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21.07.2019 Article

John Dumelo, A New Ronald Reagan in the Making? Possibly

By Ernest Armah
John Dumelo, A New Ronald Reagan in the Making? Possibly

It is official. John Dumelo has picked his nomination form to contest as a parliamentary candidate for Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency. If he successfully cruises his way to victory in the primaries, he will face off Madam Lydia Alhassan in the 2020 parliamentary elections.

Some interesting parallels exist between John Dumelo and Ronald Reagan; I will also point out areas of divergence as I explore the similarities. Reagan was adored by Americans in the 30s and 50s for his silky voice and natural flair on movie sets. He was an amateur who went on to become an inspiring movie superstar for dozens of upcoming stars. Despite these early on successes, Reagan was arrested by the plight of supporting players in Hollywood. The injustice was too much for him to overlook. In his own words:

“As far as I was concerned, some of the studio bosses were abusing their power. Throughout my life, I guess there’s been one thing that’s troubled me more than any other: the abuse of people and the theft of their democratic rights, whether by a totalitarian government, an employer, or anyone else”.

Reagan will go on to serve as the President of Screen Actors Guild twice (1947–1952; 1959–1960) fighting against injustice, fascism and communism; before moving on to become the 33rd Governor of California (1967–1975) and the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989).

Dumelo sauntered into the Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency with a ‘eat-and-hug’ strategy, focusing intensely on the young population. Initially this triggered negative reactions on social media, as some people felt that he was using his star power to breach the personal boundaries of especially young ladies. Those reactions, at best, should be an alarm to us, that our society is becoming toxically impersonal such that one requires a bureaucracy to exact a gracious gesture.

Climbing the leadership ladder, from the grassroots to the upper-most rungs can be very demanding, but it is also the most rewarding. What pushed Reagan to the oval office was not his personal ambition, it was Americans’ ambition for him. He earned their loyalty and confidence through several years of hardwork, compromise, sacrifice, active listening and dedication. He simply availed himself for a national assignment.

Through former President and current flag bearer of the NDC Mr. John Mahama, Dumelo had access to key party platforms to sell himself to party members and Ghanaians in general. He cultivated a public expectation of him going into active politics, then went on to fulfill it. Whilst Reagan was ushered into the political arena largely by his rhetorical impact on people, Dumelo's is by the weight of his physical appearance and presence - tall, handsome, amicable and of course, arguably, his appeal to the young female sex.

Dumelo’s natural advantage may earn him the votes and get him into office. But the inner practitioners of party politics and the overall governance territory will demand more than that. For instance, his tweets on marijuana legalization and church matters in Ghana can upset a strong conservative constituency he has to appeal to. This has nothing to do with the rightness or wrongness of what he sought to champion, but his apparent lack of appreciation for the rigorous process of lawmaking that takes into account, among others, evidence and sociocultural ethos, became obvious.

The position he is after will require that he strikes a conversation and listens as twice as much as he feels compelled to tweet about causes he feels strongly about. This is what makes a legislator a true representative of the people. The position is not for you to speak your mind but the mind of the constituents you represent.

Dumelo’s leadership path to Parliament seems sketchy. Most Ghanaians came to know him through movies, but in the political sphere, Ghanaians will seek to know him through the standpoints of performance, impact and representation.

Reagan as President of the Screen Actors Guild fought for justice and equity and ensured that those who found themselves in weak bargaining positions were protected from exploitation. He gave Hollywood 8 years of his life. The question about what Dumelo has done for the industry that put him in the spotlight can be easily navigated by a cleverly crafted PR now. But if his political ambition transcends a short stint in parliament, an unsatisfactory response to the question might perfectly fit a description of him — ‘an opportunist capitalist’ — by some people at the other political divide and create disaffection for him in the future.

Having said that, Dumelo does not necessarily have to mimic Reagan’s path to political leadership; but harvesting the lessons is a must.

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