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Opinions of Monday, 11 April 2016

Columnist: James Kofi Annan

Akuffo Addo reloading Atta Mills

Last week I predicted that Zenator Rawlings will be Ghana’s president one day. I am inspired purely by her winning ways, despite all her battles. Don’t worry that some people gave a political twist to the article.

This is how far Ghana has become. Everybody is a political Doctor, reading politics into every breath I take.

One of the most resilient leaders we have had as Presidents in Ghana is Professor Atta Mills. And please kindly note that I’m not talking about his performance. I have chosen not to discuss the performances of my subjects. I will like to focus only on their fighting spirits.

You will recall that in the late 1990s and 2000s the NDC was nearly torn apart because of Professor Atta Mills. Goosie Tandoh and Kyeretwie Opoku took one part of the party away, to establish the Reform Party, while Obed Asamoah together with Bede Zeideng tore the other half to form their own party DFP.

Dr. Obed Asamoah who was once nearly the most powerful person in the NDC became the greatest obstacle to Atta Mills. What was more discouraging was that his own Central Region people did not vote for him. Atta Mills fought a lot of battles, including his own health.

In my view, success or failure is not defined only by the outcome of the final event, but the events leading to the final events also. It is not only the achievement of goals, but the challenges one had to overcome in order to achieve greatness.

To me if Nana Akufo Addo becomes the President of Ghana, that will be one of the biggest political achievements for any individual in Ghana, probably not paralleled even by Atta Mills.

Unfortunately Ghana is destroying its own pillars of emulation. We are not making any effort as a country to inspire younger generations, using heroes, dead or alive, to tell stories, that Ghana is worth dying for.

We are allowing partisanship to destroy our heroes and their legacies. If someone is not part of us then let’s demonize him, to the extent that sometimes we don’t care about the consequences on our national development.

Akufo Addo left his law practice in France at a young age of 33. His aim was to join in the effort to fighting to restore constitutional rule in Ghana. After over 40 years, he is still fighting.

Forget about whether you like him or not. Forget about what political party he belongs to. Just focus on his fighting spirit, from Acheampong regime through to Rawlings, until Ghana returned to constitutional rule. He contested J. A. Kufuor in the NPP’s presidential primaries in 1996, and lost.

He served in Kufuor’s government, and after eight years of Kufuor, he is contesting for President for the third time. Akufo Addo is arguably the most vilified Ghanaian politician of all time, being branded with all kinds of names, yet he is still strong, and he still pursues his dream.

This is the kind of fighting spirit that we should encourage our children to have. This is the kind of role models we need in our society, an enduring spirit, a resilient personality, a person faithful to his dreams, a believer of mankind.

I travel to America several times each year. I have heard of the American dream. I’m yet to hear any convincing definition of what really is the American dream.

Of all the confusing explanations I have heard of the American dream, what I make of it is their “can do spirit”.

That is the dream. They never give up, and they believe that they are giants, regardless of their circumstances. The blind believes in the American dream, that he is fully capable of becoming the president of his country.

The Woman believes she is absolutely capable of becoming America’s president. The blind Steve Wonder became one of the greatest musicians of all time, because he believed in the American dream.

The American dream is nothing but a believe in one’s self, that it is doable, regardless of the circumstances.

A story is told of a young man in Winneba who has been nurturing Parliamentary ambition since his childhood.

He has already made an unsuccessful attempt at becoming an Assemblyman in his area. He is currently an NDC Constituency executive. Today the person I’m referring to might not have achieved a lot.

There is a good sign of disappointments, frustrations, youthful exuberance, as well as a good amount of successes. By not giving up he is creating his own path of achievements. By not giving up he is demonstrating to history that he can be counted in.

Currently Akufo Addo faces the biggest challenge on his way to becoming the president of Ghana. His party, just like what Atta Mills faced in the NDC, is at war with itself.

The two most important persons in the party, the Chairman and the General Secretary, have been suspended. His party lost their Upper East Regional Chairman in a most brutal of circumstance sparking off national roar.

It is believed that he faces his last attempt at the presidency. These are all potent obstacles that should break him down. If Akufo Addo should win this years presidential elections, he stands the chance of becoming Ghana’s most successful politician of all time, not because no one has won the presidency before, but because of the events heralding his quest to become president.

Young people who are inspired by themselves, those who are inspired by their own spirit, and those who are inspired by their own circumstances are entrepreneurs no matter their occupation.

They create wealth in their spirit, and add value to their obstacles. They believe in their own American dream whatever that means, and refuses to give up on it.

In the year 2001 when I was handing over as the National Programs Officer of the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), there were two key students contesting for the NUGS presidency – Dr Edward Omari Boamah, then a student at the University of Ghana Medical School who is currently the Minister of Communications, and Edward Bawa, then a student at the University College of Education Winneba who later became the PRO of the Ministry of Energy, and is currently contesting the Bongo Constituency seat.

Both candidates had very interesting backgrounds. Dr Edward Omari Boamah was the first medical student to contest the NUGS presidency. Edward Bawa was the first student to contest the NUGS presidency from a non traditional university. At the time the traditional universities were University of Ghana, University of Cape Coast, and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

In the end Edward Bawa won the NUGS election. But guess what? Edward Omari Boamah deferred his course, and came back the following year to contest again, and he won! Today he is both a medical doctor and a politician.

That is the spirit I believe every young person should have. Believing in yourself, and believing that what you believe in is pure and true.

Last week Dada KD is reported to have said he regrets not helping Sarkodie. He is reported to have told reporters that Sarkodie sought help from him but he did not see any musical potential in him so he refused to help. Today Sarkodie is one of the most successful musicians Ghana can boast of both nationally and internationally.

The point is that no matter how beautiful your dreams are, no matter how much you believe in your dreams, you cannot expect everyone to see what you see. You will face rejection. In Ghana the biggest challenge you are likely to face would include access to resources to push up your ideas, your dreams.

I personally help a lot of people in their quest to pursuing their dreams. But there are a lot of other people competing for the same small resources I have. So I give only to those I believe can make the most impact out of what I give, and I give only what I have. I’m therefore likely to reject many more people who hold greater potential than those I am able to afford to help.

But you cannot use rejection as excuse to abandon your dreams. Those who rejected you are not obliged to help you, and they are not responsible for your dreams, and they cannot be held responsible for dropping your dreams.

You should see rejection as an opportunity to excel, opportunity to prove a point, and opportunity to inspire your spirit. You need to keep trying, use another approach, and keep trying, again and again.

You need to feel the frustrations. You need to be challenged by the frustrations. You need to try for the last time, and for the last time again and again. One fine day you will start to have your breakthrough, and then you will try even harder, pushing yourself to no limit. That is the spirit of an entrepreneur.

So don’t stop dreaming, and don’t stop doing something about your dream.


James Kofi Annan