Fellow Africans, something great happened in Ghana last night. Before the Ghana Electoral Commission had concluded collating and releasing the results of the Presidential elections, President John Dramani Mahama made the right move when he called his arch-rival, Nana Akufo-Addo, to concede defeat and congratulate him on a battle well-fought.
With that act, President Mahama instantly joined the limited but hallowed chambers of African statesmen who have behaved like all decent leaders around the globe faced with their situation do. It is gratifying to see that Africa is gradually moving away from the bad habit of sit-tight leaders. This singular decision of President Mahama has not only doused the uneasy tension that had suddenly crept upon the country but most definitely also averted unnecessary bloodletting. To God be the glory.
It was a clean campaign while it lasted. Both leaders, and their other co-contestants, were committed to peace. Indeed, they all jointly signed a peace accord where they reiterated for a peaceful turnout, peaceful voting and peaceful outcome. It was a mantra that resonated with the good people of Ghana who treated their elections as pure entertainment even as it appeared the most critical that they had seen in a long time. An average Ghanaian treasures the tranquillity he enjoys and would do nothing to jeopardise it. They were thus happy to see that their leaders had embraced this penchant for peace and tranquillity by signing the peace accord and that President Mahama has kept faith with that accord by gallantly conceding defeat.
At the same time, it is also necessary to commend the President-elect Nana Akufo-Addo who has been gracious and magnanimous in victory. He immediately made the noble gesture by President Mahama known to the whole world by tweeting that the President had called to concede defeat and congratulate him.
Nigeria seems to have a lot in common with Ghana. We are like Siamese twins. Whatever happens in Nigeria is likely to happen in Ghana and vice versa. Whenever it rains in Lagos, it is almost certain, rain would fall soon in Accra. This similarity in our trajectory started from the colonial days when effectively there were two main protectorates in both countries. Both countries were colonised by the British who then amalgamated the Protectorates. Thereafter both countries had national who launched independence struggles about the same time with iconic leaders including the great Osagyefo, Kwame Nkrumah, in Ghana and Nnamdi “Zik” Azikwe and Obafemi Awolowo in Nigeria. This culminated in independence for Ghana in 1957 and shortly thereafter independence came to Nigeria in 1960 although this could have been as early as 1958.
During the era of coup-plotting in Africa, Ghana and Nigeria experienced their fair share at about the same time. As seemed to be the case in the early years of the existence of both countries the coup which overthrew democratically elected governments followed each other very closely. The Nigerian coup originally led by Major Nzeogwu which deposed the civilian government of Tafawa Balewa which overthrew Kwame Nkrumah was in January 1966 and the Ghana coup led by Emmanuel Kotoka was in February 1966. When Nigerians were sacked from Ghana, Nigeria wasted no time in retaliating.
Despite the cat and mouse relationship that existed between both countries, they’ve become the closest on the continent. Many Nigerians and Ghanaians are married. Our students currently litter many Ghanaian campuses in search of quality education. Ghanaian students have attended the major Nigerian Universities in times past just as Nigerian students also attended the Ghanaian ones at that time. Many Nigerian banks proudly dot the beautiful landscapes of Ghana and represent the best traditions of our great country both in terms of personnel, economic, work and cultural ethics and values. There are as yet no Ghanaian banks in Nigeria but it is clearly only a matter of time.
The trajectory of President Mahama is uncannily similar to what we had witnessed in Nigeria in recent memory and it is almost surreal. President Mahama was born in 1958, only a year younger than President Goodluck Jonathan. He had come into politics quietly and with minimal ambition. He was a member of Parliament and became a Minister of State. He would later be invited by Professor John Evans Atta-Mills to act as Vice President of The Republic of Ghana, a job he accepted with complete sobriety and determination to succeed. The story of how President Jonathan came from relative obscurity to occupy the position of President of Africa’s largest nation does not need to be retold other than to reflect on the comparisons with the Mahama story.
Alongside his visionary boss, Mahama charted a new course for Ghana. They decided to invest heavily in infrastructure development, the sort not seen in a long time in most African countries. Together they started the journey of rejuvenating and modernising their beloved country but somewhere along the line, death snatched Professor Atta-Mills away and a huge responsibility fell on Mahama’s shoulders. It was very similar to the fate of Goodluck Jonathan who inherited the mantle of Dr Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in such similar and spectacular manner. Who says destiny plays no role in human affairs?
Mahama had to complete the last few months of Atta-Mills’ tenure before contesting his full-fledged election as President. Jonathan had done the same in Nigeria shortly before this. In contesting those elections Mahama would soon confront one of Ghana’s most iconic politicians Nana Akufo-Addo. It was such a fierce contest which he managed to win by a narrow margin. And he became the President of Ghana but had to endure a long-drawn battle in the courts but eventually emerged victorious. Interestingly, his main challenger, Nana Akufo-Addo was contesting the Presidency for the second time having contested against Mahama’s predecessor Atta-Mills when Mahama had been his Vice-President. Jonathan in Nigeria had faced General Muhammadu Buhari and won the elections against him. Buhari had earlier contested elections against President YarÁdua who was Jonathan’s predecessor when Jonathan had been his Vice-President.
After the victory at the courts, President Mahama started a blistering and aggressive infrastructural development all over Ghana and everything he built was world-class. The more he tried to modernise his country and lay a solid future for generations unborn the more he was haunted by the spectre of mass unemployment and economic stagnation which had been the bane of the society before he became President. It was his belief that the infrastructural development would lead to better conditions for the people including employment, greater standard of living and financial stability and independence. Though his strategy was unique, it was not a quick-fix solution that the masses apparently yearned for and Mahama soon realised that most people wanted cash in their pockets and food in their belly rather than promises of a brighter future. Stomach infrastructure had engaged te psyche of the nation because of the great recession that had preceded the election of Mahama. That was the beginning of the end.
Mahama would be challenged once more by Nana Akufo-Addo who seized on the popular change slogan that had driven President Buhari to power in Nigeria and the anti-corruption sentiments that had also helped in propelling Buhari. Whilst there was very little evidence of such corruption in Mahama’s government this was still an issue that resonated because of the effect it had on the Nigerian elections. Akufo-Addo was on his third attempt, just like our President Muhammadu Buhari had tried the same number of times before eventually getting elected.
President Mahama relied heavily on his good works which his most vociferous critics would admit are quite humbling. As it turned out, it was not going to be an easy fight at the polls. He criss-crossed the length and breadth of Ghana spreading his message of development and peace. I was honoured to travel to every part of Ghana by road, day and night, on his campaign trail. I was deeply touched by his simplicity and humility. I was also inspired by his pan-Africanist philosophy. He is totally at home with everyone, one of the few African leaders I know today without any prejudice towards anyone, foreign or local. The insight I gained into the nature of power would remain invaluable forever and ever.
As reports reached me last night that President John Dramani Mahama has conceded victory to Nana Akufo-Addo, I called to speak to him. He had promised his campaign team from the beginning that he was not desperate for anything in life. The election was not a do or die for him. He wanted to continue in office to finish the gargantuan and monumental work that he had begun and which he knew was necessary to create a worthwhile future for the citizens of his country. He was absolutely fired up by the enduring spirit of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah and he ran a race against time. It was as if he knew history has a way of repeating itself. He was a student of history who worked assiduously to build a legacy. There is no doubt that he has done extremely well and would always be remembered as the face of new Africa. Through his example and that of others, Africa would no longer be treated with disdain or seen as being synonymous with wars, famine and diseases.
May God almighty continue to order his ways and future endeavours.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.