The driver’s mate conundrum; By Etse Sikanku

There have been a lot of conversations about the use of the driver’s mate phrase by Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia. It has been the subject of widespread commentary sometimes bordering on ridicule, humour and attack.

While this is all well and good, it has drowned the undergirding or larger point made by the Vice President. Perhaps more importantly, it also obfuscates or denies us the opportunity to appreciate the latent meanings embedded in the analogy and the values therein contained.

In short, the concept of a driver’s mate is familiar to us all. He’s an assistant, a vice, a deputy or a supporter to the main person in charge.

Far from running from responsibility, there are certain positive elements in the description used. And this could be a lesson in leadership or life value we can all learn from. As a Vice president, there is a certain element of support, assistance, dependability, loyalty and service and to a very credible extent, humility expected of the office holder.

Servant leadership is something that has consumed leadership and the governance industry for some time now. There is an expectation that leadership shouldn’t simply be about power but about service to the people and authority. The Vice President perceives himself as a person of service not only to the nation but the president who is his direct head.

Certainly, it is worth appreciating that as a Vice President, he didn’t see himself in competition with the President but rather from a position of service.

It takes some measure of humility to be able to adopt such a position of public service and servant leadership. It assured the president that he had a loyal and dependable assistant who he could count on. Every leader would appreciate having a humble vice or assistant devoid of ego, airs and certain chips which may denote a sense of entitlement, equality or power play. This fosters trust, unity and purposefulness to the national cause.

In the long history of presidential and vice presidential studies, we all know of Vice Presidents who have used the position as power bases, not always directly or consciously, but in ways that have been distractive to the presidency or bred suspicion, to put it mildly.

Sometimes they have created fiefdoms that have at times led to serious cracks or divisions in an administration. This is something many Ghanaians would not accuse Dr Bawumia of. VP Bawumia earned the trust of his boss the President.
I’m pretty sure most of us would look out for the measure of dependability when looking for an assistant.

Another value very closely related to the idea of a servant leader or dependable assistant is that of dutifulness. As a mate, you’re expected to be conscientious, and devoted to the task set before you.
The concept of a mate or an assistant thus has a major measure of responsibility associated with it. What has to be communicated more is not a sense of non-responsibility but rather that of commitment and devotion to the national course.

Once a president is elected, he becomes a national figure. The Vice president’s service to him though initially partisan immediately transitions to a nationalistic duty/service.
Of course, this is not to hold brief for any acts of responsibility on the side of the Vice President or President. And of course, as a critical thinker, the Veep is always expected to offer his perspectives during discourse and debate.

It is simply to add to the conversation and bring to the fore the values of capability, dedication, devotion, dependability, energy, humility, dutifulness and the perspicacity Vice President Bawumia brings to the table.


G. Etse Sikanku is a political and communication analyst.

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