proven beyond all reasonable doubt in the courts of law with substantial evidence. Nana has recently been cleared by the US Drugs and Narcotics Department. At this point in time, all that which is being said negatively about him can be put down to politicking, sloganeering, slander, libel and propaganda. It is very sad indeed that in this age and time, Ghanaians still dwell and lurk in the Dark and Middle Ages during which time suspected witches and wizards were framed up, hurriedly tried by ecclesiastical courts and sentenced to death at the stake or by burning (cf. Joan of Arc). When are Ghanaians going to graduate from the era of ‘yesee, yesee, akee, akee? We are tired of rumour mongering, grapevine and hearsay. This is where we need investigative journalists to dig deeper and come up with the truth. To me, I believe in every human being, being given his due and looking only on the positives. Let us stop being petty and look at the bigger picture and the long term. We need to have the helicopter factor of rising above our pettiness or myopic views in order to develop. Don’t give a dog a bad name and hang it. No man can judge his brother except God because we are all sinners and no one is perfect or infallible. Sometimes, our behaviour of painting others black inevitably portrays us as super hypocrites. When the late Kutu Acheampong was arraigned before the tribunal, it is on record that he asked his interrogators before his unfortunate demise, ‘who of you here says he has no girlfriend?’ You could imagine the silence and hollow stares which met his eyes. Time has proved him right. (cf. song of Jimmy Cliff). Come September/October 2012, Ghanaians should go to the polls and vote wisely and in secret. Ghana deserves better. Remarkably, Ghanaians suffer no fools. Egya Atta promised to be his own man prior to his election in 2008 and he has proved it the hard way. Earlier on in his failed 2004 bid, he had promised Ghanaians that he would consult his mentor and sponsor 24 hours and he was denied the mandate. This time around, just before the 2012 elections, his detractors from his own party have applied the typical Ghanaian PhD (pull him down) syndrome. Others in the opposition are calling him a weakling, a non-performer, and an indecisive leader. History is always the best judge of humans as time will tell (cf.song of Jimmy Cliff).
MY RELATIONSHIP WITH EGYA ATTA AND NANA AKUFFO ADDO
Egya Atta’s dad taught me at the teacher training college from 1966 to 1970. He was a great story teller and he often told us ‘tolis’ about his chequered teaching career. But he did not spare us the ordeal of talking ad nausea about his blue-eyed boys at Achimota and Mfantsipim. I only knew Egya Atta’s younger brother who was at the time in middle school and had not yet gone to secondary school. Egya Atta comes from Ekumfi Otuam near Saltpond in the Central Region and I come from Winneba, also in the Central Region. Egya Atta is a Fante and I am Effutu, though we are now mixed with the Fantes. Egya Atta was at Legon, so was I . After reading law and completing in 1967, (same cohort as Nana Akuffo Addo) he went to the famous London School of Economics to get his doctorate in Taxation Law. He was also a Fulbright Scholar at the prestigious, Ivy League Stanford University in California, USA. Nana Akuffo Addo is half Akyim and half Akwapim. I was born at Akyim Tafo where my father had gone to work at the then West African Cocoa Research Institute (WACRI, now CRIG) in 1946. Nana Akuffo Addo also went to Legon like myself and majored in Economics, though he went on to London to be called to the Bar at the Middle Temple, like his father, Edward Akuffo Addo, and uncle, J.B. Danquah, before him. Nana met me in Lusaka while he was the Foreign Minister somewhere in 2005 or 2006. I found him to be affable, easy going, humorous, witty and with a personable personality. He bubbles with verve, enthusiasm and self assurance. That is as far as it goes. With this background, I am torn between two stools and in a quandary as to who should have my vote. Being a very pragmatic and a fair person, I think I will prefer a pendulum arbitration whereby after swinging the pendulum, wherever it gets stuck gets my vote. I presume the outcome of the battle of titans, come 2012, will be as uncertain as the outcome of a football match between the Black Stars and Super Eagles. Statistics over the years shows a 50,50 affair. I will not put my neck on the chopping board. Let the better candidate win, come 2012. Egya Atta has advantage of incumbency but Nana could upset the applecart and emerge as an underdog or dark horse, out of the blue. What with the spate of changes sweeping the world like a tsunami? Who knows, before elections one of the two leading contenders might undergo a name change or nomenclature surgery.. Guess what? Either a Goodluck or a John. After all, we have had three successive presidents for the last 30 years bearing the name John. Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor, John Evans Atta Mills. Is it going to be another John? If you were a gambler or a statistician, you might stake a John, but being a game of chance, I keep my fingers crossed. The roulette wheel could stop at any number unless it is loaded or fixed or primed. Will Nana Akuffo Addo be dubbed, ‘one of the best presidents Ghana never had, ‘or Egya Atta could be branded ‘one of the best Presidents Ghana ever had?. In the bible, John was questioned by the Levites and Scribes thus, ‘Are you the Messiah or there is one yet to come?’(John 2: 19-28 and Luke 3: 15) B.A (Hons) Ghana, NDP (Distinction), MPA (cum Laude) Unisa, Group Diploma (Distinction) Jersey, Cert A 4 yr (Komenda)