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Opinions of Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.

Grooming Ghanaâ??s Future Leaders Today

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor, E-mail:

One of the major reasons why the various political parties cannot avoid internal crisis is their inability to groom their leaders to ensure a problem-free succession. Yet, they want to win and retain political power from one constitutionally mandated tenure to the next. This lack of training for prospective leaders is not good for the country’s democracy.

As an African proverb has it, “If a man wants to grow a long tooth, he should have the lip to cover it.” In the same vein, if we want our democracy to grow and endure, we must have a pool of leaders to manage affairs. And it is the political parties that must provide that pool of leaders if only they can institutionalize workable training programmes to begin grooming them. Ghana’s political history shows that no Vice President has ever become the country’s substantive President until Prof. Mills won the mandate about two months ago and is now in office as the President. What it suggests is that the country doesn’t have the kind of experience that will instill confidence in its people that someone with a prior acquaintance with the workings of government at the Presidency would be in charge of affairs. In other words, the Presidents that we’ve had so far have come to us through quirks of circumstance, not any well-planned mechanism of choice apart from the jostling that takes place at the parties’ Delegates Congresses in an election year. Forget about the military leaders.

We have all along counted on “luck.” Here is a run-down: In the First Republic, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was the President; he had no Vice President. Then, in the Second Republic—operated as a Parliamentary system of governance—we had a Prime Minister and a titular President who was more of a showpiece than someone with an executive power to run the government. This government didn’t survive.

In the Third Republic, Dr. Limann had Joe de-Graft Johnson as his Vice but that government did not complete its full term because of the military intervention that eventually led Ghana into its Fourth Republic. Up came JJ Rawlings between 1992 and 1996 with Kow Nkensen Arkaah as his Vice—following the marriage of convenience between the National Convention Party (a breakaway faction of the CPP family) and the NDC. Bad blood between Rawlings and Arkaah did not ensure any lasting relationship to provide for any rise by Arkaah. In his second term, Rawlings took on board Prof. Mills and virtually imposed him on the NDC through his “Swedru Declaration,” which triggered confusion and harmed the NDC’s chances at the polls. Kufuor worked with Aliu Mahama for 8 years but the former Vice President’s hopes were dashed at the party’s Legon congress. Now, he’s fallen into oblivion.

In all these instances, the unsuccessful Presidential Candidates in the other parties had also chosen their Running Mates, all of whom have so far sunk into political darkness. Think about the shifts that occurred from one election to the other when different candidates were chosen as Running Mates. Prof. Mills alone stood with three (Martin Amidu, Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni, and John Mahama). Considering the haphazard manner in which all these choices were made at each turn, one can say that they lack adequate provisions to encourage grooming.

The CPP is the worst of all the parties in terms of the pool of human resources to lead it. For all these years, it has been led by different Presidential Candidates and Running Mates at the various polls. No one ever knows who will be what. Those who emerge finally appear to be disconnected from the party’s own support base and virtually make a mockery of themselves. Consider the NPP’s case, for instance. All the 19 aspiring Presidential Candidates contributed in one way or the other to the fractious nature of their party’s political hustings and one cannot deny the fact that the fault lines that developed after that Legon congress are still visible. The former Vice President, for instance, was virtually disgraced and taken out of the equation. Had he been groomed from within the party, he could have been a better choice to lead the party. But the NPP allowed other considerations to torpedo such a move.

The NDC’s own moves to elect its Presidential Candidate since it attempted grabbing back the political power it lost at the 2000 elections showed some uneasy moments but Professor Mills always emerged as the choice. Some might attribute it to the huge influence of JJ Rawlings who has over the years preferred Prof. Mills to all other candidates. But the fact remains that Prof. Mills entered the race from a position of advantage, having served for four years as the Vice President and, therefore, could be said to have been better exposed and placed at a vantage point to outshine the other contestants. There are some mechanisms through which the political parties can begin strengthening their possible future leaders through internal training programmes. Other profitable avenues exist and should be used to give the capable ones the leadership qualities they need to move their parties on a consistent path toward viability. In all these efforts, the wider national goal of providing leaders for the country will be served. Here are some possible measures for grooming the parties’ future leaders:

The political parties must make investments—pecuniary, material and human resource—in their cadre corps so that they could be supported in all ways possible in their training. In that sense, the parties will build a strong pool from which to select their future leaders. After all, those who will emerge as the leaders would already have been imbued with the parties’ ideals and strategies for governance.

They will be better informed about the history and future aspirations of the parties and it will behoove them to lift high the banner of the parties. Such well-trained cadres will be expected to do the parties’ bidding within the context of national development. A consistent line of succession should be developed through this kind of training facility. Thus, the parties will save themselves the trouble of having to deal with hitherto unknown but powerful elements who emerge from obscurity to buy people’s conscience to become the leader, especially at election time.

Institutional support should also be provided to such people to help them get the best out of the facilities that GIMPA, the universities, etc. have. Regardless of their academic qualifications, they still need some form of specialized training in leadership and must be given that support.

Exposure to good governance through foreign collaboration and exposure—The political parties should have affiliations with others doing well in other countries so that their chosen trainees could be given some well-grounded training in governance from wider perspectives. The NDC does well in this case of affiliating with political parties in other countries (Germany, for instance) that share its social democratic credentials. Others can follow suit to broaden the scope for the benefit of their followers.

The parties should put in place strategies for recruiting such members to ensure their growth into viable leaders.

Strengthening the political base—At this point, it is obvious that all those mushroom parties that are not built on viable political visions or ideologies but personal hatred and parochial interests will not make any meaningful impact on the country’s democracy. They are just adding to the number and muddying the political waters.

It is advisable for them to identify the major political parties with which they share similar aspirations and to be willing to collapse into them instead of seeking to go it alone only to crack at the elections. Such parties as the DFP, DPP, RDP, and EGLE Party should not deceive themselves that they are viable. They will serve a better purpose if they collapse into other parties and save themselves perennial humiliation at the polls.

In the same vein, the PNC and CPP (or all others claiming to be pro-Nkrumahist) should stop wasting precious time and resources going it alone. They will serve Osagyefo’s memory in a better way if they stop being wayward, sink their petty personal (not political) differences, and rebuild the CPP front. Then, if we have three major political parties in Ghana, for instance, it will help the electorate make clear choices. As of now, anybody thinking of winning elections in Ghana as an Independent Presidential Candidate must have his/her head in the clouds. It won’t happen.

As the situation stands now, the parties have no opportunity for grooming leaders out of their followers and it is only at the pre-election congresses that people jostling for positions emerge. From hindsight, I can confidently say that that kind of free-for-all situation doesn’t work well for the parties themselves or the country, generally.

Nurturing our democracy into a sustainable system of governance to move Ghana forward demands that we have a consistent plan of action to groom our national leaders. There appears to be too much dependence on “luck” and ability to “pay the piper,” which shouldn’t be upheld any more. Once we know that our political culture can best sustain itself only on a platform of good leadership, let us prepare the grounds for producing such leaders. What is hanging up cannot be reached sitting down.

Our problem in Ghana is that we talk too much about good things but do little to get them achieved. We forget that a chattering bird builds no nest. If the hierarchies of the political parties dream of moving mountains tomorrow, they must start by lifting small stones today. Democracy is expensive and once we’ve chosen it, we must ensure that we build the proper structures to sustain it. He who looks for honey, must have the courage to face the bees.  Are we ready to do so? The future beckons.