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16.02.2002 Feature Article

Wanted: A New Breed of African (Ghanaian) Leaders

Wanted:  A New Breed of African (Ghanaian) Leaders
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The expected and desired change in government Ghanaians prayed for and dreamed about has come. The expected improvement in their welfare is yet to come. However, it appears that the desired change in the attitudes and behaviors of elected officials will not materialize. The sympathetic, humble and sensitive nature that can give cause for hope to the masses is blatantly missing. The arrogant “me first”, “I am the boss man and everyone should bow” attitude that characterized most African governments typified by Jerry John Rawlings and his NDC administration (not forgetting his wife) is still prevalent. Everyday folks have been told to tighten their belts for decades and are still being told to do so. Meanwhile elected officials behave as if Ghana owes them a certain standard of comfort and lifestyle. The prime minister of UK Tony Blair travels on a BA plane. Meanwhile JJR and Kutu Acheampong before him had bought new presidential planes for Ghana, one of the poorest countries in the world. Many African presidents travel in style in executive and ‘very presidential’ jets. Meanwhile in a “who is who” of the world poorest countries Africa has no rivals. JA. Kuffour has reconditioned the old presidential jet for short haul travel. One would not be surprised to read or hear of a newer or modern jet for long haul travel. The provision of executive bungalows for government officials, directors of public institutions and even lower level civil (they are so uncivil) servants is the norm in Ghana. Perks, (official and unofficial) called protocol in Ghana that is provided to elected officials can make any ‘five star brokeman’ salivate and buy/steal/bully/coerce/connive/shoot his way into office (any office). The kind of leadership that Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela and a select few in Africa provided their people is missing in present day politicians. The sacrificial leadership that recognizes that resources are scarce and should be handled prudently is absent in presidents and latter day leaders. Senior Minister J.H Mensah is reported to have remarked that as an MP, he is not expected to visit his constituency with his wife on a bicycle. No one expects him to do that but certainly not in a $20,000 car. How many Ghanaians can afford a bike, how much more a $20,000 car? If the cocoa farmer demands a $20,000 car before he grows his cocoa and the fisherman demands a $20,000 boat before he goes fishing, where will Ghana end up. These men (cocoa farmer and fisherman) are not elected officials but they perform vital functions sometimes much more vital than some of these elected (and barely elected) officials. MP’s and other elected officials should not forget whom they are representing. President Kuffour travels at every given opportunity. A president definitely has to travel but must be prudent in which of the invitations to accept or reject. No wonder people are speculating that he travels for the sake of the per diem. Africa (Ghana) is endowed with a lot of resources but we are very poor. It takes sound and prudent management to harness the limited resources available to African countries to ensure improvement in the standard of living of the masses. We are tired of begging and living in poverty. If we are poor let us all live as poor people; elected officials, public servants, presidents, ministers, etc. The President of the University of Kentucky refused to accept his bonus of $100,000 in 2001. The bonus was to be paid if he achieved certain targets specified in his contract. Not only did he achieve the targets but also he exceeded them. However, he could not accept the bonus because there was a shortfall in the university’s budget and staff and other salaries had been frozen. I can’t imagine JH Mensah doing that. I don’t foresee JJ Rawlings emulating this honorable example. No, our elected officials (JJR et al) act as if the country owes them. Professor Atta Mills the humble Christian, law professor and latter day NDC vice president took home 4 cars as end of service benefit (ESB). JJ Rawlings the man who denounced ownership of more than one toilet took home uncountable cars, cash and mansions as ESB. He decided to stay in the most expensive room in the most expensive hotel when his plane was diverted to Canada on September 11, 2001. He had the temerity to ask the Ghanaian taxpayer to pick the tab. The bill included among other things towels he had swiped from the hotel. This was a private visit. The same man who accepted a jaguar gift from someone will definitely not turn down an earned bonus of $100,000. No, not this man who thinks Ghana owes him. God save Africa (Ghana) from these leeches that call themselves our leaders. What Africa needs is a new breed of leaders. Men of integrity, (not the akatamanso type integrity), who when they say yes, remains yes and no remains no. Self made men that will not seek political office to enrich themselves at the expense of the masses. Yes, a new breed of leaders!
Kwame Appiah Yeboah Lexington, Kentucky

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