By Melvin Tarlue
It was somewhere in 2017 when I started knowing Hon. Joe Ghartey, a 2024 Presidential candidate aspirant of the ruling New Patriotic Party and former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice under former President John Agyekum Kufuor’s administration, on a personal level.
That was shortly after he was sworn-in by President Nana Akufo-Addo as Minister for Railways Development. Hon Ghartey, very passionate about developing Ghana’s Railways sector and using rail to boost economic development, hit the ground running after he was sworn-in in February 2017. I was one of the first three journalists the Railways Development Ministry selected to join its Press Corps at a time when Hon. Ghartey was actually working as the Railways Development Minister from his office as Member of Parliament for Essikado-Ketan Constituency in the Job 600 building, Parliament House, before the building being used by the Ministry now was prepared. He stayed in his office at Parliament for six months with just a secretary but with abundant optimism. Since then, I have been really close to him.
My first tour with Hon. Ghartey was the inspection of the now Tema-Mpakadan railway line. Those were the early days of Hon. Ghartey’s impressive revamping of the once ‘dead’ Railways sector.
Along the journey, I have learned a lot from this astute Ghanaian politician. Everyone who knows me as a journalist knows that I love asking questions. From my days at Daily Guide Newspaper when I was mainly covering political events or reporting on political issues, till now, I have always believed that the easiest way to introduce and as well market oneself as a journalist is to ask relevant questions at every function you attend when the opportunity is given.
So, every time I went on a tour with Hon. Ghartey, after inspecting work being done on a particular Railway track, I would always ask him questions on the development of Railways in Ghana, what the plans were, what he was going to do, etc. But each time we (journalists) asked him to talk about what he was doing or to tell Ghanaians what he was going to do for the Railways sector his answers were a little reserved. I realized that he was a man who loves to work more and talk less, something I have started practicing myself. One day at Kpone while we were inspecting the railway line, he jokingly told me “Melvin, today if you don’t stop asking questions, you won’t eat.” Everyone laughed. Then later, while we were walking, he told me, “The thing is about doing the job and not talking too much about what you are doing or what you want to do. When you do a good job, people will see and your job itself will speak for you when you show it to them.”
Hon. Ghartey, after our conversation during the tour, remained true to his conviction which is “more work, less talk.” And indeed, when some of the Railway’s tracks were completed, Ghanaians from everywhere, including even the former Deputy General Secretary of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Samuel Koku Anyidoho, were full of praise. In 2019 he was identified as the Best Minister.
It was indeed under Hon. Ghartey that Ghana since colonial times, could boast of standard gauge Railways lines. The country had since colonial rule by Britain had just narrow-gauge rail lines.
Work more and talk less
So, the first leadership lesson I picked from Hon. Ghartey!!! Work more, talk less. When you are called to serve your nation, serve with all your heart, focus on doing the job and do it well.
I have always said one way for Africa to develop or progress is for us to have leaders who talk less and work more. A lot of our leaders talk too much, full of too much rhetorics, make promises upon promises and deliver less or work less.
Another important leadership lesson I picked from Hon. Ghartey is that leaders must strive at all times to not only be concerned about their own welfare but also to be concerned about the well-being of their employees, their followers or citizens.
It was on his birthday in 2018 and we visited the Ghana Railway Development Authority. Hon. Ghartey had visited the Authority to interact with its management members and staff, and to his surprise, the Authority threw a little birthday party for him in its Board room. Though appreciative of the birthday surprise, Hon. Ghartey was mainly concerned about the well-being of Railway workers in Ghana. Prior to him assuming office as Railways Development Minister, railway workers in the country had not been paid for several months, something Hon. Ghartey found absolutely unacceptable.
So, while addressing management of the Ghana Railway Development Authority then led by its late CEO, Richard Dombo, Hon. Ghartey appealed passionately to management members of the Authority to at all times think about the ordinary workers at the Authority such as cleaners, drivers, whenever they think of increasing their own salaries and allowances. I was sitting not far from him and heard him clearly saying to Mr. Dombo and his management staff that when you think of increasing your own salaries and allowances, also think of increasing the salaries and allowances of every staff member because the economic conditions that push you to want to increase your salaries and allowances also affect the ordinary workers here.
After hearing what Hon. Ghartey told management of the Authority, I started saying to myself this man is certainly not one of the typical self-centered and greedy African politicians I have always known or heard about. He is indeed, a leader who stands for the less privileged, a leader who understands the plight of ordinary workers or ordinary people.
Think about solutions and not dwell on problems
Somewhere in 2019, in the afternoon, Hon. Ghartey called me on phone and I asked that I meet him in his office at the Ministry. He needed me to do something for him so I had to rush there. While returning from the Ministry, I met a relative of President Akufo-Addo and while we were talking, the person told me bluntly “the President will remove your man (Joe Ghartey) from office”. I asked the person why the President wanted to remove Hon. Ghartey from office, and the person said because “he (Joe Ghartey) is nursing a Presidential Ambition and the President now feels it’s best to remove him from office so he can go focus on his Presidential project”.
In 2020, Hon. Ghartey publicly revealed his intention to lead NPP into the 2024 Presidential election. And sadly in 2021, he was surely removed from office apparently because of his Presidential ambition. At the time he was removed from office, he was in full gear modernizing and revamping Ghana’s Railways sector and working on building what he termed as “economic hubs” along major Railways lines. That dream, for obscured political reasons, has not come to life since Hon. Ghartey was removed from office, and today, little is heard about the Railways sector as nothing seems to be happening in the sector.
So, after his removal, he called me to his law firm, Ghartey & Ghartey, at Labone, a suburb of Accra. Yes, I was deeply disappointed he had been removed from office. So, when I met him, I said to him, “my main concern now is how we are going to keep you in the media from now until the Presidential primaries next year or in 2023. I am truly worried about you not being out of the spotlight, in the news regularly.” Then he asked me: “are you worried?” I responded in the affirmative. And then he told me not to worry, “God knows best”, and that rather than dwelling on what has gone wrong, we should rather think about what we can do.
So Hon. Ghartey taught me another important lesson as a leader and that is as a people, we should not dwell on our problems, on what went wrong. Rather, we should focus on finding solutions to the problems that confronts us and remain resolute in the face of adversity. When he was removed from office, he did not despair. He did not take to television and radio stations to speak ill about President Akufo-Addo for removing him from office simply because he declared his intention to lead NPP. He rather took his removal from office in good faith and moved on.
Today he is running for President and I will not be suprised at all if in the near future Ghana has a President Joe Ghartey. A man who believes in working more and talking less; a man who believes in the welfare of his people; a man who works hard regardless of the situation; a man who bears no grudges and is always looking at the bright side of things; a man who says God knows best. Yes, this is President Joe Ghartey.