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Opinions of Thursday, 19 January 2023

Columnist: Nicolaas C M van Staalduinen

Does the world or Africa need old presidents?

A photo of some African presidents A photo of some African presidents

I think we can all agree that being a President is not an easy job.

Being a President means often having:

• Working days of 10-12 hours
• Working weeks of 6-7 days
• Short and often interrupted holidays
• All kinds of social events to attend on your formal off days
• Always being prepared to be contacted and interrupted from the day in the office until the day you leave.

There are additional responsibilities especially in Africa where being a President also gives you other duties like attending funerals and church/mosque visits.

To me, this sounds like a job for the fittest only who are prepared for 4-8 or 5-10 years to put their family aside to give their abilities to the job.

I have worked long days, weeks months and years but being on “standby” 24/7 for 365 days a year sounds to me like a nightmare. At my height of business performance at an age between 30 and 45, my “normal” working weeks were mostly between 10-15 hours daily, but I have never been able to function 100% without uninterrupted sleep of at least 7 hours a night and periods of rest and relaxation every few months.

I can’t imagine how a 60-70 or 70-80-year-old person, even if he/she is in general very fit can function well in a very demanding job like being a President.

Looking at the current problems with “forgotten” state documents by two old Presidents, also exposes that elderly people forget and don’t remember what they are doing.

One could say knowledge of an older president can be compensated by the strength of the people around him.

I remember an old President, Ronald Reagan’s mental state declined so much that his not democratically elected nor appointed wife was actually advising state affairs.

Looking at Ghana, we have a history of young, elderly, and older presidents.
In our 1992 Constitution, we also have a minimum age to become a president. And although we have maximum age (retirement age) for public servants and judges, we lack a maximum age for Members of Parliament, ministers, and the president.

At this moment, we have presidential candidates on both sides of the political arena aged between 65 and 73 years of age. But our elections are still 2 years ahead of us.

I am 65 years old, still business-wise and politically interested and involved, I follow the local and international news and consider myself quite well-informed. I retired at the age of 60 from the European Business Organisation and at the age of 61 from my part-time job as a director on the board of the Ghana State Enterprises Commission. Currently, I am also a part-time active as Honorary Consul for 2 days a week.

But I wonder, will I still be interested to work after the next 2 years? Will I be able to work in the next 2 years? Will I still be enough computer and social media literate after the next 2 years?

I have 2 children ages 26 and 28, they are telling me, Papa, you are getting too old, you are using only 10% of the capacity of your computer, mobile phone, smart TV, vehicle intelligence, etc. So I conclude, I have a certain disconnect with younger people.

I am sure most people of my age are the same way disconnected from younger people.

So my question is, why do people my age group and older still have the ambition to run for president of a country where the majority of our population is under 25?

Can a president in his 70s connect with our youthful Ghanaian population?

I also wonder, what motivates our youth to vote for all these old people?

I conclude by blaming our constitution and the way elections of a flagbearer within parties is internally handled.

Both are not only blocking Ghana from having younger presidential candidates but also blocking a president that represents and understands the majority of the Ghanaian population: THE YOUTH!