Like one of those tricky pattern questions in an aptitude test, I have been turning around the issue of poor national leadership in my mind and asking myself, “what is the way out?”. Bingo! I finally settle on the attitude of our politicians and leaders as the root cause of poor leadership in Ghana. On several occasions I have heard others attribute the problem to the same cause; but I choose to tackle the issue from another angle—the national leadership policy. In my opinion the solution does not simply lie in entreating politicians to change their attitudes or hoping that the many vows they say when they take office will make a difference. Under such circumstances, politics will remain a ladder to a position of power where wealth is amassed and not a position of service to the people. This is because attitude is formed at a very early stage and attitude once formed is difficult to change. Since today we spend relatively more time in school than we do at home, I suggest a national leadership policy targeted at our schools with the aim of raising quality leaders with the right attitude to lead Ghana in the next century and afterwards.
The national leadership policy should have the issue of leadership integrated into the syllabi of our educational system at all levels. The integration should be done over a longer time frame and the topic treated in an in-depth manner than is being done presently. Perhaps my memory does not serve me right, but I don’t recall much from my studies on leadership; except for text book definitions of who a leader is types of leaders and qualities of a leader. I believe as a nation our task goes beyond the scanty outlines of idealistic leadership. Instead the onus lies on us to mould character by emphasizing patriotism and passion for the cause being led as well as clearly distinguishing between what good leadership is and what it is not. I opine that this is critical because there is a high probability that students who express interest in student leadership at both the secondary and tertiary levels will be the present on the national stage as well.
The policy should be designed so that school authorities support the drive to nurture leaders instead of seeing leaders of student bodies merely as a tool for student control or as a hindrance to their role as administrators. During my days in Secondary School, quite recently, I realised that prefects were not given enough room to be innovative. Suggestions and complaints they tabled to the administration were consistently ignored. Instead efforts should be made to empower them while guiding them to avoid the misuse of power. My call is a simple one that those in charge of education; that at all levels there must be a paradigm change concerning the role those in charge of the educational system play in developing the right calibre of national leaders.
In addition my call is one for the tenets of democracy to be replicated in our educational system. Free and fair elections including extensive education of the student body on electoral issues must be pervasive across the educational system. Importantly, room must be made for the various nominees to debate the ideas and plans they have in store, to test their preparedness for leadership as well as the viability of their ideas. This way not only will we produce leaders with well thought out and practical ideas we will also have a populace that will appreciate the call for debates at the national level and attach the necessary level of importance to them. Efforts must be made to clamp down on expensive campaigns and vote-buying which I find happens even at the secondary school level although it finds expression in slightly different forms. I admonish all secondary school heads who appoint the sons and daughters of benefactors as prefects as I am told is the practice in some schools to put an end to this practice in the name of national development. One important tenet of democracy that I must touch on is accountability. Student leaders must be accountable to the student body. Termly or semester forums must be organised between students and student leaders where leaders must give an account of progress made in achieving promises made to students.
Every organisation has a strategic plan that differentiates it from its competitors. I suggest that as a nation we seriously consider this bottom-up approach towards national leadership as a strategic plan aimed at changing the face of our national politics. Hopefully, there will come a time when those we can trust with leadership do not see politics as dirty game but as a tool for the development of our motherland. God bless Ghana.