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Feature Article of Thursday, 18 October 2012

Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

Will John Mahama be his Own Man if Elected?

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

14th October 2012

Come 7th December 2012, presidential and parliamentary elections will be held throughout Ghana. It is obvious that the battle will be a straight fight between Nana Akufo Addo of the opposition NPP party and the incumbent NDC president, John Dramani Mahama. Mahama has already boosted his popularity by launching his book, ‘My First Coup’d’tat’. Readers will remember President Barrack Obama’s book, ‘The Audacity of Hope, his second book after ‘Dreams from My Father.’ In this day and age, writing a book can lift up one’s image. However, as they say in Ghana, ‘agoro ne famu’. Author or no author, it is the battle royal and its nitty gritty will determine the outcome. Nana Akufo Addo is a veteran and seasoned politician with a political clout and ambience. It will be his second attempt at wrestling the presidency in order to gain the commanding height of the political landscape, to be able to live his dream.

May the best man and best party win the elections! At the end of the day, what the ardent and patriotic Ghanaian aspires to have is a credible government in place, which can deliver the goods of improving our standards of living and spreading national wealth to all and sundry. Every Ghanaian, whether living at home in Ghana or in the Diaspora, hopes to see a corrupt- free government in place in Ghana. Ghanaians have great expectations from their elected leaders in terms of price stability, economic growth, employment creation, peace, law and order, balance in our external trade, and equitable distribution of wealth.

This year’s election is going to be very interesting, challenging, competitive and intriguing in the sense that new political parties have entered the fray, not least the NDP led by a woman flag bearer and presidential aspirant, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings. Should she win the elections, she will go down in history as the first woman president of the Republic of Ghana. The NDP is a breakaway faction of the ruling NDC. Nana Konadu has a following in FONKAR and the 31st December Women’s Movement. She is a modern Yaa Asantewaa or Boadicea or Joan of Arc or Queen Amina.

I am sure many women will root for her, which may diminish the chances of Mahama in the NDC. Nana Konadu’s husband, ex-president JJ Rawlings, has distanced himself from campaigning for the NDC, perhaps this time around, he does not want to be seen as the NDC kingmaker or shadow in the background who dictates to the flag bearer. This is welcome relief from past scenarios and an excellent move, perhaps to free the presidency from his own ascription of being surrounded by greedy bastards and evil dwarfs. Who then is the intellectual giant (Rawlings himself?) and who the greedy bastards? A bastard is a fatherless child, and a greedy one is the one who usurps the rights of the true biological children.

JJ Rawlings has suavely resorted to creating rapport with the opposition leader, Nana Akufo Addo, and wooing him humongously. This may be a ploy to calm down the waters of the ‘all-die-be-die’ mantra of Nana or the unfortunate vituperations of Kennedy Agyapong, also in the NPP. Rawlings has categorically stated that he wouldn’t be hitting the campaign trail to vouch for Mahama. In a way, he is telling Mahama, ‘fight your own battle, so that if you win, you will be your own man to call your own shots.’ This bodes well for the future of the presidency and I commend JJ for his statesmanship role.

However, he should stop berating the NDC with his corruption charges, which is crying wolf. It is said that those who live in glass houses should be wary of throwing stones. If there is corruption, it should be substantiated and brought before court. Perhaps, JJ wants to stay neutral so that he does not offend his better half, Nana Konadu. As a married man myself, I perfectly understand the plight, predicament and dilemma of JJ. Those in the NDC who are accusing JJ of leaving them in a lurch should understand. JJ cannot be there always for them. As babies who have developed sharp teeth, they should also develop and possess sharp intellect to steer their own affairs. All this fallout in the NDC, advantages the NPP.

However, I am not being apologetic for JJ. The pro-leftist CPP has also experienced a break away from the PPP. Currently, CPP has Samia Nkrumah as its chairlady, as the former flag bearer, Paa Kwesi Nduom, has decamped to form the PPP. We also have the CPP being led by its flag bearer, Dr Abu Sakara. Then there is PNP. The current CPP, PPP and PNP are all offshoots of the pre-1966 old CPP. One would have thought that these leftist-leaning parties with similar ideologies should have coalesced under one big umbrella to form a formidable challenge to the heavyweights of the NDC and NPP. However, for parochial and selfish reasons they stay fragmented and scatterised. Maybe these are the parties with floating votes and are the spoilers in the race. In the end, they may engage in horse-trading, log-rolling and perhaps forming coalitions and alliances with the bigwigs.

Of late, JJ has been making boom statements that the current Ghanaian presidency is surrounded by evil dwarfs and greedy bastards. Does it mean that he JJ has no access to the president to offer his advice or his advice goes unheeded? Has he forgotten that he was in power for 19 years? He has also insinuated that there is a helluva of a corruption ring in the NDC, especially among the clique and coterie which he has dubbed as Team B. Has he forgotten the alleged Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) 400 billion old cedis saga which dogged him and his team during the reign of ex-President Kufuor? JJ sees new kids on the block as neophytes or babies with sharp teeth. There are people like Nii Lamptey Vanderpuije, Fiifi Kwetey, Okudzeto Ablakwa, Victor Smith, among others. Of the old NDC guard, JJ seems to have differed and fallen out with quite a number. There are the Ahwois, Tony Aidoos, P.V. Obeng, Kofi Totobi Kwakye, Victor Smith, among others. One wonders what has become of old guards and stalwarts like Spio Garbrah, Kwesi Botchway and the like. These are veterans who can form a think-tank for the NDC. Of course, one would surmise that they are tired and retired. Here, we can recall names like Kojo Tsikata, Tsatsu Tsikata, Fui Tsikata, Kwesi Yankah, Commander Obimpeh, Josiah Aryeh, among others.

It will be up to John Mohama to identify who to work with should he win the elections. It will also be up to him if he wins to carry out a humungous purge in the NDC since there have been rife allegations of malfeasance among some quislings, fifth columnists and unruly foot soldiers. Should Mahama win, he would have a herculean task cleaning the Aegean stables of its abominable miasma. He will have to be his own man to deal summarily with the perceived corruption in his party. If Mahama is given the mandate to govern by the Ghanaian electorate, he will have to deliver to the expectations of Ghanaians.

Rawlings is bitter against the NDC because he perceives that his wife lost in the Sunyani primaries due to bribery and corruption. Thus, the forthcoming December elections will be a platform for his wife to prove herself, and it will be a litmus test for herself and John Mahama. If readers will recall, in April 1969, Lt Gen Joseph Arthur Ankrah of the NLC was forced to resign his chairmanship of the NLC and his presidency, and hand over to Lt Gen Akwasi Amankwaa Afrifa, after he had been implicated in a scandal of soliciting money to form a political party from a Nigerian businessman and arms dealer, Arthur Nzeribe. John Mahama is alleged to be obtaining sponsorship from his Nigerian counterparts, while it is speculated that Nana Akufo Addo is looking west for support from Quattara. If this is true, then history will be repeating itself, and it will mean Mahama will not be his own man, just as his predecessor, late Prof John Atta Mills, was said to have leant heavily on the man of God, T.B. Joshua in Nigeria.

It seems as though we cannot get Nigeria out of our hair. When Kufour was in power, he went to Obasanjo to borrow $25 million dollars for the West Africa Gas Project, hence Kufuor naming a street in Accra after Obasanjo and also the influx of Nigerian banks and businesses into our economy. For better for worse, the fate of Ghana and Nigeria are inextricably intertwined and conjoined till death do us part. Should Nana Akufo Addo win, he will have to wean himself also from the apron strings of his party apparatchiki who may want to have contracts from the government. These contract seekers let down the presidency of Kufuor. Right now, the dilemma facing President John Mahama is analogous to a traditional chief who dies, leaving behind scores of legally married wives, and children to be inherited and looked after.

The successor chief will willy-nilly have to deal with these royals, because they are part of his inheritance and duty. The succeeding chief may decide to marry the wives or treat them as taken wives. Right now, President Mahama is in a dicey situation because he needs the votes and support of those around him. It is after the December elections that if he wins, he can free himself from some of these responsibilities of the political baggage and encumbrances. He will then have to carry out a great purge in the NDC. Whoever wins the 2012 elections will need to revisit the current District Assemblies structure to drastically reform it. Local governance is not ticking in Ghana as it should, because of its bastardisation and politicisation over the last 20 years. The Assemblies have become conduit pipes for rubber stamping government directives and they are populated by political cadres, foot soldiers and unprofessional people.

Development in the advanced countries has been mostly due to bottom-up development or grass root participation in governance and implementation. The current DAs have DCEs who are appointees of the President. This is a dictatorship and it is not democratic. Besides, central government captures all the revenue at the centre. We need to revisit our 1992 Constitution to make drastic reforms of our governmental structures, and create some autonomous regional and district autochthons.

If the decentralised structures are put in place, they will need stringent systems to overcome the evils of corruption, bribery and lack of accountability. Decentralised systems have powers to create new businesses and jobs. Look at a small country like Switzerland. They have small enclaves called Cantons and they have some autonomy. One might argue that we are a unitary state, but then times have changed and we need to change with time by having some form of federated unitarism, just like Switzerland.( Paa Kwesi Mintah will not spare me for this comparison, and will fume, rave and rant that I imbibed too much Zambian brew prior to this write-up. I am eagerly waiting for his own to critique him).

At the moment, John Dramani Mahama is not his own man because he is in the saddle by default. His real test or baptism of fire is coming in December. Should he sail through, then he will be able to drive forward the needed changes. Even though the NDC has many party structures on the ground, especially at the ward and rural levels, they lack intellectual heavy weights. In some cases, the party has sidelined some of their veterans and intellectual visionaries. Whoever wins the 2012 elections will have to do a good and thorough job of selecting their cabinet carefully from Ghanaians of high integrity, people who are driven by passion to serve the populace and action-oriented MPs and Ministers who will humble themselves to serve their constituencies. As Kwegyir Aggrey once said, ‘only the best is good enough for Africa.’ I will recommend the following agenda to whoever wins in December 2012, because we need the best for our nation, Ghana.


1. Re-introduce the death penalty to deal with the scourge of armed robbery
2. Professionalise most of the universities to award 2 year diplomas and licentiates, with the third year being devoted to practical training or internship, thus a paradigm shift of focus of our educational system away from academics, to technical and vocational courses as found in Germany, South Korea, and Japan.
3. Make industrialisation and agricultural reform the centrepiece of Ghana’s development agenda, through industrial and agricultural revolutions in Ghana.
4. Introduce long term development plans with components for all the 10 regions, similar to the 7 year development plan of Nkrumah.
5. Drastically reform the judiciary through a major purge (maybe like Apollo 568 under Busia in 1970)
6. Purge the deadwoods from the civil and public services (not a vindictive witch-hunting exercise).
7. Devote at least 10% of the national budget to agriculture
8. Reform the current District Assemblies and the manner of centrally appointing the DCEs. Perhaps, introduce the city manager or town clerk systems, which are non-partisan but professional.
9. Beef up laws on planning permission, sanitation and environmental protection.

Contact: kwesiattasakyi449@gmail.com

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