Friday, June 26, 2009

President Obour - Having the youth lead now, case study Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa

Sometime last year, news broke of Obour, a Ghanaian rap artiste, wanting to run for president. It turned out he wasn’t serious about it, but he wondered why ‘young people’ couldn’t run for the highest office in the land. He wanted the minimum age for seeking for the presidency to be reduced from 40. He started a Youth for Presidency campaign saying the constitution was not fair to the youth. Kufuor was more than 60 when he became president and Atta Mills is 64 at the moment. Is the presidency of Ghana for retirees? Maybe it is. We are seeing a youth movement in the present NDC government though, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, an Odadee, is the present deputy minister of information and he is under 30. His age mate, Obour tells us what he would do if he were president in his ‘President Obour’ song. How will the youth handle such responsibility? Do we need more young leaders like Samuel? If we have to pay our dues before we get that type of responsibily, what are those dues?

Bice Osei Kuffour, popularly known as Obour, is one of Ghana’s foremost musicians. He emerged onto the scene with interesting lyrics in his ‘Atenteben’ hit and has continued to remain one of Ghana’s top rappers. He is one of the few hiplife artistes who has a university degree, from the University of Ghana no less. He started his own sports’ bar in the heart of Accra and has other enterprises. He organized one of the best tours ever seen in Ghana, taking his Project Obour.com/Atumpan concert tour to over 35 towns in Ghana. He is also known for his various public campaigns; Road Safety campaign (Okoaba), Peace in Ghana campaign (For Election 2008) and the ABC Ghana Reads campaign. He understands the influence he has as a celebrity and entertainer and is using his fame for socio-economic development and for socially conscious programs.

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa is one of the shining stars of Ghanaian politics. I knew him when he was at Presec, he was only two years my senior. He was one of the SRC executives. The juniors (especially Form 1 boys) liked to call the SRC exec ‘the opposition party’. The prefects handed us the discipline and punishments, while the SRC exec fought for our rights. It was common to see the SRC and thePrefectorial council clash. Samuel Ablakwa saw his fair share of clashes in Presec. There was also the editorial board, which acted as the media. Every major player in the Ghanaian political atmosphere was represented in Presec during those days. Wetin we no see before? The SRC also made sure the students had better terms of service and living, battling the school authorities for better conditions. They represented the ‘oppressed’ and ‘weak’. Great preparation for Samuel, if you ask me.

I could tell Samuel Ablakwa was going to be a leader or politician in the future. He was passionate about his work in the Students Representative Council. He was also a debater. Debating in Ghanaian high schools is no joke. You take countless verbal blows and have to come back strong. It may be worse than rap battles. After Presec, Samuel went to Legon where he was the President of the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS). There was some controversy surrounding him and Lord Hama (another Odadee) while he was there. In the midst of all of that, I am sure he did a remarkable job in his position, following the job he did while in Presec. Later on, I realized he was part of the Committee of Joint Action, a group I wrote off as a pro-NDC noisemaking pressure group. Before we could keep wrap our mind around his CJA exploits, he was on local television shows representing the NDC. He contributed to the NDC’s election victory. I pointed out to my father that Samuel was my senior in Presec when we watched him on a Metro TV election coverage show and my father told me how much he liked the ‘boy’. The ‘boy’ Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa routinely outshone political opponents and analysts on TV. The Presecans are going to take over 

I normally dwell a lot on the song I choose for these entries but Samuel Okudzeto is a minister and Obour isn’t really going to run for political office. Samuel can learn a few things from Obour though since the latter has many great and feasible ideas for Ghana’s development. Read Obour’s address at the time (from the music video) – “Fellow youth of Ghana, I am happy to address you what will go down in history; As the greatest youth revolution in our dear country; My brothers and sisters, the time has come for youth to aspire; To the highest office of the land, the Presidency!” A youth revolution always sounds good, I will like to see more youth or younger politicians given the reins of power if they show promise and show they are hungry to institute change.

Obour calls for a better performing Akosombo Dam, and free health insurance. He will also institute a Ghana day which will be Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday which doesn’t have to be a holiday. On that day, we’ll only eat Ghanaian food and speak Ghanaian languages. Does that sound like a good proposition to you? Recently, there was a lot of talk about making Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday in September a Founder’s Day Holiday. I don’t know what happened to the debate but I agree with what this guy had to say. Obour promises to bring cocaine dealers to book as well as corrupt officials. He also announces a better system for urban planning and making sure the country’s infrastructure works appropriately. It’s the little things that count as well as his plans to make youth employment his agenda. Our politicians have said similar things but have we seen significant changes? No. As a youth, you best believe Obour or someone as young as him would push for better youth employment.

One of my biggest problems with Ghanaian governments is the lack of communication and information. Samuel is a deputy minister in one of these industries and I hope he can work to improve this. If the government fails to inform the people about its work, and the strides it is making in moving Ghana forward, the populace would busy themselves talking about Ecomini ringtones. Samuel is not new since he’s been involved in the body politic for awhile but he is the most likely candidate to inject novelty into Ghanaian politics and statesmanship. Thankfully, I have access to Samuel, though he may be extremely busy in his new role but I believe he will listen just like he listened to me when I was being treated unfairly as a ‘nino-greeno-knows-no first-year student at Presec”.

The youth of Ghana must demonstrate leadership and great leadership while we are at it. There are some who are making waves in their various chosen fields and they need to be praised and their works and laurels shouted from the mountain-top. We need more community leaders taking charge to solve problems and implement ideas for which we have capacity. The powers-that-be will take notice and increase the youth’s mandate. While we continue to search for role models, we can be role models for our mates. Samuel used his NUGS position to great effect and there are many other ways Ghanaian youth can pay their dues. Barack Obama was a community organizer and following in his footsteps is a start. We can organize people in our communities for clean-up exercises, information gathering, empowerment through business and providing services, amongst other things. Dialogue is another easy thing we can do, brainstorming, sharing ideas, educating each other on our community’s and country’s needs and taking steps to do whatever little we can to help. That’s also leadership. Ketewa biara nsua.

“What other people couldn’t do, Obour came and did it”, sings Obour. What our leaders have failed to do, the youngsters can come and do. The youth may be too young to lead and govern, but the youth is not too young to offer opinions and push for better conditions of living and systems for them to succeed. There must be better co-operation between young and old for Ghana’s development. There have been countless calls for a national youth policy. Who is going to formulate one and who will make the right stakeholders are involved? Obour brought old and new (young) together through his ‘Best of the Lifes’ project with A. B. Crentsil. Can the Fiifi Kweteys, Omane Boamahs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwas, Zita Okaikois, Agyenim Boatengs, Elvis Afriyie Ankrahs, and Haruna Iddrissus do the same for our country’s development? The youth will be watching.

Photo from Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa's Facebook
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