Why leaders matter

John Atta Mills won the run off of the presidential election in Ghana. Though the race was tight and close, the real winner in my books is Nana Akufo-Addo, a 64-year-old lawyer, the candidate of the New Patriotic Party who Atta Mills ran against. He promptly conceded the election just as the citizens of Ghana became increasingly apprehensive. If Africa had more leaders like this, much of the civil strife that occurs on the continent could be avoided.

Since we (African bloggers) are often quick to point out the ills of African leaders please join me as I congratulate Mr Addo for this hard earned defeat.

That is Mootbox. The NY Times story is here.

Let’s not forget to thank outgoing President John Kufuor as well, who during the tense hours of the runoff counseled his own ruling party to accept defeat gracefully.

Not many election systems–not even in the advanced democracies–can survive a close election unscathed. The culture, norms, and institutions of democracy in Ghana deserve a lot of credit, but we should not ignore the (largely idiosyncratic) role of the individual personality.

America might look like a very different place today if George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had not decided (on principle) to step down after just one two terms. Museveni, Kagame, and Zenawi: take note.