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The Problem with Ghana is Ghanaians

The Problem with Ghana is Ghanaians: What kind of Follower are you?

Nii Lante Okunka BannermanThe frustration of Ghanaians, both inside and outside the country, is palpable. Our beloved country seems to be twisting in the wind. Ghana is fast descending into a failed state. The country is slowly withering on the vine. The so called leaders are mismanaging and fattening their wallets at the same time as the majority poor suffer needlessly. Though at a snail pace, it appears as if, a critical mass is forming around the need to remove both NPP and NDC from power. The rude yet encouraging realization is that, the cyclical exchange of the NPP for NDC or vice versa will not solve Ghana’s problems. Indeed, the NPP and NDC are identical in many ways and will both not hesitate to cause willful harm to the country. The cyclical thieving and blame game must come to a screeching halt. So I ask: What is your role in this mess? If you live in Ghana right now, what are you willing to do to upset the status quo? How can we take back this country from the looters?

I believe Ghana has a TICK problem. If you either own a pet or have owned one in the past, you know how lethal ticks can be. TICK is an acronym that stands for Tribalism, Incompetence, Corruption, and Kleptomania. These are the four core malignant cancers that continue to masticate the tender flesh of Ghana. How virulent these cancers metastasize at any given point in time is irrespective of what party is in power. Not long ago, P. V. Obeng, a political chameleon who flirts with both NDC and NPP, was quick to remind us that, “obiara ba saa” (it is the same regardless of who is in power). We’ve seen the full wrath of the TICK problem under Rawlings, Kufour, Mills and now Mahama. For sure, these cancers did not start under these leaders but were fortified, etched and infused into the bones of the country under these recent regimes.

According to Barbara Kellerman of Harvard University, in her book, followership, the leadership industry has fooled us to believe that all our woes stems from those who have power, influence and authority. She calls this the leader attribution theory. Ms. Kellerman maintains that, “attribution theory explains why we have the mistaken belief that individuals, leaders in particular, have more power than they really do. We assume the all-importance of leaders, even when the assumption is demonstrably false”. So, if a sport team is not doing well, sack the coach. If Ghana is not doing well, blame the president. If a business is not doing well, blame the CEO. If the Germans kill 6million Jews, blame only Hitler. Is this the true story or just half the story? Make no mistake; leaders have power, influence and authority. However, could it be a grievous error to either excuse or write off the followers? Is followership not the other side of the social contract coin? Are we continuing to sedate the followers/constituents by trivializing or subjugating their critical role?

Today, I ask this: What kind of follower are you? What kind of follower have you been? What kind of follower can or do you want to be? You follow because you either have to or want to. In the corporate world, we follow because we have to. In the real world of politics, we follow because we want to. We basically sign a voluntary social contract with our leaders to the effect that, they behave ethically and perform effectively. In return, we will give them the support they need to be successful. Why then do we refuse to hold them accountable when they engage in tribalism (unethical)? Why then do we defend them, when they engage in corruption (unethical and illegal)? Why do we stick with them when they are incompetent (not effective)? Why do we cover up for them when they steal (kleptomania) from us? Why do we follow willingly, when we know good and well that our leaders are not up to snuff?

Today, I am here to say that there is strength in numbers. Followers come in different shapes and forms and are not as powerless as we think. Turn on the radio in Ghana and you hear chiefs and citizens alike, begging government to come and do for them. Why can’t citizens do for themselves? Why can’t they march to the offices of those in charge and demand action? Why can’t constituents or followers take matters into their hands and remove or ban leaders who are not performing? Why do you continue to vote for people because they are your tribesperson? Why do you vote for an MP who is not only a thief, drug dealer, and criminal, but also ineffective? You are always complaining about this and that but come election time, you vote for the wrong person for the wrong reasons and expect things to change? Nothing will change if you vote every 4 years, yet stay disengaged all the time. Voting comes with the added responsibility of holding the one you voted for responsible and accountable. You must act differently if you want spirited results!

You see, Professor Kellerman intimates, that, there are different kinds of followers. Actually, one can profile followers in different ways. Relationship to leader, relationship to other followers, level of engagement, thinking style and overall behavior, are all factors that could be used to slice and dice followers or constituents. Can you carefully evaluate whether you’ve been passive, conformist, alienated, pragmatist or exemplary follower? Have you been an activist who is willing to support your leaders so long as they are effective and ethical? Have you been a conformist who is actively engaged but adheres to party dogma? Have you been a passive follower who is not engaged and cannot think critically? Are you alienated because you are a critical thinker but cannot engage the party? Are you a pragmatist because you are in the middle when it comes to engagement and criticality of thinking? Where do you fall in Kelley’s followership paradigm? Are you an effective follower?

My brothers and sisters, nothing much will change in Ghana until a critical mass of Ghanaian join together to overturn the current rotten system..Tribalism, Incompetence, Corruption, and Kleptomania runs and ruins our country. The moaning and squealing of our people has been fortified for fall too long. The system is cracking at the seams and if we don’t hasten to exorcise the cancers that plague it, doom is what waits. We are in no position to talk these dogs off the meat truck. Forget it! Kicking them off the gravy train will hinge morality back to their sick minds. They don’t want the latter! The only system that will see Ghana stride forward gallantly is a system that upholds ethics and effectiveness. A system predicated on merit. Merit is the key ingredient we need.

You may think that these people are powerful! Yes they are! You may think that they have influence! Yes, they do! You may think that you are helpless! No you’re not! How do you think these people gained power? Organization around a vision! There is strength in numbers! Go across tribes and parties looking for people who share your vision. Reach out to your friends, family and sisters. Carve and work a plan. Share your plans with all who care to know. Implement your plan to the fullest. Follow your dreams instead of following a leader who cares not. Use merit, effectiveness and ethics as your guiding stars. You can be an exemplary follower who thinks critically and is always engaged. Your children are doomed to hardship and failure if you don’t sacrifice today. Disown tribalism, incompetence, corruption and kleptomania. Challenge leadership all the time. Be ready to vote for someone who does not speak your language and bear your tribal marks but has the credentials to get the job done. Choose merit over tribe and corruption!

Followership is not a reason to vote every four years for your tribesman and vanish into the background. Are you willing to make it better for you and your family? Are you willing to hold your so called leaders responsible? Are you willing to demand performance? Are you willing to organize your village into a voting block for the best candidate? Ghana must change from within. We must change one person at a time. We must change one village at a time. We must change one district at a time. That change can only start with engaged and critical thinkers! You can be that leader! Don’t settle for less. Get up and be counted! Ghana’s salvation lies with you! Don’t despair! Get up and act now! Yes get up! Yes you can and the answer is you! Start organizing and ginger up a civil revolution!

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman (Affectionately dubbed the double edge sword and now known as Santrofi Anomaa)

I don’t give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell—Harry Truman