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Feature Article of Friday, 23 November 2012

Columnist: Aidoo, Ato

Ghana’s Chance to Recast Leadership?

By Ato Aidoo

As in many presidential campaigns and political competition, the issue of leadership gets a good workout with such signature themes as courage, patriotism, and bluntness. In contrast, varying views in the area of rhetorical trimming, invocations of leadership, and even manipulation of polls emerge. Leadership is very important.

But as the political industry flourishes, it is equally critical to analyze, to sift through fads and buzzwords for insights that can, indeed, improve the leader’s bottom-line performance. In Ghana, the same benchmarks are key if the country is to be taken seriously. A billboard mounted explains a point or facilitates a candidate’s visibility, nevertheless, a placard bearing these words - “Functional Leadership”, is more than enough to define the fortunes of millions who vote to entrust their care into the hands of political leadership. Africa’s major problem has been leadership, and the arrangement in Ghana is not different.

Leadership offering mixed messages is dangerous for a developing country, even more dangerous in developed economies where the people are more discerning. Recent developments in Ghana where leadership and government communicators initially equivocate, distancing themselves from overt messages and being ambiguous does not help the situation. Confusion and falsehood can engulf a country in many ways.

More specifically, there is a disconnection between the truth and personality-produced defiance in the complex form as utterances are difficult to be understood by a segment of the population. These words are supposed to be captured and understood by virtue of the individual’s political leaning. Consistently, politicians have failed to understand, that leadership’s skillful deception has a shorter life span, even if we are to recognize that democratic polities deliberately construct procedures to hold governments and leadership accountable through public review. Much as the people’s ability to do so presents not only a challenge to democratic accountability, it summarizes the frustrations of many. If, indeed, democratic states are governed by the principle of popular sovereignty, Ghana’s political leadership should be much more responsive to some of these domestic challenges. These challenges tend to divide, rather than unite the country for development. Leadership should not be hiding, manipulating, misleading, and blaming others. Leadership is about conforming within reason, to the norms of the electorate. If leadership is learned, it can only be learned through experience, it is a governance imperative.

In Ghana as in other African countries, leaders take things for granted, and that is pretty well inevitable until something happens to jolt them out of their complacency. A recent example in Ghana details how a preacher of the gospel complains about a pro-government project that doctored his sermons and used them for political advertisement. Predictably, the response depicts more of a leader wallowing in cozy complacency, and grumbling for trivial things to become irksome. Leadership must not only be decisive and swift, but work in the supreme interest of a nation. Working through expressions of party machinery overloaded with egos affect sensibilities. The era of “party-time” leadership is irrelevant in today’s world of serious governance.

In the same way, manipulative leadership does not work in civilized environments, and history backs those who take bold decisions to smoothen a volatile, but politically competitive arena. The present leadership in Ghana needs to do more than conveying sympathizers “In the name of God” without appreciating that nothing is ever always there, and that many things can last enough to create the illusion that they are convenient. In an odd sort of way, sheer convenience becomes a disincentive for constructive leadership. And the real construction is that, leadership fails majority of the people.

Ghana’s notable attribute for building a new African democratic image is dwindling, and the onus falls on the country’s president- John Dramani Mahama, to reinvigorate the essential tools for restoring hope and inspirational leadership. The celebration of leadership involves the truth, tolerance and respect, devoid of invectives that besiege national consciousness to the detriment of development. “Bread and butter” problems have not received the much-needed attention. Politics as usual takes center-stage.

Ghana cannot attach itself to the myth that leaders are born, and that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That defies logic. Leaders are made rather than born, and it is necessary they also learn on the job. Ghana, with the help of its people should recast leadership. What the people really think about leadership should guide the decision to vote.

Enough of the “Ananse” stories.

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