Tue, 28 Oct 2008 Feature Article

An African shall lead them….

An African shall lead them.

Within the span of 12 hours, less than 2 weeks ago I attended lectures given by Cornel West and F. W. de Klerk in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. That is how fast paced and small our world is now. Both speakers highlighted important issues of race, education, conflict resolution, good governance and continued globalization and its threats and opportunities. We were at once in South Africa and the process by which Apartheid was dissolved in the spring water of hope in a country burdened by the demons of racism for so long. West also got us weighing the American election and its potential to symbolically but definitively transcend the bogey man of race in what Afrobeat music legend the late Fela Anikulapo -Kuti called “God's own country” – the USA.

As America agonizes over its increasing diversity and what it means, Ghana moves towards its election next month hoping to elect a leader who can truly transform our nation into one in which our daily administrative procedures are not enslaved by corruption, which is the single thief of the rights of Ghanaians. The words, bandied around in the USA race are generational, transformative and post –partisan. The whole world is at the threshold of something truly new. It is a time when old ideas and “tradition” unchecked by scientific and scholarly evidence have less and less to offer. In the American south and elsewhere in the heartland, tradition could be substituted for racism and its destructive assumptions of Aryan superiority and its reflection of black inferiority. In Ghana, tradition could mean corruption, non-evaluative anecdotal thinking and the absence of a clear vision and ethos for our ever growing nation.

The Bush Doctrine is dead. If there was a place for its successful application, it would be in Zimbabwe, Sudan, Tibet and Myanmar. It was a dangerous doctrine and to make it more destructive, it was poorly applied. We stand on the threshold of greatness as a world community. The whole world is hoping to cast a vote in the American election as F. W. de Klerk observed when he spoke at the University of Alabama. This is such a strong feeling because whatever virus America catches infects the whole world. We have learnt this most recently from the sub-prime “virus” and its derivatives such as the SIVs, CDOs and CDSs that have almost destroyed the international banking system.

If Mr. Obama, a son of Africa and America is voted in by the American electorate only 15% of whom are black, it will signify America's true calling as a the leader of the free world. Its processes will be seen by all to be rooted in open government, based on purely on issues and merit. It will be the most effective government program to transform a still displaced race struggling to find its place at the table 40 years after the place was seen in a dream by Martin Luther King. The Black elite of America initially dismissed Mr. Obama because he was not “black enough”. This was of course, totally irrelevant. They had been snared by the very racism and discrimination they complain about every second of their waking lives. They backed the establishment and tradition.

In 1957, those who backed the establishment lost in Ghana. We are now at a point, where we must choose leadership that will free us from our own self-inflicted wounds. We need leaders from a new generation, with new ideas, a new work ethic and a new vision who will usher in a re-birth of Nkrumah's proverbial “African Personality”. Mr. Obama is living proof of the essence of the African Personality, in his temperament, his values and his determination. He is running to free America from its own internal demons. Ghana's electorate have an opportunity to reject the old ways of accepting mediocrity, inefficiency, no accountability, corruption and general indiscipline as our traditional way of doing things. There are two questions important in the race in Ghana. The first is: “How do you treat your country?” This speaks to responsible citizenship, an essential engine of growth and productivity. The second is a more familiar, “How does your country treat you?” This addresses the expectations that citizens have of their government. The latter is the vote winning question but the former is what any progressive visionary plan should focus on. That is the element of inspiration, which moves people to give more than they have for their country.

The re-birth of the CPP, as bumpy as it has been, offers the electorate the best opportunity for transformational change in Ghana. Its leadership is the least invested in keeping things the same but have they been inspirational enough to swing the electorate their way?

The NPP has had its heart in the right place but its crop of leaders has presided over a period of relative adherence to “traditional” approaches to problem solving, with the exception of its record on human rights reform. On corruption, it has failed to transform the institutions that matter to the extent that the very security of Ghanaians is now at stake. The NDC established the framework for a great deal of what we count as progress at present but how can yesterday's man who stood by during human rights abuses, really lead us to a new Jerusalem? The NDC does not seem to understand that without a public mea culpa on its human rights record, Ghanaians will be ever wary of them.

Nkrumah ushered in an era of change in Africa. Barack Obama holds the promise of change for the global society within his grasp. It is a brave new world out there but the electorate has got to believe in the vision. Are we ready for the ride? Recently, in Benin, a relative political novice, Boni Yayi won over 70% of the vote without a formal party affiliation. Sadly, Levy Mwanwasa who purged Zambia of it's corrupt traditions passed away in August 2008. He was a stalwart of the new generation of leaders unwilling to accept the complacency and corruption which was eating up Zambia from within. Generational change in leadership is definitely on the rise in Africa. This must give Dr. Nduom and re-born CPP some faith that this could be their time. Their message must be a complete and radical departure from the politics of the past. We need to rebuild the country. Those who do not realize that the country has been destroyed by years of misguided policies have the wrong diagnosis and hence will prescribe the wrong treatment. As long as our declared policies and their implementation live poles apart, we are not ready for change. For all the politicking, the leader who effectively erases the gap between policy and implementation will be the driver of the bus of transformation to its true destination in Ghana.

The 2 major parties have failed to erase this implementation gap. Will the re-incarnation of the first party to truly bring us transformational change over 50 years ago deliver again? An African shall lead them but who shall lead us?

Dr. Thaddeus P. Manus Ulzen

[email protected]

October 27, 2008