Next in line: Is it possible?
Retirement is inevitable.
We will all go through it one day, perhaps very soon. My illiterate grandfather would jokingly say in English, "The beginning is not hard, but the end’. As a child, I swallowed the contents of the message wholeheartedly, but prevailing circumstances today have compelled me to conclude that both the ‘beginning and the end are hard’.
When the former US President Barrack Obama told Ghana’s Parliament that Africa does not need strong men but strong institutions, a senior Political science Lecturer at the Kwame University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Dr. Kwasi Amakye Boateng, rebutted vehemently that Africa rather needs stronger men to build stronger institutions.
However, my understanding of President Obama’s statement in the context he suggested was that Africa does not need men wielding guns to engage in warlike activities like toppling democratic governments and slaying their own people.
Africa, practically, needs strong democratic institutions and, indeed, an effective continuity plan to protect the built institutions.
In this light, I shudder to say that Africa has had strong men and strong institutions long before the introduction of the Western form of democracy. According to academics like Jan Vansina, the Ashanti Empire operated as a federation with the king serving as the primus inter pares of a council of elders that oversaw state affairs.
Since the 17th century, the Ashanti Kingdom has maintained a peaceful oligarchy succession plan. The Kingdom has successfully produced 16 occupants in a very peaceful transition, always preceded by colourful celebrations. The recent coronation of King Charles III of Great Britain, also, reinforced the relevance of family lineage and its succession plans. Kingdoms across the world have jealously protected and preserved with dignity their successions and legacies. Perhaps the only institution that scuffles with effective succession strategies is the modern political system and governance.
According to Rama Priya of Alagappa University, the overall goal of a succession plan is to provide the right leadership at the right place, at the right time with the right skills. In this regard, building a sustainable organisation or nation requires orderly transitions of authority. A system that has denied many African countries, leading to wars and instability.
The Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, however, observed that "we have had successions that have gone well, but the lives of citizens have not changed.’ He went on to suggest that great leaders should have the capacity to cultivate more leaders to succeed them rather than build and invest in one ‘sure candidate’. In other words, leaders should create an atmosphere that will encourage more competent people to lead. Much as this line of thinking is impressive, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the New Testament of the Bible, said to His disciples, ‘I will ask my Father, and He will give you another Comforter, that might be with you to the end of the age.’ So, according to the Bible, Moses had Joshua, and Elijah had Elisha. Perhaps Jesus had Peter, the rock on which the church was built. Is it, therefore, not without contention that a leader could have a preference for who would succeed him or her?
Former President J.J. Rawlings suffered verbal attacks and animosity among party members for publicly endorsing his Vice President Professor J.E.A. Mills in what later became known as the Swedru declaration. Former President J.A. Kufuor was also, criticised by his party wigs for the perceived open endorsement and machinations for Hon. Alan Kyeremanten to become the flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). Today, the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, is being tactically careful about an open endorsement of his Vice President, Alhaji Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, who has picked his nomination forms to contest the flagbearership race of the NPP. In his last televised nation address on COVID and the IMF, President Akufo-Addo said his Vice President, Dr. Bawumia, has been his ‘reliable source of support in the darkest and most trying moments’.
Has it come full circle to say that this statement is an endorsement? The pundits are shedding more light on the statement.
The unfair reality is that a father with 16 children will inevitably have a preference for who succeeds him in business. And that is possibly one of the principal benefits of preparing a legal will. Every responsible father will think of a plan that will not end his dream or business. Multinational brands like Johnny Walker, Ford, and Wal-Mart have multi-generational lineages that embody longevity and stability, or at least the history of the family.
In an environment where there are many competent leaders, the head will always have a preference, and that preference should not be viewed as unfair or, to the extreme, criminal. President Akufo-Addo chose Dr. Bawumia as his running mate in 2008 and has stood by him through defeat and glory. There are sufficient reasons to suggest that Bawumia could be his possible successor. The president announced at the 2020 victory rally in Accra that he would pass over authority to his party. Shouldn’t the president have a plan for how to fulfil this promise? And will it be out of place for the president to have a choice among many?
The perceived political grudge between the President and his former challenger, Alan Kyeremanten, is still noticeable. It is also an open secret that the President has disowned his old-time friend, Hon. Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, former minister of agriculture; Hon. Kennedy Agyapong is long upset about the whole governance structure and the general despondency of his party members; Engineers Kwabena Agyapong and Addai Nimo are perceived to be angry, while Legal Practitioner, Joe Ghartey is seen to be a bit disappointed; and Dr. Kofi Konadu Apraku is a political mate of the President and is perceived by political analysts and social commentators as getting older. Obviously, the President has no choice but to support his Vice President as Moses supported Joshua and Elijah gave Elisha a double portion of anointing.
Come to think of it, the Vice President will go down in history as the most identifiable and recognisable Vice President in the Fourth Republic. Much as some people would credit the former Vice President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, for his advocacy on indiscipline and credit Vice President, John Mahama, for his role in restructuring the Hajj pilgrimage, Dr. Bawumia stands erect among all the vice presidents in the fourth republic, and his name is retentively associated with major national policies.
Dr. Bawumia is known in some circles as ‘E-Bamumia’, ‘Mr. Digital Man’, ‘Mr. Ghana Card’, ‘Mr. No Guarantor’, ‘Mr. Digitized Address Man’, ‘The Barcode Man’, ‘Mr. Zipline’, ‘The Economist’, among many other attributes. Recently on Kumasi-based radio station, Pure FM, the Member of Parliament for Kwadaso constituency, Professor Kingsley Nyarko, defined the character B.A.W.U.M.I.A. as the ‘Best Achiever With Unique Masterclass Ideas Above All the Aspirants’.
Without contention, the Vice President has been a gothic ceramic pillar of this NPP administration through its economic challenges and growth. He recognises the global economic crisis that has had a downturn on the domestic economy but, also, very optimistic that with renewed energy and strength, Ghana will rebound.
It is possible!
The writer is a Broadcast Journalist