Kofi Annan and I - can our leaders compare?

BY: Charles Benoni Okine
Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan

While playing my usual soccer last Saturday morning, news broke on the touchline; “Oh! Kofi Annan dead”? The game halted a few seconds later as my teamates started to discuss the issue.

Various words, though nice, were used to describe the great fallen hero who took the name of Ghana to a level too high to sustain because he was too fine, astute, incorruptible and firm. He was a peacemaker, having brokered peace in many volatile countries, irrespective of the continent.

The news of his demise, at 80, changed the news line-up of almost all the media houses, including giants such as CNN (Trump hates them), BBC, Aljazeera, GBC, TV Africa, among others. They all played back their interview sessions with him, just to show the world they also had their turn interviewing that Great Man. Soon after, tributes began pouring in thick and fast.

How our Presidents eulogised him

Former President J.J. Rawlings - In his tribute on Tweeter, former President Rawlings wrote: “My sincere condolences to the wife and family of Kofi Annan.

Global diplomacy has lost a true gem. Kofi Annan was a fine diplomat who committed most of his professional life to world peace.

He was one of the best, a born diplomat.

He made Ghana and Africa proud and left a great legacy at the United Nations (UN).

Former President Mahama - Former President Mahama, in his tribute posted on his Facebook page last Saturday, said: “He lived and worked for global peace, security and sustainable development in very challenging times.

A proud son of Ghana and Africa! RIP, Kofi Annan.” He was one of the best; a born diplomat. He made Ghana and Africa proud and left a great legacy at the UN. Rest in Peace, Kofi Annan.”

President Akufu-Addo - Meanwhile, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo led a government delegation to commiserate with the family of the late Annan at the family residence at the Airport Residential Area.

He said Mr Annan, who came across as an International civil servant par excellence and world peacemaker, raised the flag of Ghana aloft with dignity and honour and that the entire nation was saddened by his demise.

How the world described him

UN - In a tribute, the UN Secretary-General, Mr Antonio Guterres, said the late Kofi Annan was an embodiment of the UN.

“In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organisation into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.”

The UN Secretary-General - In a statement, Mr Guterres said the celebrated diplomat was “a guiding force for good and was a person he was proud to call, a good friend and mentor,” someone he could always turn to “for counsel and wisdom”.

UK Prime Minister - In a tweet, the British Prime Minister, Ms Theresa May, wrote: “A great leader and reformer of the UN, he made a huge contribution to making the world he has left, a better place than the one he was born into.”

UNCHR - The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, said: “Kofi was the epitome of human decency and grace.

In a world now filled with leaders who are anything, but that the world’s loss becomes even more painful. He was a friend to thousands and a leader of millions.”

NATO - The Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Mr Jens Stoltenberg, said in a tweet: “His warmth should never be mistaken for weakness. Annan showed that one can be a great humanitarian and a strong leader at the same time.”

Indian Prime Minister - The Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, said: “The world has lost not only a great African diplomat and humanitarian but also a conscience keeper of international peace and security.”

Can same be said about leaders?

The tributes, even from the presidents of Ghana and that of world leaders speak volumes about the man Kofi Annan. Unlike other tributes, I can say without any equivocation or iota of doubt that, this noble son of Ghana deserved even more.

But, can this be said of our present leaders when they also pass? I know that as protocol and tradition demands, long tributes saying positive things will be recited. As to how true they will be, the leaders themselves will be the best to tell.

In the society we live today, leadership has become a mere rhetoric because corruption has become a part of our social fabric.

People in government (past and present) are accused of deep corrupt practices and when caught, they use legal gymnastics to either delay the process or manage to manipulate the judiciary to walk free.

Our leaders know something can be done to deal with such persons but won’t for political reasons.

Our leaders watch corrupt people steal from the majority who wallow in abject poverty and support their political parties to win power only to hide behind them to avoid the courts.

But Kofi Annan was not that kind.

There is so much indiscipline in the system; leaders in various positions of trust sit aloof while things rot on town.

There is greed to the highest order and there is selfishness and our leaders know but do nothing. But Kofi Annan did not do that.

Call it politics but when leaders of political parties mount the podium to address their supporters, they look into their eyes and lie to them.

They promise them heaven only to be voted for but in the end they are neglected and dumped.

We have seen and heard our political leaders, depending on where they stand, describe themselves with hash words to reflect how unfit their opponents are to rule this noble country called Ghana.

What they need to remember is that one day, they as leaders will be no more because death is inevitable.

But the question is, will the news networks across the world stop to eulogise them as they did for Kofi Annan? Or they will only announce the death as one of their passing headlines for the day?

To me, anybody who wants the definition of leadership should not look far.

Just read about the life of Kofi Annan and you have it.

I love and revere leaders, particularly our President and the past ones and I feel hurt when I read or hear people cast insinuations at them out of anger.

I know they cannot please everyone but they have the power to make a difference just like Kofi Annan did.

Way forward

A former President of the US, Bill Clinton, once said: "We should be remembered by the power of our example, rather than the example of our power".

Today, it is obvious that we celebrate, the power of the examples of a true hero.

That is why we deem this wise saying super.

It should be a guide to all who call themselves leaders so one day when they pass, the tributes that pour will be those that can carry their souls to heaven and not those that will hasten it to hell.

I am a citizen.