Analysis: Abuse of incumbency is not the charge – Argues Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

The writer, Dr Michael J.K. Bokor
Those criticizing President John Dramani Mahama’s “Thank Your Tours” to the regions as “abuse of incumbency” seem to have too much time and too little to do. I see nothing wrong with the regional tours nor do I consider them as an instance of abuse of incumbency. Who are these critics to prescribe the modus operandi on public outreach for the President, anyway?

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The President is using the appropriate channel to expose himself to Ghanaians. The timing is good, at least, to let the people know that there is no vacuum at the Presidency, following the passing on of John Atta Mills. How else do these critics expect President Mahama to reach out to the people?

To hop onto an NDC van and parade himself all over the country for them to agree that he is not abusing his incumbency? Hogwash already!!

There is nothing wrong with these visits and I encourage him to keep up the schedule. Those reading “political” meanings into such a tour are free to do so. After all, can we do without politics in human affairs?

As the Greek Aristotle rightly puts it, “man is a political animal,” meaning that we can’t take away politics from anything involving human beings. That is why the Ghana Integrity Initiative’s appeal to Ghanaians to “sharpen the blurring line between what constitutes state events and political events” is puerile. What is a “state event” that is not politically motivated?

Those critics should use their time and energy more profitably. All over the world, Presidents use resources assigned to their offices to do what they have to do without the citizens batting an eyelid. It is only in Ghana that some people will politicize everything just to muddy the waters. Is President Mahama’s regional tour not achieving any objective for the benefit of the country? His theme of “unity, peace, and stability” is the best message, and it is at odds with the “All-die-be-die” nonsense from his rivals in the NPP.

President Mahama is in the Ashanti Region on the 9th leg of the regional tours to thank Ghanaians for participating in the state funeral of his predecessor. He has already visited the Volta, Western, Central, Eastern, Upper East, Upper West, Brong-Ahafo and Northern Regions. He is yet to tour the Greater Accra Region.

What is wrong with a President of a country touring the regions and commiserating with the people—using the resources at his disposal—especially under the circumstances that ushered him into office?

Such critics need to know that the President may be the face of Ghana—representing all Ghanaians and enjoined to serve all without discrimination on the basis of party, ethnicity, creed, or anything else. The Presidential Oath and other oaths legitimizing his grip on power specify how he should function, which is what he is doing.

It is difficult to separate the President as such from his ‘other’ side, which is anything that might be perceived as representing partisan political interests. When will John Mahama be set apart as serving the wider non-partisan national interest? Who can draw that line between him on that score and when he does anything to be perceived as abusing his incumbency for political advantage?

Wherever he finds himself, he is an amalgam of the national and partisan interests. The line separating both is too thin for anybody to attempt defining, let alone, separating. That is why all those accusing the President of abusing his incumbency don’t make sense to me.

Under the current “Thank You Tour” arrangements, the President is out interacting with Ghanaians and mostly expressing appreciation/gratitude for their deep involvement in celebrating the life and death of his predecessor. These regional tours are opportune, happening just after the burial of the former President.

Again, the tours are designed to bring the President closer to the people as their President. If he doesn’t reach out to them this way, how will he relate to them?

Of course, wherever he goes, he carries along with him the authority of the political party that put him in power. He can’t do without that identity. How else will any sane person expect such a person to reach out to the very people he is ruling if he doesn’t go to them in their communities?

It is not possible to quantify the cost of his tours at this stage. If these critics are complaining because they consider the use of official vehicles and other items as an abuse, they are only being petty. After all, how else do they expect the President and his entourage to go on such tours?

Discard the official vehicles assigned them and go for “tro-tro”? Or their own private vehicles? How will the use of their private vehicles change anything? Granted that they are out, performing official functions, shouldn’t they use all the resources available for that purpose?

If cost is their main worry, I want to draw their attention to what happened under Kufuor, especially regarding the nearly 200 useless foreign trips that Kufuor alone undertook in 8 years in office. Have these critics sat down to consider the cost to the country and its tax-payers? Although Kufuor might be said to be focusing on foreign trips and not local rounds in the country to interact with Ghanaians, he reaped political benefits from his tours to improve the NPP’s standing.

How many of these critics ever sat down to calculate how much money was wasted on Kufuor’s frolicking by way of such useless foreign trips? That kind of junketing didn’t give Ghana anything noteworthy except helping Kufuor fulfill his long-held passion of travelling.

In fact, it seems some people are doing overtime to cause disaffection just for its own sake. How and when can we ever establish the dichotomy between a “state event” and a political event carried out by the President (or involving him) to be able to separate the President’s personality and functions from that “state event”?

Some people are simply overburdening themselves with this useless game of semantics. It won’t cut butter.

Those political parties and so-called civil society organizations describing President Mahama’s “Thank You Tours” as abuse of incumbency to serve the best interests of the NDC need redemption. They seem to lack ideas with which to appeal to the voter population and are hanging on to any straw in sight.

The Progressive People’s Party has called for the full disclosure of the expenditure of the president’s tour to show whether the President is using state resource or not. This is an absurd demand because its relevance is neither here nor there. The NPP was the first to air its discontent. The least said about it, the better.

We agree that abuse of incumbency could be touchy, especially in our kind of democracy where indecent haste to point accusing fingers even without any concrete evidence is the norm. That abuse takes several forms; but what we see happening on these regional tours doesn’t necessarily qualify as such.

The Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) is the latest to add its voice to this issue. The call by its legal officer, George Amoo, that the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) should immediately begin investigations into the allegations is a waste of energy. So also are these viewpoints from him:

“… what is the message that the President is giving out, is it to benefit his interest to become the next President then he is into the remit of abuse of incumbency then we must all arise against it… We are also hearing allegations that he is busing people to where he is meeting them, these are all issues that call for investigations and I think that the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice has the mandate to do this.”

Whether people are being bused to the venues or not is nobody’s business for as long as we have no evidence that public funds were used to either provide the buses or to pay those people. Why are some Ghanaians so bent on finding dung where no cow grazed?

Like its counterpart institutions parading as NGOs but pursuing hidden partisan political agenda, this GII doesn’t command any respect anywhere. It doesn’t have the integrity that it has labeled itself with. In any case, such NGOs are more adept at organizing press conferences to make hollow noises than taking any practical action to help us solve the endemic problems of bribery and corruption that they are quick to identify all over the country. This kind of posturing won’t solve any problem. At best, it exposes the leaders and members of these institutions as hypocrites whose double standards irk society.

Within the context of the President’s tours, those alleging that he is abusing his incumbency seem to have too much time and too little to do. I advise them to turn their attention to other pressing national issues.

I encourage the President to step out of the shadows into the limelight. This is the time to establish his presence on the political landscape and he should do so without let or hindrance. Is he not considered to be on official duty during such moments?

His designation comes along with the support of the state and any use of resources so allocated to his office shouldn’t be so politicized as to reduce Ghanaian politics to a laughing stock. I wholeheartedly support the outreach campaigns of the President and will urge him to do all he can to make his presence felt.

If the so-called busing of enthusiastic supporters to the venues is what will boost his image, let it be done to the full with all the alacrity that can be mustered up. Those who don’t like it can choose to expend their energies crying themselves hoarse.

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