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Opinions of Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Columnist: Adjei-Brenyah, Dennis

Leadership Challenges In A Developing Democracy

Leadership Challenges In A Developing Democracy: Expectations And Choices Ahead Of Us

By Dennis Adjei-Brenyah Esq.,

Attorney and Counsellor Law. New York

Recent History

The last time Ghana conducted pre-presidential leadership selection, the main parties engaged themselves in their own “internal” campaigning to select their candidates. The NDC, then in opposition, had some intense debate and challenges. In the end, the known and tested hand of Prof John Evans Atta Mills prevailed as the once again preferred candidate of the NDC leadership contest.

The internal dynamics of the debate for the leadership of the then governing NPP was far more dramatic. Seventeen (17) members of that party declared themselves candidates. Many party leaders were rightfully alarmed by this “plentiful” choice of candidates for the high office of the President of our nation. Thoughtful men and women began to see the seeds of dissonance and personality clashes to the detriment of the party and the nation. There were widespread rumors that Alan Kyerematen was the “chosen” or “hand picked” choice of the then President John Kufuor. He denied it. In the end, the vibrant internal democracy of the party sorted out the mess, and the choice of the party was expressed-- wisely. The dust from that fight has not fully settled. The candidate went on to mount a vigorous campaign for President. As we all know, he lost in a very close elections. My friend and Law Teacher John Atta Mills (and the NDC) won and he became the leader of our country.

Whatever one would say about him, John Atta Mills was well qualified to represent his party and our country. Lucky me---my friend and teacher runs the country today!

It is against these background “historical” facts that I present this comment on the critical issues of leadership in an evolving democracy such as ours. To the extent that my preferences are revealed in the shadows of this presentation, so be it. But, in all humility, and with due regard to opposing views and candidates, I am not engaged in any advocacy for any (specific) individual or individuals. I am merely engaged in -pardon me- an issue-based critical evaluation of the rather stunning self-defining attributes advanced recently by John Kwadwo Alan Kyerematen, a yet again contender for the nomination of the NPP leadership for the candidacy for President of our country.

On Governance, Human Rights and Related Matters

In a recent news item titled; “ I Will Create Jobs for Ghanaians,” I read on the web and traceable to the “Chronicle” newspaper, Mr Kyerematen is quoted to have boldly stated that “The competition for flag-bearer of the party is not about who has experience or knowledge in governance and human rights, but rather one's ability to solve the immediate and pressing needs of Ghanaians”

According to the news article, the candidate for the leadership of the NPP and our country, made these critical observations when he was addressing delegates in Kumasi as part of his campaign tour of the Ashanti Region. The struggle for the leadership and the soul of the NPP has begun -again.

The candidate is stated to have stressed that for him “unemployment and poverty are the major predicaments of the Ghanaian voter for which reason they would want to participate in the electoral process”. He wanted the delegates to recognize him as the one with the “expertise and competence” to have their problems resolved.

Mr. Alan Kyerematen is stated to have openly admitted that “even though he might not be well versed in the matters of human rights or governance” his major concern was to address “ the physical and psychological” needs of Ghanaians which, for him, are the issues of “jobs and money.” The news item again quotes the candidate as boldly claiming that :

“Ghanians are not interested in who has knowledge or experience in governance and human rights, what they want are solutions to their problems and what can be done to resolve them. Ask every Ghanian about about his major problems and see if governance or human rights is part of it.”

Assuming that this news item and the quotes attributed to him and asserted here are correct, I am compelled by my fidelity to the nation to advance the proposition that this self revelation by this candidate, is a stunning and ultimately tragic. Mr. Alan Kyerematen has declared himself unqualified to be appointed a Cabinet member- no, not even Deputy Minister – and definitely most unqualified for the high office of President! The NPP cannot and should not select someone who by his own admission, says he is not “well versed,” the vernacular for, “totally ignorant” about the very core of the job he is seeking: governance and human rights. The tragic reality dawns on us all (or it should) that this candidate describes himself as fundamentally and profoundly ill-equipped for the candidacy he seeks. Let us be assured that most of us – Ghanaians- prefer knowledge to ignorance as a general proposition. In the specific arena of political leadership for our country, I dare say, and put it to you, with unmitigated conviction, that we prefer tested experience in governance and human rights to one, who is, self-confessedly, not “well-versed” in governance and human rights.

The reason I began this piece with a brief historical recount of the last campaign for the leadership of the leading parties, was to advance the hope that this candidate has “grown” and “learned” the first principles of what educated leadership is about. The candidate's admirers and supporters had expectations that he, in fact, understands the concept of governance with an appreciable degree of sophistication. After all, that is what the entire political game is about. It is my submission, as humble as it is, that any High School student who has taken a couple of courses in Civics/Government/Political Economy should be able to advise Mr Kyerematen (and all candidates who profess ignorance of the fundamentals in play) that yes, indeed, “jobs” and “money” --”cash”-- are needed. Who questions that basic requirement for our existence? But jobs and money do not appear by waving the magic wand with some incantations thrown into it! Unless, of course, you live in the far-away Kingdom of Alanland in the Arabian Nights. You cannot put the cart before the horse and expect any movement. Mr Kyerematen's self-confessed inability to understand (not well-versed) governance is more than enough to disqualify him -emphatically- as viable candidate for the high office of President of our country.

On the Relevance of Knowledge and Experience in Governance and Human Rights But perhaps, even more tragic is Mr. Kyerematen's diagnosis of what “every Ghanaian” is supposedly not interested in: Knowledge or experience in governance. Pardon Me, What? It is precisely that, Ghanaians do want someone who has demonstrated knowledge and experience in governance and human rights matters. The party should, in fidelity to itself and the nation, look to select someone, who has“ knowledge and experience in governance and human rights,” as its candidate for the high office of President.

On the Party's Umbilical Cord Attaching to Human Rights

The NPP claims, with historically verifiable credibility, that it is a Party pedigreed on the Danquah- Busia-Dombo tradition: An unbridled affirmation of the finer tenets of Human Rights as principled bedrock on which the party is built. Our Constitution upholds that principle. Our evolving democracy is seeded in it. Our hopes are defined by it.. And yet, Mr. Kyerematen boldly asserts that in essence, he is ignorant and not well versed in the principles the NPP holds as central to its identity. Such expression constitutes a fundamental betrayal of the architectural foundations of the party and what it represents. No wonder he (Kyerematen) resigned from the party the last time he lost a competitive battle for leadership. By his own admission, he does not understand “human rights,” a cardinal principle of the party he seeks to lead in a presidential election. He distorts the position of the party. He disables himself as the engine-thrust of the party. Worse yet, by his plea of ignorance, he subverts the party. The reason we prefer a qualified doctor to do a proper and correct diagnosis of an ailment is so that the prescription for the remedy does what it is supposed to do. It helps a lot if the doctor has an understanding of the ailment -and the tested experience of dealing with such ailments Anything else is a recipe for disaster-even death.

On Voting and Participation in the Democratic Process.

Another thing: the candidate specifically refers to the “voters”, whose needs for money and jobs he says he is in “competent” to satisfy now. It is true that ultimately, all we say here and elsewhere, are subject to the determinative power of the voter. Incidentally, voting is one of the principal features of the concept of human rights as our Constitution captures it. Yet,a candidate with a good following,demonstrates that he does not care about it; or, in his own words,not well versed inhuman rights

There is a larger issue related to voters, voting,and governance where Mr Kyerematen sadly betrays another level of ignorance and self-disqualification as a candidate. The dynamics and the demography of our country show that the “voters” are a “ minority” as compared to the entire population. What it means is that our national concerns are not only expressed by the voter's participation and the electoral process but, also the needs of those who, by whatever, reason could not cast a ballot. Children under 18 come to mind. Their needs,as immediate and as pressing as they are, are really tethered to the hopes and assurances of a better future for themselves and their children. Ghanaians abroad may not vote in the incoming elections. They are no less concerned about the leadership and the direction of the country. The benefits of good governance, coterminous with the blessings of constitutionally mandated human rights are, what we, the people, are counting on. Such benefits should accrue to all. The needs of the now and the hopes of the future are defined and enriched by good governance. That said, those who qualify to vote, MUST VOTE and, as Dr.Busia admonished, VOTE WISELY. Your vote, wisely cast, carries us all forward.

Let it be clear: I do advocate for only the best and most qualified candidates. Those tested by experience in the challenges of governance. And, yes, the promise of human rights and all the defining attributes of “development in freedom.” Our democracy grows and is nurtured by those individuals who know what the mission is about. Our hope expands. And, isha Allah, God willing, we will prevail.

The author is a practicing attorney in New York. He is also admitted to practice law in Ghana.