Five years post presidency, President Kufuor has failed to write a single word
on what influenced the major decisions of his tenure!
President John Mills— four years as Vice President, four as President. Dead! No
autobiography! Vice President Aliu Mahama— eight years in office. Dead! Without
a book. Justice Daniel Francis Annan—for eight years, Speaker of Parliament and
an experienced political hand. Dead! No autobiography! Peter Ala Adjatey—four
years, Speaker of Parliament and past leader of a major political party. Dead!
Without a book. Major Courage Quashigah, probably the only first class US Army-
trained ranger, national party organiser, and Minister of State for eight
years. Dead! No book!
How many more of our leaders are waiting to die without sharing their
experiences with a younger generation? How many are woefully failing in their
social obligation to prevent avoidable governance pitfalls with carefully
documented historical accounts to be learned from!
William Jefferson Clinton left office in the same year as Jerry Rawlings.
Within four years, “My Life” was published. When Clinton decided to dedicate
his post presidency to so-called citizen activism, he went beyond the
traditional presidential library and formed the Clinton Global Initiative.
Within three years of “My Life”, he published his second book, “Giving: How
Each of Us Can Change the World.” Vice President Al Gore; within six years of
losing the presidency, released “An Inconvenient Truth” in which he argued
that, “The truth about the climate crisis is an inconvenient one …” George
Walker Bush Jnr, his foibles in Iraq and Afghanistan notwithstanding, wrote
“Decision Points” within two years of leaving office, reflecting on the major
decision points that defined his presidency. Tony Blair, his British
conspirator, also reflected on “A Journey”. Vice President Cheney, Donald
Rumsfeld, Barack Obama, and even Monica Lewinsky have all shared something with
What makes their leaders routinely document their learning and move on to new
conquests while some of ours sometimes appear only too happy to remain slaves
of past glories and too scared to embrace a new future?
The conduct of President Rawlings’ post presidency is especially less than
impressive, especially where documenting his reflections on momentous national
events of historical significance are concerned. Kufuor’s shortcomings in not
writing a book notwithstanding, he seems to have a clear plan with his
foundation. But still, both they and others painfully refuse to write. Is it
selfishness? Is it lack of awareness of its importance? Is it lack of adequate
technical support? Is it for fear that we will not read? Whatever the reason, a
lot of our leaders have woefully failed to prioritize this.
Some leaders, desirous of documenting their legacies, have, perhaps, either
found inspiration in or been intimidated by Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew,
reputed for moving underdeveloped Singapore, bereft of so called natural
resources, “From Third World to First” over a 35 year period. What they lacked
in natural resources, they more than made up for in what Henry Kissinger called
“superior intelligence, discipline, and ingenuity.”
Today, Lee Kuan Yew’s book appears to have become standard reference text for
students of transformational leadership. Would this have been possible had he
not taken the painstaking trouble to document his views, experiences and his
learning? Mandela took us on a “Long Walk to Freedom” while Nkrumah gifted us
an entire golden collection.
Various strategies have been deployed by some of these leaders in their
unquenchable quest to write for younger generations amidst busy schedules.
Fundamental to these strategies has been the deployment of research assistants
and writers to assist these former presidents dig through voluminous government
materials and minutes of crucial meetings, etc.
The research for Yew’s book took almost five years. If the country truly values
the documentation of historical events through the eyes of principal actors in
those events, then there would be the need to facilitate the writing of same.
This may take the form of a supporting secretariat of writers and researchers.
Clinton wrote long hand in 22 big note books, leaving gaps where further
research/fact check was needed. Assistants then filled it up, printing outputs
for his edits. Hettie Jones co-wrote “My Life with Bob Marley” with Rita Marley
in the latter’s words.
This is much the same way that Alex Haley, through extensive interviews with
Malcolm X, enabled Malcolm X to write his autobiography as “told to Alex
Haley.” So, our leaders can sit with writers and talk through the various
chapters while it is recorded on tape for later transcription and editing.
Kwame Nkrumah had an energized private secretary who, for want of a better
word, was especially relentless. Erica Powell continuously hounded the Osagyefo
while in office to complete his books. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons for
Nkrumah’s prolific writing; Powell will herself take notes and advance the book
After the Osagyefo, the only other high profile Ghanaian political leader to
have bothered to write anything has been the then Vice President John Dramani
Mahama with his “First Coup d’Etat.”
In it, he writes eloquently about Africa’s “lost decade,” describing how “For
many individuals, there is a moment that stands out as pivotal to the awakening
of their consciousness. Often, that moment can feel like a harbinger of
disaster: the first tremors of an earthquake or rains of a hurricane, the
eruption of civil war or riots. An assassination or a coup d’etat. It is a
moment that serves as the line of demarcation, separating the certainty of what
was from the uncertainty of what lies ahead. It is a moment in which you
suddenly become aware of who you are; you become aware of the fragility and
unpredictability of the world in which you live. Ghana’s descent into the “lost
decades” began with such a moment, with the coup d’etat that unseated our first
president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah. When I look back on my life, it’s clear to me that
this moment marked the awakening of my consciousness.”
An aha! moment if ever there was one!
Fortunately, it is not only President John Mahama who gives us hope about a
newer crop of leaders who do not fear to document their stories. An even
younger generation inspires greater hope: Robert Nii Arday Clegg’s, (first
class political science and philosophy student and the 2004 best graduating law
student) “10 Strategies for Making Top Grades At The University”; Dr. Yaw
Perbi’s numerous books on Christian leadership, finance and investment;
journalist Ato Kwamina Dadzie’s “Pretending To Be President” and whatever book
the grapevine maintains the intelligent broadcaster Bernard Avle is writing.
While commending the above, it bears investigating what it would take for the
mythical Captain Kojo Tsikata (distinguished intelligence capo who did much,
saw everything and said little) to write everything –well, almost everything,
from the Ghana Army through Angola to heady revolution days. We need Dr. Obed
Asamoah (Ghana’s longest serving Minister for Foreign Affairs) to write a
scorching critique of Ghana’s foreign policies from Nkrumah to date, evolving
key lessons on what could have been done differently. We need J.H. Mensah,
reputed to be one of the very few to have experienced it all from Nkrumah
through Kufuor to share. Prof. Kwesi Botchwey’s personal account of the tough
decision-making that turned the Ghanaian economy from abject stagnation and
decline of the late 1970s to growth in the 1980s is painfully missing.
Dr. Christina Amuako-Nuamah (dedicated mother and grandmother, staunch
Christian, accomplished academic, political strategist and politician) cannot
refuse to inspire young women and men alike with her compelling story. A book
by the Ahwoi brothers, spelt Ato and Kwamena, on grassroots political mobilisation
and critical decision-making in the corridors of power will be worth killing
for. Dan Botwe’s distinctive focus and quality as a young party General
Secretary, unmatched since, proved crucial in Kufuor’s successful 2000
presidential run. He too must share.
Kwesi Pratt Jnr., Kweku Baako Jnr., Kweku Sakyi-Addo, Azumah Nelson, Abedi
Pele, and Kojo Antwi must all rise from the current slumber and write! It is a
great failing and they all owe us many books which we must see by 2015!
I am reading Professor Kofi Awoonor’s affirmatively disruptive “African
Dilemma.” Erudite, thought provoking and poetic, it reads like music on paper.
His previous major work covering poetry, fiction and nonfiction
notwithstanding, the acclaimed writer and statesman too, could gift us with
another book covering these latter years. I almost allowed him to escape!