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Opinions of Thursday, 27 April 2017

Columnist: Maxwell Okamafo Addo

The cost of being John Mahama – The communication revolutionist

Ghana is blessed to have a leader like Mahama- Governor General of Canada Rt Hon David Johnston -General News of Wed, 15 May 2013-Ghanaweb by Maxwell Okamafo Addo

The Governor general of Canada Rt Hon David Johnston has described Ghana as a fortunate country and is blessed to have a leader in the person of President Dramani Mahama as the President of Ghana.

He stated that as someone who was a deputy communication minister, a substantive communication minister, and now the president of the Republic of Ghana, there is hope because in the current state of a communication revolution, there is the need to understand what goes on in the world.

The Canadian Governor General made the statement when he met with the vice president of Ghana kwesi Amissah -Arthur at a business lunch at the Movenpick Hotel together with his Canadian delegation made up of investors as part of his four day official visit to Ghana.

He said communication has been a driven force in the life of many nations and was very proud with Ghana’s economic growth and that the path that it has taken in the areas of democracy on the continent and a sees Ghana as a country that has the same shared growth and values with Canada saying the star in the flag of Ghana is a shining example of a country.

By polling 53.85 percent of the valid votes cast to become Ghana’s fifth president under the fourth Republic. President Mahama, who ran on the ticket of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC), secured 44.40 of valid votes cast.

President Mahama’s defeat makes him the first incumbent to lose an election since Ghana returned to multi-party democracy in 1992.

He didn’t stop there; he also became the first President under whose watch a ruling party lost the presidency, the majority seats in parliament.

But how did this happen? How did a man whose meteoric rise to prominence was the envy of the world in 2012 suddenly crash like a pack of badly arranged cards?

How did a man whose campaign drew thousands of people across the country suddenly lost all that sympathy within a space of four years?

How did a man whose brilliant fresh air campaign won him election indisputably in 2012 squander all that goodwill within four years?

How did he lose to a man whom Ghanaians had rejected for three consecutive times? How did a large behemoth, the NDC suddenly lose steam and subsequently lose elections?

Several factors were responsible for the NDC’s capitulation on December 7th 2016
This piece captures John’s mistakes and those of the people around him. It also exposes some of his undoing including the ones that are not known to the general public which defined his stewardship and played some roles in his fall from power. The piece also captures the pulses of the people.

PRE-JOHH’S PRESIDENCY

FACTORS THAT BROUGHT HIM TO POWER

First, Mahama’s campaign message in 2012 was focused and issues-based and the good will of his predecessor late John Mills .Something that made most Ghanaians like the NDC party, they did not yearn for change then because they saw a new person who was campaigning with “fresh air” mantra and everybody fell in love with that. While a presidential candidate had declared an election as a do-or-die affair, Mahama insisted that his election was not worth “the blood of any Ghanaian.”

John tried to court the youth by saying he had built new schools E Blocks and new regional universities without explaining what that policy added to the education sector in terms of quality.

He tried to appeal to the women by saying he had appointed more female ministers without explaining how that had affected the plight of millions of Ghanaian women who were grappling with poverty and hunger while solidarising with the poor.

PERFORMANCE INDEX

Another big factor that swayed victory from John was his performance which most Ghanaians considered to be below average. Judging by the key issues or areas of performance that dominated the campaigns – alleged corruption and jobs, – it was obvious that most Ghanaians did not think Mahama was deserving of a second term in office. All because they wanted money in their pockets.

On the issue of alleged corruption, Mahama’s record in the area of dealing with this monster was woeful in the opinion of many Ghanaians. Alleged Corruption is one single problem which has dealt a heavy blow on Ghana’s progress over the decades and Ghanaians are so passionate about it. But rather than fight it, Mahama was only romancing it. In this area

John whom Ghanaians had voted for en-masse on the basis of pledging to offer fresh air started getting things wrong as soon he took oath of office.

Mahama actually had a huge reputation for not implementing reports of committees. He wasted tax payers’ money in setting up committees whose report he was never going to implement.

Mahama, by his conduct and some of his lieutenants, gave the impression that some of his actions were not altruistic.

The administration did well in improving infrastructure that was all inclusive from education to health and fixing some major roads that had been death traps for years as well as trying to restore the glory of rail transport and most importantly he was on top of security issues .an Unprecedented infrastructure development at an accelerated pace.

The NPP machinery played a smart one on everyone here. Since everyone knew it would be unfair to lay the blame solely on Mahama’s administration, the NPP did a profiling of the entire NDC and successfully convinced Ghanaians that it was unwise to vote a party which had failed them for 8 years and that John Mahama was doing eight years and not four years. Ghanaians felt it was time to try another party. And especially the withdrawal of teacher and nursing training allowances

WRONG ASSOCIATES

It is often said that when a river forgets its source, it begins to dry off. In 2012, Mahama’s campaign was on the platform of fresh air which in the interpretation of most Ghanaians was a radical departure from the status quo and a clean break from the past.

Even though the NDC structure was still very much intact, many Ghanaians actually supported Mahama because they saw a unique youthfulness something in him and that he was following the path of his humble predecessor late President John Mills which was different from the things that had characterised the activities of his party since its inception.

That was why some people who had been fierce critics of the NDC did not think twice before jumping on the Mahama bandwagon as they claimed they were not supporting the party but the candidate.

Just after he settled down into office, he began to strategise for re-election and that made him to open his arms to all sorts of characters whose image and antecedents did not do his image any good. He began to romance the people who represented hatred, people whose record of public service is anything but decent.

SLEEPING AIDES AND STRATEGISTS

Mahama’s aides and the leaders of the National Democratic Congress were actually too comfortable and too complacent. They thought since the NDC had been in power 8 years, they would continue to have their way with resources at their disposal. They didn’t do any serious work to win the election. In fact, some of the presidential aides, strategists and leaders of the party went to sleep while NPP had a strong team. NPP worked harder because they were desperate to grab power while NDC thought power could never leave them.

For example, NDC thinkers and John’s aides slept off and allowed the NPP to push the issues of allege corruption to the front burner as the main campaign issues.

Rather than seizing the initiative and starting its own narrative early which will focus on the areas where its candidate had performed, NDC allowed the NPP to dictate the issues, the tone and flow of the campaign.

And when the NDC saw that the opposition party had succeeded in inciting voters against it, it had to play catch-up and in doing that, it abandoned the issues that will favour Mahama but concentrated on pulling Nana Addo down by all means.

They brought the issues of age and illness etc. The NDC wasted lots of money to sponsor platforms through social media and group for money that is what I call them .And issues on Nana without knowing they were merely campaigning for him by portraying Nana as a no-nonsense and an astute politician.

POOR HANDLING OF MEDIA

If there is one area Mahama really shot himself in the foot, it’s his disregard and scorn for the media. Rather than engage the media in a proactive way to boost the image of his administration his aides kept on deceiving themselves that they have finished with the media. It is one thing for someone to lie to himself; it becomes worse when he begins to believe in his own lie. The worst of all when he stated that there was a media cabal blocking him. That was defeatist.All because Ghanaians knowing his pedigree when it comes to communication.

Accused of poorly handling presidential media relations

Mahama kept on making schoolboy errors on almost everything. He could not do even the most basic thing a leader should do and his people wanted the media to clap for a government which could not even meet with his press corps. Mahama made matters worse for himself.

In his outings, Mahama never bothered to create any bond with his press corps on one hand and the larger media community on the other. His spokesman, did absolutely nothing to help him close any of these two huge gaps. In fact, journalists, both the reporters in the Flagstaff house.

By his own nature, his handlers only helped to widen the gulf. This went a long way to affect his media coverage negatively. Petitions upon petitions from the press corps fell on deaf ears ,especially working with people with zero knowledge of media relations, it got to a time the communication bureau members taking positions of press corps members ,competing with the press corps members on assignments both local and foreign trips . They were treated like feeders of swine and huskers of corn.

President Mahama was (and is still) a cerebral and celebrated writer and communicator no doubt, but when it comes to media relations, he failed as a President.

People say Mahama was a good man but that it was the incompetence of his aides that failed him. It was a personal failure on his part not to know that some of his aides were unwittingly working for the opposition. That is very true.

The mistake his aides and other unworthy aides alike kept on making was that aside the collateral damage the media he failed to court did to his principal’s second term ambition and failed to build a relationship with them.

The appointment of Mr Ben Dotse Malor as Senior Communications Adviser and Head of Communications at the Presidency, proper journalist who understood professional media relations and news judgment was however far better than those he came to replace in terms of relating with people and he successfully neutralised or reduced the anger journalists had towards Mahama within the tiny section of media that he controlled.

But the fact that the two men refused to work together reduced their effectiveness. Rather than see each other as colleagues or partners in progress, they saw each other as competitors or rivals. Rather than being proactive, Mr Malor left and issues worsened. Sometimes you see four people reacting to one man in discordant voices and this sent the impression that the Presidency was in disarray so later it became another public relations disaster to Mahama.

The communication team never took time to do an introspection to ask themselves if they were doing their jobs as expected and if they had built a good relationship with members of his own press corps and Ghanaians.

The Flagstaff House beat is a 24-hour beat, on a typical day, journalists will resume by 9am and after moving from one part of the Flagstaff House to another and sometimes one part of Accra to another with the President without a break, Mahama will come out of a nocturnal meeting by 2am the following morning and see the same journalists who had been with. He won’t even stand for a second to chat with them and encourage them. He will just walk away. Journalists in the Flagstaff House were surprised that the Mahama they knew had changed. And saw a changed Mahama.

If there was any doubt regarding the utter contempt with which the Presidency under Mahama held the media, the man removed the doubt himself on a certain day the parliamentary press corps met him. Yet he had never met his own press corps before.

Everybody in the press corps was livid, having confirmed their worst fear that a President who they worked for from morning till night had no regard for the press he worked with true to what they thought of he never met them till he left office in 2017.

The words of former US President, Thomas Jefferson came to mind. He said if he were to choose between the media and government, he would rather go for the former.

The Ghanaian constitution even mentioned the media as having a huge role to play in the country while the media is generally known as the fourth estate of the realm in a democracy.

To digress a bit, Mahama took his celebrities obsession to campaign period and spent huge sums of money to mobilise actors, actresses and singers to support his re-election. His strategists were too daft to realize that he merely concentrated all his time, energy and resources to mobilize them whilst the grassroots were not been attended to.

Then ladies for Mahama, Doves, celebrities and numerous groups that existed on only platforms like Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp didn’t help and rather forgot the youth wing of the party.

PERSONAL CHARACTER FLAWS

Mahama wanted to appear like Mr Nice Guy to all and sundry but succeeded only in having things rough for himself.

Mahama is probably the only President in the world that allowed his ministers to come into the Cabinet meeting late when he is already presiding over a session as serious as the Cabinet Meeting. Doing that would only make the minister take you for granted. If they can be late to a meeting where the fate of 26 million are decided, then they are not worthy of such positions and it’s bad for a leader to entertain such indiscipline. He was a habitual late comer. He had a bad time keeper.

Ministers come late and you welcome them with smile, when you give them deadline, they won’t obey. When you give them assignments, they will do shoddy jobs and lie that everything is okay because they know you won’t bother to cross check.

This lack of strong moral principles on the part of John Mahama were not known to the public but the results were seen in the level of goals and targets that were achieved. Mahama was trying to protect under-performing, corrupt ministers from judgment but he pronounced judgment on himself by seeking re-election having failed to take the simplest step of scolding people who were failing him and firing them when necessary.

It is not bad to commend Mahama and show appreciation as his appointee. But, alas, none of the ministers spoke about his or her competence, performance, and service to the people and how they have helped to get the president re-elected. It was that bad. All of the ministers dwelled on how the president helped them by making them ministers and some funny and ridiculous claims. They couldn’t say anything about how they themselves helped – or rather should have helped – their benefactor. In fact, their remarks clearly indicate that they were liabilities to the president and parasites to the nation.

That, at any rate, wasn’t very surprising, given that many of them failed Mahama woefully recently. But some of them of them delivered their wards, local governments.

He didn’t get votes on the basis of the political strength, political relevance or competence of the ministers or his political aides. As many political analysts have pointed out, if those lieutenants had been competent, the story of Mahama’s re-election bid would have been different today.

Talking about wobbling and fumbling, some aides and ministers who couldn’t get their acts right even on the last day of their tenure. They performed abysmally even on the day which their benefactor needed their moral support most. Mahama didn’t bother about the excess luggage.

Then again the allegation that, Mahama gave his wife too much power. He allowed her to be summoning people into her office it was as if we had two Presidents. There was no one to call her to order.so the opposition used it as part of his message and it went well for him.

So, putting the above together, where was the foundation for Mahama’s re-election? Nowhere! Based on the above analysis, it would be right to say that Nana Addo did not win this election, Mahama lost it. He didn’t even lose it to Nana. He lost it to himself.

THE POSITIVES

Despite these shortcomings, it remains on record that John Mahama sparkled in a number of areas. Ask millions of Ghanaians, for example, and they would confess their admiration over the way and manner the Infrastructure, airports, schools, Roads, Water and railways transport sub-sector was revived by the administration. Under Mahama’s watch, Ghana’s national sports teams also shone in several continental and international competitions, even as the economy was “rebased” as one of the best performing economy on the African continent.

He brought in an incorruptible, uncompromising and extremely honest woman to oversee the activities of the Electoral Commission. He didn’t stop there, he gave her all the support she wanted in terms of political will and finances. He gave full backing to her innovations and resisted all the pressure mounted on him.

The icing on the cake of all this was the president’s selfless decision to let the peoples vote count by congratulating the winner of the December presidential poll, Nana Addo even before EC had finished counting the votes. It was a remarkable display of statesmanship by Mahama to deepen democracy and to ensure that the country remains peaceful and united.

This singular act has earned him a global Icon. History will however be kind to him as the leader in the country’s history to really care about sanitizing the electoral process and conducting credible elections even at the expense of his personal gains.