One African axiom which I enjoy so much is the one about how ‘a person drawing a line cannot tell how crooked it is’. Someone standing aside would be able to tell how straight or otherwise your line is much better than you can.
It symbolises being so engrossed in something that you are unable to see or think straight, thus making amateur mistakes you would otherwise not make. Over in America they call it tunnel vision, and it is why 22 million Ghanaians often believe they are better coaches than the person handling the national team itself.
Considering the above I felt it was the height of irony when former President John Agyekum Kufuor, speaking at a program of his John Agyekum Kufuor (JAK) Foundation, made the quote that “Africa has had rulers, but not leaders. Rulers never add to what they inherit, but leaders do”
It is a great thing our former president recognises this, and a pity that the African rulers do not recognise it when they are in power. Who knows, maybe ten years from today President John Dramani Mahama would leave us with another such snippet of wisdom because his tunnel vision has finally cleared.
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All issues aside though, truer words regarding African politicians have never been spoken. So many people aspire for leadership positions without realising that when they get there, they would actually have to lead! Even those who do realise, do not care because they probably have other motives for searching political office or leadership roles.
Let’s take a look at the state of Ghana now and ask, where is the leadership? We have prices going up and up, utility bills rising, and shortage of amenities which you then have to pay through the roof for. In the midst of that all we see are more loans procured for unnecessary side projects, and lack of accountability for these vast sums.
A great example of African leaders failing to grasp this phenomenon is the aftermath of Ghana’s world cup debacle. A leader accepts responsibility for his/her actions, failing that a leader holds those under them responsible for their actions too. The ‘leaders’ who were responsible for everything that happened in Brazil have not been held accountable for their actions, and their subordinates have not been either, rather being rewarded with new jobs or bumper contracts.
Why; Because of the quid pro quo culture that we carry to ridiculous levels in this country. Everyone in power owes someone, thus you probably cannot fire a subordinate without angering someone you need on your side. Our rulers in this country do not have the stones to take the unpopular decision for the good of the country.
Ministerial reshuffles are so common in Ghana, moving people around ministries like a chess player behind a board. A leader knows the strength and weaknesses of his men and put them where they can be best utilised, not to get them out of the way of a job they failed in.
Former President Kufuor put it in a nutshell, that “leaders add to what they inherit”. It is a pretty simplistic way to put it, but right in the end. And adding to it is not pointing to one or two roads you built at the end of your four years, but improving the overall standard of living of your people, whilst running things the right way. We have not seen that in Ghana, or most parts of Africa for a long time; and are not likely to anytime soon.
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