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Opinions of Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Columnist: Asare Adei

President Mahama and his government clutching at straws

While President Mahama and leading members of his government continue to tout their achievements, sing themselves praise and claim they will win the coming elections one touch to hand the opposition NPP a monumental defeat, their recent actions seem to suggest a government in panic clutching at straws.

After being declared winners in the 2012 general elections, President Mahama and the ruling NDC government became overly confident of winning the next elections. They were in government, and would be going into the elections with incumbency advantage. They would remain in charge of the public purse, continue to give contracts and take kickbacks.

It was just a matter of awarding huge contracts for huge kickbacks. Then they would make a lot of money, buy plenty Mahindra trucks to campaign, flood the airwaves and television screens with their ‘Toaso' ads, buy some celebrity endorsements here and there, influence some other key opinion leaders, and voila – they would be invincible. Money answers all things after all.

Besides, they were NDC. They could trust their propaganda machinery. They were known as the election-winning machine. They knew how to lie; they could throw dust into the eyes of even the most critical Ghanaian. In fact they would go down in history as the most dishonest government we ever had, until dethroned of course. But they could not be bothered.

They could get us to accept that our power crisis known as ‘dumsor’ was fixed even when it was getting worse. Even when our debt levels went up to back-breaking levels they would talk us to agree that they were sustainable. When petrol prices sank to all time lows they could still convince us to pay more at the pumps without coughing about it. And as they taxed us up to our teeth into hardships they could make us look at our hardships as some global crisis extending to our borders.

Aside of these, they also knew how to play the tribal card. Oh yes. How on earth could ‘yen Akanfo’ be a campaign message; but this is Ghana and the NPP, in spite of not having any tribally discriminatory policies, appear to be so susceptible to the NDC’s tribal venom, they just could not get away from it.

So President Mahama and the NDC could once again play the tribal card to great effect, which is what Hon. Dzifa Ativor, former Transport Minister, started in the Volta Region when she told the people there that the NPP would jail Ewes should they win the coming elections, and Alhassan Suhuyini sought to replicate it in the Northern Region by telling the good people of the North to vote for Mahama as those in the Volta Region voted for Ex-President Rawlings.

Then, along the line, there appeared a crack at the top hierarchy of the opposition NPP as well. The Chairman, Paul Afoko got suspended, and the General Secretary Kwabena Agyapong too. Now the NDC could not be overjoyed.

Some known big wigs in the NPP started talking like spokespersons of President Mahama and his government while still calling themselves founding members or leading members of the elephant fraternity. Wow, politics can be revealing; some politicians know how to switch allegiance depending on where the pendulum swings.

Quickly, the NDC launched attack and hired a few disgruntled or rather stomach NPP members, to be on NDC platforms to open fire on the party they profess to belong and love. That seemed to be the nail in the NPP’s coffin as far as the ruling NDC and their leader President Mahama were concerned. So, from the very start, President Mahama and his administration have never cared two hoots about performance.

The President called himself a ‘dead goat’ that could feel nothing. He danced to Daddy Lumba’s ‘Yen tie Obiara’. What mattered was to win the next election and they had their ways. It was therefore business as usual. Deals, deals and more deals.

Governance for them, so far, has been about borrowing and taxing and spending everything on projects that would give the juiciest kickbacks. Our tax and oil money continue to be siphoned through corruption and wanton misappropriation of state funds. When GHS3.6m of the oil money was made available to government, the wisest use they could put it to was to brand buses with the face of the President.

And, even worse, it turned out that not only did they not get their priorities right, but also, as usual, the contract sum was inflated to sickening proportions. Unfortunately for them even the ordinary JHS student could tell that it would be insane for anyone to brand 116 buses at the cost of GHS3.6m.

So this time when the issue came out for public scrutiny they could not tag their critics as political quantity surveyors but admit greed. How I wish all the contracts this government has signed could be broken down into simple terms everyone could understand just like this bus branding contract; then, we would have known the true extent of corruption under this Mahama-led administration.

People say NPP and NDC are the same. That is not true. Never in the era of the NPP did any individual go away with tens of millions of state money for no work done. NPP never took almost GHS300m of state funds to the three Northern Regions only to enrich a few individuals and watch the masses continue to wallow in poverty.

NPP did far better with the management of our purse. At the time when food inflation around the world skyrocketed on top of the 2008 economic crunch, with oil selling over and above $140 per barrel the NPP left an inflation rate of 18% thereabout and petrol sold at around GHC4 per gallon.

Presently, with better global outlook and inflation trend around the world generally low with oil selling around $40 per barrel and at some point coming down to $28 a barrel our inflation is still around 18% and petrol is selling at around GHC12 a gallon. Prices of so many things have remained stable globally but in Ghana prices of everything has doubled, tripled or quadrupled.

Of course one’s sins are sure to catch up with them some day. As the ruling government continued to borrow and squander funds belonging to the state, there continued to be less and less money for anything else as interest payments sap the national coffers of the whatever remains in the kitty. So, presently statutory funds remain in huge arrears.

Teacher trainee and trainee nurses’ allowances had to be cancelled. Subventions for public institutions are always behind. We are paying unreasonably high utility tariffs than ever before. Dumsor continue to be with us rather than being ‘a thing of the past’. Businesses are collapsing.

As I have already indicated, inflation as well as interest rate and taxes have all hit the roof. The chickens have come to roost; the government’s cup clearly is full. Now they smell their own monumental defeat. They are scared. They panic. They clutch at straws. But the signs remain on the wall. Their days are numbered as the majority of the populace are fed up.

Clearly the scales have fallen from our eyes. The hungry man is not only an angry man but a thinking man too. Now the ordinary Ghanaian wants out of this inimical social contract. We would not waste our ears on useless tribal messages. The people of the Volta Region are no longer interested in the ‘yen Akanfo’ message.

I was at Vakpo recently and young men on motor bikes bearing the NPP flag were all over the place saying Ex-President Kufuor served their interest far better. They are disappointed like every other Ghanaian. Similarly, the good people of the three Northern Regions are scandalised by the unprecedented corruption in the Mahama-led administration which has resulted in huge sums of money meant for the development of their regions shamelessly dissipated.

People are no longer interested in the lies about NPP or their Presidential Candidate Nana Addo being anti-Northerners or anti-Ewes. Nana Addo has been around long enough for all to know him for who he really is and not what his opponents paint him to be. Everyone is clamouring for change.

Trainee teachers are demanding that their allowances be restored. While shameless celebrities troop to senior high schools to deceive young students that the ruling NDC had improved their lives, school authorities are threatening to shut down schools because feeding grants and other funds the schools are entitled would not be disbursed. Suppliers to various public institutions are not receiving payments. Contractors are not receiving payments for contracts executed.

National health insurance fund is depleted. The once booming economy is in crisis as government’s borrowing, and corruption appear to have caught up with them.

Now, everyone is mad. Mad at the corruption, mismanagement and the sheer ineptitude of the ruling NDC government. The branded buses only remind us of their corruption, their Mahindra trucks tell us of what they are doing with kickbacks, their ‘Toaso’ ads annoy us, and their celebrity endorsements make us worry over how much of a drain they are to the public purse. No one has any trust in them anymore.

All we want is change. Which is why while Nana Addo’s confidence sores seeing him say with a lot of certainty that ‘the momentum is with us’ the ruling NDC is announcing the restoration of trainee nurses’ allowances, giving assurances of public sector recruitments here and there, realigning electricity billing system, and extending the length of time spent by National Service Personnel and taking a host of desperate decisions.

Clearly these are tell-tale signs of a government sensing defeat. They should prepare their handing over notes and get ready to hand over power to Nana Akufo-Addo in January 2017.