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Opinions of Thursday, 23 November 2006

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

Greatness Must Be Earned On Merit Not Conferred!!

As a student of leadership, I find it astounding, the kind of praises and adulation that is often heaped on folks who are given the responsibility to lead in Ghana. Africans have a tendency to heap all kinds of praise and titles on their leaders. I am reminded by all the names that were heaped on Kwame Nkrumah, Rawlings and now Kufour. In the end, what did these praises do to bring about effective leadership? Do we need leaders to meet our need to hero worship? What fuels the need to pour such praises and what purpose does it serve? Some are called great, some are called charismatic, some are called wise, some giants, all knowing, he that greets with fire, show boy, Junior Jesus and some, even gods. Mama mia!! Is this part of our superstitious psyche? All kinds of leadership confetti being freely, and in my estimation, carelessly, adorned on our so called leaders. Now, you would think that in the midst of this kind of obscene leadership praising fiesta, if not orgy, miracles will be erupting all over the place. Miracles that manifest in real life results. Instead what we see is a trail of failure, corruption, misbehavior, cronyism, deception, selfishness, insensitivity and sheer wickedness. Why praise these so called leaders richly, when our people continue to suffer inordinately and needlessly? Should praises not vary directly with achievements, thus improvements in the lives of our folks? Are we that desperate for heroes? Are we not destroying the leadership bar? Note that when the bar is destroyed, you can’t even set it low!

Let us take the word great for example, who is a great leader and what does it take? Is greatness conferred or earned? Why confer titles even when behaviors tell a starkly different story? Repeating a lie will not spawn truth. The American Heritage English Dictionary has several definitions for the word great. However, I opt for the following from among the lot as my definition of great: “Remarkable or outstanding in magnitude, degree or extent…. Of outstanding significance or importance.” If greatness of a leader is measured by his or her remarkable results and the way the leader carries him or herself in power, are we not going too far by recklessly conferring such accolades to every Tom, Dick and Harry. I don’t mind if a leader is said to have potential for greatness but to outright confer greatness is a dangerous move. Even if a leader fetches his or her water we say great. If the leader goes out and begs for handouts we say great. If the leader picks up a few ideas and runs with it, we say great. When these leaders fight amongst themselves, we say great! What then are leaders selected or elected for if everything they do is great? Should the results they produce not define greatness? Should their character not be factored in? What about their moral values? What is the profile of greatness? For all the shouts of greatness, how much remuneration are we coughing up? Has anyone seen the kind of pork that an ex-president of Ghana receives? Why is it that the president does not pay tax yet he or she can set tax policy? Why must we owe ex-presidents tickets for vacation overseas when the people can’t even afford good drinking water? This is the kind of wickedness in high places that riles me! So our sycophancy has even found its way into this fever stricken constitution of our.

Are there really any objective standards for measuring who a great leader is? Is it just another relative and subjective term that we can’t and will not agree on? I know that the word great can be relative or subjective but is that a license to use the word so loosely? Can we agree on some common tenets? It appears as if some, in their haste to sycophantically adorn their heroes with blooming praises, loosely use words like wisdom and great where they don’t belong. If and when one is asked to go clear his name in a democratic setting, and he responds by invoking tribe, is that greatness? If he calls for tribal tiff, is that greatness? If one is given so much money but has not accounted for a dime, is that great? If one forces his sub-chiefs to defend his position, right or wrong, is that great? If one champions an education program is that great? If the rest of the country sits quietly and watch this drama unfold, are they great? Are we saying that any ordinary person with power cannot do these things? What is so seminal or novel about these actions? Should greatness not be up and above the ordinary? Should greatness not be earned? Should it not be made of sterner stuff? Is this all it takes? If so, what does it say of the leaders who came before us?

We have been so depressed and starved for leadership that even when Anane the chief Bonker resigned, some said Kufour should be praised for that, even though most agree that Kufour would have saved Ghana and the NPP a lot of headache by dismissing the embattled minister. The latter action would not have indicated guilt but courage in leadership. This goes for Edumadze and a few others. Yet Kufour is already great right? Haba!! If a leader, does what he or she is expected to do, what is great about it? Should greatness not be up and above what any average mortal can do? I am reminded by a friend who said the golden stool is great so anyone who sits on it becomes great automatically. May the almighty save us! So why is any leader great for traveling overseas to beg? Even when we parade these chiefs for comical viewing by the west, we call them great for availing themselves for such parody? Ok, I concede that it is great comedy! Sure! But are these unsuspecting actors great too? Haba!

My brothers and sisters, we have to recalibrate the measurement of greatness and wisdom. But to do the latter, we have to have this debate on what leadership is! What is it suppose to do? Without knowing exactly the generally accepted expectations of leadership, these tags will continue to be misused by paid agents and sycophants to tell us otherwise. They’ve set the standard so low that even a smile from a so called leader is considered great. A leadership fart is of course a great breath of fresh air and welcome relief. With the bar so low, so goes any real expectation of remarkable results. Indeed, this is where the real worry ought to be. If we shower praises on our leaders and set the bar too low, they will take us for a jarring ride. Has this not been the case in Ghana? Tell me that I am wrong!! It is very dangerous to make a people believe that if an absolute monarch settles a dispute, he is great. It is equally dangerous to sheepishly confer greatness, as I. C. Quaye shamelessly did, when referring to Kufour. In the same vein, there is nothing great about organizing a coup to unseat a constitutional government with a cry for change, only to fatten up at the expense of the already suffering masses. Never mind the senseless and hateful murders of innocent Ghanaians. Greatness must be earned based on civil norms and accepted code of behavior. If violence has to be employed, it must be the last resort and in defense of the people not to exploit and blindly rob them. Greatness, must be up and beyond expectation. However, if we can’t define the expectations, how do we know if these folks have performed above the ordinary? So I ask with a sore throat, what do we expect of our so called leaders and how do we know that they’ve led greatly? I want specific factual parameters and not emotional and vague assertions.

My friends, this is not the time to confer greatness on anyone. Saying well done may just be enough. Our failed state is in need of serious repair. Leadership is sorely lacking in Ghana. So, instead of hastily singing adulations and conferring underserved titles, let us find time to revisit what effective leadership is, how we go about measuring it, and who has access to power and the right to lead. Just saying someone is great does not make them great. Repeating a lie or wish does not make it so. Pointing to initiated projects without any measurable results is just fawning. And since often, the results take time to show, why don’t we leave the issue of greatness, wisdom and discipline to the historians. Assessing greatness after one is out of power seems to be the right thing to do.

For now, our focus should squarely be on the work that needs to be done and the accountability that comes with. Let us tell these leaders, with one loud voice that their greatness will depend on how well they serve and seek the interest of the people. It will not be how well they constitutionally fleeced them and subsequently drove them into the abyss. We pay these folks a lot of money to get the job done and for that, we must demand flawless performance. If they perform to meet their pay, we cannot call them great. We need selfless leaders who understand what responsibility means and who pride themselves in billowing results not empty adulation conferred by free spirit sycophants. Sycophancy will not get the job done! It will instead hurt our effort to repair the leadership bar and raise it to a reasonable level. If and when we create low expectations for our leaders, we stand to sacrifice progress on the altar of sycophancy. If one is already great, why must he perform to seek greatness? Stop this sickening sycophancy! It does no help anything! This kind of reckless showering of praise and undeserved titles is not good for the all parties involved. It is certainly a lose/lose situation and great leaders will really shy away from such sycophancy from their followers. Keep in mind that leaders are made or destroyed by the follows, especially, those in close circles with the leader. It is one thing to say that one has potential to be great and another to say they are great already based on some kind of choppy achievements with a lot of negatives in tow. Let us demand performance from our leaders instead of heaping undue praise. They are paid to do a job and if they do that job alone, they cannot be called great. Greatness must be earned. Viva Ghana!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman
(AKA Da-Double----The Double Edge Sword)

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.