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Opinions of Thursday, 10 March 2016

Columnist: Bernard Asubonteng

A new political paradigm: Mahama doctrine or 'dead goatism'

An impassive disengagement of our political or ideological blinders will definitely reveal that Ghana’s political trajectory currently spearheaded by President John Mahama is heading—if it hasn’t reached there already—toward a new political paradigm. Interchangeably, the emerging paradigm is called “Dead Goatism” or “Mahama Doctrine.” The Dead Goatism school of thought articulated by Mr. Mahama and his hosanna bandwagon assumes: Average Ghanaians talk too much but don’t know what they are talking about; that no matter what, Ghanaians will be always ungrateful and will never be appreciative of the entire “excellent” job Mahama-led administration has done; that the press will still be “uncontrollably intrusive” into the government activities regardless; that with the exception of the two living ex-presidents, none of the Ghanaians running their mouths has ever been president to fully conceptualize the pressures inherent in the office of the presidency.

The Dead Goatism paradigm, moreover, posits that majority of Ghanaians appear to suffer from political amnesia so they tend to forget quickly; that the so-called Ghanaian experts/analysts living abroad need to be ignored in that they have no clue about the ongoing developments under Mahama government to criticize or write anything of substance to the current national discourse. Lastly, and more important, For Mr. Mahama, it may not worth it for a president with an “executive powers” to waste his precious time seeking Ghanaians’ inputs first before taking decisions, or worry about the constant barrages of criticisms whether constructive or not. The cumulative effects of the preceding attitudes and misconceptions have crystallized into Dead Goatism paradigm.

When President Mahama contemplatively responded that he was not the kind of leader sensitive to criticisms because “he is like a dead goat,” not only was he truly revealing to Ghanaians how he internalizes issues and/or handles conflicts but more importantly he was also exposing his deep-seated worldviews. People or leaders’ worldviews pretty much tell us something about the way they gather, sort, analyze, and embark on decision making process. Both on its face value and on deeper psychological levels, President Mahama’s “dead goat” analogy clearly reveals two key characteristics about his judgment and leadership style: First, it shows how he takes in or perceives information and based on that makes decision as a leader. Second, it also demonstrates that Mr. Mahama takes Ghanaians for granted because buried deep somewhere in his subconscious mind, he lacks practical awareness and sensitivity to the everyday issues facing Ghanaians.

Do not take my word for it because from Mr. Mahama’s own contemplations as captured in his dead goatism philosophy, the president seems to acknowledge he is politically walking dead. Scientifically, it is settled that a dead animal (human included) is unconscious and unaware of its surroundings. This presupposes that like a “dead goat” President Mahama is oblivious to the problems, real or imagined, dogging Ghanaians. More so, it seems the presidential power has desensitized Mr. Mahama from the realities of Ghanaian body politic.

Here is President Mahama: “I have seen more demonstrations and strikes in my first two years. I don't think it can get worse. It is said that when you kill a goat and you frighten it with a knife, it doesn't fear the knife, because it is dead already." Really, Mr. President? Did you say you’re like a “dead goat” regarding the legitimate concerns of Ghanaians? Is that your simplistic worldview of contemporary governance, especially of a multiethnic nation-state with countless competing interests such as Ghana? It’s worth noting that a nation’s presidency is not like a professional chef in the kitchen who does not want to get burned but negligently touches the cooking pots with bare hands all the time and then complains without doing anything consequential to determine the cause of the burn. In all honesty, why choses to be become a chef if the trappings of the kitchen far exceed your sense of awareness and alertness? Put differently, President Mahama appears to think he can eat his “tuo saafi” and have it back at the same time. Ghana presidency is super high temperature seat; where one just can’t go sit there and start napping till caught off guard and claims that he is a “dead goat.”

Understandably, there are some folks who view Mr. Mahama’s dead goat narrative as one of those metaphoric pronouncements or jokes that shouldn’t be taken literally. In the same vein, there are others who think Mr. Mahama is really serious about his “dead goat” homology. Either way, one basic fact we ought not lose sight of is that none of us can make sense of our surroundings without comparing and associating similar or dissimilar things in everyday human interactions. Comparisons clearly form an intrinsic and indispensable part of human communications as well as the conveyance of our thoughts.

There is old saying that whatever thoughts people harbor within them come out of their mouths whenever they speak. Mr. Mahama is not only a grown-up but most important, he is an elected leader of a sovereign country of over 20 million people. He knows exactly what is on his mind when he thoughtfully propounded the political theory of the “dead goat” somewhere in Botswana. For this writer, the dead goatism is real; it’s the prevailing political paradigm and modus operandi of President Mahama’s management approach since assuming office.

Take a sober look at the pattern of Mr. Mahama’s decision-making process, more so almost all his policies so far; they neatly fit and mirror through the “dead goat” paradigm. The recent secret negotiation between Mr. Mahama and the US government resulting in the admission into Ghana of the two so called “low-level” former Gitmo terrorists is a classic exhibition of the politics of dead goatism. Any leader with keen sense of accountability and sensitivity would have sought the inputs not only from the top-level security agencies, but also from the other well-intentioned Ghanaians across the political spectrum. But, for President Mahama, the far-reaching implications of such a highly sensitive issue pertaining to the Gitmo detainees do not mean much, at least not to him.

Even if the vociferous Ghanaians or the so called “partisan” press discovers the Gitmo deal later on as it had happened now and people begin venting their spleens out to the highest heavens, so what? After all there is only one person who holds the executive powers of the presidency. Besides, none of these arm-chair critics or talkers has ever made presidential decision before aside from Messrs. Rawlings and Kufuor. So why lose sleep over these “ignorant” rantings? In addition, President Mahama believes Ghanaians just can’t stop empty talks about their government, although they forget about all the shenanigans of their public officials in a heartbeat. He also anticipates that by the general elections time many Ghanaian will not even remember or care about the “imported” Gitmo terrorists in Ghana let alone worry about the ordeal the country has endured in the past years because of dumsor-dumsor.

Many of Mr. Mahama’s official utterances point to a leader whose understanding of the concept of executive presidency is not only limited in contemporary realm, but also it’s synonymous with having total control of all the levers of the state powers. For the most part, the military-centric 4th Republic Constitution has not helped either. It has created a pseudo democracy in Ghana in which the differences among the three arms of the government—parliament, executive, and judiciary—exist only in their names and not in practical terms.

Opportunistically, Mr. Mahama has exploited or taken advantage of this apparent constitutional weakness via his dead goat philosophy. Sadly, that is why the eavesdropping bill proposed by the Mahama-led government with regard to the “Postal Packet and Telecommunications Message” will easily passed through the spineless Ghana parliament without the rigors of genuine parliamentary debate that we always see at the House of Commons or the US Congress. Unlike the members of the latter chambers, most of the Ghanaian legislators tend to think they are elected to do the biddings of the president (executive branch). The concept of coequal branches of government has gotten more dysfunctional in the dead goatism landscape.

At the end of the day, President Mahama will keep using the politics of dead goatism to try to get what he wants, including his reelection bid. In fact, the Mahama Doctrine will continue a steady course as long as Mr. John Mahama is in power backed by his fawning parliamentary majority.

Closely looking at how he runs the country, it is clear President Mahama is comfortable of making unilateral decisions while pretending like a “dead goat” or sitting back and watching Ghanaians talk as much as they want till they get tired after the issue or the story has become old. This has been Mr. Mahama’s strategy all along; and, he is right when he compares himself to a dead goat!