The Chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Cardinal Peter Appiah Kodwo Turkson, has advised political leaders to adhere to the principles of the common good by respecting and safeguarding the dignity of the people they lead.
He is also calling for equity and justice in the distribution and utilization of the nation’s resources, insisting that “justice means respect for the demands of the relationships we live, if we disregard the demands of the relationship, that’s injustice.”
The revered priest made the call in a keynote address at the fourth Annual Leadership Lecture, organised by the University of Professional Studies, Accra, on Wednesday, November 9.
The lecture was on the theme “The tragedy of the commons: Leadership for the common good.”
In explaining the parabolic tragedy of the commons, Cardinal Turkson said the greed of the few in power and their insatiable quest to satisfy their self-interest should not be allowed to override the common good of the people.
He stressed that if that is allowed to happen, it will lead to the depletion of the nation’s resources meant for the general welfare of the populace.
“In a situation of tragedy of the commons, those who try to play fair end up suffering the negative externalities,” he said. “The common good therefore indicates the sum total of social conditions that allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfilment more fully and more easily.”
Cardinal Turkson believes in order to avert “tragedy” from befalling the populace, there is a need for the provision of quality leadership – leadership that understands human beings and their need to lead and be led, and is prepared to sacrifice short-term gains for long-term prosperity.
“You cannot exercise true leadership when you do not understand the subjects you are dealing with,” he stressed.
“A leader’s knowledge of what is in his or her heart that stalls his thoughts and deeds is very significant. And, without being captious, his sensitivity/awareness of the same in his/her collaborators and even the people they serve may never be overlooked.
“The tragedy signals are when one begins to privilege short-term profit over long-term planning. Our will for mutuality is and must be far more deeply rooted than a will to individual self-interest and gain.”
Cardinal Turkson expressed concern over the destruction of the country’s water bodies through illegal mining activities.
He blamed the inaction of the authorities in charge of environmental protection and said it was past time to criminalize environmental pollution.
“Because of gold mining in our rivers, our rivers are being reduced to a puddle. Go to the rivers that feed into the [River] Pra and it is all puddles. Ankobra is not a flowing river anymore because of the search for gold.
“A group in Sweden is intending to take a document entitled the Ecoside Law to the United Nations. They are trying to get the UN to support the promulgation of a law that would enable citizens to prosecute people who cause or kill, as it were, their environment.
“If such a law would pass, Ghana could be prosecuted for killing a lot of natural resources,” he said.