Leadership, corruption and a country that is going nowhere – Part 1

The burnt out GOIL filling station

– how Ghanaian society made it so

“We live in a continent where we celebrate thieves and vilify good men and women”- Prof. PLO Lumumba

Leaders plan, leaders take decisions, leaders implement decisions, and leaders disburse resources. All these are done either directly or indirectly, but that is what leaders are supposed to do. How these are done will determine the progress or otherwise of the society. How these are done to a large extent, however, is determined by the character of the society from which the leaders are appointed. Joseph de Maistre puts it this way, “nations get the governments they deserve”.

Ghanaian social factors, (factors external to the leader as an individual), which determine leadership character and paradigm are threefold. The first is the process of choosing/selecting the leader, next is what society calls a successful leader and finally what demands are made on the leader by society. Most leaders will act (consciously or unconsciously) as per the dictates of these factors because that is the character of the society.

The first is the Ghanaian society’s process of appointing leaders. This tells our leaders directly or indirectly, how they should comport themselves once in office. In an Internet video that I watched recently about the installation of a chief, members of a group responsible for his approval were each given GH¢5,000 about US$1,200. People who want to be MPs in Ghana usually begin the process with payment of large sums of monies to their political parties before they are eligible to compete. Aspiring MPs also have to attend to various financial needs of the electorates. Our politics is not funded by central government. People are sitting in corners and using their money to fund political party activities, with an agenda. So, the politicians on both sides of the divide know that ‘Woyomeism’- the process of dubiously paying monies to party financiers for no work done, is a ‘normal’ political phenomenon for paying back the party financiers, except that they use it against each other in order to win power. This is how Ghanaians appoint our social and political leaders.

The next factor is what leadership success means to Ghanaians as a society. In Ghana, if you are the chief, you must have a fleet of expensive cars and houses. You are quietly mocked at if you could not build a few mansions before leaving the position of the DCE, MP, GES director etc. People appointed to leadership positions thus quickly know what is expected of them. For example, Ghana Airways, the national carrier was collapsing while managers and their families were enjoying free flights to various parts of the world. When that came to the attention of all of us, the company was no more. But as you read this article, those managers have built houses and bought lands that will last the third and fourth generations of their descendants. You know the DCEs and MCEs of your area, directors of town and country planning, medical superintendents of hospitals, and other government agencies and what they did for themselves while in office while the organization achieved nothing for society. Meanwhile, we hail these people who undermine our collective good, for their personal gains. We call them NANA, CHIEF, TORGBE, NENE, NAA etc.

As you read this article, Accra has just experienced a major flood and a filling station fire that killed about 200 people. In a country where district, municipal and metropolitan assemblies award civil works contracts to party members who know next to nothing about civil engineering, and where building inspectors take bribes to allow structures anywhere, what do we expect following heavy rains?

The final reason for Ghana’s leadership failure is the demand that society makes on leadership. When we make somebody the principal of a teacher training or nurses training college, what do we expect from him? Is it the right professional training for the students for the good of all of us or in order that he will admit our unqualified wards to the school with a bribe? When we elect an MP to office, is it to make laws that will lead to national progress or so she will pay the school fees of our children and always have money to donate at every function in the community? When we have a doctor in the community, is our expectation that she will be up to her professional task and save our lives or to have money to donate at every outdooring, every wedding, and every funeral? What we demand from leadership, determines what leadership does. And what leadership does, is the character of all of us. If we have the right character, we will have the right leaders.

To conclude, Ghana will not make any significant progress for so long as we continue in this way. A few mansions at airport city, a few good roads dotted around the country, and a few expensive houses, shops and cars at Osu and East Legon are not the signs of a nation that is making progress. A nation that is making progress has something to show in the areas of law enforcement, education, health, agricultural, technology-based industrial backbone and public institutions that work. These need leadership that is focused on progress rather than self-aggrandizement and cronyism.

Efforts towards change must start from the kindergartens right to the universities. For now the rains have started, the floods have come and once again, we have been reminded that it is shear insanity to steal public money to buy SUVs, to take bribes and allow people to build in water ways and to give civil contracts to uneducated, unqualified party cronies while the drains remain unattended to. The flood affects anybody in its path. “Oman beye yie a, na efiri yen ara” loosely translated as ‘We are responsible for building our own country’. Over to all of us.

In part two of this discussion, I will address why the onus still rests on responsible and visionary leadership, not society, to change the attitude of society and to ensure progress and development.

God bless our homeland Ghana.

By Dr Moses Barima Djimatey

Email: [email protected]

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