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Opinions of Saturday, 23 November 2002

Columnist: Abudu, Dr. Paul B.

Adulation Of Political Leaders In Africa

There is a general potency in Africa in expressing unwarranted adulation to its political leaders. Such adulation goes as far as to create the leaders as semi-Gods and or God delivered saviors. This is one aspect of our continued political education that has to be discussed. There are several examples that can be provided in support of this assertion. Recent perfect example in Ghana is the naming of former President Rawlings as “Junior Jesus”(“JJ”) and the savior of the people from tyranny from the previous regimes he overthrew. Previous example can also be given in the way and manner that Ghana’s and Africa’s illustrious leader, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was compared in many instances with Jesus.

The general proclamation of our leaders as semi-Gods make them feel too supreme as God is and that they cannot be touched. They tend to forget easily that political leadership is a role of being a servant to the people and not a supreme commander. Thus the abhorrence of dictatorship. Such political adulation have kept a lot of African leaders in power and continued to stay in power well over twenty-five years. They tend to believe that they are chosen by God and will have to rule until they are taken away by God. Many of these leaders have become major problems for the people and in fact they are so inapt that there is nothing left in their minds to change the economic well being of their countries. They use all means, including the people who sing their praises, to stay in power. They have become agents against development and a nuisance to their countries; but they are untouchable.

Ghanaians have recently demonstrated maturity in their political education. They called for a positive change and new direction in the political management of the country; they voted without any regret for such a change and they got it. The ruling party - the NDC – did not interfere with the political process. It fought the elections as hard as it could but the peoples desire for a change was paramount and insurmountable. The decision was made on December 7th and December 28th.

After the ugliness of the political campaign has passed, leaders of both parties have embraced themselves and promised to cooperate and work for the betterment of the country. Yes, there are going to be lots of political wrangling in the country especially in Parliament. If the democratic political process is respected, we can appreciate the parliamentarians exercising their leadership roles not for self aggrandizement but to promote democracy in the country, promote economic & social development and more importantly promote peace in the country.

For the face of it, we must learn from the statements given by the former President and the new President when they met after the elections. Both agreed that there are major economic problems in the country that need the support of all the people to resolve. Both agreed that political and social instability in the country will be detriment to the economic development. Therefore, both of them agreed that their supporters should act with faith and sincerity and tolerate the change in government. The total wellbeing of Ghanaians is paramount to the survival of any political party or an individual political inspirations.

For the first time in the history of Ghana, there has been a peaceful transfer of power without bloodshed. For this peaceful change, it is save to state that there are no losers and winners. The utmost winner is Ghana and Ghanaians. And that is what is important. The margin of victory by the NPP both in Parliament and in the Presidential election indicate that the people do not wish for a dictatorial (one-sided) parliament or a presidential dictatorship. The people wanted an effective government. The check and balances that are in the Constitution should be seen to be working. The elected Parliamentarian should know that their first loyalty is to the country. Others come next.

However, if the people, as a whole fail to become watch dogs on their leaders but just choo-boi in all aspects of their political decisions, then we are in trouble. It is important here to note that the former President Rawlings has, regardless of his political intuitions, indicated that the people should not expect miracles from this current administration. The economic problems are magnitude to the extent that it will take the new government sometime before coming to grips with it. This statement coming from him is a testament to the political atmosphere in the country in which the people should give their new leaders time to work things out. This does not mean that they should adore them and fail to provide constructive criticism where necessary and praise any efforts when necessary.

In time past, we have seen all the Paramount Chiefs from all regions of the country trooping to the Castle or Flagstaff House anointing the leaders as supreme beings. We hope that will not happen during this current regime.

The President, Mr. J.A.Kuffour, is a humble person and has shown that during the election campaign and immediately after winning the election on December 28th. He indicated that he will not allow any witch hunting and he will give respect and dignity to the former President as he would expect to be given after his term in office. This is a noble statement and well stated with sincerity.

There is no doubt, however, that there are many in his party that will seek revenge. If this is accepted and done, we shall see lots of problems in the country because the NDC is well entrenched in the country, even if they did not win the elections. The people wanted a positive change and not a revenge and punishment of members of the previous regime.

The adulation that is offered to our leaders should be stopped. We should give respect to our leaders and not adore them. They are human and need all our support – the support to be given should include positive recommendations, suggestions and innovative and creative ideas that will be centered on how to develop the country for the benefit of all the people. Any criticism should be positive and must include alternative suggestions. In the past, criticisms are offered without any alternative courses of action. This should stop. If one cannot offer a suggestion for a specific issue, there is no need to criticize the issue in the first place. We should know what we write or talk about and provide clear and positive suggestions.

Our chiefs should show the initial example. Our tradition calls for respect of our elders and leaders. They can come to the Castle and greet or welcome the new President. That should be the end of it. They should not go beyond that and initiate the proclamation of the President as a God sent messiah. He ran for office as many others – seven in all – did and he won. This does not mean that God does not like the rest of those that ran and forsake them. God loves all his children. He is not the chosen one by God, he is the elected one by the people. There is the tendency of using the name of God in our desire to impress on people. There is no room for this in political issues. Politics is politics and as simple as that. We should not mix politics with religion. It is like oil and water. We must protect the image of God and not compare human beings to God or Jesus. This should be seen or taken as blasphemy.

There is so much to do in the next four years of this administration and no time to waste. The administration is anxious to begin with serious intent to do a good job within the time frame. They will not need any distractions from their supporters or non-supporters. They will also not need any blind support for reasons of one making himself or herself known to those in office.

We must accept the fact that they are leaders of the people of Ghana and not of the NPP; all of us regardless of our party affiliations should give them the support they need. We should deal with them with respect, honor and dignity.

We should not give undue praises, sing to their praises and feel as if they are non-human and cannot make mistakes. They will make lots of mistakes and their mistakes should be pointed out professionally and with respect.

President Kuffour has stated his desire to be President of all Ghanaians and welcome any suggestions from well meaning citizens and friends of Ghana. We have to take him up on this and work with him in earnesty.

Ghana after Senegal has demonstrated its political maturity and has laid the foundation for peaceful change of Government. This trend should be seen to be followed every four years. The foundation of a democracy is its political prowess and Ghana has demonstrated this.

The major legacy of the previous regime is the political and social stability in the country. This should be seen as an achievement and should be continued. The previous regime has also done good work in the economic arena. There are many projects unfolding in the country and the new government should continue the process and not abandon all projects as was the case in February 1966 or after each and other coup in the country. There will, of course, be modifications in each project but projects should not be cancelled or left to die naturally for lack of attention to continue. Public funds are being used for the development of these projects. Any project or projects that are to be abundant should be fully explained as to the rationale for such a decision. There are too many left over projects in the country and this should not be the case in a constitutionally changed government.

It should also be known that the promises made by the NPP during the campaign cannot easily be fulfilled because of realities in politics and economics. We should not expect too early delivery from the Government. They should be given time to study and adjust their agenda. We can work on these together as a people. There is no quick fix.

It is also important to point out that the successful economic development of the country is not only the work of the Government in power; yes, the government should provide the enabling environment for foreign investment, but the success lies heavily on the people. The Government should be able to assist the people to start their own businesses, encourage and support serious minded business people and provide the incentives for the promotion of small and medium scale businesses in the country. These create employment. Private sector economic development should be the priority of the government but the people should be sincere enough to take advantage of any programs established by the Government and not abuse it.

If loans are offered, those that receive loans should feel obligated to pay back. Those that are currently owning should know that they will be called upon to make payments.

We welcome the new administration and we hope that they should know their role in the society as servants of the people and not masters of the people. We should make sure they do understand this and the only way to do that is to give them respect, honor, humility and not unwarranted adulation.

Paul B. Abudu,Ph.D.
Founding Executive Director
African Institute of Strategic Studies
Web: aiss40.tripod.com

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.