Former President John Mahama chalked a feat which from my desktop research I discovered he’s the first vice president and second president to have done so.
I’m referring to penning his autobiography. I commend him for it.
However, he owes the nation and posterity a second book. My commendation and suggestion stems from the historical, educational and inspirational value of presidential and leadership memoirs in our national development.
Every stage in our development as a nation is critical and we must cultivate the culture of documenting our experiences along the way for the sake of posterity.
Presidential memoirs and autobiographies by leaders are an essential block in the wall of history of every nation. Though they’re literary works, they’re written more for their historical value than their literary value.
They offer an intimate perspective of significant events in our national life, unveiling the thinking that goes into certain decisions and the dynamics involved in arriving at those decisions. It is also one way of preserving institutional memory. In advanced economies however, it is a cash cow for former presidents, senior public servants, business leaders and celebrities. I’m not sure whether in an African president’s list of cash cows’ memoirs are a line item.
In more advanced democracies, memoir writing has become an unwritten tradition for every president as well as other key leaders in the public and private sector. So you’ll find for instance that there’s a book covering the tenure of most US presidents since World War II. An armchair panoramic view of Ghana’s history since independence shows there’re books that give a historical account of the tenure of every president or head of state. The only exception is former president Mahama’s tenure.
Ghana’s poster president for political memoirs is Kwame Nkrumah with over a dozen books on politics and national development to his name. No president has written so much about statehood and national development than him. Rarely do you get a good writer and a transformational president in one person.
Prime minister Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia was also a prolific writer with six publications to his name. While most of Kwame Nkrumah’s books were written from 1957 when he was prime minister, Dr. Busia’s writings precedes his prime ministerial role. In addition, unlike Kwame Nkrumah, he didn’t write his memoir. So in 1996, Professor Kwaku Danso Boafo wrote The Political Biography of Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia.
The only president of our third republic, Hilla Limann doesn’t make it to the list of literary presidents. Thirty-five years after he was deposed as president, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Ivan Addae-Mensah wrote his biography: A Biography of Hilla Limann; Scholar, Diplomat, Statesman.
As you well know, the longest serving leader we’ve ever had, JJ Rawlings, also doesn’t make it to the list of literary presidents. However, there’re a number of books written about his place in our nation’s history. Former president Kufuor’s tenure is also covered in Ivor Agyeman Duah’s Between Faith and History: A Biography of J.A. Kufuor.
Former president Mills is the only president who challenges Kwame Nkrumah in terms of authorship. He published more than a dozen books. Most of his publications however, were more academic in nature focusing on taxation and released before he became president. The brilliant academic that he was, I believe he might’ve written his own memoir if he was alive. Fortunately, C.K. Angkosaala and H.A.K. Safo wrote about him in John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana: Biography and legacy of an African icon (2012).
And before I forget, the other military regimes are also taken care of by other books.
The only period in our history that isn’t documented in a book so far is 2012 to 2016 and understandably so: it’s about eight months ago. But Barak Obama is writing his memoir now and Hillary Clinton is set to release a book next month titled What Happened. Being a single term president isn’t an excuse either. George Bush Snr was a one term president but he wrote his memoir. The fact that the former president has already written his autobiography isn’t an excuse either. It didn’t cover the period of his presidency because he wasn’t a president yet. Hillary Clinton after her successful Living History (2003) wrote Hard Choices (2014) covering her years as secretary of state. So Mr. President, what’s it gonna be? And how about you my reader? What do you think?
By: Yaw Frimpong Tenkorang
Writer is a corporate trainer