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Opinions of Saturday, 25 March 2006

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Aliu Mahama's Ghana

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, in Accra, looks at Ghana?s Vice President, Aliu Mahama, who is using Ghana?s democracy to fire a new development re-think

The development problem with Ghana and Africa has variously been pinned on leadership, especially whether leaders understand their environment. As Ghana?s democracy and human rights develops, leaders of all kinds are sprouting up, freed from years of fear, intimidation, harassment and coercion created by one-party regimes and brutal military juntas.

The unassuming Vice President of Ghana, Aliu Mahama, is fast emerging as one who has thorough grasp of the leadership challenges confronting Ghana. Ghanaian television networks constantly show Mahama either helping to clean the filth of the urban areas or challenging elites to re-think Ghana?s progress from within her values or making Ghanaians aware that certain aspects of their culture which entangles their development process need to be refined.

All year ? roaming the country-side, sleeping and talking with the rural poor, confronting development challenges ? Aliu has been working at hammering together inevitabilities ? enjoining the politically obsessed Ghanaian media to look more and more at challenging development issues such as sanitation, for one. Not so long ago, the idea of confronting Ghana?s development process especially looking at inhibitions within the culture that have been entangling progress was marginal, leaders talk big but did not understand the cultural currents wheeling Ghana?s process. In Mahama, the era of anti-imperialism has given way to looking within the Ghanaian/African environment for solutions to their problems.

Today, as democracy and human rights opens up the development process fields, heralding the increasing democratization of communications and the right to communicate, in Mahama, the question of whether certain aspects of the Ghanaian culture has been holding back the country?s progress and whether the elites understand this and are bold enough to confront them is constantly unraveling.

With full grasp of democratic characteristics, with sometimes blur of headlong energy and rough creativity, Mahama is increasingly transforming both the office of the Vice President and Ghana?s nascent democracy. It has been an amazing performance and a display of discipline, seeing him help clean the filth at Ghana?s two top cities - Accra and Kumasi. He is increasingly making Ghanaians aware that their development problems need to be understood holistically from within their experiences, history and culture. And that should be demonstrated by their leaders across the land: in Kumasi, Mahama teamed with Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11, and other leaders to clean up the city?s mounting filth.

Since Ghana got independence from the British in 1957, democratically elected governments have been few compared to one-party autocratic regimes and brutal military juntas. As such the work of the Vice Presidency, apart from some few constitutionally mandated functions, has not been open practically to Ghanaians. At most instances, the Vice Presidency has been in the dark, overshadowed by the enormous weight of the Presidency, making the Vice Presidency seen more or less as a suit-and-tie thing, with big talk and less action. Armed with his training as a building technologist, Mahama is increasingly overturning this, soiling his hands and interacting with the rural folks and deliberating with them about their development challenges.

Mahama envisions a Ghana that is clean and healthy, fully connected to his cherished Information Age, connected to the rest of Africa (He is fascinated by Botswana?s development strides, which is largely rooted in her cultural values, and have been citing it to buttress his Pan African vision of Ghana), holistic and balanced, disciplined, where traditional values connect to the future, where the inhibitions within her culture are refined in order to free the people from long-running ancient ignorance, fear and erroneous thinking in their progress. Mahama hopes to get to a place beyond poverty and violence and moral decay by leaving behind the long development misunderstandings: a renewed Ghanaian/African civilization in the 21st century, a wholesome Ghanaian/African civilization driving Ghana?s progress.

Which came first ? Mahama?s vision of the future? Or his calm personal ambition? Which one drives the other? The nearest answer is that how can we know Aliu Mahama from Aliu Mahama. Mahama may decide to run or not to run in 2008 for the Ghanaian presidency. Public opinion of him succeeding his boss, President John Kufour, is not very high in a ruling party with high cabre leadership candidates. Whether or not he becomes Ghana?s next president in 2008, Mahama has transformed the Ghanaian Vice Presidency, dispelling the notion that the Vice Presidency is an inferior office. Whatever his fortunes in his bid for the presidency, Mahama has the Ghanaian genius for reinventing himself.

Two years into the expiry of his office, Mahama has proved himself an impresario of leverage in using the Vice Presidency to enrich Ghanaian democracy and open up her development process, a sort of hothouse genius. Ghanaians may discover in 2008 whether Mahama can evolve outward ? as truly popular leader in the hot Ghanaian air.



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