On the 9th December 2016, John Dramani Mahama, then President of Ghana, was defeated in the presidential election by opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo. Mahama garnered 44 per cent whilst Nana Akufo-Addo gained 53 per cent of the votes.
Four years earlier the results were the other way round which made Mahama the elected president. In his concession speech, delivered on that very same day, the former president of Ghana provides enormous advice on leadership.
This monumental loss, in his own words, since he is the first president to not have been re-elected to serve two terms, came with enormous lessons. These lessons, he said, would serve as a moral code by which he would be guided if he had been given another chance to rule.
One of the major lessons he has learned from this loss is that not all those who criticised him actually hated him.
Instead, he noticed that they actually just hated the things they did not agree with such as corruption, incompetence, obscene display of ill-gotten wealth, mediocrity and deception. He learned that the hate of evil eventually overcomes the love of evil and that is what people actually fight against.
Another important lesson he learned from this experience is that the success or failure of a leader is dependent on the kind of people he or she surrounds himself with. He learned that not all are honest. Whilst some dare to provide alternative views or suggestions, he noted that the majority were just praise-singing flatterers that specialized at telling him what he wanted to hear. They were apparently motivated and dictated to act like that by their stomachs.
Now that he has failed, they seek greener pastures anew. The last major lesson he learned is that people should not be seen as just voters or votes but should be seen as human beings first.
The lessons the former president of Ghana talks about are simply that not everybody that criticises or differs with you hates you or is your enemy. Indeed, he learned that most of the people that agree with everything a leader always says are not necessarily always sincere but are doing this simply to gain favour for the sake of their stomachs and survival. If not properly identified it is these people that actually cause the leader more harm than those that dared to provide alternatives or had different views.
As we go through the year 2017, which will be filled with many events and opportunities for people to place themselves as the darlings of the centers of power, let us remember the wise lessons learned by the former president of Ghana. As we lead the country, national institutions and ourselves, let us heed to these wise words that not everybody that has a different view from us is our enemy.
Sometimes these very people only hate stagnation, the way we do things or the way we go about our affairs, instead of actually hating us as persons. Leaders should hence be careful to not only associate with or appreciate those that tell them nice things. Indeed, they should become aware of those wolves in sheep skin that are only out to flatter them and tell them all the good that they want to hear.
At the end of the day it is such misleading advice, which is often contrary to the reality on the ground, which makes the leader look bad and lose favour in the eyes of the masses. Let us hence be honest with ourselves, with our principals and our leaders so that we enable them to lead the entire nation, and not just our own stomachs, to prosperity. May we all have a good 2017.
• Iipumbu Sakaria is a child of the SWAPO Party.