Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. – ABRAHAM LINCOLN
I love Socrates! I just love Socrates! If there is a single philosopher I would love to meet and have a conversation with, it would be Socrates. I cannot recount the number of times I have read Socrates defence in Plato’s Apology after I encountered it in my level 300 Ancient and Medieval Political Thought class.
I didn’t really like philosophy and theories that much and I must confess that if the course were not a compulsory one, I would not have studied it at all. But today I am really glad I studied it and Socrates was the first Philosopher I encountered in the class which made me love it more. I cannot tell if it is Socrates bravado in the face of death that makes me love him or the fact that his greatest refrain was that ‘If he had wisdom more than anyone else it was because he knew that he knew nothing’.
But I am not going to discuss Socrates today or my love for him. Maybe some other time I would discuss Socrates with you. What I want to discuss today is how just about anyone believes they can be president of Ghana these days. What prompted this thought was a story that was trending somewhere in March that actor John Dumelo wants to be president of Ghana. I have no personal problem with Mr. Dumelo, the truth is I have not even met the guy before or spoken with him ever in my life and I also have no problem with him wanting to be president of |Ghana.
My problem is with the media especially and a section of Ghanaians who jump to the bandwagon most of the time when people like John make their political intentions known. While some support them based on political affiliation, others criticize them on the same basis as well. Very few people ask the most important questions as to what the person’s knowledge on governance is and what their educational background is. There is also competition these days as to which party can get the most endorsement from celebrities. What we fail to realise is that the fact that someone is popular does not guarantee that such a person has the knowledge to determine who the best president for a country will be.
I am also not saying that education can determine whether a person can be president or not, far from it. But it is a guide as to how to begin the discourse on what the person knows about governance and if the person can govern at all. Your education, your career and personal life will combine to place you at an advantage when we want to determine if you can govern well.
Now, the reason why I mentioned Socrates in my opening paragraphs is because a quote attributed to Him [Socrates], reads “NO MAN UNDERTAKES A TRADE HE HAS NOT LEARNT, EVEN THE MEANEST; YET EVERY ONE THINKS HIMSELF SUFFICIENTLY QUALIFIED FOR THE HARDEST OF ALL TRADES – THAT OF GOVERNMENT”. By this Socrates posits that the business of government is the most difficult of all jobs and thus if a man cannot fish effectively and efficiently without learning how to fish, how can one govern without learning how to govern first.
Abraham Lincoln is also quoted as saying, “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. This is similar to Socrates’ quote because Lincoln who is considered as one of the greatest American Presidents if not the greatest seeks to say that preparation for any job is the best way to succeed. That is we just don’t get up and say I want to be president without learning how to govern or the requirements of governance to be a successful president.
In this country recently, the likes of Madam Akua Donkor, Odike and recentrly a man called George Boateng who wanted to contest President Mahama for the NDC presidential candidate slot have gained prominence because they wanted to be presidents of Ghana and as such have a lot of media attention. There are a countless number of people also who have shown interest in government and indeed some have gone ahead to win primaries and parliamentary seats. Notably, Dzokoto, Victoria Hammah also won primaries in 2011 and contested but lost and Salinko who the PPP branded a joker, and have disqualified etc.
Some of these people have conducted themselves well after getting into politics whilst others like Victoria Hammah have vindicated Socrates by their actions. I am not against an actor or a celebrity wanting to get into politics or governance, but my greatest challenge is that when they declare their intentions, Ghanaians (with emphasis on the media) fail to scrutinize them well enough to bring to light their level of intelligence on issues of governance and just support them because of their star status.
Everyone thought Dr. Carson had a real shot at the POTUS in 2016, until he was exposed in a debate on foreign policy followed by a series of media interviews. After that debate and interviews, the renowned neurosurgeon’s poll numbers kept going down until he decided to opt out of the race altogether after failing to win in any state. The main reason why people are still opposed to Mr. Donald Trump’s candidature despite his high poll numbers is also attributed to his lack of governance knowledge/ experience coupled with his loose talk.
One thing I know for sure is that even traditional rulers are trained in the art of statecraft before they are enstooled or enskinned and that is why sometimes people who are qualified for enskinment or enstoolment are overlooked for the next in line because no one wants an unskilled and dumb person as their chief.
Ghana will be going to the polls in 2016, and a number of celebrities, and candidates have been put forward by the political parties, Kwame Dzokoto and a former beauty pageant winner or so for instance won parliamentary primaries to contest on the ticket of the NDC, whilst I do not rule them out just because they are coming from the entertainment industry, I am sure the delegates who selected them never questioned their ability to represent them effectively when they finally get the nod. Most of them supported them because they have powerful political godfathers or because they have money or even because they are just stars.
I just hope that they have knowledge on governance and/or they are willing to learn the trade of politics because if both assumptions prove to be correct, then I can’t help but assume the same fate that befell Madam Victoria Hammah awaits them. Thus they may not last long in main stream politics or they wouldn’t have any impact.
It was Pope Francis who said, “Every man, every woman who has to take up service of government, must ask themselves two questions; ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good”. But I posit that even the Pope is wrong. These questions will make you a good politician, maybe endear you to people and help you win elections. But to be able to govern well requires training, learning the art of statecraft and being able to think deeply and critically as well as acting on time. Combining this with what the esteemed Pope said may get one close to being able to govern well. If we look at some Of the greatest politicians that lived like Abraham Lincoln, it was their training and their various failures whilst trying to get to where they wanted to get to that prepared them for the herculean task of governance. Having a free ride to the presidency because of one’s popularity and money is dangerous to any governance system and any country’s quest for development.
Ghana is still at a developmental stage and a lot of people have rightly called for technocrats to be involved in governance. We face numerous challenges that must be solved through critical thinking and not sloganeering. If we were developed, we can afford to have just any Tom Dick and Harry manage our affairs. The current challenges we face including power cuts, a week currency, and unemployment prove that going the way of popular names and slogans will not help us as a country.
Not only celebrities, but anyone who puts themselves up for governance whether a lawyer, a banker, an engineer, a career politician, a lecturer, a political science graduate, a philosophy graduate or masters holder ought to be scrutinized, their intelligence put on a scale, their beliefs and policies questioned and questioned again to ensure that those who finally get to govern are those who can truly lift our country out of poverty.
I cannot judge anyone who wants to get into politics because as the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 8:2, “anyone who claims to know all answers doesn’t really know very much´. I don’t know much myself, the little I know is to ask questions and get those who care to start thinking.