Feature Article of Saturday, 10 November 2012
Columnist: Amponsah, John
By John Amponsah
This is the final piece in the four part series that sought to highlight power plays at the national (Ghanaian), regional (African) and at global levels of engagement. The focus in this final article centres round the importance of effective leadership in Africa's development process.
LEADERSHIP EXAMPLES GHANAIANS COULD LEARN FROM
Months ago when Julian Assange (JA) of Wikileaks fame was still interviewing world leaders, I watched him interview Anwar Ibrahim (AI), a prominent Malaysian opposition leader who is at the forefront of his country's political process. In this interview, the opposition leader expresses an opinion which I believe is worthy of note:
JA: What will it take for that [Malaysia rising up to great heights] to be done? Is it a matter of education?
AI: No, it is leadership, Julian. [Earlier on in the interview, Anwar says that Malaysia already has a good level of education]. It is courage, conviction, tenacity of purpose, you want to do something good...you must not be corrupt, it has to work....the problem with these authoritarian leaders, and at times even the leaders in the west, that include this strong Islamophobia; this strong "we against them", these unilateral policies of the United States. ...I mean, I don't sense that they even ascribe to the ideals, the initial spirit of the American Revolution, or Jeffersonian ideals....and that is our concern. But we have to do it. In a small way, in a small country, not to be ambitious to be a great nation on Earth, but at least for Malaysia, what is it? Why is it so difficult -- to make a Malay farmer and a Chinese petty trader, or Indian estate worker feel that they are being respected and recognised as a citizen? I don't think it takes a lot. It takes just conscience, sincerity and courage...of conviction. [Leadership] (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qs992gkUhhk)
Conscience, sincerity and courage...of conviction! I wonder if our various political leaders share some or all of these thoughts. For one, I thought it was worthwhile listening to a leader of Malaysia, a country that started off its modern era at a similar point as Ghana, but which then took a different economic, political and social trajectory to reach where it is today. I kept thinking that in place of "a Malay farmer, a Chinese petty trader, an Indian estate worker", could we in our context think of (as examples) "An Akan, a Dagomba, an Ewe?" living together in peace and harmony as one nation? Shouldn't this be a worthwhile goal of all of our leaders?
All those months back, while focusing on the theme of leadership, I also made time to listen to another national leader being interviewed by JA, this time it was Rafael Correa (RC) of Ecuador. This is another country I admire because of its drive to be a better nation, because of its progressive ecological policies and its modern constitution. Again in this interview, I hoped that listening to this national leader of a progressive country could possibly lead to gaining some pointers which could be applied to the Ghanaian context:
__ [Final Question] JA: I want to look at where you think Ecuador is going in the long term, where South America is going in the long term. It seems to some degree that there are a lot of good things: there is greater integration in South America, the standards of living have been increased, the amount of influence that the United States and other countries outside Latin America can apply to it is also decreasing. But, where do you think it is going in 10 years, in 20 years?
RC: You have said that the US influence is steadily decreasing and that is good. That is why we have stated that Latin America is changing from the "Washington Consensus" to the "Consensus without Washington" (laughs)...and this is great, as the policies dictated by the US have nothing to do with our needs in Latin America, but were rather geared toward the needs of those countries' financial interests in particular. If you make an analysis of the economic policy, modesty apart I know something about it, at times the policies could have been good or bad, but they all had a common feature. They all catered to the interests of the 'big capital', and above all, financial capital. And this, luckily, is changing.
I have a great deal of hope, but I am very realistic. Although we have made significant progress, there is still a long way to go. I know that our achievements can be rolled back. I know that if we get the same people we used to have ruling our countries, everything could go back to what it used to be. But, we are optimistic. We believe Latin America is changing, and if we keep going down that path of change, the change will gain momentum. It is not just a time of change. We are witnessing a change of epochs in Latin American history. We have to go on with these sovereign policies, to introduce economic policies where society rules the market, and not the other way around. When society and life and people turn into merchandise, to continue to pursue justice and social equality, overcoming the many injustices of previous centuries, respecting our indigenous peoples and Afro descendents and other minority groups, if we remain committed to all this, Latin America will have a great future. And it is the region of the future. We have everything it takes to be the most prosperous region in the future. If we haven't achieved it yet, that's because of bad leaders, bad policies, and bad governments. And this is what is changing in our America. www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvUwC5JTAJY
At the end of the interview, Julian Assange says to President Correa, "don't get assassinated!" to which the Ecuadorean president responds, "That is something we have to avoid every day". In my view, this is a very relevant comment to make, seeing as the CIA orchestrated the assassination of late President Jamie Roldos of Ecuador when he defiantly went against the Western corporate interests controlling Ecuador during Roldos' tenure as president. He was 'taken out', classic style, by crashing his plane. It will be great to see Rafael Correa live out his term while doing great things for his people, setting an example for others to follow.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM GHANAIAN LEADERS AS WE APPROACH ELECTION 2012
I believe that what these two leaders (AI & RC) have to say has some element of relevance to us in Ghana and in Africa. The US elections of 2012 are now done. As we approach our own elections, we need to think of the leaders that we hope to have. Do they embody conscience, sincerity and courage? Do they place the interests of their own sovereign nation above those of powerful capitalist-imperialist West (led by the US and its 'vassals' to use Zbigniew Brzezinski's terminology) and capitalist-imperialist and communist-imperialist East (China, South Korea etc)? Can we hope to have leaders who will stand for our interests as an African people?
I am not anti-American (far from it! I love many individual Americans) but the true spirit of the American Revolution which catalysed nations around the world into choosing the democratic model of the American example has been hijacked. Today the American is a shadow of the ideals enshrined in their Constitution and Bill of Rights. Powerful shadowy interests have hijacked the country and will destroy it unless patriotic Americans step up. Today the people of the world have to search for inspiration from other nations and blocs whose countries are showing true examples of democracy like some of those countries in Latin America (Bolivia, Ecuador as examples) which are working tirelessly to uplift the lot of their people while still resisting the imperialist thumb. The oversized American empire, a modern day Roman model of imperialism (Pax Americana) ultimately serves the interests of only a very few.
It goes without saying that US embassies the world over are there to maintain the presence of the US empire, to spy on behalf of the US, to influence powerful bodies of the host nation in all kinds of ways (corporate/finance, government, media, "NGOs" etc) that further strengthen US interests in the host country. The Wikileaks documents clearly showed this. They are there to maintain the interests of the empire! Pax Americana! All those intelligent men and women sucked into corporate, intelligence, military and scientific/industrial avenues of Pax Americana, not knowing that they are seen as serfs by their elite. All those people dying in wars or risking their lives as economic and/or military intelligence agents, thinking that they are serving a greater cause and not knowing that they are just working as foot soldiers for the empire.
The point I am trying to make here is that those individuals at the top of the pile of the Euro-American established order will not take very kindly to 'usurping' developing nations who want to raise the lot of their people. The most powerful elite in these groups (not the presidents and prime ministers) think in terms of ancient kingdoms, serfdoms and empires! When you have advisors like Brzezinski (a key Obama aide/advisor) calling other nations allied to the US "vassals", you have to realise that the elite in these circles think differently from their people. They see the working American as a serf. It is up to patriotic Americans to reverse (or at least somehow revise) this trend. Take back your country if you can. Who knows, it may happen or maybe it will not, but we in Africa should not sit around waiting for such an event to take place.
It will have to be an upward struggle for areas of the globe like Africa and Latin America to raise the lot of their people. Better not as an armed struggle (they win as they have better technology, you lose and become further enslaved) but a smart one. In a world that is becoming increasingly multipolar in nature, options are available today that were not available in the same way during the bipolar era of the Cold War. African policy makers must be aware of this, so conscientious Africans, take note!
On the flip side, we have an extremely organised and ever imposing China slowly encroaching into Africa to increase its global clout and influence. The Chinese have learnt from the Europeans and then from the Americans and have now come up with a system that is a blend of Western and Eastern imperialistic overtures, a system that is uniquely Chinese!
As Anwar Ibrahim said, it will take a leader that has conscience, sincerity and courage! I believe this is the kind of leader we need in Ghana to get us to the next level.
LATIN AMERICA - LESSON AFRICA CAN LEARN FROM THIS REGION?
The lesson Africa needs to learn from Latin America is simple: we need more real integration! I suggested at the end of the second article in this series that this can be done by starting with carefully thought out economic policies for the West African sub region. The Latin Americans are fortunate because they have less of a language barrier. Many of the Latin countries speak Spanish. While Brazilian Portuguese is different from Spanish, I imagine it not to be a great hindering block to communication within their region. We in Africa on the other hand are suffering from what I called the 'checkerboard' representation of languages across the continent. The English-French divide should however not hold us back. It is up to us to overcome this.
GHANA – A CATALYST FOR CHANGE WITHIN AFRICA
What can we as a nation learn from these changes that are occurring among nations in the world? That Sub Saharan Africa cannot and should not be left out of the wave of change. The internet continues to revolutionalize information exchange. Regardless of who voters choose to give their vote to, the important point is to realize that as a country and eventually as a region and a continent, we need to get through the crucial stage we are in, in order to arrive at a better place.
We are in a time of great opportunity as well as a time of possibly significant risk. Never before has the competition between NDC and NPP been so strong. While NDC struggles through its initiation of fire, a soul searching of sorts to ascertain whether or not that party can possibly mature into a post-Rawlings era, while the Woyome scandal continues to wreak serious havoc on the incumbents during an election year, the NPP bides its time, albeit not without its own headaches, taste of criticisms (all-die-be-die etc) and crises (Agyapong-Vanderpuije Saga) on both sides.
All of this should be put in context. Each party should do its best during the election, avoiding any form of cheating and prioritising peace and positive celebration. The winner(s) should be graceful while those who do not make it should also take the confirmed results as a mature party and gracefully allow the winning party to do their national duty. True leadership should be shown at all levels.
There is a big chance here for Ghana to make a big leap while in the process serving as a good example for sister African nations to follow. I personally believe that we will make it. Yet we have to go through a possibly nervous period to get there. Whichever government comes into power after the successful election will experience a tsunami of investment partners and opportunities, which, if managed properly can potentially propel us far ahead of our current locale. Let us aim for the very best and collectively work toward that aim.
I would like to finally end this series by saying that I believe we can make it as a nation and as a people. We just have to believe in it to make it happen, because we can!