Political leadership: Centrality of attitude to public service is key

BY: Colin Essamuah
President John Mahama

Before I proceed today, I crave the indulgence of my readers to permit me to comment on a brilliant article written on the politics of the Electoral Commission last Tuesday in this very paper by the Rt. Rev. Dr Anyani-Boadum.

I was much enlightened by the clear and very wise words of this clergyman, and will heartily recommend it to our political class as we head towards the general election. Rt.Rev. Dr Boadum has secured my admiration for his clarity of thought and expression on a vexed public issue, and the deep knowledge of human nature displayed in the piece, all advanced from a bedrock of a man of faith.Thank you, Sofo.


There has been some misunderstanding clouding the real intention of my last epistle, with respect to the last part thereof, which made reference to, in a general way, the origin of the presidential retreat at Peduase in the Eastern Region known since then as the Peduase Lodge. The confusion stems from the correct appreciation of the precise time of the inclusion of the lodge among the valued possessions of the state, and whether that time does not actually predate the current thinking on these matters.

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If my memory serves me right, that would be 1959. This actually,is precisely my point, that notwithstanding the time and place our Presidents, beginning with Nkrumah, and even long before him, have shown and demonstrated an attitude to public service that puts them out front as real leaders of our people following a noble tradition.

The truth of the matter is that President Nkrumah could have kept the Peduase Lodge for himself because no law then prevented him from doing so. So the question to be answered for him, his successors and others is, why did he do so, that is donate it to Ghana? A similar question could be asked of John Mensah Sarbah, who with Jacob Wilson Sey, both of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society, donated the large parcel of land on which my alma mater now stands, to the unbuilt school in 1905.

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It is my argument that President Nkrumah did so because he had noble notions of public service and patriotism which predate our current notions regarding conflict of interest and other barren nostrums which have seized some of our people in the matter of the Ford Expedition gift to President Mahama.

Political circus 

This matter has now been reported formally to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) for adjudication by way of petitions from two organisations. It is so filled with misapplied and misinterpreted timelines so as to make the whole exercise a political circus in an election year. For example, the contract for the construction of the wall for the Ghana mission in Burkina Faso was not sole-sourced but was secured through competitive tender in a transparent process which began in 2011.

It should be emphasised that sole-sourcing itself is not a criminal offence but a perfectly legal procedure in the Public Procurement Act passed in the tenure of President Kufuor. The consultants for the project were the Architectural and Engineering Services Company whose staff visited Burkina Faso at least twice before the contract was awarded in July 2012. The Ford Expedition gift which has attracted varied reaction was given in October 2012, and after appropriate documentation, was added to the presidential vehicle fleet. If there is abundant documentation available on the matter, how is this story therefore an exposure?

The conduct of President John Mahama throughout, has been to follow the exemplary tradition of our past leaders. There is nothing such as being guilty of a guideline. No nation is run on guidelines, not even the Vatican, but on explicit laws. It is amazing this has escaped our vociferous champions of the rule of law. Perhaps the resort to CHRAJ bespeaks the belated realisation that the president is immune from criminal and civil process, and that the opinion of CHRAJ on the matter can be used profitably in the coming election campaign to dent his anti-corruption image. But the people of this country would be rightly wondering how what is now public property is benefitting anybody apart from the state. 

In my humble opinion, the key thing for us to guide ourselves by, is the centrality of notions of public service, not gifts, bribes, or even conventions and laws, etcetera, because public service which animates all these, towers above them. This is because we are well aware that others in similar situations, did not deem it to do likewise with land parcel gifts like President Nkrumah did, even in the specific Peduase enclave. They considered public service to be an opportunity for personal accumulation and its gifts as a family heirloom to be protected from public enjoyment. It is in this atmosphere of rank hypocrisy that this matter is proceeding apace.

Nana Akufo-Addo’s promise

It is in this environment of deliberate confusion that the flag bearer of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP),Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has made an interesting contribution to the ages-long discussion on the need for industrialisation in this country by stating his promise to build a factory in each district. I was amazed that the fallout and the contours the debate has taken has forsaken or denied the origin of this debate in this country; the Seven Year Development Plan of President Nkrumah launched in 1964 or thereabouts. Immediately we start from that original perspective, we would realise at once that we have done things to ourselves that we need to go back to revisit and retrace our steps. This is precisely because there used to be a Komenda Sugar factory in this country, among others. 

This historical perspective is quite different from the oft-repeated mantra of the NPP that government qua government has no role in business, and a linchpin of the NPP 2016 campaign is the poor incompetent management of our resources by current leadership. How will these hurdles be overcome for this promise to have any chance of being initiated? A citation regarding cottage industries along these lines in the 2014 budget seems set to overwhelm this unrealistic promise now.

The 2014 citation planned to employ 5000 people nationwide, while to gain perspective, the recently commissioned Komenda factory alone is billed to employ 7,300 of our people, and, I must quickly add, sugar cane is not native to Komenda. Industrialisation, therefore, is not just about producing something anywhere or employing people, but doing so in a manner that addresses the real problems of this country, as is being done. This promise does neither.


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Date: 23/04/2019 | Venue: Labadi Beach Hotel