I respect and appreciate politicians from either side of the political divide. I have come to appreciate the commitment of many politicians and I know that there are many people in politics today who were driven into politics, not for personal gain, but from a deep conviction that they could make a difference and contribute to the development of Ghana.
Unfortunately, there are some realities to politics in Ghana that either frustrates the good intentions of the politician or forces him/her to become a very different person from the one who first threw himself/herself into politics.
And because of that reality, a lot of politicians leave office with very little to show for their contribution to mother Ghana. And this morning, I want to share with you eight things the average politician would regret when he leaves office.
He would regret some of the people he allowed to be close to him.
A curious thing happens with almost every politician in Ghana – they get surrounded by people who often do not share their values and who use their access to, and the name of, the politician to do terrible things. There are many politicians who lose the goodwill of the people because of the statements, actions and attitude of the people who surround them. These are the people who define reality for the politician; these are the people who determine his reaction to anything and anyone. These are the people who decide what will come to the attention of the politician and what will not come to his attention. The politician thinks they are serving him but they know that they are using him for their own agenda.
I know politicians who are perceived as corrupt when they are not because those around them use their names to loot; to extort bribes and to punish those they do not like. Unfortunately, the true nature of these hangers-on becomes apparent to the politician only when it is too late.
He would regret some of the things he said on political platforms.
In a contempt of court case against Sir John in 2013, the counsel for the respondent, Mr. Ayikoi Otoo, himself a veteran politician, said sometimes, some power, “Gbeshi,” seems to take over the politician when he is on a political platform. He said that is the only logical explanation for some of the things politicians say on political platforms.
It would be nice if politicians would be measured and honest on political platforms but maybe it is difficult to resist the urge to be mischievous and so politicians will continue to regret some of the things they said in public.
He would regret not knowing who his real enemies were and who his real friends were.
I spent an unforgettable evening with Mr. Tawiah Adamafio, one of the best political strategists Ghana has ever seen. Mr. Tawiah Adamafio had been a close confidant of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah but after the attempt on Nkrumah’s live at Kulungugu, Osagyefo had allowed himself to be convinced that TA was his enemy and Osagyefo had imprisoned him at Nsawam.
During the course of the evening, I asked him if he was bitter against Nkrumah and I was shocked that he harbored no bitterness whatsoever against Nkrumah. He said, “I don’t blame Nkrumah; I blame those who were jealous of my closeness to Nkrumah and who wanted to destroy me.”
After the meeting, I kept wondering: what if Nkrumah had known who his true friends were and who his real enemies were. As it was, some people who did not wish Nkrumah well, managed to make him move against those who were really for him. Unfortunately, Nkrumah is not the only politician who has mistaken his enemies for friends and his friends for enemies. It happens all the time and it always leads to regret when it is too late.
He would regret moving against members of the opposition.
Every time power changes hands in Ghana, some perceived supporters of the losing party are victimized in all kinds of ways. Their contracts are cancelled; their businesses are subjected to punitive scrutiny and sometimes shut down. It happens all the time. NDC has moved against perceived NPP businesses and NPP has in its time also moved against perceived NDC businesses. No politician enjoys it when he goes into opposition and finds those in power moving against him and his supporters but quite often that move is in retaliation for what he did to his political opponents when he was in power.
He would regret making politics in Ghana a matter of winner takes all.
I became friends with a man who headed GHAPOHA under one government. He was excellent at the job and under his stewardship, GHAPOHA chalked a lot of successes. Then government changed hands and he was booted out of office. His performance at the position did not mean anything to the new government.
This kind of situation is common in Ghana and it is the product of the winner takes all kind of politics we have in Ghana. The problem is that what you do to others when you come into power would be done to you when you leave office and that is what leads to a lot of suffering for politicians in the political wilderness.
He would regret hating criticisms even when it was constructive.
It has always been the case in our political space that when you express an opinion that goes against those in power, they respond by attacking you. In most cases if they had listened to the criticisms and worked with them, they would have extended their term in office but the average politician hates criticisms of any kind when they are in power.
He would regret that he did not do more or fight harder for mother Ghana.
I sat next to a former minister at a function not too long ago. In our conversation, he expressed disgust with a situation in Ghana. He felt very strongly that that situation should not be allowed to exist. I said to him, in as nice a way as I could, “Honorable, you were the minister responsible once and the situation was there even then.” And then he began to give all kinds of excuses but I could tell that he regretted that he did not do better when he had the chance.
He would regret not realizing that his term would come to an end.
It seems obvious that every politician would know that he would not be in office forever and yet the reality for those of us who are observers of the political game is that most politicians act as if they forget that they will leave office one day, sooner or later. I have no idea why or how that happens but time and again, it becomes too obvious that some politicians forget that they will not be in office forever. There are politicians who even turn their backs on their friends and on those who helped them into office. Then one day, they wake up to find that time has run out for them or that they need these people again and they cannot win them back. It is sad.