‘Leadership, Popularity Not Same’

President John Mahama has said leadership and popularity are not the same thing, and every so often, in the course of leadership, one has to make decisions that are neither popular nor politically expedient.

The president was reacting to his critics in connection with some unpopular decisions he and his administration have taken in his three years in office.

At a press briefing at the Flagstaff House in Accra on Tuesday January 12, 2016, Mr Mahama explained that his solution to the power crisis is a prime example of one such unpopular decision.

He said the process of load shedding did not begin with his administration but when confronted with the dilemma of how to resolve the problem, he opted not to go along the route of a quick-fix solution, because “we, as a nation, cannot continue to make decisions for the short run”.

According to him, what the country needed was a stable foundation and not a patch-up job “and that would take time”.

“The decision I took to fully expand our energy infrastructure was not politically expedient or desirable. Indeed, the decision I took was quite unpopular. But leadership and popularity are not the same thing,” he said.

Mr Mahama added that such was the case during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. “As President, I took the decision to allow Ghana, specifically Accra, to serve as the base of operations for the United Nations and other relief organisations and efforts for the affected nations.

“There was anger and outrage and accusations that I was exposing our country to Ebola; that because of my decision the virus would surely find its way across our borders and result in the loss of Ghanaian lives.

“But the alternative—to turn our back on our neighbouring nations in their time of need, especially as the world was taking its time to respond, would have not only been insensitive; it would have been inhumane.

“Having Accra be the command post for humanitarian help, during the Ebola crisis was not a popular decision, but I still maintain that it was the right thing to do.”

The latest unpopular decision Mr Mahama and his administration have taken is offering shelter for two Guantanamo Bay ex-detainees.

Touching on that, the president said: “My administration’s decision to permit entry to two former Guantanamo Bay detainees, as well as refugees from Rwanda, Syria and Yemen have been met with fierce resistance.

“I realise that our world is going through uncertain times. I realise, too, that no nation wants to open its doors to terrorists or to the possibility of terrorism. Still we cannot let the fear of what might be cloud our compassion or make us turn a blind eye to the very real need that does exist.

“There are people who no longer have a country to call home; people who have been cleared of the charges of all alleged crimes; and people whose only crime is being born in a country whose name is now automatically associated with a group of insurgents terrorising their fellow countrymen and women.

“Ghana has a long history of humanitarianism. We have a long history of being counted as a leader, not only on the African continent but also in the entire international community.

“In 1960 Ghana became the first African nation to contribute troops to the UN Peacekeeping Force.

“In 1961, Ghana became the first nation ever, to receive volunteers from the newly established Peace Corps.

“Throughout the years, Ghana has provided shelter for many freedom fighters and exiles.

“Long before the world’s nations collectively declared the system of apartheid, an abomination, Ghana was issuing passports, and a place to call home, to those fleeing the racial injustice and persecution taking place in South Africa; people such as Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masakela.

“When Nigeria considered musician Fela Kuti a criminal and a troublemaker of the highest order, Ghana offered him a home.

“During the two decades that civil war engulfed our sub-region, we accepted thousands of refugees and, at that time, for many Ghanaians, it was a point of contention. They believed it would make us too vulnerable, that it might somehow move the war onto our soil.

“Though it was not popular, the various administrations back then made the decision to grant refuge to those individuals because it was the right thing to do.

“Ghana has even gone so far as to offer Africans in the Diaspora as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade the ability to gain citizenship and live permanently on our soil.

“Fear is a powerful motivator. That’s the purpose of terrorism. It tests your commitment to who you are, your very principles; it tests your ability to stay true to your own history.”

The president called on Ghanaians, who are calling on him to return the suspected terrorists, not to forget that they are also citizens of a larger world that depends on the co-existence and the cooperation of all nations in order to achieve true peace and stability.

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