Enjoying the adventure of life together.: December 2016

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Friday, December 16, 2016

To His Excellency John Mahama: On his departure from the highest office in the land

Dear President Mahama,
Permit me to write you this letter on the occasion of your loss of Ghana's presidential ticket. From the beginning of your government up until 2014, I had paid less attention than I normally would to my government. That changed very quickly when Ghana was publicly and internationally humiliated by the World Cup scandal and by citizens sent to support the team in Brazil refusing to return to Ghana. I was appalled and dismayed, like many Ghanaians, by your actions (and inaction). From then on, I watched more closely, and the more I watched, the more disappointed I was by your leadership. Corruption and a lack of leadership in economic policy were the marks of your government. Citizens of Ghana in the US couldn't get new passports without some kind of connection to someone in the Ghana embassy in the US. People took millions of dollars of our money for doing no work. You made jokes out of serious issues such as you received perceived  bribes. You trivialised what was important, disrespected and insulted your opposition and former leaders of Ghana and gave your followers free rein to behave in despicable ways.

As a leader, I did not like you. You failed and disappointed me on too many occasions. People are justifying your loss, saying you were a good president who did not surround himself with competent and wise team members.
I'm sorry to say I disagree. You were not a good leader, otherwise you would have built and grown a better team.

While I may never have been president of Ghana, my study of leadership and the practice of it has shown me that the selection, maintenance and growth of a good team is 75% of your job as a leader. In this you failed. You appointed many people whose only skills and competencies were being stalwart NDC party faithfuls and the ability to engage in dirty, non-issue based politics. If you failed because of your team, then you failed as a leader. By not making an example of those who were incompetent, by not reiniing in those who were running their mouths and insulting the people of Ghana, by not realizing that your team playing dirty meant you were dirty, you failed. While you may say you never accepted a bribe, while you may present yourself as an affable, humble man, your team were behaving in the opposite way and so you failed.

Your failure has proven to many Ghanaians that the NDC indeed has very few skilled members. When we compare you to the incoming president, in this he has already exceled in his campaign. He brought in the best IT personnel to run his campaign's technical end, and selected a prolific economist to be his vice-president. You can already see that these two key people played a big role in his victory. He's got that one hands down, and if he's able to continue in the same vein, Ghana will grow better.

As you have already learned quite painfully, it isn't those who hail you and praise you all the time that you should keep close to you. It is those who tell you the truth to your face regardless of how you respond, and those who are able to help you to become better, that you keep on your team. Those who hailed you years ago are the same ones who rejected you on the ballot this year, showing you that they didn't hail you because of your looks or gentility, but because they thought you would make Ghana better. When you failed, you were voted out quite dramatically.

As you begin the transition process, I hope you pass on these lessons to our incoming president, and I hope you help him to succeed where you failed. That is the true mark of a leader. You said you did your best, and we appreciate the infrastructure and your acceptance of the loss of power gracefully.

As you leave office, I hope you decide to become a great contributor to our democracy and development. Don't hold press conferences when you notice the new government failing somewhere. Call the president directly and let him know. Don't look for faults just to prove to Ghanaians you were better. Hope and pray that they do succeed, even if that means your party never comes back to power.Encourage members of your party who want to be leaders to go and study and prepare themselves.

Winning the elections is only the beginning of the journey, as you have realized. If you are not prepared to perform in your role you will be fired. Preparation and study will ensure that there are members of the NDC who actually have ideas and real practical solutions, not just big grammatical insults and propaganda. Encourage your NDC leaders to recruit talent that is skilled and equipped. Use the next few years judiciously, not sitting on radio and tv insulting the ruling party, but actually learning and showing real intellectual strength. That is the only way you can contribute your bit to making Ghana strong, prosperous and developed. And that, Mr. President, is what every Ghanaian wants.
Yours sincerely,
Ghana President for a Day

Sunday, December 11, 2016

To 'The Good People of Ghana': Was Ghana on the Ballot Paper?

Dear 'Good' People of Ghana,
I must begin my post today by saying my next planned letter was to the outgoing president, not you. However, I saw the need for a short grammar (and patriotic) lesson, so here goes! The adjective used to describe you in my heading and greeting will be the focus of our discussion.Please allow the dictionary to explain to you what 'good' means and then decide for yourselves if the word is being used properly above:

  1. 1.
    to be desired or approved of.
    "we live at peace with each other, which is good"

Let us observe a moment of silence. Have you decided if 'good' is the right adjective yet? No? You need some help? Ohhh, you'd like for me to help you decide? It would be my sad duty to do so. 

We just elected a new president by majority vote last week. However, according to the numbers, it was really the swing voters who won this election for our incoming leaders. 45% of us always vote for the NPP, 45% always for the NDC, and 10% of us actually look at the evidence before us and then select a leader. This 10% decided to vote for the NPP this year after considering the evidence before them, but you would never know the way stalwart NPP faithfuls are carrying on.
According to you NPP faithfuls, you're the ones who won this election and not the rest of us. Allow me to present anecdotal evidence from Facebook:

"Hypocrisy is when u knw u didn't vote for Nana Addo yet u take to ur Facebook handle to say Ghana won... Did Ghana contest an election? Mtchewwwwwwwwwwwee."

"To those NDC commentators who have all of a sudden become so patriotic and are shouting Ghana has won, ..... if it is because you are afraid you will be trolled then you have missed the shot paa. You shall be trolled and trolled well paaaa."

These posts are all over Facebook. I have seen them shared by many people, and worse, there are posts that are insulting anyone who supported the outgoing government, if they even post congratulatory messages to the incoming government. The terrible spelling and short-hand aren't the only things making me wince when I read these posts.

This brings us back to our discussion of 'good': are the above posts to be desired or approved of? When the outgoing NDC's supporters did this in 2012, we all condemned their behavior. When people were throwing about insults and involving themselves in dirty politics, NPP supporters were the first to say they were different. Are you really different? When members of the 10% who helped your candidate win this election, but were not known supporters are happy at the outcome and saying Ghana won, you ask " was Ghana on the ballot paper?". 

Really? Is that the most patriotic response you could come up with, young patriot? Our president elect won this election because the majority of Ghanaians voted for him. This means the majority of Ghanaians won this election, regardless of their party affiliations. He won because a majority of us believed he was the most qualified to lead. If you truly hold this to be true, then you will accept that it is Ghana that has won by getting a great leader. Even if the person did not vote for your candidate, the nation getting new leadership has won. Our elections proceeded peacefully and the incumbent government conceded in humility. That, my dear young patriot, is Ghana winning. If you don't believe me, go visit Gambia and then come back and let's talk.

This post is for the 80-90% partisan population of Ghana. I'm sorry to break it to you, but you have NOT displayed behaviour that is to be desired or approved of. You are NOT the 'good' people of Ghana (and I haven't even started on the fact that 99% of you claim to be christians or muslims with at least a univesity degree, and yet behave in completely uncharacteristic ways!).

 Re-think your auto-support system for your parties. Re-think your attitude that makes an enemy out of anyone who shares a different political leaning to you. Re-think your divisive behaviour that has pitted our people against one another for all these years and left us with little to show for it. Re-think your bad work ethic, your own moral compass that allows you to accept and give bribes, your inability to make decisions based on facts and not your emotions. Re-think your misplaced passion that our nation, and not your party, desperately needs.

Speaking of facts, re-think your lack of desire to find them, read them, watch them, listen to them or evaluate them objectively because of your party-colored sunglasses that clouds your vision. When you, who call yourself a party supporter, can't even read the abridged version of your own party manifesto but attacks the one who did and voted based on what they read, how can Ghana go anywhere? When you're happily and proudly bullying people online because their party lost, boasting of trolling them because you were just waiting for the opportunity, you should pause and re-consider. 

Consider that you have now sunk to the very same level that you once
abhorred, and are now 'a mythical, cave-dwelling being depicted in folklore as either a giant or a dwarf, typically having a very UGLY appearance'
Those were the dictionary's word for a troll, not mine. Don't like that definition much? How about 'Being a terrible human being on the internet because you can'? That's a dictionary definition for trolling too.

We are here at a turning point in our nation's history. It is time for everyone, regardless of party affiliation, to be hopeful, pray and support the new government. It is critical that we do so. That support isn't just going to be in the form of letting them know they're doing well, it will be to work hard, clean up our own individual corrupt habits and hold them accountable. It is the age of information. Read and educate yourself on what has been promised, and become someone who engages in useful dialogue that will help us grow. Instead of focusing on political affiliations, focus on ideas and vision and accountability. And if someone asks for the government to be accountable for promises made, don't use your auto-partisan-ness to attack them. They love Ghana too.

Our outgoing president His Excellency John Mahama refers to you as 'good'. Our President Elect Akufo-Addo addresses you in a similar fashion. If 'good' was a person with a lawyer, it would probably drag you off to court on Monday for character assassination, misrepresentation and false advertising. Let's make sure that changes.
Ghana President for a Day

Saturday, December 10, 2016

To Nana: On his election as President of the Republic of Ghana

Dear President Elect Akufo-Addo,
I didn't like you. I never did, and I still have mixed feelings about you. Please allow me to clarify. As the self appointed President for a day of Ghana, I disliked you because of some things you'd said in public that were not things to be said even in private.I didn't like you because through out the time I knew of you, it seemed to me you wanted to be president like it was a family inheritance of sorts. You reeked of arrogance and an inability to connect with the struggles of the common Ghanaian, and so your attempts to appear as someone who could just made you seem hypocritical to me. I didn't see how you, who come from the lineage of the man who reportedly used real golden spoons in his wedding reception, could understand and know the struggles that my mom, who had to give up her food and 'fast' for days sometimes just so we could eat, was facing.  Whenever I saw your 2016 campaign team finally going into the rural areas and speaking with members of the electorate that you'd ignored in previous elections, I'd think to myself that you were being falsely humble just to get the votes you needed to get into power. It made me happy that you seemed to have realized that the ordinary citizen of Ghana is who would vote for you, but I was still skeptical about you.

Speaking of my mom, I didn't like you because she didn't like you. She said there was no way you could ever be president and the NPP needed to find a more likable candidate. And when you have a mom as smart and wise as mine is, you tend to just agree with her and adopt her stance.
If you're still reading this by now, I promise I didn't write this letter to you just to explain why I didn't like you. I'm writing this so you know this: you need to prove us wrong. You have already started off well, winning this election in such grand fashion. I've never been a fan of either the NDC or NPP, but I was hoping there would be a change and there is now.
However, my hopes for change were not just for change. They were for positive change, change in the right direction. This is where I'm going to need you to understand that the same hope and need for change that got you elected, will get you out of office if you don't prove your naysayers wrong.

Prove to me that you do understand the conditions of mothers who are in the position my mom was in once by enacting policies that make their lives better. Prove to my mom that you're not the same divisive arrogant man she knew but a man of peace, unity and development. Use the best talent in our nation regardless of their political affiliations. Keep the ship of government tight to save us money in all those costs. Celebrate, but only briefly, because you need to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

You've wanted,dreamed of, worked hard and sacrificed many things to be president. Now you are president. What are you going to do now? Who are you going to put on your team? Have you learned from the outgoing president's mistakes and already made a tentative list of only the best people to work with? Are you ready to spend only the shortest amount of time possible to look into all of the contracts that exist so the worthy and correctly contracted companies can finish their work and get paid?
Perhaps you need to consider outsourcing that investigation of contracts to a qualified company and give them a deadline to deliver their analysis. We can't afford to wait for you to appoint ministers and then select who is going to be in charge of this. I only say this, because we can't afford to halt payments for work done for so long, that the interest that builds on the original payment is more than what we owe. Worse, we can't afford to be sued for delayed payments for work done. This is what happens when you leave that task to ministers, who then proceed to drag it on for as long as possible in order to just collect per diem. We can't wait even a year for you to do this. Evaluate what needs to be finished quickly, prosecute if need be, and move on to new things.

Please don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. The fact that the outgoing government started something should not be your only reason for not finishing it. Assess our priorities and place projects in line with these priorities, and make sure they get done regardless of who started it.
Four years is a long time, long enough for people to get PhDs,  but it is a very short time when you're dealing with employees who work from 11am to 2pm instead of 8am to 5pm, and who are more interested in trying to spend as much of the nation's money as possible. That brings me back to point 1: bring in only the best. Keep a tight ship and make sure these people will actually work. Fire those who need to be fired, and reward hard work and transparency.

Many factors are against you. The world economy isn't doing very well. Oil prices are low, which means the projected expected oil revenue in the next year will be lower than we'd like. Our power situation needs fixing. Our population is exploding, with many more of us urbanized. The Ghana of yesterday is no longer the Ghana of today. Our needs are different. Look critically at these needs and prioritize them. Don't focus on re-election. Focus on real results and re-election will be a by-product. As the Bible says, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you. Seek first the prosperity of our nation and all other re-elections shall be added unto you. Keep the main thing the main thing.

I would love it if you made the main thing getting us out of debt and making us self-sufficient. I know you may think it is impossible, but I'd like to assure you that it definitely is. Just like a company that tries to make more profit and reduce spending, perhaps you should start with a tighter ship and benefits for our public sector based on merit and not as a condition of employment. For example,  if MPs would only receive free fuel or housing as a condition of performance, we'd save some money and see a huge improvement in their work ethic. Bring in consultants and let them tell you what you can do. If Ghana is a business, we're too far in the red to be trying to fix these things without expert advice. Be humble enough to let the experts tell you how to fix this, and be willing to tighten the belt to do it.
There's no time to celebrate your win, and I'm sorry for that. I understand this is your lifelong dream come true, but celebrate when you actually accomplish the dreams of the people who placed you in power. If you spend six months celebrating and another two years just getting the hang of the job because you're surrounded by inefficient people, re-election will come again very quickly. And this time, a third candidate may just break through and win. That's my personal hope, but I pray and entreat you for the sake of our nation: prove me wrong.

Ghana President for a Day