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Opinions of Monday, 22 May 2017

Columnist: Kwaku Badu, UK

Is Ex-President Mahama the finest messiah the NDC really need in 2020?

Following their 2016 humiliating election defeat, the NDC party faithful are somehow undergoing a process of grief.

Apparently, we have been witnessing unbridled reactive emotional responses from the NDC die-hard supporters over the past few months.

We have also been observing how the NDC supporters are urging their leaders to do something about the painful election defeat.

Somehow, the grieving supporters have been lamenting: "We’ll not vote if you fail to bring the former president (Mahama) back ".

So, the crucial question is: Is former President Mahama the only capable leader in the NDC Party?

Predictably, there is an ongoing tussle over the choice of a popular flagbearer to lead them to recapture the elusive victory in the 2020 General Election.

Once upon a time, the general belief was that leadership was a trait from birth and more so leadership was only ascribed to tall, handsome and well-connected individuals.

Obviously, that was an utter misconception. The fact of the matter is that leadership skills can be acquired through schematic tutorials or routine training.

Take, for example, the most recent research interest has been focusing on relationships between leaders and followers, with some experts on the topic stressing the need to study followership.

This has been argued over as useful, not so much because all leaders are also followers, but because modern notions of leadership place considerable emphasis on the power and importance of followers in legitimised leadership.

What is leadership?

Leadership can be considered to be the personal qualities, behaviours, styles and decisions adopted by the leader. In other words, it concerns how the leader carries out his/her role. Hence while the role of leader can be described in a job description, leadership is not so easily pinned down (Waldman and Yammarino (1999).

Waldman and Yammarino observe that early investigations, which focused on the personal characteristics or the behaviours of individuals who emerge as leaders, were followed by those that considered the influence of situational factors of leadership behaviour.

The all-important question then is: with so many people purporting to be leaders these days, how do we distinguish between a true leader and a demagogue?

To be able to do justice to the preceding question, we must pause, reflect summarily and ask: what is it that a leader is actually trying to achieve?

Apparently, a true leader wants nothing more than to make people independent, as leaders in their own rights. And instead of trying to intoxicate us with his or her rhetoric, a true leader reflects our own light back to us.

More importantly, a true leader always comes up with pragmatic ideas with a view to transforming the lives of his/her subordinates.

Biblically, for instance, Moses was a true leader. We read in Exodus that he was a shepherd - a rather unpretentious beginning for the man who would speak to God.

He kept watch as thousands of sheep grazed the fields. Moses noticed that one sheep was missing and went off to look for it, finding it at a distant apart.

When the sheep had finished drinking, Moses lifted it onto his shoulders and carried it back to the flock. When Jehovah God saw this, he became aware that Moses was a man of reason, empathy and selfless devotion, a man truly worthy to lead His people; a man who would put his empathetic qualities at the disposal of the needs of his subordinates.

After all, no one was keeping an eye on Moses; Moses could easily have thought to himself, “why be concerned with one sheep when there are thousands”?

Experts stress that, although, each leadership style has its own merits and de-merits, true leadership draws much attention since it contributes to firm innovation, organisational learning, and creativity skills (De Jong and Den Hartog, 2007).

Moreover, some scholars have examined leadership in various disciplines (Yammarino and Bass 1990). They nonetheless define leadership in terms of idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration (Nemanich and Keller, 2007).

In addition, scholars observe that true leaders act as role models, motivate, provide meaning, optimism, enthusiasm, strategic thinking and stimulate the intelligence of their subordinates(Bass, 1985).

Experts explain the first component, idealised influence, as charisma (Schepers et al, 2005); whilst a few scholars mentioned the first two, idealized influence and inspirational motivation as charisma (Kark et al., 2003).

Other scholars however maintain that true leaders exhibit idealised influence and inspirational motivation (Kark et al., 2003).

It must, however, be emphasised that idealised influence portrays a true leader as most respectful, reliable and meritorious, shows characteristics of setting vision , articulating it to accomplish and describes leader’s risk sharing with their followers in line with ethical principles (Bass et al., 2003).

And what is more, inspirational motivation explains how true leaders encourage their subordinates to strive for the ultimate goal (Bass et al., 2003).

Whereas the component, intellectual stimulation, explains how true leaders promote their subordinates innovative and creative skills by solving problems head-on (Bass et al., 2003).

Clearly, one cannot help, but to agree with those who insist that former President Mahama lacks effective leadership skills.

The sceptics however contend that it was due to former President Mahama’s poor leadership qualities that a GH9.5 billion debt in 2009 rocketed to an incredible GH122.4 billion in just eight years.

Moreover, the critics maintain that former President Mahama’s irrevocable errors in decision-making accounted for Ghana’s economic downslide. For example, Ghana’s GDP shrunk from $47 billion to $37 billion in just five years.

Somehow, Ex-President Mahama’s decision-making came under sharp scrutiny when he abysmally dragged an economic growth of around 14 per cent in 2011 to a nauseating 3.6 per cent as of December 2016.

Furthermore, the sceptics have been arguing that former President Mahama and his government’s woeful errors in judgement and alleged corrupt practices resulted in excessive public spending, less efficient tax system , needless high public deficit and destabilization of national budgets, heightened capital flight and the creation of perverse incentives that stimulate income-seeking rather than productive activities.

On the whole, the critics contend that former President Mahama’s government remains the worst ever in Ghana’s history.

Nevertheless, the loyalists of former President Mahama hold a faint hope that they could bring him back and recapture power from the NPP in 2020.

Well, I am not qualified to advise NDC’s Party stalwarts on their choice of a suitable flagbearer, but all that I could say is that, judging from the harsh economic conditions Ghanaians experienced during Mahama’s coarse administration, and the outcome of the just gone election, it will take a miracle for discerning Ghanaians to vote former President Mahama in 2020.