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Opinions of Saturday, 21 March 2009

Columnist: Otchere-Darko, Gabby Asare

A nation with issues

A NATION WITH ISSUES,DEALING WITH A PRESIDENT’S INSECURITY

ASARE OTCHERE-DARKO

President Mills’ statement on Tuesday to the GhanaJournalists Association that there is but one President brought one thought tomind: methinks he protesteth too much! His language was drafted and designed toreassure Ghanaians and satisfy the hawks around him that they have a Presidentwho will provide the strong, decisive leadership we so dearly need to steer usthrough these troubled times ahead. Was that really necessary?

The very fact that he felt the need to make such a statementraises warning flags, hinting at a deep-seated insecurity incompatible witheffective leadership. Even his body language at the time appeared borrowed. WouldNkrumah have ever felt the need to tell us that there was but one President?Would Rawlings? Would Kufuor? When you think of great world leaders likeChurchill, Thatcher or Roosevelt, can you imagine them bleating plaintively“Let no one mistake my respect for peaceful existence for weakness, timidity”as Mills’ did on Tuesday?

They say actions speak louder than words. In that case, oneis left with a degree of sympathy for the man who, just mere months into histenure as President, has to resort to tellingus rather than showing us that he ismaster of our country, his government and his party. But who can blame him?

Having waited so long to be President, Prof Mills’ must be immenselydisappointed to not have had the honeymoon he undoubtedly hoped for. But morethan this, it is a worrying sign that Mills’ has already expended his politicalcapital so early on in his tenure – a sign which bodes ill for the rest of his timein office. A leader depends on the goodwill and popularity which supposedlyconveyed him to the top office in the land, but this tends to dissipate as histerm goes on – hence the moniker of a political ‘honeymoon’ witnessed the worldover and which Obama has recently been enjoying in the US.

So for this capital to already be thin on the ground so sooninto Mills’ Presidency gives all Ghanaians hoping for strong, authoritativeleadership cause for concern. And for a man clearly so consumed with ‘other’Presidents, reflecting on Kufuor’s popularity in 2001 must be a bitter pill toswallow.

And yet the actions of past Presidents and Presidentialcandidates in 2009 have given him little reason for such insecurity. Nobodychallenged the legitimacy of his election within the 21 days allowed by theconstitution for such petitions. Kufuor has been virtually silent on the performanceof his successor in office. And Nana Akufo-Addo has told the national mediathat he is giving Mills some time to settle in. Nevertheless, our Presidentpersists in fighting phantoms when there are very real monsters facingGhanaians in the form of criminals, poverty and anxiety about our economicfuture.

Of course there is one past President whose shadow disturbsProf Mills more than most. Perhaps the reinvigorated presence of a certainPresident past – J.J. Rawlings – is haunting Prof Mills more than he’d care toadmit, and proving the real source of Mills’ insecurity. With Rawlings havingattempted to steal the spotlight from his former protégée and openly criticisedMills’ decision to retain DCEs and the continuation of some NPP appointees inoffice, no wonder President Mills is left feeling that this particular ghost isnot going to be satisfied with being relegated to times past, but insteadenvisages both a present and a future for himself. What about Mrs Rawlings going on a ‘thank you’tour?

Unfortunately this particular ghost is not going to bevanquished quite so easily, and certainly not whilst Mills’ remains consumed byreassuring himself and us of his clout and authority. For whilst we are invitedto speculate on where real power lies in our new government, Mills will not getthe reassurance and comfort he so plainly desires.

The only remedy for such insecurity about one’spowerlessness is to stop navel gazing, take control and start taking action. Ofcourse here lies the catch-22: without the confidence of those around you aswell as self-belief, steering a decisive political path becomes a herculean taskstrewn with obstacles.

Nonetheless, for the sake of Ghana – and of course for ProfMills’ own peace of mind – we can only hope that our President finds a way toshow us and not just tell us that he both holds and (more importantly) deservesthe title of leader of our nation.

THE AUTHOR IS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE DANQUAH INSTITUTE

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