Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Who are the Leaders of Ghana?

By a Correspondent

"Politics as a vocation requires the serious attention and devotion of its practitioners. It is not a profession which can be relegated to a second place or practised on the side..."
DECEMBER 31st, Rawlings and the PNDC celebrated the second anniversary of their regime and the question that is on the lips of every Ghanaian today is: where are the natural leaders of the nation who the youth and the present generation can look up to for national salvation. Even most friendly foreigners who are wont to ask a similar question are bemused at the nonchalance of Ghanaians which they find incomprehensible.

The frightening impression one gathers from the inertia of Ghanaians, is that the people have accepted the situation or have resigned themselves to their fate. But from available evidence this is not the case since there is popular dissent in the country.

Over the past twenty months, the Bar Association in particular, the Professional Bodies Association, the National Union of Ghana Students and the Christian Council representing the churches in the country, have been up against the regime and have specifically demanded the resignation of the PNDC government unconditionally.

The only remaining sections of the Society to stir themselves from their slumber are the workers whose major problem now is a question of leadership. The popular leadership of the TUC which should be acting in close collaboration with the above-mentioned identifiable bodies to organise the workers for civil disobedience is in disarray and most of its leaders are either in exile or in hiding.

It is even more disturbing that none of the leaders of the banned political parties have had the courage to pick up the gauntlet to rally round the people to resist against the state of affairs in the country. The inability of these leaders to act has created the unmistakable impression that Ghana is a country of cowards and the only brave people are the members of the PNDC government.

It is quite understandable that owing to the initial brutalities perpetrated by the Government, most politicians thought that discretion is the better part of valour and therefore to save their skins it was prudent to recoil into their shells. But it is my contention that a discretion to be quiet for two years and hope for the D-day will be a disadvantage and a colossal blunder. There is always a worthy price to pay for leadership.

How is it that the natural leaders of our country, qualified by age, know ledge, experience and even popular support, continue to find dark shadows to hide in? What everyone has to appreciate and learn is that to men of spirit and purpose it is not just living one's life that is important but how that life is lived.

Rawlings and his coup-makers risked their lives to wrestle power from the popularly elected and constitu- tional government of President Limann. They were quite aware that their failure to hit their target would have meant instant danger to their lives. Anyone then who wants power in Ghana to save the people will also have to show similar bravery by taking the bull by the horns. Those who fear to risk their property, liberty and life should have nothing to do with politics and power. The concept of power should well be understood by aspiring leaders or politicians that it has its consequences and its price. Politics is a vocation requiring the serious attention and devotion of its practitioners. It is not a profession which can be relegated to a second place or practised on the side.

Politicians in exile, who are lucky to be out of the reach of Rawlings should come out of their shells to make their voices heard. They should not let their wealth, property at home, which they fear might be confiscated by the regime, prevent them from showing their faces now. Those who might think that their situation overseas is more comfortable and therefore do not care how long it takes to remove the present regime should not forget that, Ghana is where they belong no matter how many years they stay abroad they are Ghanaians who have left suffering relatives at home.

Ghanaian politicians can learn a lot from inspirational men in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Chile and Argentina who are gallantly resisting military despotic CPP. rulers and agitating for the restoration of democracy in their countries. This is the time for all honourable men and women to come out and offer a credible alternative to the present confused and foggy situation in the country. It is possible to discern that Ghanaians will be in no mood to tolerate the experts "in what went wrong." who will only emerge the day after the collapse of the Rawlings regime.

Another debatable issue that has cropped up since the emergence of Rawlings second coming is the question of leadership vacuum or what some prefer to call power vacuum. The issue here should specifically deal with crisis leadership and crisis management. The question is, are there high calibre Ghanaian politicians prepared and capable of mobilising the populace in times of difficulties such as the present situation?

A brief examination of the political history of Ghana will show that the country has never been found wanting in the quality of political leadership. At the time of the struggle for independence Ghana had men like those who were dubbed the "Big Six." These were the late President Nkrumah, the late Dr. J. B. Danquah, the late Mr. Justice E. A. Akuffo Addo, the late Obetsebi Lamptey, Mr. William Ofori Atta and Mr. Ako Adjei, the only two survivors of the Six. These were the men who at the peak of the agitation for freedom from Colonialism were prepared to risk and even lay down their lives for the people.

When Ghana attained independence and Nkrumah later introduced draconian laws which enabled his party and government to detain and oppress his opponents as well as ordinary folks, Ghanaian political leaders including Dr. J. B. Danquah, William Ofori Atta, P. K. K. Quaidoo and others wasted no time in protesting against such legislative powers at the risk of their liberties. As a matter of fact all these people were detained as a result of their opposition and unfortunately Dr. J. B. Danquah had to die in prison.

In 1977, when an attempt was made by the Acheampong regime to introduce the Union Government, a process by which the Armed Forces would have entrenched itself in power, crisis leaders emerged to challenge it under the banner of the People's Movement for Freedom and Justice (PMFJ). Among these leaders again were Mr. William Ofori Atta and Mr. K. A. Gbedemah, a veteran politician of the

These men with courage and vision decided to organise a rally in Kumasi in which some of them were badly injured when police and hired thugs attempted to disrupt the meeting. Later, prominent agitators including Mr. William Ofori Atta, Mr. K. A. Gbedemah, Dr. John Bilson, Mr. B. J. Da Rocha, Mr. Obeng Manu and Sam Okudzeto were imprisoned, only to be released after SMC I had been removed in a palace coup.

There is no doubt that Mr. William Ofori Atta and Mr. K. A. Gbedemah who are in their seventies have played honourable and enviable roles in the political history of the country. They can no longer be relied upon much to carry on the battle in view of their age. The challenge at the moment rests squarely on the shoulders of the other frontline politicians.

This should be the political leaders at the time of the coup in 1981. Among them are Mr. Victor Owusu, presidential candidate of the PFP and later leader of the five merged opposition parties under the APP. Mr Owusu who has refused to leave the country became a highly controversial personality with a statement he made in Parliament during the Busia era in 1970, "that the Ewes were inward looking." This cast him in the eyes of the Ewes as an unacceptable political leader. Dr. G. K. Agama, then leader of NAL and the opposition party in Parliament had earlier made a statement describing the members of the government as "bush people."

As parliamentary correspondent for GBC Radio and TV at the time it appeared that what Mr. Owusu said was taken out of context and blown up by the press. This brought serious ill feelings between the Akans and the Ewes. But if everyone had looked at the whole episode critically and with dispassionate objectivity, Mr. Owusu would not have been condemned alone. But such is the risk of politics.

The irony of all this is that Mr. Owusu is known to be a friend of many influential Ewes among whom are the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice F. K. Apaloo, Mr. K. A. Gbedemah and Mr. K. A. Deku. During the merger of the opposition parties in 1981, Mr. Owusu and Dr. Agama became very close friends thus burying the hatchet.

Others are indefatigable: Dr. John Bilson, leader of the Third Force Party, Mr. Ibrahim Mahama of the Social Democratic Party, Colonel Bernasko of the Action Congress Party, Dr. Safo Adu, formerly of the P.F.P. and Mr. J. H. Mensah a renowned economist, and a former Minister in the Busia government who became a victim under Acheampong's regime for his courageous exposure of the economic mismanagement of that regime. He is in exile now and leads the Ghana Democratic Movement.

Other personalities on the fringes of Ghanaian politics who are expected to make their mark by coming out into the open against the present regime include Dr. G. K. Agama, Mr. Peter Adjetey, a prominent lawyer, Mr. J. H. Frimpong-Ansah, a former Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Professor Alex Kwapong, former vice chancellor of the University of Ghana and Mrs Stella Dontoh. Already their other colleagues, Messrs. Sam Okudzeto, Kwame Pianim and Obeng Manu are carrying on the struggle in jail.

Those sitting on the fence waiting and biding their time for the overthrow of the PNDC should start forgetting about any leadership role in Ghana's future politics because the disastrous Limann experiment will never be repeated. People whose only claim to politics is that they have either read political science or attempted to join a political party at one point or another but have no apprenticeship in political leadership should know they have a long way to go.

No one should assume, imagine or arrogate to himself any divine or messianic right to lead the people. Leadership is also not for sale and no one aspiring to leadership should ever dream of buying his way into power. The natural qualities of leadership and for that matter any politician should be courage, foresight, imagination, compassion, honesty, firmness and a deep sense of sympathy for the poor and less privileged. Any leader should be acceptable to the people and should be able to relate to their feelings and aspirations.

The struggle ahead has no room for timorous souls who will fear any reprisals. They will be dealing with a group of people who are determined to use any rough tactics to smear their opponents including blackmail, mud slinging, intimidation and even murder but which should not deter any politician worth his salt. All kinds of reprisals should be expected. We need political leaders who are bold and prepared to prove and emphasise that a nation develops and survives through the battle of ideas and not through the barrel of the gun.

Our objective mission is the restoration of democracy, the Rule of Law, sanity, justice, freedom and economic prosperity for all Ghanaians. The question that has to be answered is "Does the fish leave the ocean in order to escape the fisherman's net?"

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