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Politics of Thursday, 11 January 2007

Source: Africa Week magazine

Commentary: NPP presidential hopefuls cautioned

Ghana's ruling National Patriotic Party's (NPP) National Delegates conference was the opportunity J.H. Mensah, a leading member of the party used to tell presidential hopefuls in the party to examine themselves to see if they are fit for the office of president of Ghana. Only after this must they put themselves forward for the race to find the party's presidential flag-bearer for the 2008 presidential elections. Mensah's sentiments will be shared by many in the country. He is also a man with clout in the NPP, and a recognised authority on politics in the country.

An NPP grandee of standing, his charisma and presence on the Ghanaian political landscape cannot be questioned. But he is a politician like those he admonished in his party and were he younger, one would not have been surprised to find him posturing like those he admonished for the soon to become vacant post of leader of the NPP and Ghana's next possible president, if the opposition do not trounce his party in the 2008 elections. In fact, Mensah himself has had a go at the presidential slot of the party in the past, but lost woefully. Mensah, a 79 year old veteran spoke about the standards and quality of presidential candidates. He asked those who have indicated that they are interested in taking over from current president, Kufuor to examine themselves and see if they have the qualities for high office. The fact that the party constitution states that every party member can apply for any position in the party does not mean, he added humorously, that everyone must apply! The NPP now has 20 people posturing to be noticed as prospective leaders for the 2008 presidential elections.

Mensah suggested that the qualifications for the leadership of the NPP are these; the party needs a leader who must show evidence of "solid accomplishment", win the confidence and votes of the electorate, especially the swing votes, and he must be able to "run an enterprise as difficult, complex and demanding as the Ghana project."

But in Ghana, and indeed Africa, this is not new, granted that Africa has seen leaders who were unqualified to lead their countries but thankfully, the nationals of these nations may be spared criticism on the grounds that these leadership failures came to power through military coups and violence sometimes. The qualification one needs to lead a country and do so effectively is not lost on Ghanaians or the wider continent. The need to modernise agriculture, health, transportation, education and the infrastructure have been issues since independence and the pace at which this has happened is alarmingly slow and the politicians are to blame for these failures. Mensah, a veteran Ghanaian politician falls in this group of politicians who are guilty of bad governance, poor planning and failing as a group to lead effectively. Africa's leaders suffer from serious lack of vision and inherent inefficiency. This has been a problem in the past with leadership on the continent and is a problem today. A good example of an excellent idea that needed solid planning and policy formulation, implementation and management is the so-called "tripod" in Ghana.

Dr Apraku and his NPP compatriots promised before coming to office that they would integrate agriculture and industry with the finance ministry, the tripod. The ministries will coordinate to build the agricultural sector to feed new industries and move the country's agriculture and food production and manufacturing industry up. It turned out this was not backed by any serious policy initiatives and tripod was never advanced. Ghanaians have heard nothing of this again. This is another problem. Africans need to assert their power and demand efficiency from their governments remembering that they put them in office. Consultants have come and gone, earned millions in dollars and sterling advising governments in Ghana and indeed other African countries on manufacturing, economic infrastructure development, developing water supply throughout the country, electricity shortages and solutions, education, healthcare and more. Half a century after independence, the basic commodities that Ghanaians should take for granted are not there, and there is no hope it will be there in the next 5, 10, or 20 years! The politicians have no vision to achieve any of this soon, something with the semblance of policy may be there on paper. The fact is, policy formulation and implementation has been weak since independence, and is the same today even under Kufuor.

Ghanaians and indeed Africans know what is wrong in their countries. Where we did not, the expensive consultants told us, and even told us what to do. Where they misled us, we have enough surveyors, geologists, economists, lawyers, medical scientists, educationists, accountants and other financial experts to work out the lie. The policies needed to be put in place and executed never existed and where they did, they were executed inefficiently or never executed. So, does it really matter who leads the NPP, or NDC or any other African country's political party in office? The known malaise is not healed, Ghana and the rest of Africa needs visionaries who really have the interests of the people and their well-being as a priority and not first, their personal political ambitions, their party's political success and then a shared determination by a group in a political party in power to do all it takes to stay in power.

Africa Week magazine and

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.