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17.11.2007 Feature Article

Leadership Qualities: Identifying the Right Man for the Ghanaian Presidency

I wish to commence with this caveat: I have made a dogged effort to present this article in an unsophisticated manner, so everyone can grasp the concepts herein, as our nation's future and wellbeing is currently at stake. Come 2008, Ghanaians will have the opportunity to choose an altruistic leader, without the need to base their decisions solely on party affiliation. Although a tall order, considering the fact that our forays into democratic governance are not fully crystallized, Ghanaians may actually jettison their predictable patterns of voting, if a discernibly selfless leader emerges and presents a viable and enduring plan for economic growth and political stability.

There is a truism that some people are born leaders, but I believe that anyone with enough dedication and the willingness to learn can become a servant leader. A servant leader is one who places the needs of his people above his personal aspirations and pursuits. An individual who desires to lead a nation certainly has great ambition, but if the principal goal is not to enhance the fortunes of the nation, then such a person will never exhibit the attributes of a servant leader. Selecting a president whose values are cathartic and all-encompassing; whose goals are to devolve authority to capable constituents and promote participatory democracy; and whose aims are to galvanize his people and increase patriotism, is a great responsibility that voting citizens should never trivialize.

Before the idea of servant leadership became a household phenomenon, most leaders were tyrants, and a cursory look at historical figures is all we need to prove this point. The Persians and the Greeks had used crucifixion to punish their adversaries — and their fellow citizens — long before the practice was copied by conquering Roman armies. Taking a lesson from modern history, Hitler and Mussolini were some of the 20th century's most savage and despicable leaders, whose poor leadership qualities not only wrecked their own lives and those of close relatives and friends, but those of their fellow nationals as well. And the less we say about poor and ignoble leadership in Africa, the better for our sensibilities. My contention is that getting the right man or woman for a nation's top job can either make or mar that nation, and the effects of bad decisions can last a generation or longer. Thus, choosing the right man for the top job in Ghana should be seen by Ghanaians as both a noble and somber responsibility.

Some people have said that one of the reasons the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 — the invasion was predicated on an obviously erroneous intelligence report — was so Bush II will finish what Bush I had initially set out to accomplish in 1991: the destruction of Saddam's arsenal and the overthrow of Saddam's government. That Saddam met death in a most dehumanizing and humiliating fashion is a subject that historians will write about for many decades to come. In advanced democracies, such as the United States, Canada and Great Britain, citizens tend to cross over to elect a president from a rival party, simply because they see the greatest potential in that individual in regards to contemporary challenges facing the nation. In fact, because of the protracted war in Iraq, I am convinced that Americans will elect a president who, among other things, promises to bring a quick end to the Iraq quagmire. And such a person will be expected to deliver on his or her campaign promises, as a digression will only confine that individual to what Americans call “a one-term president.”

So, what kind of a leader does Ghana need presently? Based on the divisiveness and animosity pervasive in our socio-political life presently, Ghana needs a unifier: a person whose avowed position is that all Ghanaians are created equal, with an inviolable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of opportunity. Ghana needs a president who will foster national unity, as well as help lead a momentous effort through dialogue to completely eradicate the tribalistic and ethnocentric effusions and rhetoric pervasive in today's media, especially in the anonymous enclaves of cyberspace. Unless there is a collective effort to halt this decline into the abyss, the nation's primordial fabric of cohesion and oneness will eventually be destroyed.

Another important quality Ghanaians need in the next president is the ability to set long-term goals. Ghana has lately been borrowing money excessively from loan sharks, such as the IMF and the World Bank, and unless an unwavering effort is made to curb this gross dependency on foreign loans, national growth will remain a mirage for decades to come. For her size and income per capita, Ghana has too much debt. A concerted effort by a team of our best minds, a team put together by the next president, to carve a path of growth and prosperity for our nation, is urgent. With vast amounts of natural resources and the availability of large patches of arable land, Ghana should, by now, be earning enough foreign capital to pay down most of her debt, as well as be able to develop her own agricultural practices and implements for optimizing food production.

Our penchant for importing every household good or product is inimical to economic growth, and while the choice of buying from overseas or from local producers is generally based on profitability, the government, led by a president with foresight, can create a congenial economic terrain for local producers, by reducing taxes and becoming a large consumer of some of these goods. Ghana, at this point in her existence, should be manufacturing her own cars, but what are the economic incentives for any would-be car manufacturer? The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, with all the great minds on its faculty, is capable of manufacturing some of our most basic scientific products, such as tractors and other farm products. The sad truth is that corrupt politicians will rather purchase these products from overseas, so they and their cohorts can enjoy their kickbacks!

I wish to remind my fellow Ghanaian nationals that the English once referred to India as a place where the people were incapable of governing themselves! But today, India has become an economic and nuclear powerhouse, capable of deterring any foreign aggression. Indian professionals now dominate the field of computers worldwide. If computer experts of Indian descent were to leave the United States today, the business world will suffer a huge and irreparable loss. Ghanaians are also capable of distinguishing themselves in a relevant field, but such a goal cannot be achieved unless the government creates a congenial atmosphere for technology to flourish. Training students in science and technology without the infrastructure and opportunity to put their knowledge to practical use is just a waste of the students' minds. We need a president who understands what needs to be done in a world that is changing technologically on a daily basis.

If John Atta Mills wants to win the presidency, there are some basic goals he needs to pursue. The first thing he needs to do is give his word to Ghanaians that he will not turn into a vendetta-seeking leader, once elected. John Kufuor, like Jerry Rawlings, should be left alone once the former leaves office. There are not too many past presidents and statesmen on the African continent, and Ghanaians will soon be fortunate to have two! We can become an example to the rest of the continent by honoring our past presidents. As was seen in the United States recently, our past presidents can actually be sent on national assignments to promote the country's image. When a devastating tsunami hit Southeast Asia a few years ago, former Presidents Bush and Clinton — the former jokingly called the latter his son at the time — were sent by the current U.S. president to visit the affected areas on behalf of the United States. The move paid off politically: Most ordinary Southeast Asians polled after the devastation said they now had a positive view of the United States.

While erring political appointees should, of course, be held accountable, the present rhetoric calling for mass prosecutions when the NDC comes to power is callous, irresponsible and dangerous. Atta Mills can win the presidency if he garners at least 35% of the votes in the Ashanti Region, and wins the Central, Greater-Accra, Northern, Upper West and Upper East Regions. Winning half of the votes in the Ashanti Region is actually possible, but only if Atta Mills assures the NPP loyalists that he will treat the current president with utmost respect once the incumbent leaves office. The new president, no matter who that may be, has an arduous task, albeit a historic one, to lead by example, foster unity, and maintain the culture of free speech Ghanaians have so overwhelmingly enjoyed under the present administration.

In essence, Ghana deserves a great leader to lead the country from 2009 to 2013, and if he serves the people faithfully, he is sure to remain in office until 2017, because he will be re-elected. A diligent look at all of the candidates vying for the enviable position of president reveals a few men with the right temperament and knowledge to lead Ghana into the foreseeable future. It is our collective duty to thoroughly research the backgrounds of all the contestants — the NDC candidate and the various NPP aspirants — before choosing the right person for the top job. We cannot afford to elect a vindictive, menacing, cantankerous, megalomaniacal, irascible personality who thinks he has scores to settle, as the nation will simply retrogress socio-politically. The next president must also be a student of history, as it is the smartest way to learn about those leaders who had governed well and those who had not. Our nation's very survival is now at stake, and it is my utmost desire that Ghanaians will vote for the right man, not necessarily along party lines, but on the basis of the contents of the candidate's character. I hope to delve into other time-tested leadership qualities in my next installment.

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, in addition to two undergraduate degrees, holds a master's degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at [email protected]

Daniel K. Pryce
Daniel K. Pryce, © 2007

This author has authored 105 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: DanielKPryce

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