Percy Zvomuya: You can always bet on John as a leader

John Dramani Mahama has been swiftly sworn in as Ghana's president. He replaces John Atta Mills who died on Tuesday night. Atta Mills himself replaced another John – John Agyekum Kufour. Kufour took the position that had been held by soldier-turned-politician, John Jerry Rawlings. 

That makes Mahama the fourth man with the name John to sit on Ghana's kingly seat. It is fair to speculate that if you are Ghanaian and want your son to be president, the name to bet on is John. If it is a girl, Joan has a whiff of John about it.

Is the trick in the name itself or is there something else about it? 

There doesn't seem to be anything magical or royal about the name itself. John is listed on certain websites as the second most popular male name of all time. At the top of the popularity stakes is James; Robert hogs third place; Michael and William are fourth and fifth, respectively. 

A quick search reveals that the US boasts four presidents carrying the name John. The US's second president was John Adams (1797 to 1801); other presidents are John Tyler (1841 to 1845), John Quincy Adams (1825 to 1829) and John F Kennedy (1961 to 1963).


The John dictatorship is also well entrenched in Britain. The first John to be prime minister there was a certain John Stuart (1762 to 1763); then there was Frederick John Robinson (1827 to 1828); then there was Lord John Russell (1846 to 1852); there was a break of three years before Henry John Temple (1855 to 1858) took over; the most recent is John Major (1990 to 1997) who was defeated by a Tony Blair-led Labour Party. 

To bring the story home, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe's middle name is Petrus, the Latin version of Peter. If the John logic holds true, he doesn't stand a chance at Mangaung.

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Percy Zvomuya
Percy Zvomuya is a writer and critic who has written for numerous publications, including Chimurenga, the Mail & Guardian, Moto in Zimbabwe, the Sunday Times and the London Review of Books blog. He is a co-founder of Johannesburg-based writing collective The Con and, in 2014, was one of the judges for the Caine Prize for African Writing.

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