Any attempt to describe a political giant whose towering intellectual prowess and professional accomplishments defy words, time, and space is a monumental task at best.

It might be tantamount to gross arrogance and a defense of the obvious at worst; so why should I spend time to do that? I am however constrained to pick up my pen in the face of the numerous articles in the print and electronic media about Nana to put the records straight, if I can.

My task here will be to spend my limited time- an irreplaceable resource-¬to present a human side of Nana that only a few people might be privy to, because one does not have to shout it on the mountains when one has done a good deed. Let the deeds speak for themselves.

I am cognizant of the fact that Nana is as human as any of us, with weaknesses and proclivity to erring and temptation- the lot of all humanity -pope, priest, pastor, Imam, Rabbi, headmaster/mistress, you and me, name it.

But thank God that we have redeeming sides as well. The purpose of this piece is not to paint Nana as an angel or saint by any stretch of imagination. All I ask is that we be more charitable in trumpeting others’ frailties. You know, even God did not use perfect human beings because there were none after the fall. Before I get into the apologia for Nana’s foibles, let me take you on a trip through human history and scan through the qualities of the people God used to perform great things for HIM, not flinching for a moment that they could be associated with HIS awesome name. The next time you feel like God can’t use you, that you are unqualified for a national assignment, remember…

“Noah was a drunk,
Abraham was too old,
Isaac was a daydreamer,
Jacob was a liar,
Leah was ugly,
Joseph was abused,
Gideon was afraid,
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer,
Rahab was a prostitute,
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young,
David had an affair and was a murder,
Elijah was suicidal,
Jonah ran away from God,
Naomi was a widow,
Job went bankrupt,
Peter denied CHRIST three times,
The disciples fell asleep while praying, Martha worried about everything,
Mary Magdalene was the Samaritan woman who was divorced more than once
Zaccheus was too small, Paul was too religious AND
Lazarus was DEAD!”

Also, contemporarily, there are many intelligent and famous people once thought to be dumb and destined to fail but who surprised the world by their success, brilliance, and achievements. Albert Einstein is, indeed a brilliant individual who was predicted to be a failure. Here are some other good examples:

  • Thomas Edison’s boyhood teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything.
  • Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women and numerous other novels) was “told by an editor that she’d never write anything that people would like.”
  • Playwright Eugene O’Neill spent only nine months in college before he dropped out.
  • The famous tenor Caruso was told by a voice teacher that he couldn’t sing at all.
  • Leo Tolstoy (author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina, among others)
  • Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald flunked out of college
  • Isaac Newton was a poor student in grade school.
  • Michael Jordon was cut from his high school basketball team.
  • At age ten, famous artist Pablo Picasso stopped going to school because he was barely able to read or write. His father hired a tutor for Pablo, but the tutor soon quit, saying that the boy refused to do math.
  • Beethoven’s music teacher once said “as a composer he is hopeless.”
  • Abraham Lincoln entered the Black Hawk War as a captain and came out as a private.
  • F. W. Woolworth’s (of the five and dime store fame) employer wouldn’t let him wait on customers because he “didn’t have enough sense.
  • A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney, saying he lacked good ideas.
  • Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade.
  • Steven Spielberg dropped out of high school. He did return later, attending a class for those with learning disabilities, but after only a month, he dropped out of high school again. History is rife with such notables that should caution us about predicting the future of people based on their distant past.”
  • In all this I do not mean to celebrate spinelessness, emptiness, and the absence of integrity that make it impossible for decent societies to thrive and develop. I strongly believe that men, especially those who seek high public office, ought to have strength of character that wins them the respect and confidence of society at large. I mean to prove that we don’t have to be perfect supermen to rise to our callings; neither do we have to trumpet our good deeds. Give me a few moments to prove why I think Nana augurs to be the best leader ‘for such a time as this’ in the history of our nation.

    I first met Nana in the spring of 1979 and needless to say, as hard as I am to be impressed, he left an indelible impression on me. It was during the inglorious and regrettable time of the split in our august party-the PFP JUNC split. If we forget history, we are bound to repeat it, so pardon me for unearthing the not-so- glorious past. I believe it served to handle what we dealt with recently with respect to Alan with due circumspection! (Pardon the digression).

    At that time the ban on party politics had just been lifted by General Akuffo and the SMC II. Nana was the people’s choice for the UNC in the Akim Abuakwa constituency. Unfortunately, the party leadership had its own choice. When Paa Willie, the party leader went to New Tafo for a rally, the true people, the grassroots, without whom there can be no democracy, felt that the time was ripe to make their voices heard. When it was time for Nana to address the rally, they lifted him shoulder high under the very noses of the party leadership. To the chagrin of all his supporters present, Nana resisted, insisting to be brought down. The immediate reaction of his supporters was marked anger, disappointment and frustration. However, as the dust settled down, most of us understood his motive – he wanted to be no part of a confrontation that could further compromise party cohesion.

    Mark Anthony would pause to ask, ‘is this the mark of an inordinately ambitious, opinionated, arrogant person?’

    There are several instances of acts of humility, considering the pitting of party interest above the personal that would be considered sycophantic were I to elaborate. Much of all this is well documented. We all must remember the wisdom, courage and strength demonstrated during the Alliance for Change (AFC) days and the majestic scorn for risk and danger engendered by his leadership that brought down the PNDC government. Some may have considered these as perilous times, but Nana showed resilience and self-control in dealing with personal ambition that stood in the way of the development of democratic processes. When some people wanted the AFC to be turned into a political party under his leadership, Nana wanted no part of it.

    Few years ago, after losing his bid for the flagbearahship of our party, he wholeheartedly and altruistically threw his support behind the then nominee, J. A. Kufour with an unprecedented unqualified loyalty.

    Just last year when the president requested members of his cabinet seeking the flagbearaship of the party to resign, some were glaringly angry and resigned prematurely, but Nana was calm and served the President loyally to the point of representing the President at some international appointments past the stipulated time for resignation. Is this an arrogant individual? If I want to enumerate all the sterling attributes of Nana, the list will grow with a geometric progression.

    I will not go into instance of commitment and deep friendships forged by him that kept the Movement together. His interpersonal skills, sense of humor, and relentless perseverance to causes he believes in are some of the attributes that we must recognize and give him a chance. Nana does a good work at inter-generational and inter-ethnic relations.

    I am aware of how he used his law firm generously to help new graduates to do their internships. I have a friend who won a big case when he served with the firm and all the settlement was given to him.

    I once asked Nana to help me launch a book at a critical family time, but he readily made time. And the list goes on, and infinitum.

    While we are at it, why not take an abrupt detour and visit Nehemiah in Jerusalem. Yes, Nehemiah in Jerusalem because up to this point nothing has been said to make any sense out of comparing Nana to this biblical genius. Nehemiah was an exilic political leader in Babylon who longed to see the birth place of his forbearers, Jerusalem, which laid in ruins restored. In the face of tough opposition, ridicule, and even death, he exhibited courage, and incredible leadership skills that led to the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in record time. These are two leaders born millennia! and thousands of miles apart.

    The most stunning comparison of these two is their generosity and I will quote Nehemiah Chapter 5:14-18: “Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year until the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the governor’s provisions.
    15. But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took form them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God.

    16. Indeed, I also continued the work on this wall, and we did not buy any land. All my servants were gathered there for the work.
    17. And at my table were one hundred and fifty Jews and rulers, besides those who came to us from the nations around us.

    18. Now that which was prepared daily was one ox and six choice sheep. Also fowl were prepared for me, and once every ten days an abundance of all kinds of wine. Yet in spite of this I did not demand the governor’s provisions, because the bondage was heavy on this people.

    This is the most compelling attribute of Nana – selflessness – and this is a character you can take to the bank, so let it be Nana!!!

    Credit: Charles Biney