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Opinions of Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Sekou Nkrumah’s “Despicable Me”

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

Dr. Sekou Nkrumah, a member of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and third son of Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah, has further added to the agony of the NDC by telling Africa Watch magazine that the so-called NDC founder Jerry Rawlings, who ruled Ghana as both a military dictator and elected president for almost 20 years, is “Ghana’s best leader compared to ex-president John Kufour and present President John Evans Atta Mills.”

In a Mills presidency distracted by NDC internal preposterousness, Mills sacked Sekou within hours of his uncalled for denigration, as director of the crucial National Youth Council, demonstrating Mills’ strong-will and dynamism.

But at issue isn’t the sacking of Sekou. The implications are much deeper – bordering on leadership, stability and progress. The fact is Sekou is wrong. Sekou, a political novice to the complex Ghanaian political scene, also said Mills, who has ruled for just one-and-half years, has no “charisma, dynamism and strong-will to lead Ghana.” Sekou is also wrong, for democracy has a way of correcting all these inadequacies. Charisma or not, Mills was voted by Ghanaians, and democracy has to have its way till Mills ends his term. It was Mills’ “charisma, dynamism and strong-will” that saw him navigate through the rough terrain of the Ghanaian political topography to win the 2008 elections.

What got into Sekou’s head for him to add to the internal troubles of the NDC? It is sheer stupidity. In a way, Sekou is a copy cat of Rawlings, re-echoing what Rawlings has earlier poisonously said of Mills – that Mills is “mediocre,” “dull,” and “slow,” and by extension, lacks strong-will and dynamism. The fact is democracy doesn’t mix with such one-party/military junta bravado. This is the very man Rawlings virtually imposed on the NDC in the first instance and later became President. Why will today this same Rawlings say all disgraceful things about Mills?

As a PHD holder in African literature, Sekou is expected to show more sophistication than the high school mark off Rawlings. But, yet, as Rawlings himself will tell you, having worked with PHDs in his almost 20 years rule, not all PHDs can think properly or are emotionally and intellectually mature. Rawlings, like Sierra Leone’s Siaka Stevens, has disgraced some PHDs he worked with in public for their foolishness. Sekou is part of this low breed.

Sekou’s thinking reveals how he doesn’t know Ghana, has no deeper sense of Africa’s political history and might have forgotten how his father was overthrown in 1966 – gradually he became a tyrant and believed he was something of a “special one sent by God.” Sekou is contemptible. If Sekou says Mills is mediocre and Rawlings knowing this, especially so since Mills was his Vice President, influenced the NDC with his famed magic and bullying to elect Mills as its presidential candidate, and later Mills won elections and became the President of Ghana, then Sekou’s view that Rawlings is the “best leader” and “visionary” is farce. “Best leaders” do not play with mediocrity; they play with the first rate no matter their views, as US President Barack Obama did, drawing from President Abraham Lincoln’s experiences, by bringing first rate people into his government though some (like Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State) were his adversaries.

Rawlings imposed Mills in an apparent attempt to command-and-control Mills from behind-the-scenes. But Mills has deflated him in the power game and distanced himself from Rawlings’ poor image, which is worsening everyday. That makes Rawlings not “visionary” and not the “best leader.” Today, if Sekou says Mills is mediocre then Rawlings is as well mediocre, since in the view of Sekou, there were first rate NDCs who would have been better presidents than Mills but Rawlings run them down (that made Dr. Obed Asamoah, Rawlings’ Justice Minister, to resign from the NDC) and brutally schemed for Mills to head Ghana. Why didn’t Rawlings go for the best but the supposedly weak Mills? Because Rawlings, extremely power intoxicated and mindless, wanted to command-and-control Mills (Rawlings had attempted same on Kufour but Kufour snubbed him) but Mills out-smarted him and has maintained his independence.

The fact is Mills is first-rate leader and nature’s democrat. From continental giant Nigeria to Tanzania, Mills is part of the new brand of leaders emerging in Africa today who are humble, balanced, thoughtful, sophisticated, fair-minded, democratic, calm, non-aggressive, intellectually sophisticated, morally upright/God fearing, non-imperially threatening, in tune with universal governance practices, and at home with African traditional leadership values of consensus building.

Nigeria’s late President Shehu Musa Y’Aradu, Nigeria’s current President Goodluck Jonathan, Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Koroma, Liberia’s President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, Botswana’s President Ian Khama and Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete, among others, are the faces of the best kind of leaders emerging in Africa today. And not the Rawlings type of threats, bashful, violence, demeaning people, undemocratic, circling in their minds death, deviousness, and so semi-literate that they cannot comprehend higher issues wheeling around them and in their confusion paralyze their countries.

In “Reforming Leadership in Africa,” J. William Addai argues for the Botswana type of leadership attributes in reforming Africa’s leadership challenges, where the traditional is grafted with the modern. Mills and Kufour (including Prime Minister Kofi Busia and President Hilla Limann) demonstrated such best leadership attributes. And they are better leaders than Rawlings. As psychologists will explain, Rawlings transferred his personal failings, emotional disturbances and anger onto Ghana and muddled the whole leadership culture so much so that he find it difficult to differentiate between good and bad leaders as we see in his resentful dealings with Mills and Kufour, and his jaundiced opinion (as repeated by Sekou) that he is the “best leader” Ghana has ever had.

In African tradition, as the Asante and Yoruba ethnic groups reveal, tyranny is abhorred, and tyrants are quickly removed, sometimes even killed. The fact that Rawlings is a tyrant heavily disqualified him as the “best leader.” Globally, in modern governance practices, too, tyrants are bad news; they are danger to progress as we saw in Liberia under President Samuel Doe.

More seriously, Rawlings’ bad behaviour is counter to Ghanaian/African tradition and modern governance customs. Rawlings beat and disgraced his ministers and other functionaries, have been agitating the youth against personalities and inciting them to destroy property. So-called “Best leaders” do not behave like that. If in Sekou’s universe that’s the hallmark of “best leaders” with their charisma, strong-will and dynamism, in the Ghanaian/African tradition and universally, it isn’t a way of leading people anymore.

“Hard, visible circumstance defines reality,” the journalist-thinker Lance Morrow quoted John Kenneth Galbraith, the American economist, as saying. Realistically, it was the wrong perceptions of strong-willed and charismatic leader in Africa, as Sekou might have imbibed from his father and Rawlings, that brought about years of tyranny, fear, destructive dictatorships, threats to life and threats to the foundation of the state to the extent of some African states exploding, and generally very poor governance regimes. The never-ending predicaments of the Democratic Republic Congo are as a result of this.

In such an environment, as Galbraith’s hard reality indicates, the African Big Man syndrome rapidly nurtures the likes of Rawlings, who grow quickly and with the help of sycophants and tribalists, juju-marabout mediums and other twisted spiritualists (and the likes of unsophisticated elites like Sekou), believes and thinks they are God sent, extraordinary ones, or something like that. And in the long run destroy their country.

The new face of Africa’s leadership corrects all these destructive one-party and military junta type of “strong-will, dynamism and charisma” mumbo-jumbo by nurturing leadership styles of consensus–building, intellectual sophistication, better grasp of Africa, non-aggression, calmness, moral worthiness, high thoughtfulness, humility and non-imperially threatening environment.