Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Remarkable Kufour

IN other climes, what Mr. John Agyekum Kufour did by leaving power after eight years would mean nothing. In Africa where leaders are in a race to overstay their welcome, Kufour has created distinctness — even hope.

Elections in Ghana passed with minimal rancour, unlike the riots that trail them all over Africa. Kufour’s party just failed to make the 50 per cent plus one vote required to win the presidency when its candidate gained only 49.13 per cent of the votes cast on December 7.

It would have been easy to make up the numbers but neither Kufour, nor his party did that. The run-off still finally failed to produce an immediate winner though Professor John Atta-Mills of the opposition National Democratic Congress was leading, albeit marginally.

Ghana’s democracy has passed four consecutive multi-party elections since 1992, a record for any African country. Remarkably, after eight years of Jerry Rawlings, his party lost power to Kufour’s, again through a run-off. Kufour lost one of the elections to Rawlings.

Born on December 8, 1938 in Kumasi, Ghana, Kufour studied at Prempeh College where he passed at the top of his class. He enrolled at Lincoln Inn, London, and was called to the Bar in 1961 at 22. He then entered Oxford University where he passed his BA Honours degree in 1964 in Economics, Philosophy and Politics. The University, in accordance with Oxford traditions, conferred him with the Master’s degree.

Kufour has been in politics since 1967, as Town Clerk (City Manager) of Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana. He was a member of the 1968-69 and the 1979 Constituent Assemblies that drafted the constitutions of the second and third republics. He was twice elected a Member of Parliament, during the second and third republics. He was a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Spokesman on Foreign Affairs and Deputy Opposition Leader of the Popular Front Party Parliamentary Group during the third republic.

Kufour was appointed the Secretary for Local Government in the 1982 national government. He, however, resigned within seven months when he said the PNDC government was not the national government it promised.

Kufour came to the Presidency with unmatched credentials. His popularity was never in doubt. He won international acclaim for Ghana for his management of its politics and economy.

Why did Kufour not lean on his party’s majority in parliament to extend his stay in power? Ghana has just struck oil, new wealth was on the way, the newly commissioned presidential palace was attractive, the global applauses he garnered could also have tempted him. He refused to succumb to them.

Kufour was in a class among African leaders. His sacrifices in sticking to the Constitution of Ghana — not amending it for his own interests — set him apart.

Ghanaians should be proud of the example they have set for other African countries, in addition to the independence of the electoral commission.

The transition in Ghana is a challenge to the continent, just like Kufour’s exemplary leadership.