ANALYSIS: A good thing sells itself, Mr. President!! – By Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

The writer, Dr Michael J.K. Bokor
Vice President John Dramani Mahama’s plea for a second term for President Mills is thought-provoking at several levels, probably excluding his premise that the two Presidents who have ruled since the inception of the 4th Republic had 8 years apiece; thus, President Mills must also be given 8 years.

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There is no logic like that in politics. Renewal of mandate depends on accomplishments—how the government has used the mandate of the people to work for their benefit, improving living conditions and demonstrating enough to instill hope in them for a brighter future.

Let us not reduce our democracy to this ridiculously formulaic level, based on an empty precedent of longevity in office. We must base it on nothing but practical achievements. A government that doesn’t help us to grow our democracy (which encompasses all departments of national life—economic, political, social, cultural, etc.) should be kicked out of office. No amount of sermonizing or pleading should be tolerated.

The essential question, then, becomes: Has President Mills done enough to satisfy the electorate who put him in office at the 2008 general elections? If he has, then, he should rest assured that at Election 2012, his mandate will be renewed. If not, then, he must start preparing his handing over notes right-away!!

It seems some people have started looking over their shoulders already. To the Vice President, levelling the playing field that way will make any comparison of the performances of these three leaders reasonable on the basis of tenure. On the surface, this line of reasoning may be plausible; but deep down the surface, it doesn’t hold water. Who says that Ghanaians’ main pre-occupation is wasting time comparing and contrasting the performances of these leaders? That’s bootless.

Their main pre-occupation is how to live their lives in decency, regardless of who makes that possible. The country has all the resources (material and human) that it needs to ensure that its people live in decency but the leaders have failed to work for that purpose. That’s the problem that Ghanaians worry about.

In fact, the 8 years that Rawlings and Kufuor had were mostly wasted. I will do a brief analysis of the tenure of these two former Presidents for us to see what exactly they did to make anybody want to use their tenure as the basis for pleading as the Vice President is doing.

I will take only a few areas: the national economy, political framework to grow our democracy, human development, and institutions of state.

What did Rawlings do to give us the economic take-off that would have pushed Ghana to a higher level than what he began with on December 31, 1981, when he shot his way into office? Without bothering our heads over statistics for now, where is the evidence that anything concrete was done to grow the economy despite all the austerity measures of the Economic Recovery Programme, Structural Adjustment Programme, PAMSCAD, and all the other irritating draconian measures?

The country continued to depend on cocoa, manganese, tourism, gold, and many other primary commodities and made insufficient gains to support itself. Hence, the rush to the international donor community, especially the Bretton Woods institutions, for loans that were nothing but death traps.

To his credit, though, Rawlings embarked on massive development projects and extended the national grid to all the districts that his government had created at the time. Beyond this point, nothing else happened to prove that his 8 years were productively spent to put the country on an even keel. Rawlings’ “strongman mentality” didn’t help our democracy.

Kufuor entered the scene, complaining loudly of inheriting a broken economy, and immediately pushed Ghana into the den of HIPC without changing anything structurally for the economy to stand on its feet. Cosmetic measures such as the redenomination of the Cedi or floating of government bonds only deepened the pit into which the Mills government has sunk now, especially with the run-away rate of the Cedi against the US Dollar.

Kufuor also continued with borrowing of money for development projects and social interventionist projects. Nothing drastic was done by his government to grow our democracy to make it serve the needs of the people. Kufuor’s government was nepotistic and very much shortsighted in several respects. Members of the NPP may not want to be told the truth but that government can’t claim to have outdone any previous ones in terms of its handling of the major national tasks.

What we see happening under Mills is just a manifestation of the lapses that have characterized governance over the years, although his own government’s acts of commission or omission are largely responsible for the worsening of the situation. That is why he is also chasing loans left and right.

Let someone tell me which of these governments has been able to retool the institutions of state to make them functional and capable of shouldering the heavy responsibilities imposed on them by our democratization efforts? Or to introduce any policy that will drastically overhaul the economy and attitudes to governance to prove to the world that Ghana is maximizing its resources to advantage?

In all the governments that have ruled in this 4th Republic, bribery and corruption gained much ascendancy. It is as if those in authority consider their proximity to the corridors of power as an opportunity to exploit the system to advantage.

On top of it all, the standard of living hasn’t improved in any way over the years. What is the justification that the governments have been able to solve anybody’s problems or to lay the foundation for a brighter future? The unemployment situation is deplorable; immorality has skyrocketed; political violence is firmly established; red-tapeism in government bureaucracy is firmly rooted. Who doesn’t know how nothing has changed all these years?

Let’s talk about leadership and we will be numbed by the high degree of incompetence that has characterized all these governments. President Mills may be using a different approach, but he comes across as either disorganized or confused. He can’t seem to have grips on his administration. He is lethargic in several ways and is virtually disconnected from the people. I wonder if he even reads the newspapers to know the drift of public opinion or perception of his governance style. If he does, he shouldn’t miss what is doing the rounds. He needs more than an appeal to voters’ conscience!!

For him to be retained in office, he will have to do more than he has demonstrated so far; but the fact is that he doesn’t have the time to do so. Between now and election time is too short for him to be up-and-doing enough to change the impression that he has already created about himself.

On top of that, his political opponents seem to know better how to use propaganda to advantage and will continue to bombard him with taunts and scathing personal attacks to the effect that he is incompetent.

Let’s not even talk about some sordid happenings, especially the payment of judgement debts. The Woyome case is biting and will definitely not redound to the President’s political fortunes, more so when the case has entered the usual labyrinth in the judiciary and is a “go-and-come” case now. The feeling is that it is being shoddily handled so as to free Woyome. Trust Ghanaians to use such clear cases of corruption against him.

Now, to the main issues that the Vice President missed. Never before in our post-independence national life has an incumbent President been so stampeded as is happening to President Mills. Sadly, he is willfully bad-mouthed by members of his own party and political opponents. To his credit, though, he hasn’t rushed to use the enormous powers at his disposal to silence his critics or to punish those openly discrediting him.

But the personal attacks seem to be based on what the people have noticed—his leniency now becoming his major weakness; hence, the pressure being mounted on him and the threats to vote him down. The question is: Why are all these people angry with him? Is it because they don’t like him or because he hasn’t acquitted himself properly in efforts toward national development?

Certainly, his government is also boasting of infrastructural development; but that’s not what will satisfy those vigorously undercutting him. It seems the real issues go beyond that level. I can infer from snippets of information that the rising cost of living, coupled with the worsening of the economy (contrary to official claims of inflation being managed properly and prudent fiscal policies being implemented), is the main cause. It seems despondency has taken the better side of the people, which is not good for him.

Others also claim that he is presiding over rot, citing instances of corruption or political violence as enough justification for their disdain.

Retaining President Mills in office shouldn’t be difficult or any matter for the Vice President to take up this way. As the saying goes, a good thing sells itself. Although yet to complete its four-year mandate, the government needs to know that Ghanaians are discerning enough to know whether it has laid a strong foundation on which to build in future. What is that foundation (in terms of policies, programmes, and general government business) to justify the need for a renewal of President Mills’ mandate?

Much of what his critics say has to do with lack of any clear policy directive to guide governance. Since coming into office more than three years ago, what has the government been able to put in place to differentiate it from all others or to equal their accomplishments in the first term? We must be honest to say that not until the government can point to that foundation, it will be wasting everybody’s time pleading for it to be retained in office.

I want to say here that so far, the negatives seem to outweigh the positives. Here are some: President Mills is largely disconnected from the people (When was the last time he interacted with the people on a sustained basis for them to feel his presence?) He is worse off within the ranks of the NDC itself, where the Rawlings faction and the foot-soldiers have been up in arms since January 7, 2009.

By being dormant (misguidedly portrayed as a “Father-for-all-Ghanaians” posturing), President Mills has succeeded in dimming his own light. He seems not to be commanding as much respect as needed to keep him poles ahead of the competition. His “Fa ma Nyame” posture has given his political opponents the ammunition they need to destroy his public image—which they are doing with evil gusto!!

The Woyome scandal has exposed a more disturbing side of President Mills, which suggests that he seems not to be in total control of the government machinery, which is why some opponents are claiming that he is not ruling the country. In other words, there is the harmful perception that he is being manipulated by some faceless people. That is not a good impression.

He has some positive aspects, though. Being less self-acquisitive than what Kufuor portrayed, he seems to be admired on that score. But all that admiration will turn to naught in the face of the allegations of corruption against his appointees. What benefit will he get if those appointees don’t behave as he is doing? The bad nuts grabbing material gains have soiled his reputation as well. Can he redeem himself?

My final point is that President Mills doesn’t necessarily have to be given four more years if his performance doesn’t satisfy the electorate. No amount of wailing, gnashing of teeth, sending delegations to public figures, community leaders, chiefs, and queenmothers, or bribing voters with essential commodities, roofing sheets, corn mills, and cutlasses, among others, will save the day for him.

He must prove beyond all reasonable doubts that four more years under him will not be characterized by what we have seen in this first term. How does he justify the demand to be retained in office? He has an extremely arduous task to perform in this case. Over to you, President Mills!!!

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