John Dramani Mahama Ghana's ex-president has a great 'power' advice for African leaders

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Former President John Mahama urged African leaders to leave office when they are defeated in elections. He said posterity will judge the work done by the leader.

Former President John Dramani Mahama has called on African leaders to step down peacefully when they lose elections.

Speaking at a lecture in Kenya dubbed “Mind Speak” ex-president Mahama said African leaders who leave power when the applause is loudest earn the respect of their citizens.

“Leave when applause is loudest,” Mahama said this was contained in a letter his father, a minister in the Nkrumah regime, had written to the then Head of State, General Kutu Acheampong, telling him to “leave when the applause is loudest”.

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“Throughout the course of my Presidency, I was both applauded and criticised. I was both revered and reviled. When you find yourself standing at the centre of all that sound and fury, it is difficult to determine when it is, indeed, the loudest.”

When the ball is in your possession, you do your best to move it forward, but then you must inevitably pass that ball to the next player and wish him or her the best in making progress because the victory that comes is not claimed by you or any of the other players.

Ex-president John Dramani Mahama interacting with private sector players in Kenya. play

Ex-president John Dramani Mahama interacting with private sector players in Kenya.


He cited the 2016 electioneering in Ghana when President Nana Akufo Addo was declared the winner. He said the positive responses he gave and developments after the December 7 general election when he called the winner, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to concede defeat to him, was one major reason the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) requested him to participate in two missions to Banjul, The Gambia to get Yahya Jammeh to accept the will of the Gambian people and hand over power to Mr Adama Barrow, but which he refused.

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He added that he was applauded by many when he was introduced at the swearing-in ceremony of Nana Akufo Addo on January 7, 2017.

“Last month, I attended the inauguration of President Akufo-Addo. When I exited my vehicle and my arrival was publicly announced, there was a loud round of applause. Again, I thought of my father and those words: ‘Leave when the applause is loudest’.

“Suddenly, I understood those words in a way I never had before,” he said.

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#MindSpeak with ex-president John Dramani Mahama in Kenya play

#MindSpeak with ex-president John Dramani Mahama in Kenya


Former president Mahama said even though democracy is non-negotiable, it must not be a one-size-fits-all system.

“Each country has to find the type of democracy that best fits the needs of its citizenry; each democracy has to be shaped by the will of the people, by their collective voice,” he stressed.

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He, however, emphasised that regardless of the form that democracy took, “each democracy, at its core, is a system of governance that is fuelled by the will of the people”. 

“We need to work at it, we need to stay the course of structural reform.”

He also added that even though the youth in Africa was “impatient” and wanted to see change in their lives, “the reality is that nobody possesses a magic wand to create change and progress with a wish of abracadabra.”

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