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