Seventeen years ago while a student at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, one of my classmates in a news writing and reporting class made a comment about Africa that still haunts me to this day.
His remark that "Africa is hopeless," was denigrating, callous and vile. It struck a nerve. I fumed and seethed with uncontrollable anger. But there was nothing I could do. He had the right to say whatever was on his mind about Africa.
My inconsiderate classmate, a white dude I must add, based his obscene argument on a number of factors, primarily, Africa's lack of strong political leadership that could guide the continent out of its morass of debilitating/trapping poverty, chronic underdevelopment and entrenched corruption.
Years later, former President, Mr. John Kufuor echoes my classmate's candid sentiments. Mr. Kufuor posited that Africa's persistent and worrisome challenges are due in large measure to poor leadership.
His observation which he made at a ceremony launching his Foundation last week could not be further from the truth. Our leaders, indeed have been a disappointing and a huge dismal failure.
Mr. Kufuor's frank assertions will, of course, not endear him to the current crop of African leaders, who, despite campaign promises to develop their nations, once in power tend to engage in acts that directly contradict everything they said on the campaign trail.
Africa's hydra-headed problems of underdevelopment, disease, and poverty have been extensively documented, discussed, and dissected, yet no prescribed remedies have had any discernible impact on the lives of millions of Africans who are still mired in dire straits.
And the blame for the continuous hardships and indescribable sufferings of Africans, as the former president explicitly and correctly stated, lies squarely on the shoulders of our leaders.
Confronted with glaring facts about the continent's dire conditions, African leaders are always quick to point the finger at external factors for their failure to profoundly alter the lives of their citizens. Colonization and exploitation of Africa's vast natural resources, not surprisingly, are always the fall guys, the scapegoats for our problems.
No, African leaders won't accept any responsibility whatsoever for the conspicuous lack of clean drinking water, employment opportunities, good roads, good schools and excellent hospitals in their countries. They blame everybody but themselves. Africa's enthusiastic embrace of western style democracy has won it many friends. The continent has done away with military rule.
The advent of democracy, however, has not brought with it the expected benefits. Many Africans nations are still trapped in grinding poverty. In fact, democracy is still a work in progress in many African nations, if you ask me.
African leaders, have time and time again, demonstrated that they are not up to the task of transforming the continent despite the goodwill and trust reposed in them by voters and the international community. Once in office, they turn into tingods and pursue policies that are anathema to the hopes and aspirations of those who put them there in the first place.
Just take a look around the continent and what you see are African leaders enriching themselves and their families at the expense of their constituents, abusing the fundamental rights of those they rule, and by and large, doing everything possible to stay in power beyond their constitutionally mandated time.
Mr. Kufuor, God bless his soul, has raised a very important issue, one that many won't touch with a ten foot pole. Africa still lacks behind the rest of the world in many respects.
My hope is that for once, the political class in our country will listen to one of their own and do right by millions of Ghanaians who have been waiting for eternity to have their lives transformed.