I thank etv-Ghana for this initiative and I thank the public for the great honour done me by voting me as Ghana’s Most Influential Personality for the year 2013. I congratulate my fellow winners for their service to our nation. I am deeply humbled by the award and I accept the challenge that it poses in what the public expects of the leadership of our nation.
I understand that what earned me this award is the now famous election petition and my reaction to the majority verdict of the Supreme Court, a reaction which helped reinforce the peace and stability of Ghana. Obviously, I would have preferred to get such a prestigious award under happier circumstances, but to quote Shakespeare in “As You Like It”:
“Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.”
As I said on the day of the verdict on August 29, 2013 and let me recall my very words: “Everything in my bones, in my upbringing and in what I have done with my life thus far, makes it imperative that I accept a decision made by the highest court of the land, however much I dislike or disagree with it.”
In other words, this is who I am. I believe in the rule of law and I believe that, when you are in a position of leadership, you are obliged to put the larger interest ahead of your personal considerations. I am glad that, when put to the test on my often stated beliefs, I was not found wanting. And I am very grateful that this has been acknowledged and rewarded by the viewers of etv Ghana.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, being influential means you are able to change, hopefully in a positive manner, the way people think and behave. If a few more Ghanaians would have been moved by my conduct in the election petition to become ardent believers in the rule of law and be persuaded to accept personal disappointments to the greater good of our nation, I daresay my adversity, which I consider to be temporary, would have been worth it.
Growing up as a young boy in the heart of Accra, it was my dream to fight for the cause of my country. Decades later, that dream still lives on and now, even more than ever. I have understood my calling as a lawyer, businessman and politician to serve my society, my people and my country. And it is my belief that we can only build a strong and prosperous Ghana on a solid foundation of personal integrity and love of our nation.
A strict adherence to the rule of law is the best protection for all citizens and those in government, in particular, who would be exposed to family and other pressures. If we play by the rules, there will be confidence in the governance system and it will be easier to gain the support of the people to sacrifice, if need be, during times of difficulty.
To gain the attachment of the people, we must restore hope and that is best done when all the people feel there is a level playing field to achieve their aspirations. We can tell that hope is restored and confidence is high, when our educational and training institutions are turning out skilled and well equipped young people who turn their energies into producing wealth for our nation. We shall know we are on the right path when our young people see their future here in Ghana and are influenced by a political leadership that takes decisions based on the greater good, a leadership guided by the needs of the next generation, not the next election.
Our people are yearning for inspired leadership and it is time to close our ranks as a people and unite in the singular purpose of developing our nation. Throughout history, it is when things are at their most difficult that there has been the need for great leaders.
When, 67 years ago, George Grant, J.B Danquah, R.S Blay, Emmanuel Obetsebi Lamptey, Ebenezer Ako Adjei, Cobbina Kessie, William Ofori-Atta, Edward Akufo-Addo and the others formed the United Gold Coast Convention, UGCC of most blessed memory, as the vehicle in the struggle for independence, they envisaged a just and equitable country. Their aspirations were to build a free, modern and prosperous nation. I have no doubt at all in my mind that, when Kwame Nkrumah stood on the podium at the Old Polo Grounds that night of independence, shouting himself hoarse with “freedom, freedom, freedom”, present day Ghana is not reaping the fruits of freedom that he envisaged.
Fifty-seven years after independence, Ghanaians have a right to expect a more developed and prosperous nation. Over the past years, I have travelled the length and breadth of our country listening to the people of Ghana. Their wants are reasonable. From Zabzugu to Ada, Achiase to Zebilla, the call has been the same: we want good education for our children, we want jobs, we want to be able to afford three square meals a day, we want better healthcare, we want to live in decent homes. For a country blessed with abundant natural resources and a hardworking population, these needs can be satisfied. There is a large pool of rich human capital available in our country and we only need to harness it to turn our dreams of a prosperous country into reality. For that, we need, above all, honest government.
The list of persons seen to be influential that has been presented to us tonight covers the world of politics, of business, of religion, of the arts, of sports and other critical aspects of life. Our people know that all the different aspects of our lives must function well and in harmony for the nation to move forward.
We have learnt through painful experience that, unless we get our politics right, it is almost impossible for the other parts to function well. As the business community is discovering in these tumultuous times, the most astute business person is bound to struggle if there is a loss of confidence in the political decision-making process and the management of the national economy. And as we have all been told recently in rather dramatic circumstances, even the business of saving souls suffers when the Bank of Ghana makes unexpected decisions.
Those in positions of leadership do not always realize the effect of what they say or do on the events and lives of the people. Admittedly, it is a great responsibility that leaders bear to have always to keep an eye out for the greater good. I do not know if many or any of my colleague award winners set out deliberately to influence the public. I do know that it is easier simply to try to do the right thing and do the things that you believe in. That is certainly what I have been trying to do with my life in the practice of law, in business and in politics these past how many years.
I thank the organisers once again for the award. It is good to be able to show that standing up for the rule of law and demonstrating strong leadership have their rewards.
Thank you and God bless Ghana.