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Opinions of Friday, 30 September 2016

Columnist: Enimil Ashon

Ah, if Nkrumah were alive!

By Enimil Ashon

In this article, I am only thinking aloud – in a profession where thinking is allowed. And I am thinking about leadership; to be precise, leaderlessness in a family or a nation.

Why does the Bible ask the sluggard to “Go to the ant”?

If, like me, you have not seen an ant in 20 years, don’t worry. Go to Odawna or Kokompe, both in Accra or Suame Magazine in Kumasi? They are clusters of mechanics’ workshops. Indeed, you may not need to go so far. Visit any artisanal workshop and observe proceedings for only 15 minutes.

What makes the leadership story of ants outstanding is that they have no brains. Artisans have brains, but in Africa, they are generally regarded as dropouts who chose to be mechanics for want of anything else to do. But I have been driving for a while so, naturally, I see auto and air-conditioning mechanics quite a bit.

On more occasions than I can remember, I have stood in awe at the sheer display of leadership qualities at Odawna, Kokompe and Suame and wondered why our Schools of Business and Departments of Human Resource Management of our universities do not apply to send their students to them for industrial attachment.

There, at these workshops, you do not need to ask to be shown who is the boss, who is next and who is the latest apprentice. Like monkeys, they play by sizes. They know who is a ‘Master’ (not Kwesi Pratt’s “massa”) or who is a ‘Senior’. Among the junior apprentices, it wouldn’t take more than five minutes to tell who is the least or the just-arrived. That’s leadership.

And, my God, does it work!

About nations, I ask myself, how come that among Heads of State of Africa, we mention Kwame Nkrumah and Nelson Mandela with respect and so much fondness? In today’s Africa, why is it so easy to isolate Paul Kigame of Rwanda and John Magufuli, Tanzania's 'Bulldozer'?

Among listeners to Citi FM’s Breakfast Show, I do not know anyone who has recovered from the shock effect of the interview with that Rwandan public servant who was in the country a week ago for a conference of some sort.

Shocked because our experience in Ghana makes us think it is impossible to achieve the following:

• Zero tolerance for littering – as revealed not necessarily in the said interview, but also by Ghanaians who have spent a few weeks in Rwanda.

• In Rwanda, it takes six days to register a business. If the waiting goes beyond six days, then there is something seriously wrong and you have to report it. Your complaint can be tracked because applying to register a business is done online.

• All land in Rwanda is digitised and zoned. To apply for the land, one does not need to go in person to any Land Commission or Land Title Registry. Like registering a business, everything is done online. It is the physical contact that breeds corruption.

Let’s turn to Tanzania

• President Magufuli slashed the budget for a state dinner to celebrate the opening of Parliament. The money saved was used to buy hospital beds.

• Told that cholera had killed 74 Tanzanians, he cancelled his country’s Independence Day celebrations to save money to fight the cholera outbreak.

• Insisting that most of what government officials travel abroad to do can be done by Tanzanian embassy officials in their countries of accreditation, Magufuli has banned foreign travels for most government officials. For instance, he reduced a bloated delegation for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta FROM 50 TO JUST FOUR !!

• At any rate, he has decreed, “ALL OFFICIALS, except the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister, SHOULD TRAVEL ECONOMY”.

• No more driving of government limousines to villages on private visits;

• The President has ordered that government meetings and workshops be held in government buildings rather than expensive hotels. Not only that; he has also restricted the amount of refreshments allowed at official meetings to only juices and water. “You can take your breakfast at home!" he says.

(Please note. The Tanzania President’s nickname has no relation with any application of brute force. He became known as "The Bulldozer" for his success in driving a programme to build roads across the country).

Is it not admirable that after being in office from 1951 (Leader of Government Business) through 1966, Kwame Nkrumah left office with no private mansion of his own? Even his clothes were property of the Republic of Ghana!!! He left behind for Ghana, more than 200 factories which successive Presidents have sold to balance the budgets and satisfy their greed.

My emphasis in this article is that these accomplishments are not necessarily those of a President; they are the habits and accomplishments of a “leader”. It takes vision.

Isn’t it significant that ever since Jerry Rawlings’s confession (US$5million gift from Abacha), he has already started fading from our memory as a leader?

The problem in Ghana is that a President, Prime Minister, member of Parliament MP or minister who refuses to be corrupt is considered “a fool” and vision-less by his/her own family. It didn’t start today. Check from Ayi Kwei Armah’s book ‘the beautiful ones are not yet born’.