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February 20, 2019

Mahama: Leave when applause is loudest

Ghana's president John Dramani Mahama./REUTERS
Ghana's president John Dramani Mahama./REUTERS

It really was a rare a privilege hosting immediate former President of Ghana, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, at Mindspeak on Saturday. When Phanice confirmed his attendance, I immersed myself in ‘’Dramani’’ and what I discovered was that my guest was a polymath. His book (which I found in the Library of the Muthaiga Club), My First Coup d’État and Other True Stories From the Lost Decades of Africa, is beautiful and lyrical.

He describes a magical world and in one section he writes of the Simpa, or full-moon dance. Simpa would take place in the village square when the moon was “huge, round, and electric white against the black sky”. Villagers would start to sing. Then young women would begin to dance seductively, and young men would tap them on the shoulder and ask to join them. “As the evening went on under the light of that moon,” Mahama says, “people would find partners not only for dancing but also for life.” I learnt that Mahama is a devotee of Afrobeat music and immersed myself in Fela Kuti and enjoyed ‘Afrodisiac’ best. President Mahama was the first ‘born-free’ President of Ghana. And as I thought about the man, I realised that now for so many of us it’s actually the ‘born-free’ generation that speaks our language.

Of course, I have been following the markets in Ghana for quite a while and the President said: ‘’You know the Cedi was the worst-performing currency in the world, and then a year or two later we were the best-performing currency.’’ And I said quietly: ‘’You remember [which he obviously did].’’

President Mahama conceded the election to President Nana Akufo-Addo in record-breaking time. Mahama was a key player in the ECOWAS team that prised President Yahya Jammeh out of power. When it comes to democratic credentials, Mahama is self-evidently off the charts. He is what Malcolm Gladwell called an ‘’outlier’’.

“The more we investigate the reasons for African prosperity, the more we’ll find that democracy is one of them,” HE @JDMahama #Mindspeak. “Democratic nations unleash the creative nature of its people” @JDMahama “Extreme partisanship is worse than dictatorship because it stifles development & progress.” @JDMahama “And we need to accelerate trade among ourselves in Africa & create opportunities for prosperity for our young people’’ @JDMahama.

However, the most powerful comment was: “Leave when the applause is loudest’’ – and he described how the loudest applause he ever received was when he entered the Backstair square on the day of President Akufo-Addo’s inauguration, and of course after he had already conceded.

Aly-Khan is a financial analyst


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