Ghana in her early ages was revered and envied by many African countries, being one of the few nations to first attain independence and having strong-willed individuals who fought for the total liberation of the nation. The likes of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who led Ghana to independence and the likes of Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings who also seized power to come to the aid of Ghanaians.

After independence, there were series of coup d’états by various military personnel to ‘right’ the ‘wrong’ of governments in power. In the quest to ‘save’ Ghanaians from bad governance, similar to same mess made by the overthrown governments were made by people we would at that time refer to as strongmen. Men who understood or at least looked like people who cared about the engorging plights of Ghanaians.

Men who prior to tasting power promised to act in the interest of the ordinary Ghanaian at the time, yet like previous governments, failed to do better, leaving Ghanaians at the mercy of the aftermath of the selfish decisions they made while in power. They only reared the hope and trust of Ghanaians only to later shatter them. They did whatever suited them because they couldn’t be held by their words by institutions in the country. In fact, they broke the rules and set new ones to suit them. No institution was able to hold the formerly ‘saviors’ of the nation accountable and sanction them where needed.

After series of coup d’etats, Ghana decided to practice democracy. Where every decision taken by the government must be in the interest of the majority of Ghanaians. The new practice demanded transparency, accountability etc. from people in power and thus, institutions were formed and old ones reformed enhancing checks and balances among the three arms of government, yet all these problem-solving structures rather have become shields or covers for individuals to ‘settle’ themselves and milk the nation dry, leading to dystopia. They break the rules and set new ones to suit them. So, the question is, what does Ghana really need, strong institutions or strongmen?

Well from the above explanations and illustrations, one would agree that the nation needs strong institutions so solve her problems rather than strongmen. Strong institutions to regulate and conduct checks on individuals and few reasons are stated below.

Strongmen can lose fights against bad deeds in times where there are weak institutions. No matter how strong-willed an individual is. If a person has corrupt individuals around him, his good leadership skills would only shamble because he cannot run all the institutions simultaneously and certainly little to nothing would be achieved at the end of the day. Meanwhile where there is a strong institution, one can be assured that decisions made in institutions are in the interest of the general public with procedures and structures not just by any selfish individual or groups to just make themselves okay. An example was when the late President Prof. John Evans Fiifi Atta-Mills complained about the corruption at the Tema harbor while he was still president. Though he went there and took some drastic measures, it only tells us that he was strong yet the institution was weak and corrupt.

In addition, as Sir John Dalberg-Action once said power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This implies individuals can become power-drunk and autocratic and if there are weak institutions, then how are their actions going to be regulated? They will only snipe democracy in the heart, drown the economy and dreams of Ghanaians, but with strong institutions, their actions can always be checked and they will be sanctioned accordingly if the need be.

To end this piece, let’s remember what Barack Obama said when he was addressing the Ghanaian parliament on 11th July 2009. He said “In my father’s life, it was partly tribalism and patronage and nepotism in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career, and we know that this kind of corruption is still a daily fact of life…Development depends on good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long…Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions

Thank you.

 By :Clinton Dziwornu (Kenstle)



Student(University of Ghana)

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