The Kind Of President We Need

The tragedy we face as a nation is that most of the people who seek to lead us are con men.

The stories they tell us to convince us to vote for them are mostly lies and the vocabulary they use all come from the lexicon of the con artist. But why should we complain? Telling lies to the ones we claim we love is a Ghanaian thing! Ask the young men who seek to sow their wild oats among unfortunate young girls.

They break their hearts as they ‘con’, ‘boss,’ spin them ‘lines’ and tell them outright lies straight in the face by promising to love them all their lives. All the nice rhetoric means nothing, except as a window dressing for a possible future broken heart. Sounds familiar?

Some of us grew up in a country with heroes, now our young people are growing up in the same country mostly barren of heroes. We were told to live a good life and admire honest hard working people. Yet our children now watch a nation’s rot before their eyes, and what they see is a shipwreck: people somehow survive our brand of ghastly and grim politics and rise to the top. And what character traits do they exhibit? Cunning, naked ambition, duplicity, corruption, dishonesty and egomania. It has become difficult to point heroes worthy of emulation. Who remains? We face challenges in this country and the storm that is gathering, if allowed to break, would not augur well to the people.

In order to meet the challenges, this election should give all Ghanaians, especially voters who are tired of voting for change and getting the same bad leaders, the opportunity to see through the Orwellian double-speak and rhetoric to pick better leaders and prevent the bad ones to come and cause troubles. It is really about time to send a message to our politicians that we will not accept or take their failures and outright betrayals anymore. It is about time we reject the sham definition of our reality and vote for real change.

All leaders are dealers in hope. But the most important attribute of leadership is authenticity. Our current crop of leaders are not authentic. They are fake prophets with no vision but lies, airs and masks to rape us by saying and doing nice and right things. Their lack of integrity prevents them from doing things right.

Indeed, leaders are not supposed to be nice to those they lead. Rather, they have to be good. Here’s the difference: nice people never confront evil. Good people do. Nice people are weak. Good people are strong and courageous. But blind courage can be dangerous. Mostly at this time in our history, courage alone ceases to be a virtue. At this time in our history we need courageous people with ability to unify this country and mobilise citizens to respond to the call to arms as we fight our wars.

Several year after independence, our ‘nice’ leaders have taught us that right and wrong are not opposites in this country, but only shades of difference. They are indifferent to global environment changes and too weak to forge new paths and rise above the old patterns. That is why voters, during this election, need to think. If we want better leaders, we must become more informed and more demanding. It is time we reject some erroneous ideas, such as the notion that abrasive, unbending and unflinching men of truth are bad leaders while nice charmers are.

Remember King David and his son Solomon? King Solomon was a charmer who inherited his father’s great nation and wealth and destroyed both. Solomon had a mighty predecessor in his father, David. David was a warrior, a rebel, a sinner, abrasive and an adulterer; but he was the ‘man after God’s own heart’. He was the one who united the northern states and Judah and secured the borders. He never forgot where his strength came from, and his enemies too. David had faults but he acknowledged his sins publicly and got right with God. He governed with quiet strength and humility, knowing he could not play God. David led but also followed.

To his credit, Solomon modernised Israel but at a great cost. He raised taxes and forced his allies to pay higher tributes, both monetary and otherwise, to spend on lavish projects, his retinue, his many wives and concubines. It was he who built the temple, but put false idols inside.

Are we at war? You bet we are. We are at war against poverty; we are at war against economic and financial dependency; we are at war for leaders who serve; we are at war for real leadership that goes beyond a crafty manifesto. The motivations and strategies may differ, though, but we have always been at war to take our country from a mobocracy – a government run by thugs on a power trip, twisting our dreams to suit their nefarious greed. This country is divided along several artificial lines because we lack the men and women of courage, power and ability to forge alliances and partnership across partisan lines.

Our current leadership is impervious to the hunger and anger of the citizens. They have simply lost trust among the people. Solomon also did not see his sin until it was too late. He was too proud to admit any faults until his kingdom began to rot from within. Solomon leveraged his father’s legacy of strength for over 40 years. He built up the palaces and the temple. He built great roads and cities, but the poor groaned under the taxes and loans he raised to the point where the people had to rebel.

David’s reign would pale before that of his son in respect of brilliancy. His palaces, his retinue, his table, his exchequer, his navy, the outward grandeurs of his reign, were nothing in comparison with those of Solomon. But the contribution of David to the unity, consolidation, sacrifice, moral excellence of his people was immeasurably greater than that of his brilliant son.

David’s work was better and nobler – virtue, freedom, opportunity, prosperity, strength, stability and unity of the community – are far better than the ideas which defend the entitlement status quo that is bankrupting our country. When Nathan confronts David for his adultery and murder, he quickly laments, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13). He never ran from the light when it exposed his darkness. Instead, he looked hard, admitted his iniquity and worked to make things right. Under David everyone had the right to land and the means to make a living from it. No one was promised an easier life because he was the king. But they were assured of safety from their enemies because of his leadership.

Solomon, in his most fascinating work (Ecclesiastes), warns leaders from the terrifying trap by recounting his own sad experiences. He says to leaders continually, “Be not as I was; shun the path I trod, that you share not the fate I suffer.”

Ghana needs a leader with the ability to fire up its citizens, unlock their talents, enforce the rule of law; give individual’s clear titles to their houses and lands, that there is a stable currency so that prices can be anticipated and future decisions are easily assessed within a liberalised economy that supports free enterprise. The linkage between the development of the private sector and reducing poverty is obvious and indisputable. Any leader who plays down this linkage is doomed to fail.

We need our leader to be unfailingly honest, trustworthy and most importantly, capable with the ability to reach out; not a compassionate wise man bearing gifts – a lackluster president with statistics that flash caution in neon light. We need someone who is less concerned with government and government programs. We need someone bold enough to push out the old way to make way for the new. The new way should not conserve the status-quo; it should overturn and transform it. It should allow any entrepreneur with an idea to thrive. It should lead to innovation in all realms.

No nation can survive in the long term without a strong economy. The economy is not the government. And government should not be the end of, or the means to the economy. An economically strong nation depends on the freedom of the people to run their own lives.

These are indeed tough times for Ghana. This country needs a warrior president who knows implicitly that ‘a house divided against itself cannot stand’ – A David!