John Agyekum Kufuor: The Very Model of A Former Leader

Some of our leaders have adapted to life beyond the presidency with a grace which shows they have Ghana’s best interests at heart. Why do others seem to find their new status so difficult? He has taken it upon himself to help advance national life, and maybe offset what he could not do before leaving power.

I think I now understand the motive behind ex-President Kufuor’s proposal, made when he was about to leave power, that Ghana must consider extending the term of office for our presidents from the current four years to five.

This innocuous suggestion became a topic of heated discussion at the time. Ghanaians rushed to share views on the subject and regulars in chop bars up and down the land assessed the pros and cons of the idea. To me, it is certainly worth considering ‒ but from where I stand, dear reader, it seems a distant prospect and unlikely to come into being.

It has been ten years since Kufuor left Jubilee House and so far we have done nothing about bringing his idea to fruition. Perhaps Ghana does not need it. It is often said that the dreams of men are bigger and larger than time will permit.

Serving in a presidential capacity is a huge privilege and carries great influence. I am sure President Kufuor would have loved to achieve much more, but was constrained by the eight-year term limit prescribed by the 1992 constitution.

Strangle mediocrity

Democrat as he was, Kufuor stepped down in the constitutionally correct manner – yet he still saw the need to publicise his idea. A brilliant idea it was, too … but, all things being equal, we may not have the luck always to choose presidents who have the chief interests of our country at heart. For that reason, advocating more time in office for our leaders may be a dangerous thing.

Some may come into power with sinister intentions which may destroy everything others have laboured for. This may be why the framers of our constitution limited the term to four years, as in the federal system that applies in the United States of America.

Presumably this was to make it possible for citizens to vote out mediocre leaders in decent time, especially as the impeachment laws are lame in our part of the world. And that is what happened in Ghana barely two years ago.

Pursuit of leadership

Reading through the Daily Statesman of Friday, November 2 2018, I came across a headline on page 15: “Asante Kotoko to host Ashgold on December 2 in J A Kufuor Cup”.

The game is being organised by the J A Kufuor Foundation to mark the former President’s 80th birthday. I was surprised because I had been unaware that Kotoko was contending with Hearts for the cup. On reading the story, however, I learned that Hearts had pulled out of the game for reasons best known to them.

The match was supposed to help raise GHC80 million ‒ or the equivalent of US$15m. I gasped. Wow, GHC80m? To celebrate just one birthday? I read on.

Then my eyes alighted on what I needed to know. Proceeds from the charitable game will be used to promote the welfare of all Ghanaians. Out of the $15m, $5m will be used to build an ultra-modern centre for the study of governance and leadership, to be based at the University of Ghana, Legon.

We must not forget that Kufuor established a leadership centre in 2009, just a year after leaving power. He is now seeking to set up a better-equipped version of his institute, the report said, at the nation’s premier university. Might this suggest that he has identified a gap in Ghana’s governance?

I was overwhelmed to learn that the remaining $10m will be invested in the Kufuor Foundation’s fund and the returns used to run foundation projects.

It was equally refreshing to note some of the projects mentioned in the report, such as the Kufuor Scholarship Programme, the Young Entrepreneurs Network, an annual lecture series on governance and development, election observers, and a prize for community-level leadership.

The former President has taken it upon himself to help advance national life with these projects and maybe offset what he could not do before he left power. These are the kinds of activities we would all like our former leaders to engage in, rather than grumbling on the sidelines, betraying their hunger for power.

We are all required to use our time, opportunities and privileges prudently. If we fail to be prudent with our talents and consequently are denied the opportunity to use them, we can expect that others will decide to move on.

Capacity-building

In my candid opinion, our former presidents must not be seen to be trying to push their way back to their former status. After all, leadership is not the exclusive reserve of a few. It is this which may have inspired Kufuor to undertake the training of future leaders, correct the wrongs of his tenure and advance respect for ordinary citizens’ rights.

However capable one is, one can achieve only so much within a given time frame, so we must seek to progress what we have been able to do by different means. It is dangerous to persist in furthering a good cause using just one method.

 Jerry John Rawlings has done his bit for Ghana’s development. He is infamous for criticising the leaders who have come after him, yet often he does this constructively, and purely for Ghana’s sake. Why can’t ex-President Mahama act similarly?

 Here is a man who left power only recently, and should have the capacity to undertake projects which will assist Ghana’s progress. That would at least show Ghanaians his intentions for the nation. This country is lucky to have models in Presidents Kufuor and Rawlings.

John Mahama will be respected and revered as a former president when he conducts himself as one. Much rather that than abandoning oneself to dirty party politics, insults and wanton disrespect for others. What does Mahama wish to do, if he claims to have achieved almost everything? Is he the only capable person in the National Democratic Congress? By contrast, Kufuor’s efforts beyond the presidency will do much to help fill any governance gaps in the near future.

Old glory

Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s most recent past president, and John Dramani Mahama, his Ghanaian counterpart, rose to power under almost identical circumstances and in the same political period. At one point in time, both were running the same economic and social policies. Their lines on governance were almost indistinguishable. The losing trend hit both of them, one after the other, in closely matched circumstances.

Under the Nigerian constitution, Jonathan is eligible to run again for president. It may be that he decided not to do so in February next year because he has found some dignity in remaining a former leader of his country. In that capacity, he can do just as Kufuor is doing here in Ghana, and still champion Nigeria’s cause.

What we have here in Ghana is a former leader who wants at all costs to recapture power for reasons best known to him. Instead of serving Ghana, he wants Mother Ghana to give him yet another chance – after being an MP, deputy minister, minister, opposition spokesman, vice-president and president. Is he the only Ghanaian who can solve our country’s problems?

Ghana may benefit from Mahama far more as a former president. He performed abysmally even when he knew he could have a second stab at standing for election. What would happen now that he knows it is his last chance under the terms of the 1992 constitution?

The NDC can help to persuade Mahama to rescind his decision to run by voting against giving him the opportunity to regain presidential glory. But if the party does not, he will be treated like any other candidate when the 2020 election campaign hots up. And I hope, if that happens, there will be no noise made about it, or “retaliation” of the kind meted out to Joy News’s Kwesi Parker-Wilson.

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