Former flagbearer aspirant of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Dr Arthur Kennedy says Nana Akufo-Addo’s age is a non-issue in the scheme of things as far as his quest to run for the presidency is concerned.
The two-time failed presidential candidate, who will turn 70 on March 29, recently announced his intention to run for his party’s flagbearer slot again and possibly lead the NPP into the 2016 election, at which time he would have turned 72.
His announcement sparked a wave of debate about the age of politicians in running for the flagstaff house.
Dr Arthur Kennedy says the argument is a non-starter. In a statement issued from Irmo, South Carolina, in the US and copied to XYZ News, Dr Kennedy said: “There is no correlation between age and the quality of leadership.”
Recalling a few relevant examples to argue out his point, Dr Kennedy said: “President [John] Mills died suddenly, a few weeks after jogging on the tarmac at the Kotoka International Airport to underline his fitness after a health check in the USA. Later on, it was revealed that he had been urged by his wife and others to resign and to focus on his health. That advice, of course, was rebutted by others. To be fair, illness is not a respecter of age and a younger President could also have died in office.”
Secondly, he said: “Pope Benedict XVI became the first Pope to resign in 700 years, on grounds of age and infirmity. The Pope told Cardinals that in order to govern, ‘both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfill the Ministry entrusted to me.’”
In his view, “the timeless example of Pope Benedict is that when leaders cannot discharge effectively the functions of their office, they owe it to their institutions and followers to step aside. This was exactly what Mandela was doing when he declined to go for a second term that he could have had for the asking.”
According to him, history shows that there have been both exceptional old leaders and exceptional young leaders.
“William Pitt the Younger became British Prime Minister in 1793 at the age of 24 and was a very successful Prime Minister. He was instrumental in the fight against slavery and may have saved Europe during his long Prime Ministership, despite his short life. In our own history, Nkrumah was Prime Minister at 47 and was easily our best leader, despite his mistakes.”
“On the other hand, Germany’s Konrad Adenauer did not come to the Chancellorship till he turned 72 and was still Chancellor in his mid-eighties. Despite his age, he was an epochal Chancellor and was justly celebrated with a funeral for the ages when he died in 1967. Deng Xiaoping ascended to supreme leadership of China in 1978, at the ripe age of 74 and may be justly celebrated as perhaps, China’s and one of the world’s greatest leaders. In the US Ronald Reagan was the oldest person to take office at 69 but was undoubtedly one of the best Presidents in US history,” the medical Doctor pointed out.
Dr Kennedy said he believed the issue is not age but rather a “trinity of fitness, electability and competence,” adding that: “Indeed we must all yearn for an older leader, sure in judgment, mature and rounded in temperament, a father to all and a uniter, unafraid to take on corruption, in or outside his party and his government, committed to fighting poverty and being the voice and protector of the weak, able to inspire respect in the councils of the world and committed to the larger purposes of his country. Such a leader, even if in his nineties, will be a blessing to us.”
Regardless of age, he noted, “a person must be in good health, physically and mentally.”
“Except in the case of a hidden cancer, most people know if they are healthy and fit. To a limited extent, observers can also discern whether or not a person is healthy and fit,” he observed.
He also revealed that: “After hugging ex-President Mills in Cape Coast some months before his death, I told some close friends I thought the President was terminally ill.”
“My prayer is that all those who aspire to office would be honest with the country about their health and their fitness, regardless of their age. The processes of campaigning and governing require a lot of endurance. Our roads are bad—the accommodations are poor—the food is not always the best. Therefore, those who seek such offices and those who urge them on, must be sure that they do so in the knowledge that they are fit for the rigors of politics and governance.”