The Cardinal Sins that President Mills Committed – Writes Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

President John Evans Atta Mills
No single day passes by without our hearing an NDC member condemn President J.E.A. Mills for alleged failures. Some have even gone to the extent of discounting his intellectual abilities (let alone leadership qualities) and ruled him out for a possible second term in office.
Obviously, no sitting Ghanaian President has been hounded as much as we see being done to President Mills. His situation is more pathetic because the hounding is being done by the very people who helped him win the mandate to rule the country. Nothing can be more treacherous and disquieting than this maltreatment by the very people whose support and encouragement he needs to help the NDC fulfill its electioneering campaign promises and work hard enough to retain power.
These “hounders” are behaving as if they want him to build Ghana in a day. Even, the historians have told us that “Rome was not built in a day.” Why should we expect President Mills to do the impossible today? Others before him had the luxury of many years in office but couldn’t solve the systemic problems for which he is unfortunate to be accused today. Sadly, they are the very people leading the hounding.
Probably, President Mills is just a victim of strange circumstances. Or does the situation reveal anything hitherto unknown about the Ghanaian mentality: Hail him today; crucify him tomorrow? Or has President Mills himself unwittingly committed some cardinal sins to be so hounded by members of his own political camp? I think the latter is the issue.
Glimpses of what we have had so far from Rawlings surfaced long before President Mills won the 2008 elections when Rawlings accused him of not taking the fight to the NPP to lead demonstrations against what the NDC had perceived as “rigging” of the 2004 elections. Rawlings saw President Mills as not actively concerned enough to take up that challenge. Of course, President Mills didn’t buy into that instigation to lead such a demonstration. This seemingly lukewarm attitude might have set the tone for later developments that would pit Rawlings against him.
Some flashback will do. When the NPP won the 2000 elections, tension was high in the country and many people expressed fears that the Kufuor administration might witch-hunt the NDC functionaries. We all saw how Kufuor handled affairs and how Rawlings was constantly howling and making allegations that the government was colluding with mercenaries to assassinate him. Several reports came up to suggest that Rawlings was apprehensive that the Kufuor government wanted to get rid of him.
Of course, public reaction to some of those allegations suggested that anything of the sort might be too “explosive” for the country. We can tell from the series of measures taken by the Kufuor government to deal with the NDC that the tension would not abate easily (and quickly too).
Hot verbal exchanges between the NDC functionaries and their NPP opponents—including Rawlings’ own cacophonous refrain of “Kufuor niee… Nii Ayi niee…” and Kufuor’s own allegations that Rawlings was plotting to overthrow him—came to light.
Some happenings confirmed the causes of the tension. The Kufuor government’s divesting of Rawlings of all protocol or courtesy concessions (including vehicles and VIP treatment on foreign trips); dismissal of NDC sympathizers from office; the jailing of former Ministers in the Rawlings administration as well as high-ranking officials (Tsatsu Tsikata); and the prosecution of Rawlings’ own wife were some highlights of what the Kufuor government did to intensify the bad-blood relationship between the two political camps.
Certainly, before the 2008 elections, the tension hadn’t subsided. Thus, the battle line had already been drawn and the NDC was poised to repay the NPP in its own coin if it won the elections.
Every serious observer of the Ghanaian political scene in the pre-2008 electioneering period wouldn’t miss the glaring indication that victory for the NDC would mean death for the NPP’s main functionaries, especially those identified as instrumental in the persecution of the NDC functionaries. Many public utterances from the camp of the NDC left no one in doubt that if the party won the elections, it would send the NPP’s functionaries either fleeing the country with their tails in-between their thighs or be hauled to prison. Indeed, Johnson Asiedu-Nketiah (“General Mosquito,” the NDC’s General Secretary) had already told us that the NDC was ready with the list of NPP functionaries accused of malfeasance and slated for prosecution.
Thus, the NDC’s agenda seemed to have been fixed even long before it could win the elections. With this mindset, the electoral victory was all they were working for so as to put their premeditated plan into action. But, alas, an unwilling John Evans Atta Mills rose above that penchant to douse the fire of vindictiveness. That’s his primary cardinal sin against Rawlings and those now bidding for his blood.
President Mills seemed to have committed another cardinal sin when he chose John Dramani Mahama instead of Betty Mould-Iddrissu (who was the favourite of the Rawlings camp) as his Running Mate.
The first major decisions made by President Mills when ushered into office immediately jolted Rawlings and his camp. By asking the NPP’s DCEs and MCEs to remain at post in the transitional period, he incurred immediate anger from Rawlings and the NDC’s functionaries, who saw that decision as counter-productive in many ways. First, it might give these NPP appointees the chance to cover up their alleged nefarious deeds. Then, it created the impression that the NDC didn’t have its own crop of administrators to do the job. Cardinal sin number three!
In appointing members of his government (at the national, regional, and local levels), President Mills chose people who would later be regarded by the hard-core NDC followers as outsiders. These were the appointees referred to in several disparaging ways: by Ekwow Spio Garbrah as “Team B,” and by Rawlings as “greedy bastards.” Cardinal sin number four.
By rebuffing all entreaties to overhaul his team to bring in known NDC activists, President Mills added a different complexion to this cardinal sin. That is why he is today being accused of rebuilding the CPP out of the NDC’s circles. The agitations by the party’s foot-soldiers for the dismissal of DCEs and MCEs is a direct upshot of the disapproval of President Mills’ approach to governance.
For not winning major cases that the government brought up against some NPP functionaries and the politically charged Yendi Massacre (murder of the Ya-Na and 40 of his subjects), the Mills government sent itself to the slaughter house for Rawlings and his machete-wielding lieutenants to do in.
It seems the worst cardinal sin that President Mills committed was his refusal to act on Rawlings’ insistent demand that members of Kufuor’s government be prosecuted on allegations of graft, theft, and corruption. This is the worst offence against Rawlings so far. He hasn’t hidden that sentiment and made disparaging remarks about President Mills in a show of contempt. Remember the “Atta Mortuary” dry joke? How about the “Who born dog?” or “Konongo Kaya” quip?
Rawlings is angry because despite President Mills’ infamous “I-will-consult-Rawlings-24-hours” pledge, he hasn’t done so. Instead, he has sought to be his “own man,” to rid himself of the “poodle” tag. By standing his grounds and refusing to be a push-over, President Mills seems to have cut Rawlings deeply and will not be forgiven. He has refused to turn himself into a mule to be shoved about by the muleteer that Rawlings has constituted himself into.
Let’s be honest enough to admit that President Mills is only mortal. He has his weaknesses but they are not so damaging as to make anybody write him off like a bad debt. Contrary to people’s expectations, he may be slow to act or make decisions (as is currently being bandied about) but he is not a liability. As an intellectual and an accomplished scholar and teacher, he knows better not to rush to judgement or decisions. Let’s recognize him as an asset and support him with our input. The tasks facing him are arduous and he needs positive reinforcement, not the kind of jostling that he is being subjected to.
I will continue to insist that the task of nation-building goes beyond what his opponents think it is. Being the President of Ghana in our contemporary times calls for more careful approaches than what we have been used to all these years, especially in the period that witnessed trial-and-error approaches to governance.
Rather pathetically, though, the very apostles of ad-hocism are those who are today arrayed against President Mills. We know the consequences of their “trial-and-error” approach to handling important national problems and ask them to give President Mills the break he deserves.
In a long shot, I don’t blame those Ghanaians complaining about his “slow” governance style. Having already been used to the “buga-buga” ways of administering this country, they can hardly accommodate a different temperament. They find it difficult to adjust to a refined manner of governance. After all, President Mills wields as much power as his predecessors did but he is spectacularly reluctant to use those powers the way some of those past leaders did things. If that is his weakness, so be it. But at the end of his reign, I am confident that he will have more peace of mind to live his life than those now hounding him seem to be doing.
It is rare for leaders of countries such as ours to be so selfless, unassuming, humble, and forgiving. If for being so President Mills doesn’t come across as some would expect, so be it. But in all honesty, we need to remind ourselves that whether he succeeds or not will depend on how we position ourselves under his governance.
Nation-building is a long journey that begins with the first solid step. Ours began long ago, but we seem not to know how to take one step after the other. That’s not how to build a nation. Nation-building calls for drastic attitudinal changes and the determination to do one’s best in contributing the required input. Together, when resources are pooled and used for the right purposes, some progress should be made. Is that what all Ghanaians are committed to doing? Or have we folded our arms and left the burden to the President alone to carry?
Let’s look at what happens at all levels of the Ghanaian body politic. Will we say that all those in positions of trust are doing what they are there for? Does it have to take the presence of the President of the country in all those work places for people to do what they should be doing to move the country forward? To me, the main problems hindering our forward march don’t stem from President Mills alone.
We should stop blaming him for the very human foibles and frailties that we all mortals have. Instead of setting the stage to continuously find fault (even where there is none), let’s change our attitudes and support his efforts. That’s how countries develop. Are we not expecting too much too soon from one man?

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