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Opinions of Saturday, 24 September 2016

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Politics, Dr Bawumia and my days as a great actor

By George Sydney Abugri

While I was teacher-trainee at the Nalerigu Teacher Training College in the 1960s, the campus drama troupe took a great stage act titled “The Wicked Uncle” on a highly successful road show in several regions. The drama portrayed the harsh conditions under which orphans lived in northern Ghana in the ’60s.

I played a bloke who befriended a philandering bank manager in the story and helped the manager burn loads of customers' deposits on scotch and women.

Whenever we took the show to a town, the town’s community centre {most district capitals had one} was the typical venue for the show. In educational institutions, the school’s assembly or dining hall was usually the venue.

In Nalerigu town, there was no community center in those days, and whenever we treated the town folk to the side-splitting drama, the large stone-brick residence of the late Lawyer Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia was usually the venue.

The inner court of the residence served as a theatre. Lawyer Alhaji Bawumia himself lived in Tamale most of the time with his family, including Dr Bawumia who I guess, must have been aged five or six at the time.

The late Alhaji Bawumia was one of the few Ghanaians of northern extraction to participate in national politics at the very highest level in his day and in his book Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia: a Life in Political History, he provides one of the most insightful perspectives of a northerner on Ghana’s politics.

A staunch member of the CPP, he served as Northern Regional Commissioner and later Minister of Local Government in Kwame Nkrumah’s government.

In his book, Dr Bawumia’s late father staunchly defend, the subsequent political career choices he made and asks young people from the north to do the same. Dr Bawumia has apparently taken him at his word!

I had never heard of Dr Bawumia until the man who had not made a single news headline in Ghana’s media as far as any celebrity tracker in town was aware, suddenly received a massive overdose of media publicity following his choice as the running mate of NPP presidential candidate, Akufo-Addo.

When he appeared on the scene, apparent media obsession with him was so all-consuming you could have sworn the man had invented a plane which flies under the ground and runs on coconut juice for fuel or something.

For months running, the choice of the then 44 year-young Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana Dr Mahamudu Bawumia as the NPP's vice-presidential candidate, sparked off an orgy of publicity for the man: His wide ranging accomplishments in academia, banking and finance.

Editors binged on the man's CV, one of the longest if also most impressive many say they have ever seen. Such was the media obsession with Dr Bawumia that some NPP activists had to remind all and sundry, that the name of the party’s presidential candidate was Nana Akufo-Addo and not Dr Bawumia.

Exceptional CVs are fantastic tickets to big time jobs but are they really evidence of a capacity for inspiring and productive national leadership? As someone said the other day, political leadership is not about speaking good English, calculating complicated mathematical equations or computing and analysing quantum statistics.

We have had six civilian elected heads of state since independence and apart from Rawlings, Kufuor and Mamaha, the rest have been PhD holders. How do we from our experience with each of them rate the “PhD Presidents” against the others in terms of good governance and general political leadership qualities?

Many academics will in all likelihood keep venturing into politics but there are reasons why most true academics will not touch partisan politics with a hundred-meter pole and prefer to stay virtually trapped behind the ivory tower all their lives.

For some strange reason many who have ventured out of academia into politics have lived to regret it with a groan and a sigh. They abandoned academia for a career in politics and came to great grief: Dr Obed Asamoah, Dr Josiah Aryee, Professor Wayo Seini, Dr K. Apraku etc

The great, great, grandfather of democracy, Uncle Sam, does not appear to have been enthused with “PhD politicians”. The US 44 presidents from George Washington to George W. Bush and none save Woodrow Wilson, the 28th US president, had a PhD!