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Feature Article of Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

Do Ghanaians need a woman President?

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

1st January 2012

Yesterday, 20th September 2011, Zambians voted to choose a new
president and among the 10 presidential aspirants, there was only one
woman, Edith Nawakwi, a former Minister of Finance, Agriculture and
Energy (three ministerial portfolios) in the previous government of
late President Frederick Chiluba. Today 21st September, marks the 102
years of the birth of our national founder, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah
of blessed memory. Personally every 21st September rings a bell for me
as my father and mother died on the same date in 1971 and 1997
respectively. May their souls rest in perfect peace.

WOMEN HEADS OF STATE-LITMUS TEST OF DEMOCRACY

Currently, the greatest litmus test of the amount of democracy in a
particular country is the gender parity. The reader can verify for
himself/herself from the list of past women leaders provided at the
end of this article. Countries which currently have women leaders
include Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Britain, Belgium, Netherlands,
Denmark, Bangladesh, Germany, Thailand, New Zealand, Finland,
Philippines and Liberia, among many others. Female political
leadership seems to be the global norm and the in-vogue game or trend.
In the past, we have had women prime ministers and presidents and
those who hit the headlines include Golda Meir of Israel, Indira
Gandhi of India, Margaret Thatcher of Britain, Sirimavo Bandaranaike
of Sri Lanka, Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway, Mary Robinson of
Ireland, Macagapal Arroyo of the Phillippines, Megawati Sukarnoputri
of Indonesia, Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan,
among many others. Some succeed their husbands, fathers and mothers
whilst others fought their way to power (Jone Johnson Lewis). Famous
women opposition leaders, past and present, include Edith Nawakwi of
Zambia, Samia Yaaba Nkrumah of Ghana, Aan San Su Kyi of Myanmar,
Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Sergal Royale of France, Sonya Gandhi of
India, among others. It seems for the past 50 years or so, there has
been an explosion of women presidents and prime ministers on the world
stage and could this be attributed to the rise of liberalism, feminism
or what? Women are asserting their civic rights more and more in the
political arena and even in corporate boardrooms, ostensibly posing a
threat to male chauvinism and dominance. Could the emergence of the
sisters of Eve (euphemistically referred to as the weaker sex) be
attributable to many women attaining higher education or the decline
in male-centred cultures and attitudes? Is male dominance on the
decline and on the mend? We all recall the Beijing and Cairo
Conferences on Women which seem to have applied the pressure on
governments to rethink and reform their unbalanced male-centred
policies and statutes. Women ascendancy could also be partly
attributed to the singular action of Britain in 1911 when it
enfranchised women. Also we should not forget the enormous impact of
the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which opened the
floodgates for women and minorities to asset their rights. The role of
women in history is well documented and we could not forget the fiery
spirits of women leaders like Boadicea of Britain, Joan of Arc of
France, Olympias of Macedonia, Cleopatra of Egypt, Hatshepsut of
Egypt, Nefertiti of Egypt, Queen Amina of Zaria, Nigeria, Yaa
Asantewaa of Ghana, Candace Kush of Kush (Ethiopia), Rosa Parks of the
USA (racial discrimination activist), and Eleanor Roosevelt, among
many others.
Nowadays, women are coming out of their cocoons to bask in the
political limelight. It is the view of conservative male
traditionalists that women should be kept at arms length and be
consigned and relegated to the kitchen, as their roles are
biologically and socially circumscribed ad constrained. The 1948 UN
Human Rights Declaration was a watershed as it set the tone for
closely examining the rights of all human beings, irrespective of
their race, colour, age, gender, faith or their station in life.
Paradoxically, Muslim nations such as Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and
Indonesia have produced female leaders, to the discomfiture of so many
so-called advanced democracies in the West. Now we have the first
woman head of the IMF in the person of Christine Lagarde of France. In
deed, women have come of age and even the sky is not the limit for
their ambitions and aspirations. Women empowerment and liberation has
sent many a shiver down the spines of many male women-haters or
misogynists and misanthropists. The Scandinavian countries such as
Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland have been identified as
the best places on earth for women to live in as in these countries,
women are accorded more rights with men than in other countries.
According to Geert Hofstede’s global research on national cultures,
carried out some decades ago, these Scandinavian countries evince the
feminine culture of being caring, non-competitive and not being
masculine or aggressive. In many advanced countries, they have enacted
progressive and forward-looking legislation to increase the population
of women legislators and business executives. In Africa, Rwanda is
singled out as faring very well in this area of gender parity. Now in
many progressive countries, there are many women legislators and board
members in multinational corporations. There is the view held that
women are by nature meticulous and relatively incorruptible, and as
such they are less likely to doctor the figures and cook the books or
mess up the accounts.
WOMEN IN AFRICA AND GHANA
Comparatively, women are said to be the largest contributor to our
GDPs as they undertake a lot of subsistence farming and bear the
heaviest brunt of the upkeep of the family. The famous Ghanaian
educationist, James Kwegyir Aggrey, said many decades ago that, ‘if
you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a
woman, you educate a nation.’ How relevant this is in our time when
women are playing a yeoman’s role in our economic growth,
multi-tasking as mothers, wives, bread winners and care-givers.
Therefore on this premise, should Africans, and for that matter, Ghana
experiment with promoting women to become presidents? Currently, Ellen
Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia is the sole female president on the
continent of Africa and I bet you, she must be feeling lonely at
annual AU (African Union) summits which are male-dominated. With
education as a vehicle of upward social mobility, many women these
days are voraciously reading their way up the ladder of advancement.
Some intrepid ones among them have broken the glass ceiling to emerge
at the top to rub shoulders with their male counterparts at the top
echelons of society. My sojourn in Nigeria two decades ago as a
teacher informs me that that country has some extraordinary and
talented women who are intelligent, aggressive, determined and highly
educated. Can we in the foreseeable future expect to produce a female
president in Nigeria or Ghana? Many countries now have adopted
affirmative action to employ more women and minorities at the
workplace so as to be representative of the composition of their
populations. This has led to embracing forward-looking policies such
as equal work for equal pay, equal opportunities employer, reverse
discrimination, girl-child accelerated education, and educational
quota system for girls, among others.
SAMIA NKRUMAH FOR PRESIDENT IN GHANA IN 2016
A few weeks ago, the premier political party in Ghana, the
Conventional Peoples Party (CPP) with socialist inclination, elected
Ms Samia Yaaba Nkrumah, daughter of our first republican president
(Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah) to the position of Chairperson of the
party, the first of its kind in Ghana. This is a giant leap for
Ghanaian women as it will galvanise them to believe that, “yes we
can’. Let us hope Samia will rekindle the fortunes of this slumbering
giant and colossus of politics in Africa. I think the platform has
been set for her to campaign relentlessly towards the forthcoming 2012
presidential elections and with age on her side, she must be eyeing
the 2016 presidential elections too. I think Ghanaians are tired of
gerantocracy (government by old people). In the past, we have also
experienced some form of plutocracy or aristocracy (government by the
patricians or rich people). I can bet that Ghanaians are eagerly
looking forward to tasting the rule by a woman president. Being a
predominantly matrilineal society, a female president will be much
welcome in Ghana, especially among the majority Akan tribe in the
South and Central Ghana whose culture is matrilocal, matrifocal,
avunculocal and female-inclined. For example, all the chiefs and kings
in Ghana owe their positions to the queenmothers who are the thrones
behind the throne. From our independence in 1957 to the present time
(54 years) we have been ruled by only male presidents. Does it mean
that Ghana has not got what it takes to have a woman president? We
have women Vice-Chancellors, women directors, and women justices and
women professionals. Currently, our Chief Justice is a woman and the
Speaker of Parliament is also a woman. There are other women
ministers, deputy ministers and members of parliament, but then they
are grossly outnumbered by their male counterparts. Or are Ghanaians
so biased as to make their national leadership patrilineal/
patriarchal? There is nothing in our current reigning 1992
Constitution which debars women from standing as presidential
candidates. Are we in Ghana and Africa only interested in phallocacy
(rule by male-symbolism)? How about having a woman symbol for a charge
(cuntocracy or pundendacracy)? If we elect a homosexual president,
then we will have a homocracy. If a lesbian, then lesbocracy. Rule by
women in general is termed gynecocracy or gynocracy. If our lady
president becomes infatuated with topless dresses, we shall then have
a mammocracy. What if she is married to many men? A polyandrocracy.
When a country has the worst from of people in power, we have a
khakistocacy. If a leader is there for a short period, then we have a
hobocracy. What if the lobbyists such as the Tea Party in the USA come
to power? We call it lobocracy. Rule by a tyrant or despot is an
autocracy or tyranny. If we get the mob (remember the Parisian mob of
1789 and the people power sweeping North Africa and the Middle East?)
in power, we have mobocracy or ochlocracy. What if young people or
infants ascend to power? We shall term it a puerocracy or
infantocracy. And where there is no authority or breakdown of law and
order, anarchy. Until a female president is elected in Ghana, we shall
not experience the fruits of feminocracy. Rather, we shall continue to
have malocracy, which sometimes can be malicious, maleficent,
malfunctional, malevolent, malignant and not at all magnanimous. Such
a situation can maledict (curse) us and we shall be our own
malefactor. In that case, the malcontents (disgruntled women) in our
female population who are impatient to ascend to power can lead a
Lysistrata-like strike action against the male population and our male
spouses in Ghana will be seen going about with swellings in their
pants! Let us hope it does not come to that. Remember it happened
recently in Kenya a couple of years back? They were following the
example of what transpired in the Greek drama written long ago by
Sophocles with Lysistrata the heroine in the play. To avert such a
disastrous national calamity in Ghana, perhaps we men have to concede
and condescend to the aspirations and ambitions of our female
presidential aspirants. What do we call sex blackmail? Bearing in mind
the Millennium Development Goals and its maturation in 2015, can I
suggest that either Samia Yaaba Nkrumah or Nana Konadu Agyemang
Rawlings or any female contender for the presidency in 2016 be
declared unopposed to honour our women and to fulfill one of the
cardinal challenges and objectives set out by the UN in the MDG. This
is to avert the impending sex strike by our women, who are hankering
for their first female president. Readers should advise me as I am
currently in a dilemma at my workplace where women have taken over as
HODs and they are driving us men crazy. What happens where your male
boss allows his spouse to be reigning and calling the shots right,
left and centre? Is it in consonance with corporate governance for a
spouse to hold three positions and even hijack the job of her husband
as overall boss and HOD? Is this spousocracy? On a serious note, if a
woman is leading a political party which is made up solely of women,
we call it a hen-party. I don’t believe Samia Nkrumah will allow the
CPP to become a hen-party because the shadow of his revered father
will loom large in the background and she must live up to expectation
by galvanizing the party into top gear, ready for 2016. She will need
to network and bring on board big time sponsors and strategists.

OTHER FORMS OF GOVERNMENT

If a government is made up of many professionals and intellectuals,
(remember that of Dr Busia in 1969?), we have a technocracy. In
Africa, this often does not work well. But if the government glows in
red tape, excessive procedures and paperwork, we then have a
bureau-cracy (cf. Max Weber). A theocracy is where the government is
run by a representative of God or a Priest. An example of a theocracy
is the papacy in the Vatican in Rome. Sometimes, one wonders whether
Ghana has turned into a theocracy. What with the proliferation of
churches and the riot of many denominations, some fake and some
genuine. Are we experiencing a form of government which I term
glossolaliacracy? ( rule by speaking in tongues?). In Zambia, the late
former president, Frederick Chiluba (may his soul rest in peace),
declared Zambia a Christian nation. Does it mean that Zambia does not
recognize or entertain other religious faiths? Every country on earth
is first and foremost a secular state, Zambia being no exception.
Academics from time immemorial have volubly written and pondered on
the great schism between the church and the state and have concluded
that the two are not coterminous as they have divergent goals, one
being spiritual and the other being mundane. Be that as it may, our
President, John Atta Mills, is short of declaring Ghana a born-again
nation. Perhaps, declaring a nation a Christian nation will be
apotropaic (capable of warding off or parrying evil).

CONCLUSION
Will electing a female president in Ghana be equally apotropaic (ward
off evil) and will it bring us good luck? Will it stir up in us the
Oedipus and Electra complexes? Will a female president endear us to
the outside world and increase tourist arrival at KIA (Kotoka
International Airport)? Will it help us bridge the social gap between
the haves and have-nots as women are motherly and caring? Will it
challenge the men of Ghana to work extra hard by saying, ‘what a woman
has done, a man can do much better? Come 2016, Ghana should fulfill
her obligations to the international community by electing a female
president. Will it be Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings or Samia Yaaba
Nkrumah?

LIST OF SOME PAST AND PRESENT FEMALE LEADERS
1. Indira Gandhi, India – PM 1966-77, 1980-84
2. Golda Meir, Israel – P< 1969-1974
3. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Sri Lanka PM, 1960-1965, 1970-1977, 1994-2000
4. Corazon Aquino, Philippines President – 1986 – 1992
5. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway – PM 1981, 1986-1989
6. Vigolis Finnbogadottir, President, Iceland – 1980 – 1996
7. Tarja Kaarina Halonen, Finland, President 2000 –
8. Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain, PM 1979 – 1990
9. Mary Robinson, Ireland, President – 1990 – 1997
10. Mary McAleese, Iceland, President 1997 –
11. Ruth Dreifuss, Switzerland, President, 1999 -2008
12. Jenny Shipley, New Zealand PM – 1997 – 1999
13. Kim Campbell, Canada PM 1993
14. Edith Cresson, France, PM 1991 – 1992
15. Agatha Barbara, Malta, President 1982 – 1987
16. Isabel Peron, Argentina, President 1974 – 1976
17. Dame Eugenia Charles, Dominica, PM 1980 -1995
18. Milka Planinc, Yogoslavia, PM – 1982 – 1986
19. Benazir Butto, Pakistan, PM 1988 – 1990, 1993 – 1996
20. Violetta Barrios de Chamorro, Nicaragua, PM 1990 – 1996
21. Khaleda Zia, Bangladesh, PM 1991 – 1992
22. Tansu Ciller, Turkey, PM 1993 – 1995
23. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Sri Lanka President 1994- 2005
24. Sheikh Wasina Wajed, Bangladesh, PM 1996 – 2001, 2009 –
25. Megawati Sukarnoputri, Indonesia, President, 2001 –
26. Janet Jagan, Guyana, President, 1997 – 1999
27. Dilma Rousseff , Brazil, President 2011 –
28. Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand, PM 2011 –
29. Julia Gillard – Australia, PM 2010 –
30. Helle Thorning Schmidt, Denmark, PM 2011 –
31. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia, President
32. Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo, Philippines, President 2001 –
33. Helen Clarke, New Zealand PM 1999 – 2008
34. Vaira Vike Freiberga, Latvia, President 1999 – 2007
35. Jennifer Smith, Bermuda PM 1998 – 2003
36. Elisabeth Domitien, Central African Republic – PM1975 – 76
37. Mame Madior Boye, Senegal, PM 2001
38. Sylvie Kinigi, Burundi, PM 1993 – 1994
39. Agathe Uwilinyimana, Rwanda, PM 1993 – 1994
40. Mireya Elisa Moscaso de Arias, Panama, President 1999 – 2004
41. Brthe Pascal TRonillot, Haiti, President, 1990 – 1991
42. Maria Liberia – Peter, Netherlands Antitles PM 1984 – 1986, 1988 – 1993
43. Pamela Gordon, Bermuda, PM 1997 – 1998
44. Claudette Werleigh, Haiati, PM 1994 – 1995
45. Reneta Indzhova, Bulgaria, PM 1994 – 1995
46. Susanne Camella –Romer, Netherlands Antitles, PM 1993, 1998 – 1999
47. Hanna Suchocka, Poland, PM 1992 – 1993
48. Maria De Lourdes Pintasligo, Portugal, PM 1979 – 1980
49. Lidia Gueiler Tajada, Bolivia, PM 1979 – 1980
50. Kazimieira Danute Prunskiena, Lithunia, PM 1990-1991
51. Angela Merkel, Germany 2005-
52. Michelle Bachelet, Chile
53. Christina Kirchner, Argentina






SOURCES:

Lewis, Jone Johnson, Women Prime Ministers and Presidents; 20th
Century – Global Women Political Leaders, About.com Guide

http://womanhistory.about.com/od/rulers20th/a/women-heads.htm pp1-3
Accessed: 19/9/11

Women Political Leaders-Historical and Current

http://www.infoplease.com/pa/A080154.html Accessed: 22 September, 2011
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