Saturday, August 4, 2012

Power: Its transient nature and the lessons of history.

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." - Baron Acton.

The attempt to combine wisdom and power has only rarely been successful and then only for a short while.” - Albert Einstein.

The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.” - Abraham Lincoln

The power of man has grown in every sphere, except over himself.” - Winston Churchill

The attempt to combine wisdom and power has only rarely been successful and then only for a short while”- Albert Einstein.

Readers of this column will remember our many lamentations that the late Ghanaian President Atta Mills was badly served by those around him. We even once asked him to fire his entire communication team if he knew what was good for him.

Sadly, the late affable leader did not take our advice. Alas, the man passed on to eternity.

I have often wondered why officials in Africa easily turn to demi-gods as soon as they get into position of power and authority.

It is as if there something in our centers of power that makes mere mortal transform themselves into supermen immediately they are elevated into position of power.

I have countless personal experiences with people whom I considered bosom friends but are instantly transformed as soon as they get some post. People with whom I chat on almost hourly basis became instantly inaccessible as soon as they get (mostly schemed their ways) into high office.

We can safely excuse lack of time as we see and hear them spend too many hours babbling inanities on radio and TV stations. The transformation goes into the way they walk and talk.

I hope that I’m not the only one that saw the great transformations that overcame many presidential aides as soon as the death of President Mills was announced.
Did you notice how Mr. Koku Anyidoho has visibly shrunk? Gone were the imperial and arrogant mien and nasty countenance we are used to when the going was good.

Few weeks ago, Mr. Anyidoho was the master of all that he surveyed. He spoke for the president and that was position high enough to make the man believed that he was a cut above the rest of us.

He vainly bestrode the corridors of power like a drunken Colossus.

Whilst President Mills cut the picture of a humble, peaceful man who will not hurt a fly; his men were anything but.

People like Anyidoho, Nii Lante Vanderpuye, Ablakwa et all behaved like attack dogs let loose, unpityingly verbally shredding into pieces those they perceived as enemy of their boss.

They reduced the presidency into one huge joke where insults and expletives are substituted for good communications.

Politics became for these uncultured neophytes avenue to abandon culture and respect, as they verbally assaulted people that are old enough to be their parents.

Apparently promoted far beyond their abilities and qualifications, these verbal Rottweilers did not hesitate to abuse people who are not only older than them, but men who are clearly superior to them in any department we care to examine.

When his boss visited England, rather than for the Director of Communications to explain to us as to what steps the president was taking to woo investors and sell the country, Mr. Anyidoho turned his verbal assault rifle on the main opposition leader, Nana Akufo Addo.

This is what I wrote in: “Kofi Anyidoho should resign,”: “Speaking on Focus FM in London, the president's spokesman was at his nastiest. Listen to him: “Let Akufo-Addo…if he says he is a man, a true man from Akyem because he claims God gave all us two balls each unless his is three. Maybe, his is three but if he thinks his is three and for that matter he is man enough than all of us in this country, he should dare make a wrong move.

“I am saying it today that Akufu-Addo should dare. I know Gabby (Otchere Darko) is in London and listening. Gabby you are my friend and I'm telling you that you and that your Akufo-Addo. If you claim to be men, make… this country and you will see where power lies. We are waiting for them since they say “all die be die'.

“They should be careful they would not be the first to go visit their ancestry; Akufo-Addo, Jake and Mac Manu should be very careful they would not be the first to visit their ancestry because we will not just sit down in laxity and watch Akufo Addo use patapaa, huhuhuhu and kekeke to destroy this country… Ghana is not Akufo-Addo's property. It does not belong to him; it belongs to all of us” and for that matter, Akufo-Addo should stop throwing his weight about as though the country belonged to him.”

In vain we waited for the president to fire Mr. Anyidoho from his post for such crass mis-behaviour.

Was this not the same Mr. Anyidoho who breached all protocols and etiquette and announced to the world incomplete report of an ongoing investigation into a cocaine case?

Again, listen to him: “Today Asem Dake is in custody and ...I can promise you, President Mills is going to go to the bottom of this matter. Nobody, be it a former president, be it a sitting president, be it an erstwhile president, anybody who is involved in this cocaine matter..., you can be sure that President Mills will let the people of Ghana stand and point fingers at those who were involved in this dastardly trade.”

This was the president spokesman speaking on a very sensitive case that was still ongoing.

It appears however that Mr. Anyidoho overreached himself when on the night of June 3, 2012 when the nation was embarrassed by a light off at the Baba Yaara stadium at Kumasi, he announced the sacking of the Kumasi director of the Electricity Company of Ghana.

Bellowing at top voice, Mr. Anyidoho told us that “The president is angry, very angry. Heads will roll.” He then announced the sacking of the Director of the ECG at Kumasi.

It has since turned out that Mr. Anyidoho was simply telling lies; the president gave no such directive.

Caught in the web of his inaccuracies, he claimed that some faceless “Senior officials' took the decision.

How pathetic!”

Few days after his disastrous gaffe, the President’s Chief of Staff announced that his office has become the clearing house for information, thus effectively discarding with the service of the garrulous and unnecessarily pugnacious Mr. Anyidoho.

The depth to which president Mills staff hold their man in contempt became apparent evident just two days after his death when one of his aides, Nii Lante Vanderpuye (nebulously describe as Director of Operations at the castle), came out to tell us that he once organized an attack on the Presidential Convoy!

No, he was not kidding!

Here is how myjoyonline captured the story: “A Presidential Aide to the late President Professor John Evans Atta Mills, Nii Lantey Vanderpuye, has stated that at one time, he organized an attack on the Presidential Convoy!

According to him, he organized a community to put up a barrier of stones, blocks, clubs and other implements to block the presidential convoy when the convoy was on its way back to Accra with a tired President!

Speaking on ‘Talking Point’, a political talk show program on GTV on Sunday evening, Nii Lantey, as he is popularly known, stated that he was responsible for inciting a community to erect barriers to block the presidential convoy in order to force the late President Atta Mills to come out of his vehicle to speak to a crowd of villagers, even though he knew that the President was tired and wanted to come back to Accra.

“I knew the people wanted to see the President. When I got there they told me they wanted to see the President…we had already concluded our schedule but these were people who wanted to see the President, so, as the man in the lead car, I told them to put up a barrier, to put stones and sticks and blocks on the road so that when the convoy gets there they would be forced to stop.

After I told them to erect the barrier, I took off! So when they (presidential convoy) got there they stopped and the President got down to talk to them. The President immediately realized that I was the one responsible so he called me on the network to speak to me but I refused to pick the call. I ignored him, but later, when we arrived, he pulled me into an office and warned me that I should never do that again,” Nii Lantey said.

He was giving a testimony as to the very ‘forgiving’ nature of the late President John Evans Atta Mills and used the rather shocking and macabre recitations above to demonstrate why the late President would forgive his associates any kind of crime.”

What type of an aide would organise an attack on a, take a deep breath, a presidential convoy?

President Mills was undoubtedly a very decent man. But as I argued in one piece on his style of leadership, leadership, especially at the presidential level calls for more than mere decency.

It is hard to imagine an aide to JJ Rawlings or President Kufuor behaving the way Nii Lante did and live to boast about it.

It is equally difficult to imagine either of the two leaders countenancing an aide that so badly behaved as to refuse to pick their calls?

Who born dog, indeed!

It is therefore gratifying to see that new president appear to instill some fear of god in the men around him.

It is like a refreshing fresh air is breezing around the presidency when we see the Eastern Regional Minister, Victor Smith, rendering an unqualified apology to the President for his uncouth comments following the nomination of Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur as the Vice President.

We would never know what happened that made the minister made his hasty apology, but it show that we could expect things to be done differently this time around.

In his letter of apology, Mr. Smith wrote: “I wish to render unqualified apology to the President, HE John Dramani Mahama, Vice-President Nominee Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur and all others who have been aggrieved by my comments.”

“On the issue of the Vice Presidential nominee; I granted a number of interviews intending to clarify that the president’s nominee was not necessarily his Running Mate for the 2012 election. The import of my comment has been misconstrued.“

“I don’t have any ill feeling against Mr Amissah-Arthur. He is a loyal member of the NDC and I have no question about his credentials to occupy the office for which the President has nominated him.”

This is good as I cannot remember the late president Mills receiving any apology from any of the loud-mouthed braggarts that surrounded him. His so-called Director of Communications, Koku Anyidoho, embarrassed the late leader on more than two occasions; yet one never heard of him apologizing for his many mistakes

For long we have watched helplessly as government appointees leave their offices to become serial callers and useless debaters on radio and TV. This should stop.

A minister should have better employment for his time than engage in political debates 24/7.

Honestly, I believe that the president should have fired Mr. Smith the way President Rawlings did.

To begin with, it was not the business of regional ministers to tell the president whom to appoint to what position.

It shows gross disrespect when subordinates start to question the appointments made by their boss.

Let us hope that this is the beginning of the end of officials (elected and appointed) running riot with their mouths.

It is said that those that failed to learn the lessons of history are bound to repeat it. Let’s hope that the new courtiers at the palace will learn from the follies of their predecessors.

That life is ephemeral is a lesson we all we do well to learn and remember. Power is sweet but it is fleeting. Those that believe themselves Alph and Omega need only visit the morgue to realize the futility of all egos.

As we journey through the mystery that is life, we should learn to understand that nothing, absolutely nothing, last forever. One moment we are here, crowned in all the glories, the next moment we are gone inert and devoid of LIFE. As we lie naked in morgue, only the good things we manage to do in this life remain etched in the memories of those that had contact with us.

It is these memories that really matter as they are the only things that we will be remembered by. The fond memories of those with whom we came in contact are all that really matters when all is said and done and we journey to the land of the ancestors.

Power is not alluring to pure minds.” - Thomas Jefferson

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