The criticisms of former President John Agyekum Kufuor’s love for foreign travel will never go away: they are part of the low points of his presidency.
Kufuor who indicated in a radio interview state that, his 82 years’ experience in life has only taught him to be very thankful to God, for, he has been privileged to visit “all the five continents” on Earth and “ending my chosen career at the top as the President of Ghana”.
“I look back and I am so thankful that it’s a fulfilled life. If you’re looking at the chosen career or if you’re looking at family, like meeting my wife for 58 years with five children and 13 grandchildren solid […], so I sit back and say God you’ve favoured me so much, I’m thankful…,” Kufuor said with a broad smile.
He added that when he looks at how the people of Ghana from the North to South, East to West, have been treating him with respect and dignity, he can only be thankful.
“I’m very grateful; I’m happy,” he stressed.
John Agyekum Kufuor won the 2000 presidential election as the NPP candidate. In the first round, held on December 7, Kufuor led with 48.4%, while John Atta-Mills, then a Vice-President, came in second at 44.8%, thus forcing a run-off election.
In the second round, held on December 28, Kufuor was victorious, polling 56.9% of the valid votes cast.
When Kufuor was sworn in on January 7, 2001, it marked the first time in Ghana’s history that an elected president had peacefully transferred power to the opposition.
Kufuor was re-elected on December 7, 2004, with 52.45% with his party also increasing its parliamentary majority.
As a President-elect of the Republic of Ghana, Kufuor told reporters in early 2001 that one of his visions was “to see the whole world”.
It is therefore not a surprise nor a secret that he stated that seeing five continents was a blessing to him.
During his tenure, his critics accused him of travelling too frequently and asked that he accounts for the tangible benefits from his foreign trips, a charge his appointees struggled to respond to.
For a politician of his stature it is a shock that Kufuor could not finance his own trips to the five continents on Earth.
When Kufuor was president he traveled to Australia for a Commonwealth Heads of State and Heads of Government meeting in 2002, leaving then Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama to preside over the celebrations at the Independence Square, in Accra.
Kufuor thus becomes the only Ghanaian President/Head of State in living memory to reduce the bar so low.
He was later seen on TV with Ghanaians in Australia waving miniature flags to mark the independence day.
Successive presidents have tried to travel less than Kufuor as a mark of modesty and good governance – indeed as an achievement.
There was raging debate during the Atta-Mills presidency when the NPP also started counting how many times Atta-Mills was travelling as compared to Kufuor.
Importantly Kufuor bought and traded in presidential jets while the people hungered and carried yellow jerry cans looking for water – a phenomenon which became known as Kufuor gallons.
It was during his eight-year tenure that already struggling Ghana Airways, which at its peak had had at least 30 planes, finally collapsed.
Kufuor created Ghana International Airlines but that airline could not survive.
During his presidency and still, his birthday is marked with declaration of election results which often become a mixed blessing for him.
Indeed Kufuor has a lot to be grateful for, including a forgiving Ghanaian electorate whose resources are dissipated wantonly on the personal wishes of presidents.
Today, President Akufo-Addo has told Ghanaians that building a national cathedral was a personal “promise” he made “to God”.
Let us be careful of the personal wishes of our presidents, and presidential and parliamentary nominees – they might just come true, while our resources are dissipated.
The author is a journalist, communications and media analyst and a writer. The views expressed are solely his and do not represent the organisation he works for.