Ahead of the curve: The case for age-adjusted leadership in Ghana

By Michael Nana-Kojo Appiah
Article Ahead of the curve: The case for age-adjusted leadership in Ghana
SEP 29, 2023 LISTEN

In the realm of leadership, age is a crucial factor that merits careful consideration. We must contemplate whether the highest office in the land should be entrusted to individuals beyond a certain age. In the context of Ghana, a nation on the cusp of tremendous growth, it is vital to evaluate whether individuals above 70 years should be eligible to run for the presidency. This article explores the multifaceted reasons behind advocating for a constitutional review to address this pertinent issue.

Advocates for inclusivity in governance must grapple with the undeniable fact that aging brings with it a host of cognitive challenges. Forgetfulness, a common occurrence in older age, can significantly impede the decision-making process required of a president. Advocates for inclusivity in governance must confront the multifaceted challenges that come with aging. These encompass a decline in physical abilities, like mobility issues and reduced stamina, potentially limiting active participation. Moreover, older individuals may grapple with technological advancements, hindering their access to vital digital platforms. Communication hurdles, stemming from hearing or vision impairments, can impede discussions and comprehension of governance matters. Established mindsets and deep-seated beliefs may resist change, potentially stalling progress in governance initiatives. Interactions between generations can lead to misunderstandings, potentially impeding effective collaboration. Varying life priorities, such as retirement and family responsibilities may alter availability and commitment to governance responsibilities. While the president may have the benefit of a cabinet and advisors, the ultimate responsibility for critical decisions rests squarely on their shoulders. In an era of fast-paced global change, can we afford to risk delayed or misguided decisions due to cognitive.

Similarly, it is crucial to acknowledge the physical demands of the presidential role. The presidency is not a figurehead position, it requires stamina, verve and resilience. Leading a nation involves extensive travel, public appearances and the ability to engage with diverse groups of people. These demands necessitate a level of vitality that may be challenging for someone above 70 years to consistently maintain.

While age brings wisdom and experience, we must also consider the potential for a generational disconnect. Ghana, like many nations, is experiencing rapid technological advancements and shifting social dynamics. A president's ability to understand and respond to these changes is crucial for effective governance. The risk of being out of touch with the realities faced by the younger generation must be addressed.

To appreciate the potential ramifications of having an older president, one only needs to glance at history, both in Africa and Europe. The examples abound leaders who, in the twilight of their years, may be tempted to act in ways that serve personal interests over the collective good of their nations. In some African states, we've witnessed elderly presidents steering their nations down paths of stagnation, hindered by a reluctance to adapt to the evolving needs of their populations. Consider the case of Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe's extended tenure demonstrated how entrenched leadership can obstruct progress.

Europe too bears witness to this phenomenon. Take, for instance, the late Robert Mugabe's contemporaries, who, in their twilight years, governed with a mindset of 'I have seen it all, and there's nothing left to aspire to'. This sentiment can lead to decision-making that, while personally gratifying, may not align with the best interests of the nation. The implications of such governance decisions often extend beyond the individual leader to impact the very political parties they represent.

Now, juxtapose this scenario with a leader in their 50s, still brimming with vitality and a clear understanding that their actions will be subject to scrutiny. A leader at this juncture in life is more likely to be attuned to the long-term interests of their nation, cognizant of the active years still ahead. The prospect of being held accountable for their decisions not only fosters a sense of responsibility but also encourages policies that serve the greater good, rather than fleeting personal gain. It prompts the question: Wouldn’t we all prefer leaders who approach their role with a sense of enduring purpose and accountability?

Advocates for maintaining the status quo may argue that a capable team of advisors and ministers surrounds the president. While this is undoubtedly true, it should not be a justification for potentially placing undue strain on an elderly leader. The burden on advisors and ministers to compensate for cognitive or physical limitations is not conducive to optimal governance.

In reevaluating the age eligibility for presidential candidates, Ghana has an opportunity to align its leadership selection process with the demands of a rapidly evolving world. A constitutional review that addresses this issue would demonstrate a commitment to ensuring that the highest office is occupied by leaders who can meet the demands of the present and future. Let us embark on this path towards a more inclusive, forward-thinking approach to governance, ultimately securing a brighter future for Ghana and its citizens.

To end, It's important to emphasize that raising this concern is not an attempt to cast aspersions on the current administration. Recognizing that the incumbent president may fall within the age bracket in question, it's crucial to underscore that this discourse transcends any one government or political party. Instead, it speaks to a broader concern for the future of the nation, a commitment to ensuring that Ghana continues on a trajectory of progress, adaptability and sustained vitality. This discussion is a proactive step towards safeguarding the interests of future generations, paving the way for leaders who can navigate the complexities of our evolving world and are equipped to navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Michael Nana-Kojo Appiah
Columnist, Politics Comparativist, Climate Change Consultant