by michael eli dokosi/www.blakkpepper.com/ghana
Since Ghana’s political independence in 1957, reforming the administrative state inherited from the colonial authorities became the country’s major quest for development. Both civilian and military governments have expended significant resources, both human and financial to these efforts.
With the overthrow of the first republic under Nkrumah (1960-1966), the interludes of civilian governments under the second (1969-1972) and third (1979-1981) republics have been short-lived, unable to survive for up to three years without coup d’états except for the fourth republic (1992 onwards) which has seen non-violent civilian exchanges of power for years. In the late 1980s, after nearly one decade of quasi–military rule under the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), multi-party democracy was reinstated in 1992 ushering Ghana into the Fourth Republic.
Since 1992, Ghana has held seven successful multiparty democratic elections. The peaceful transfer of power from the government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) following national elections in December 2000, the transfer of power from the Kufuor led NPP in 2008 to the Mills led NDC as well as the capture of power by the Akufo-Addo led NPP from the incumbent Mahama led NDC in 2016 marked Ghana out for praise for its formidable democratic structure.
The state’s appreciable progress in institutionalizing multiparty democratic governance within the framework of the 1992 Constitution enabling political liberalization, vibrant civil society and independent media has it benefits yet challenges persist.
Ghana has itself to thank for birthing once in a century personality like Kwame Nkrumah. The Osagyefo governed from 1957-1966, first emerging as the Leader of Government Business in 1951. For the Nzema native proved himself a spectacular leader in Ghana and a vigorous advocate for Africa’s unity. He engineered the administration of Ghana for sixteen years till his overthrow in 1966. With a personality deeply rooted in the African culture as well as getting exposure to the Western culture. Nkrumah left the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) to form the Convention People’s Party (CPP) as a political machinery working for the achievement of Ghana’s independence attained in 1957.
In Ghana, Nkrumah was of the belief that no meaningful change will come to the country if it had no mass electricity to power industrial machines, leading to the establishment of the Akosombo dam as well as the birth of over 300 industrial entities catering to the various needs of the people, he also worked for the realization of African Unity. Nkrumah however is faulted for the passing of bills such as the Avoidance of Discrimination Act of 1957 and the Preventive Detention Act (PDA) of 1958 which some argue curtained freedoms. His one-party state by law bill passage in 1964 also comes up for scrutiny.
Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia (1969-1972) by virtue of the 1950 constitution became a member of the Legislative Assembly and his journey into “full time and serious politics. Busia may not have begun as a fully-fledged politician, but he made his intentions clear when he introduced his old party, the United Party under the new name the Progress Party in May 2, 1969. The second republic administration of Ghana fell into the leadership arms of Busia when the National Liberation Council (NLC) handed over power to him. The NLC was the junta that ruled Ghana after Nkrumah was ousted in the 1966 coup d’état led by Colonel E. K. Kotoka and General A. A. Afrifa. Busia’s role as the prime minister ensured that attempts were made towards the pursuit of a democratic and liberal state as democratic agenda.
Hilla Limann (1979-1981) was a democratic leader who was elected into office September 24, 1979. A former diplomat, he had respect for the tenets of democracy and was viewed more as a diplomat than a politician. He espoused the virtues of morality, had a great respect for good governance and abhorred corruption, selfishness and greed.
His Laissez-faire leadership style would prove costly as his perceived indecisiveness gave Jeremiah Rawlings the window to seize power and deny him his benefits as a former leader eventually leading to his death as a destitute man. Limann however is credited with initiating a judicious and healthy foreign policy drive with neighbouring countries and the rest of the world.
Jerry John Rawlings (1993-2000) was Ghana’s democratically elected leader from 1993 until the 2000 elections, he was a Flight Lieutenant in the Air Force and a militant populist when he led the June 4, 1979 coup that overthrew the regime of General Kwasi Akuffo. Some have argued Ghana would not have survived the Economic Recovery Programmes without the strength of character and unwavering determination of Mr. Rawlings. His leadership was a mixture of populism and authoritarianism. He had the capacity to pull crowds and appealed to the ordinary man on the street except he is called out on his human rights abuse, corruption and media freedom record.
Rawlings also supervised several political and economic transitions in the 1980s and 1990s; alienated political and social groups by employing authoritarian means; obtained financial aid from institutional donors to implement the various recovery programmes; entrenched an economy that is growing through long-term structural adjustment; and sustained a democracy that is not only a work-in-progress but an institutionalized political system.
John Agyekum Kufuor (2001-2008) is a lawyer and private businessman who had been deputy minister of foreign affairs under the Busia regime, as well as secretary for local government under the PNDC in 1983. He later resigned because of the PNDC’s poor human right record. Kufuor known as the ‘Gentle Giant’ because of his calm and unruffled demeanour. His liberal values and his general composure and public speaking brought some respect, nobility and dignity to the office of the president.
Mr. Kufuor is praised for putting in place social interventions that helped the poor and disadvantaged in society.
John Evans Atta Mills (2009-2012) had served as Ghana’s Vice President from 1997 to 2001 in the administration of former president Jerry John Rawlings (National Democratic Congress). Mills ability to solve problems in a reactive and team-oriented manner as well as his ability to avoid confrontations made him stand out as a real team player. Mills’ general composure, patience, modesty and demeanour also brought some respect and dignity to the office of the president.
He passed on July 24, 2012 truncating his tenure through an act of God; making him the first sitting president to die in office.
John Mahama (2012- 2017) is a Ghanaian politician who served as President of Ghana from 24 July 2012 to 7 January 2017. He previously served as Vice President of Ghana from 2009 to 2012, and took office as President on 24 July 2012 following the death of his predecessor, John Atta Mills. Mahama is a communication expert, historian, and writer. He was a Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2009 and Minister of Communications from 1998 to 2001.
Mahama contested re-election for a second term in the 2016 election, but was defeated in the first round by New Patriotic Party candidate Nana Akufo-Addo, whom he had defeated four years prior. This makes him the first president in the history of Ghana to not have won a second term.
Nana Akufo-Addo (2017 till date) previously served as Attorney General from 2001 to 2003 and as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2003 to 2007.
Akufo-Addo first ran for president in 2008 and again in 2012, both times as the candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), but was defeated on both occasions by NDC candidates: John Atta Mills in 2008 and John Dramani Mahama in 2012. He was chosen as the NPP’s candidate for a third time in the 2016 elections and defeated Mahama in the first round (winning 53.85% of the votes), which marked the first time in a Ghanaian presidential election that an opposition candidate won a majority outright in the first round.
On the military leaders:
General J.A. Ankrah (1966-1969)
Col. I.K. Acheampong (1972-1978)
Jerry John Rawlings (1979-1992)
While there has been advancement on the industrial, civic society, political, cultural and economic fronts, ethnic affiliations sometimes trump logical considerations. There are about 92 separate ethnic groups and sometimes even criminal charges of people in leadership seem to be interpreted on ethnic or political basis.
There remains social injustice, biases or inequalities in appointments to government jobs and top level positions, depending on who is in power. There is also a growing income and wealth gap between the poor and the rich.
While government employees at management and executive levels obtain benefits including vehicles, houses, free petrol and cash allowances to buy furniture, water reservoirs and electric power generators, many graduates pass out of tertiary institutions without ready jobs to absorb them putting a toll on the graduates themselves and their parents or guardians who put them in school.
The infrastructural development in Ghana 62 years on has also been allowed to fall behind human population growth. Basic human needs and utilities such as water and electricity are not available every time.
Despite the country being a land with gifted human capital and abundant natural resources including gold, diamond, bauxite, timber, cocoa, arable lands, fresh rivers as well as well as oil and gas, a good number of the people continue to wallow in abject poverty.
At the time of independence in 1957, only about six million people were living in Ghana. 62 years later, the country’s population estimated to be over 30 million largely depends on infrastructure and industrial establishment set up by the first republic, a situation parties especially the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) who have wielded power in the last 27 years must address by doing more when the hopes of the people are invested in them.