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16.06.2016 Feature Article

Pastor Mensa Otabil Finally Comes Back To His Senses

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Speaking to his congregation on the subject matter of leadership, specifically “generational leadership,” Pastor Mensah Otabil, the founder of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC), had this to say among others:

“Good leaders must be accepted, bad leaders must be rejected…When you accept a generational leader, you embrace their values and you cannot reject what you have accepted.”

Well, this topical homiletic indictment of African leadership from Pastor Otabil is nothing new, really.

As a matter of fact, it is a highly controversial and difficult subject matter he has harped on now and then throughout his long career of political entrepreneurship, public speaking, and clerical shepherdship.

But this one represents an interesting break from his more subtle or nuanced topical homiletics on partisan politics.

And as we said before this subject matter is a familiar terrain for the outspoken juggernaut Pastor Otabil, at least for those of us who have read his litany of books, listened to his cassettes and DVDs, and religiously followed his long clerical shepherdship career with rapt interest and curiosity, given also that among other things some of our most cherished, closest and trusted friends are prominent members of his church who occupy various capacities and roles as counselors, pastors, ushers, system analysts, preachers, and so on.

Even so he, Pastor Otabil, and other well-known Ghanaian Christian clerics such as Dag Heward-Mills, the founding president of the Lighthouse Chapel International, have all used the example of Dr. Nkrumah as a leadership model in their sermons.

However, in this highly topical speaking engagement of Pastor Otabil with his congregation, the latter did make mention of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as a model leader. This is not surprising at all.

Of course, again, this is not the first time he had mentioned Dr. Nkrumah as a model leader. He had on a number of occasions done this. Here is what some web portals attribute to him, Pastor Otabil:

“Dr. Otabil cited Ghana’s first President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as one of the best generational leaders Africa had, who had a positive impact on many first-generation African leaders…”

Again, this is hardly surprising because this is also the opinion of the larger world, his [Dr. Nkrumah’s] having been ranked amongst the world’s best leaders and greatest Africans, with Africans acknowledging him as “Africa’s Man of the Millennium,” etc.

Yet one still wonders why Pastor Otabil has not done this in a long time.

We are not too sure if it is because Ken Ofori Atta, co-founder of Databank Financial Services, a bank on whose Board of Directors Pastor Otabil sat, and lawyer Samuel Atta Akyea, both relatives of Akufo-Addo and J.B. Danquah and both members of Pastor Otabil’s ICGC, with Akyea reportedly being the latter’s attorney, have been whispering into his [Pastor Otabil’s] ears.

Akyea has also reportedly been cited in some media reports as one of Pastor Otabil’s speech writers.

Notwithstanding all the above, one of Pastor Otabil’s close and respected colleagues and friends, engineer Robert Woode has written an interesting small book, titled “Third World to First: By One Touch: Economic Repercussions of the Overthrow of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah,” to demonstrate how Dr. Nkrumah’s policy strategies would have transformed Ghana and placed it amongst the developed nations but for the ominous intervention of the Western-backed coup d’état.

Elsewhere, Prof. Lungu’s four-part series “Only Mad 60-Year Olds Fault Kwame Nkrumah for Ghana’s Development Quagmire” also provides an insightfully indispensable snapshot of this exquisite thesis on where Ghana would have been if all those leaders who succeeded him had vigorously pursued Nkrumahist development economics, political economy and fiscal policy ideas!

It is in this larger context that Kwabena Yeboah, a Ghanaweb commenter and one of our readers, called a Ghanaweb columnist Sydney Casely-Hayford “a complete fool” when the latter wrote a column, “Siding with Our President,” to attack Dr. Nkrumah among other uneducated criticisms.

Here is Kwabena Yeboah (we have re-worded some parts for reading clarity, readability):

“Any idiot can pick up a pen and spit out buffoonery…People who lack intelligence and are perfidious in their self-inflated image. This bozo has the temerity to cast absurdity at Dr. Nkrumah with a fit of acknowledgment of the foundation Dr. Nkrumah laid for modern Ghana.

“Freedom of speech is like a priceless pearl to swine. Because they do understand its value, they trample over and destroy it.

“Ghana, my country would be heaven by now if one-half of all our post-Nkrumah leaders were able to replicate half of Nkrumah’s advancements.

“How come some Ghanaians are so stupid and mindless?

“With Ghana’s life expectancy pegged at 61 years, I am hoping Mother Nature does us a favor and rid my country of such idiots and buffoons sooner than later.”

Undoubtedly, the third paragraph constitutes one of the direct corollaries of Prof. Lungu’s recent write-ups on Dr. Nkrumah, the four-part series which we have already referenced.

Evidently Yeboah sees what Pastor Otabil did not see, which is that Dr. Nkrumah’s model leadership is both specifically generational but, perhaps also, more generally and importantly, transcends time.

And of course, many of the positive and good things we associate with the African world and the world at large, today, can be traced directly and indirectly to the vision and pragmatic politics of Dr. Nkrumah.

The demise of Apartheid and the decolonization of Africa are just two teachable instances.

Indeed, Dr. Nkrumah was and still is incomparable. Among other commendable accolades he was a leader par excellence. And by every imaginable standard!

And Pastor Otabil was and is also, indeed, right to cite or acknowledge him as “one of the best generational leaders Africa had.”

Thus, we have no doubt in our minds that Pastor Otabil was in one of his best moments when he pronounced this commendable posthumous citation on the Greatest Son of Africa, Osageyfo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

Pastor Otabil himself has learnt a great deal from this Greatest Son of Africa. He should therefore ask his colleague clerics to do the same.

What actually remains to be done, however, is for him, namely Pastor Otabil, to whisper into our presidential candidates including President Mahama, to reach back into our immediate post-colonial political history and learn from “Africa’s Man of the Millennium.”

Here is another of his trademark pontifications:
“When you accept somebody, you accept his value, I know that no one is perfect, I’m not perfect, but a leader must get the major things right, I mean everybody has a problem but your [leader] problem must not be big…”

And yes, an influential generational leader like Dr. Nkrumah got “major things right.” This was Prof Lungu’s (and several others”) central thesis also.

Once again, this may be why Pastor Otabil cited him as “one of the best generational leaders Africa had.”

There is no timely and better advice than this simple fact of our contemporary history.

In the final analysis, then, Pastor Otabil is more than right to acknowledge fallibility in the complex character of humanity even while still acknowledging human “sainthood” and exceptionality among a fallible multitude of outliers.

Thus, it is quite okay or painfully truthful to give the fallible “saints” in our mist the benefit of the doubt. Here we agree somewhat wholeheartedly with George Orwell who noted as far back as 1949 that:

“Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent…Sainthood is also a thing that human beings must avoid…the average human being is a failed saint.”

Dr. Nkrumah with all his faults was, indeed, a “saint” who lived above Orwell’s “average human being.”

Ghanaweb. “Reject Bad Leaders, Accept Good Ones…Otabil.” June 13, 2016.

Francis Kwarteng
Francis Kwarteng, © 2016

The author has 578 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: franciskwarteng

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