Feature Article of Monday, 27 August 2012
Columnist: Amoateng, Daniel Simpson
....FOR THE 2012 ELECTIONS?
When the news finally hit town, after many days of intense lobbying and speculation, that Mr. Kwesi Amissah Arthur was nominated as the Vice-President of the Republic of Ghana, I shriveled.
I could not come to terms with the thoughts of Mr. Amissah Arthur on the campaign trail telling the NDC story to Ghanaians who have become wiser since 1992. His deportment, tempo of speech and general mannerism doesnâ€™t make him a candidate for the kind of undertaking imposed on his disinclined ambiance. Mr. Amissah Arthur, from all indications, would have been a better candidate for the Methodist pulpit in the Central Regional Capital, Cape Coast.Â
The loudmouth upstart Victor Smith did not mince words when he descended heavily on the new President for such a suicidal move that has profound repercussions for the NDC now and into the near future.Â Even though Mr. Smith might have his own political reasons for voicing out dissent publicly against the Presidentâ€™s choice, I take a different view to Mr. Victor Smithâ€™s assertions.
In politics, just like any human endeavor, passion, competence, and communication are important constituents around which success or failure revolves. As an employer, I have seen these three important facilities birthing other essential attributes in my 40 years of practice. I have never been wrong about these three ingredients at recruitment interviews, they are the fulcrum around which you will surely find industry awareness, positive attitude, confidence, compatibility, and many other attributes you might be seeking for in an employee. For educational qualifications, they are the worst to consider, especially in the Ghanaian environment with too many failing tertiary institutions churning out all kinds of degrees. Pardon me for the little digression, as the topic is not about my business.
Having paid keen attention to American politics for a long time, I came to the conclusion that these three important ingredients are the foundation for the contest of the American presidency from the personal level. George W. Bush was an anomaly in recent times though. Let us focus on President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton, recent Democratic Party leaders to illustrate the point. These are individuals, who, at an early age showed promise as enthusiastic leaders interested in the progress of their communities, country, and personal ambition. I am not hereby referring to the idea of young leadership in the Ghanaian context, where insults are the hallmark of the young ones (Samuel Ablakwa Okudzeto and the others) because they lack leadership skills and only happened to be promoted to high state office per chance.
We can also not discount the contextual environment that engender these individuals who believed and still believe â€œYes, they could,â€ at an age when most Ghanaians still live with their parents and have no independence of mind and thought. The process of getting elected on a particular partyâ€™s ticket is rigorous; it is draining; it is demanding; and most of all, it is challenging. Indeed, by the time a candidate crisscrossed all the 50 states, hobnobbing with communities and citizens, and advocating his or her policies, and be tested to them through questions, the passion, competence, and the communication skills required for the performance of the high office of the president must have been demonstrated many times.
Considering the two largest political groupings in Ghana, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the leadership of the former can hold its head high for creating an enabling platform for any of its members with conviction to take up the challenge. It was not surprising when in 2008, 17 of its high-profile members took the chance. Even though it became a contest of wealth rather than ideas, the competitiveness of the process as a fundamental requirement in a democratic process was overwhelmingly realized. The attribute s of passion, competence, and communication, as ingredients were allowed to play out leading to the election of the best man for the job.
Â For the NDC since its inception, it has always been one acclamation or the other. From its supreme founder, Jerry John Rawlings, to the late John Evans Atta Mills, and to the newly appointed John Dramani Mahama, NDC has tend to avoid competition, by which organizations such as political parties are strengthened and renewed. It is unfortunate that those who come to the NDC, communicating their passion and demonstrating their competence for the job have to be blocked to the detriment of the growth of party and nation.
Aside all the Presidents the NDC has produced by acclamation, the choice of the Vice-Presidents have not been any different. When the late Mills was chosen in 1996 to partner Jerry John Rawlings in the 1996 election, he was not an interested candidate in the job of the Presidency. He reluctantly accepted the position and vowed to return to his academic work after the end of the Rawlings term. But as fate would have it, Rawlings thought he was a man of integrity and so imposed him on his party even against the manâ€™s own will. We all saw the outcome of that.Â
When Mills, in turn, had to choose his running mates, he repeated the same mistakes of choosing individuals who have never in their political careers had any known Presidential ambitions and therefore had never considered becoming running mates â€“ Mr. Martin Amidu and subsequently Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni. Their lackluster performance for the NDC in the 2000 and 2004 electoral campaigns were testament to what the lack of passion and unpreparedness can psychologically do to a presidential campaign. There is no doubt the frontrunners in a campaign must be seen to be passionate about their message and be able to communicate that clearly.
On the nomination, appointment, and confirmation of Amissah Arthur, investigations reveal that Capt. (rtd) Kojo Tsikata and his cousin Tsatsu Tsikata were among those behind the Amissah Arthur card, knowing pretty well that once he was nominated by the president, he would get the parliamentary approval only as a formality. As one probes further to understand why Amissah Arthur, it came to light that the decision was neither in the interest of party nor nation, but to hedge their personal security and to further block their partyâ€™s founder, the man Jerry John Rawlings. The idea of Amissah Arthurâ€™s masterâ€™s degree in economics being an important factor was only a faÃ§ade and an afterthought to silence critics. It seems that many of the cabal around the late Mills also thought that Amissah Arthur would be the most manageable amongst the names being then speculated about for the job. So they got him.
The hatred that drove these two Tsikata men to finance individuals such as GoosieÂ Tanoh and his pal Peter Kpordugbey to form the defunct Reform Party is still at work. A reliable source, who wishes to remain anonymous has revealed. â€œWhen the late John Evans Atta Mills was nominated by Jerry John Rawlings who stood by him through thick and thin to ensure he became the President of Ghana, these individuals deserted the Atta Mills candidature and sponsored Goosie Tanoh and Peter Kpordugbey who helped to ditch the Atta Mills agenda in 2000. We only had to wait for Atta Mills to become a president for the vultures to congregate around him. In the end, the idea is now to turn the smoking gun on their own founder to settle old scores. They care less if the disunity in the NDC even cost them the 2012 elections. They are more interested in seeing the founder of their party reduce to pulp than to see John Mahama retain the seat, as the new President is seen as only a propitious beneficiary from the death of his superior,â€ the source said. One would have thought that Mahama would have found a creative way to disassociate himself from the Goosie Tanoh, the Tsikatas, and the Ahwoi cliques to carve an image of self-assertiveness for himself, but he is already a victim of the situation. It is sad that his planned move into Flagstaff House/Jubilee House may be used to leave behind at the Castle those he would rather not work with. But the rejected Castle workers insist that if Mahama wishes to pursue Millâ€™s legacy then he must keep Millsâ€™s appointees.
The propaganda has been that Mr. Kwesi Amissah Arthurâ€™s background in economics has been the icing on the cake. But for the many years he spent at the Finance Ministry and at the Bank of Ghana, a few things are clear. He is not an inspirational leader who has any tangible results to show for the many years that he had spent in these important state institutions. Listening to him, it is obvious that apart from his masterâ€™s thesis, he has nothing to place a finger on as a success story to tell Ghanaians, and that will play out if Mahama commits the blunder of retaining him as a running mate. The NDC will finally implode.
In 1994 when Amissah Arthur was the Deputy Minister at the Finance Ministry, the then Acting Director of the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) was the late Prof John Evans Atta Mills. Prof Atta Mills reported to Amissah Arthur directly, by virtue of the position of Amissah Arthur as Deputy Minister of Finance. Together the two (and their boss, Dr. Kwesi Botchway, as Finance Minister) led the policy dialogue with Ghanaians on the Value Added Tax (VAT). But the duo failed miserably to convince Ghanaians about the need for VAT. When the Kumepreku, literally meaning â€œkill me quick,â€ demonstration hit town, it was the largest demonstration the country has ever witnessed in the 4th republic.
Indeed, in 1997 â€“ 1998, it took the Communication Ministry led by then Minister Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah and his Deputy Minister John Mahama to repackage the policy and resell it successfully to Ghanaians. To drive the point home, Dr. Botchway, Amissah-Arthur, Prof. Mills, Spio-Garbrah and John Mahama have had an interesting prior history, which could be played out again. In 1995 â€“ 1996, the lawyers and economists could not do the job. It was the communications professionals who did it.Â So faced with another â€œtough sellâ€ to Ghanaians for the December 2012 elections, why would President Mahama forget his own history and go choose a partner who has shown communication failures before?
In the last three years, the main problem that had confronted the Atta Mills administration simply stemmed from the overreliance on a weak communication team whose members thought propaganda was the way to go. In the first year or two of Millsâ€™s government, the impossible arrangement at the Presidency of having Mahama Ayariga as Presidential Spokesman and Koku Anyidoho as self-appointed Director of Communications led to many catastrophes. Meanwhile, at the Ministry of Information, were other wet-eared officials like Mrs. Zita Saba Okaikoi, who moved from bar keeper to Minister without ever working in any serious office before her appointment as Minister. More recently, the so-called â€œGreen Bookâ€ of the NDC clearly demonstrates the naivetÃ© of the communication apparatus of the party and government.
With the elections around the corner and all the troubles the NDC has been experiencing, one wonders why Mahama would settle on Amissah Arthur as a Vice-President to execute an agenda he is not cut out for. Indeed, what the NDC has suffered has been the inability of its communication team from the Castle all the way to the Information Ministry to communicate the governmentâ€™s agenda in non-insulting, clear and unambiguous manner, making a case for re-election. But what we have seen and heard so far is that John Mahama is handsome and would attract sympathy votes. I personally do not know about that.
Turning to the masterâ€™s in economics credentials of the Vice-President, one may ask, â€œwas then Vice-President Mills an economist? But he was able to chair the economic management team by virtue of his position as Vice-President, right? After all, neither Bill Clinton nor Obama or many known American Presidents chose their Vice-Presidents because they were economists. Presidents choose their Vice-Presidents for strategic reasons.Â They choose people who can help them take some of the tough political decisions that affect the economy, so being an economist is neither here nor there. If being an economist would be a requirement anywhere in politics, it is definitely at the treasury. In our case in Ghana, the economic decisions are made between the Bank of Ghana and the Finance Ministry. The political decisions are made at the Castle.
I ask the question, â€œWhy does the NDC leadership keep stabbing itself in the back?â€ Why would Asiedu Nketia and Kwabena Adjeiâ€™s greed and selfishness be allowed to consume a once vibrant party even in opposition to become a mere shadow of its past. These are times you remember the one-time General-Secretary of the party Alhaji Huudi Yahaya and his successor Dr. Josiah Aryeh for the deep insights they brought into party strategy and management. Mr. Vincent Assiseh of blessed memory would be forever remembered for his commentaries and features that shaped the thoughts of the NDC and directed its energy. Â Today, after being in office for nearly four years, hardly any NDC constituency or branch office has a computer and linked to the head office by Internet. All over the country, the partyâ€™s offices lack enthusiasm and high morale. For a party about to enter into political warfare, this is worrisome.
Evidently, the NDC has not learned any lessons from its past and would continue to commit the same blunders that saw it exit office in the 2000 general elections. For those who lack knowledge of the history of the NDC, they should be reminded that none of its leaders has been put to the test of a truly free democratic internal party election until Nana Konadu Agyeman dared the party to a contest. Even that Sunyani Congress was not free or fair as big monies changed hands.
John Mahama should wakeup and disentangle himself from the vultures around him before the ship finally sinks. At least, unlike Prof. Mills who was held hostage by those who kept and managed his campaign funds, President Mahama is believed to have amassed his own war-chest during his years as Vice President. Several of his brothers are quite wealthy. One of them, Ibrahim reportedly just bought a new jet plane. John Mahama should be able to get the Ahwois to account fully for the campaign money Mills left behind, and then set up his own fundraising and money-management team. This is the only way to abandon the stranglehold of the Ahwois and Tsikatas and free himself to make peace with Rawlings and many other discontented people who are the ones who can actually campaign for him. Many of those who advised Mills to ignore Rawlings, and who are telling Mahama the same never mount any campaign platforms. There is just to destroy others without providing good alternatives. With Congress only a few days away, and NDP already rolling into action, the die is cast for the NDC.
Daniel Simpson Amoateng
Independent Political Analyst