A former Governor of the Ekiti State in Nigeria, Dr Kayode Fayemi, has attributed Ghana’s democratic success to the engagement of intellectuals at the highest level of competitive politics.
In that vein, he said the readiness of Africa to compete effectively in the 21st century global economy was contingent on how much commitment was shown to knowledge production and intellectual reflection in its political culture and leadership selection process.
“I do not, of course, mean to suggest that the mere possession of outstanding academic qualifications by a string of national leaders is the sole answer to any country’s challenge of deepening democracy and broadening development or search for a stable polity,” he said.
Dr Fayemi said this when he delivered the 3rd John Evans Atta Mills Commemorative Lecture in Accra yesterday.
It was on the theme: “The role of intellectuals in politics and governance in Africa: The lessons and legacy of Professor John Evans Atta Mills”.
It was organised by the John Evans Atta Mills Centre for Law and Governance at GIMPA, in partnership with the John Evans Atta Mills Memorial Library of the University of Cape Coast (UCC).
Procession of Ghanaian leadership
Dr Fayemi said the steady procession of Ghanaian leadership through elite institutions of learning and their well-earned credentials as intellectuals must have had a cumulative impact on the highly competitive but ideas-driven politics that had taken root in Ghana.
He said when the call for political campaigns to be conducted around ideas rather than personalities was espoused, the purpose was to test how deeply those who aspired to lead had thought about the issues confronting society.
“When a preference is expressed for technocrats in government, as against simply lavishing public office on run-of-the-mill political jobbers, we are casting our vote for a knowledge-based, values-driven and ideas-oriented approach to managing our common aspirations,” he posited.
Technocrats, he said, were people whose prime qualification for office was their expertise and who had thought deeply about the needs of their people and had devoted their lives to crafting constructive solutions to those problems.
“What we are concerned with is a larger clan than the community of technocratic academics or scholars. We are concerned with the intellectual clan and not every technocrat or academic is an intellectual dedicated to societal transformation,” he explained.
He said a wrong perception existed in many quarters that the rough and tumble realm of politics was no place for intellectuals.
According to that perception, he said, intellectuals, being men of thought, were not suited for the raw exercise of power.
He stressed the need to discard that false dichotomy between the intellectual and the politician, calling for a blend of the two.
“Only as these two tendencies are approached as complementary rather than contradictory can we rejuvenate public service and engender transformative governance. In other words, good politicians may not need to be brilliant intellectuals but they also should not have a contemptuous disdain for the life of the mind,” he said.
Professor Mills, he said, was an embodiment of such a hybrid, adding, “This is why perhaps the issue for us should not be one of transition from intellection to politics but the extent to which we are able to achieve a fundamental synergy between the two in the quest to add value to our society and our democracy.”
He said although Prof. Mills could be regarded as an heir to both Dr Nkrumah and former President J.J. Rawlings, many would agree that he was, in tone and substance, less abrasive.
“It is fair to say that Mills combined some of the best attributes of both men, becoming a hybrid of the man of thought and the man of action,” he said.