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Opinions of Friday, 23 September 2011

Columnist: Otchere-Darko, Gabby Asare

Africa Has No Time For Clueless Men Parading As Leaders

By: Asare Otchere-Darko

“Slavery, colonialism and globalisation have one thing in common - they exploit those who are weak but are rich in resources. They exploit those who allow others to determine their lives and their value as means to ends. We are resourceful people from a rich land. We have no reason to allow anyone to determine our goals and our policies. Our generation of Ghanaians and Africans must refuse to be victims of globalisation and become its beneficiaries and masters.”

The above words were delivered by Nana Akufo-Addo when he made a strong case in 2007 to be allowed the opportunity to lead Ghana to the next level – to fulfill the dream of our founding fathers for an industrialised Ghana with the capacity to offer decent jobs with decent pay for every citizen. He made a strong case for the need to transform the structure of Ghana’s economy and equally importantly on the principles of development in freedom.

Yesterday, 21st September 2011, marked the 102nd birthday of Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah. The spirit within Nkrumah, which some of us admired, was his unyielding belief in the ability and the can-do-spirit of the African. However, subsequent events left many wondering. He became an international symbol of freedom as the leader of the first black African country to shake off the chains of colonial rule; but ended up attacking the very freedom that he fought the ‘white man’ for the African. Nkrumah used his first five years from 1952 and his charisma, energy and urgency to inspire Ghana to the promise of greatness, evidenced by a rapid state-owned industrialisation based on the import substitution model (rather than private-sector led export-led industrialisation) and significant expansion of social programmes. However, within a decade there was decline on nearly every major front — civil rights, democracy, and the economy suffered — and he ended up offering to a hopeful continent a model of leadership and a paradigm of governance that left a 50-year legacy of, what I have termed, ‘Afropessimism’. He became an authoritarian, a remote leader and what I have also come to describe as the personification of the African tragedy of the 20th century. Precisely because, in my view, Nkrumah’s leadership epitomised the African dream that decayed, the political freedom that was won and lost, the promise that was missed, the economic experiments that led to our detriment, triggering a long, avoidable period of instability and mass poverty. In 1957, Ghana’s reserves were equivalent to $3.4 billion today for a nation of some 6 million people then. Ghana’s GDP then would be over $14 billion in today’s dollar. Our per capita income of $400 then translates into $2,480 today, far higher than the current $1,158 and this is after century of doing the same things the same way, producing and exporting raw materials. We have retrogressed on several fronts because of poor leadership and an annoying coyness against adding value to our raw materials. It is the only reason why per capita income fell over the next four decades, only to begin picking up this millennium, during the era of a Danquah-Dombo-Busia leader, J A Kufuor. Nkrumah’s leadership failed primarily because Ghana’s future direction at the time was driven not only by the vision of one man but without the checks and balances and support of institutional leadership. Ghana and, indeed, the whole continent of Africa at that time didn’t have any form of modern institutional leadership models and structures to guide and guard. Nkrumah, until his return to Accra in December 1947, on the invitation of the leaders of the UGCC, had no serious leadership experience. He had read about Marcus Garvey, studied under the radical Pan-Africanist, George Padmore, and had only theory, passion and ambition to drive him. Instead of tolerating the necessary challenges of multiparty democracy to help strengthen his own quality of leadership, he rather saw opposition as an unnecessary bother in his quest for greatness (whether that greatness was for Ghana, Africa or the self). Thus, as the leader of a new independent nation with no serious experience in multiparty democracy, what could have saved Ghana would have been the belief of the leader himself in the virtues and principles of multi-party democracy. Sadly, that was not to be. Tyranny was the result, sapping the energies of the people. Since there was no domestic multi-party democratic culture, conventions or precedence with regards to how a leader must operate and since he had very little appetite for the ‘niceties’ of liberal democracy, Nkrumah’s passion and vision alone could neither save him nor his model African nation. He failed as a leader and with that the hopes and dreams of an entire continent were lost and it would take another half century for that to be revived. Nkrumah’s leadership failings were what overtook his ability and his administration’s capacity to lead the process of rapid development and continental unity which he had envisaged and articulated to the admiration of many. But, this piece is not about Nkrumah, its relevance derives from the pioneering role that he played in cutting that path for 20th century African leadership, and the coincidence of the launching of President J A Kufuor’s leadership, governance and development centre around the birthday celebration of Ghana’s first leader. The last century failed Africa because Africa’s leaders failed Africa. On Tuesday President Kufuor summed it all up when he said that every leader after leaving office looks back at the good things he did, the mistakes he committed and the things he wanted to do but did not have the opportunity to do them. How do we ensure that future leaders do not fall into the usual African leadership trap of trial and error? This is where institutionalised leadership training can come in. The West may not ‘plan economies’ but they do plan leadership. President Kufuor was right on cue when he said Africa can no longer afford not to be deliberate in grooming its future leaders. Fifty four years after independence, Ghana has another opportunity, an even far greater one than we had at independence, to transform the lives of Ghanaians. This opportunity is not much of a political one but an economic opportunity. What is required, however, is the right leadership to lead Ghana to its manifest destiny. On August 30, 2007 at the Alisa Hotel, in his speech, ‘Why I Want to Lead Ghana to the Next Level’, Nana Akufo-Addo laid out what he viewed to be the requirement to lead Ghana to that long-awaited prosperity. I urge my loyal readers to digest what Nana Addo said and use it as a guide in defining the kind of leadership that Ghana needs. We cannot afford not to elevate the attributes of leadership from the hopeless list that has been offered by the disciples of propaganda and mediocrity. Nana Addo said, “The decision in December is about the choice of a political leader. Running a whole country is not the same as running a ministry of state. It calls for more than efficiency, hard work and good managerial skills. It requires that elusive thing called true leadership.

“The next President of the Republic must have an impressive record of political leadership, both domestic and global. In all humility, I can say that my entire career in politics has been about leadership. I have been in the frontline in the struggle against military dictatorship and the fight for democracy in Ghana and in the development and promotion of the Party. I have also been prominent in pushing the Ghanaian and African agenda on the world stage.

“Finally, that political leader must be able to articulate a vision that Ghanaians across party lines and beyond can confidently lock into and follow to the next exciting level of our development journey.

“The next [leader] must have the courage, confidence, competence, restraint, judgment, balance and purposefulness to be an executive leader. But I concede that personal attributes and noble intentions can never, on their own, be adequate to develop our post-HIPC economic situation. It requires more than old age, party loyalty, charisma, eloquence, acclaimed youthfulness, good looks or campaign cash to win elections to lead a country.

“The next leader must be able to stand and fight legitimate causes for both party and country. We need a leader who can transform the ideas and hopes of every man and woman of this country into our new reality, a reality where we stand erect as a nation together, on our own two feet.

“The mission of the NPP is straightforward and simple: we mean to create a future Ghana that will provide a model of progress for the rest of Africa and the world.

“To paraphrase the words of that legendary figure, our first President, Kwame Nkrumah, we see a future in which Ghanaians will show to the world that the African is capable of more than managing his own affairs. Ghana’s next step requires that we share a vision that takes us well beyond our immediate identities, to recognise Ghana’s significance as the star of Africa on the world economic, political and sporting stage.”

Nana Addo pointed out, “Today’s global city needs masters of commerce, whiz kids of technology and the genius of diplomacy to keep it working harmoniously. Ghana cannot afford to be left out. Thus, the Head of State must be able to understand and withstand the battle of words in the global marketplace of discourse abroad and draw from that rich experience to drive his people to get actively involved in the competition.”

To him, excellence is within our reach, “The next leader has no choice but to continue to usher Ghana forward as a nation where rights and responsibilities are instinctively respected; a Ghana where rules and regulations are humanely but strictly enforced; a Ghana where the whole nation will make a determined effort to bring quality and excellence to her development.”

Nana Addo stressed, “We must focus on excellence, the excellence that led us to the top of the global charts in cocoa exports, in tropical medicine, in educating our people once upon a time and more recently in global diplomacy. “

Ghana and indeed the world has no time for visionless leaders, leaders who come into office promising things they have made no preparation for and have absolutely no clue on how to deliver.

The author is the Executive Director of the Danquah Institute.

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