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Opinions of Thursday, 9 October 2008

Columnist: Amoyaw, Sandy

Atta-Mills Campaign On Cruise Control

Prevailing sentiments show Prof. Mills has stretched his advantage in, making him the favorite going into December’s crucial elections. Listen to the buzz in the country, and more importantly, assess the mind-sets of the electorate and you know that Atta-Mills is the people’s choice for president by a huge margin. One will also find that majority of Ghanaians say Prof Mills is the presidential candidate who can achieve results for Ghana in today’s rapidly accelerating world, plus he understands the need to take appropriate measures to get what they want-the way forward and the development of the country.

In fact, there are some who say they have definitely decided who to vote for and others who are yet to “hit the reset button” on the choice of a candidate. A cross-section of the electorate also say they are only leaning toward a candidate. No surprise here. What is happening is typical of the Ghanaian voter, as predictable as the traffic jams on the Labadi-Teshie road. Ghanaians as people are not spontaneous when it comes to casting their votes for a particular presidential candidate. It is one thing to prefer a candidate, it is quite another to cast a vote for the candidate. Sure enough, there is beginning to be a sense of inevitability to Prof. Atta-Mills’ campaign which is getting formidable daily, with the election being months away. The other presidential candidates seem to be quickly fading away. I guess because they are neophytes and wildcards to the presidential race game.

Having survived the long media coverage of the campaign, voters are definitely getting disconcerted and jittery. Eventually they will start to complain or criticize the candidates. But when people actually go in the booth, close the curtain and say to themselves that this is who they want to be president that changes the equation.

Many variables remain this year, as they do every election year. Will Akuffo-Addo tumble? Will the “electability” factor make him vulnerable when people really have to cast a vote and make a choice? Will enough independents decide to vote NDC to help Atta-Mills, who has shown crossover appeal? Will the grassroots, door-to-door, diner-to-diner campaign of Atta-Mills pay off? Will Kwesi Nduom become the darling of the increasingly frustrated Ghanaian voter? And will the best presidential campaign get enough momentum that winning the general elections will be almost inevitable?

Such things have happened before. At this point in 2000, then presumptive presidential nominee for NPP, John Agyekum Kuffour seemed to be going nowhere because the then Vice-President and NDC presidential candidate Prof. Atta-Mills had consolidated his position as the forerunner and was beginning to win big endorsements. He also had an advantage as the familiar neighbor who was for years a heartbeat away from the presidency (Vice-President). Ostensibly, the consensus choice for president was former Vice–President Prof. Atta-Mills, because he had all the big endorsements, all the money and the momentum behind him, but still fell short of winning the elections by design or chance that the inquiring minds want to know to date.

The recent successful NDC campaign blitz in the Northern regions of the country have made the NPP and the other rival parties panicking and scrambling for cover and their presidential candidates searching for an opening to halt the blazing momentum Prof. Atta-Mills has enjoyed since nominating John Mahama as his ruuning mate. Furthermore, more Ghanaian voters see Prof. Mills as the candidate most able to beat any presidential candidate in the hunt for the presidency. This fact is reinforced by the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Prof. Atta-Mills and the Association of Ghanaian Industries (AGI) recently. A lot of Prof.’s critics have on numerous occasions launched a withering assault on Prof.’s ‘electability’ saying he ‘s been in politics for so long and has lost twice in his bid to become president, but Prof. Atta-Mills appeared to remain above the fray, striking a more conciliatory tone and extolling his past political record. Also his house to house campaign results have convinced growing numbers of Ghanaian voters that he is alive, strong and going all the way. Nonetheless, Nana Akuffo-Addo, after a grim first place and despite his victory at the party’s congress at Legon based largely on support for his political longevity with the NPP, is also having his share of criticism.

Politics in Ghana today have spooky similarities to a terrorist attack in America. Everything is looking pretty straightforward on the surface and then the surreal creeps in. It is expected that, getting to the home stretch, some candidates will be running a smooth campaign, but suddenly the manner or modus operandi of the campaign will become idiosyncratic and depressing because they will start to offer false hopes to Ghanaians. Majority of the electorate believe that Akuffo’s Addo soaring rhetoric has masked his paucity of achievements. Arguably, Nana Addo’s critics have thrusted home that his explosive rhetorical style reflects a “talker” rather than a “doer”. An “educated” Ghanaian is the best voter, and in this twenty first century Ghanaians are politically matured to differentiate between a moribund manifesto and a modern agenda or pragmatic platform, talk versus action, rhetoric versus reality to enable them to figure out which presidential candidate has what it takes to make a change in Ghana against the prevailing pretty tough odds.

With the tide of public opinion moving against the incumbent party coupled with the advent of a charismatic young John Mahama in the Prof. Atta-Mills’ campaign team, things are looking better for Prof Atta-Mills. Additionally, the tour de force launching of the party’s manifesto has propelled its campaign strategy to a new level to ensure political power at the December 7th general elections. One last morsel for premature thought. If Prof Atta-Mills is actually elected president, the political fallout and the “brass knuckles” that was used on his health and previous presidential election defeats will be rendered inconsequential and effectively bring down the curtain on the baseless criticisms . The reason is because Prof. Mills’ critics continue to premise their criticisms on these intangibles.

However, if the contest of the presidential candidates comes down to lobbying, lying, backstabbing or bribing and votescam, bet on another candidate making his acceptance speech while the defeated candidates try to figure out who stole their jockstrap.

Naturally, there’ll be victory for the better party, and that party’s campaign is now on cruise control.

S. Amoyaw