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Opinions of Saturday, 8 November 2003

Columnist: Asibey, Akwasi

Atta-Mills on BBC's Focus on Africa: A Missed Opportunity to Impress

Yes, the December 2004 general elections are just within 15 months away. Already, the campaign, especially the presidential component, has begun in earnest.

Next year’s elections will be another defining moment for our country and for the main political parties that will context the polls. A successful outcome of the elections should further contribute to strengthening democratic governance in Ghana. This will be a significant achievement, measured against a backdrop of political and civil eruptions and instability that characterise our sub region.

A successful outcome will signal to the world that the footprints of democracy have firmly been implanted into the soils of our dear country. This would only help our quest to create the enabling platform to strengthen the productive base of the country through individual enterprise and innovation.

The December 2004 elections should further lead to consolidation or disintegration of political parties. We will just focus on the New Democratic Party (NDC) and the New Popular Party (NPP)

For the NDC the moment of truth is upon them. First, the party was born with a silver spoon in its mouth. It was a dictatorial movement that metamorphosed into a political party at the time when the then PNDC had monopolised the political process. It had incumbency in its favour during the 1992, 1996 and 2000 elections. The incumbency and the air of invincibility were shattered in 2000 when they were thrashed at the polls. They are determined to stage a comeback but will they be able to do so?

Second, their flag bearer, Professor John Evans Atta-Mills, was handed the political leadership literally on a silver platter. Nothing in his life had prepared him for the rough and tumble of competitive politics. He was at the right place at the right time. There lies the rub. Because he was not motivated by a strong ideological conviction to enter public life and as a result of the omnipresent of his mentor, former president JJ Rawlings, he has had difficulty selling himself and what he believes in to the Ghanaian electorate.

The NPP, having been in the political wilderness for as long as we can remember is now in the driver’s seat in the realm of electoral politics. As the party in government, it has the advantage of the incumbency. They have sharpened their message. It is the most ideologically coherent party since the CPP of the 1960s. It is committed to liberal democracy, expressed in individual freedoms, free enterprise or market driven economic development, respect for property, respect for human rights and the dignity of human beings and above all, respect for the rule of law and due process. Their policy initiatives have been informed by these considerations. However, it appears that a section of the Ghanaian electorate are yet to fully grasp the meaning of these values, principles and ideals. They are too sophisticated for them.

It is no wonder that the other opposition parties are capitalising on the ignorance of the people to undermine the governing party’s agenda. However, the opposition parties must be careful not be too carried away. The elections will not be decided by who shout the loudest or in exposing dirt. They ignore the progress being made in rural communities and in peri-urban areas at their own peril.

President Kufour is the man of the hour. He has been on the hustings and he is still the man to beat. Unlike candidate Atta-Mills, he has been in the political trenches for over thirty years and worked extremely hard to be where he is. In plain language, it would take more than sheer propaganda to defeat him. He is an excellent strategist and campaigner. He has the common touch and an unadulterated message: development through personal freedom and individual enterprise. More significantly he carries no political baggage as far as human right abuses are concerned.

Contrast this with candidate Atta Mills. He carries a huge baggage. He has to justify why the Ghanaian electorate should give him a second chance when the government, which he was part of, has a chequered history.

Some of us waited with baited breath when we heard that candidate Atta-Mills was going to be interviewed on BBC’s Focus on Africa on Monday, November 3 2003.

The interview was bogged down by what role former president Rawlings would or would not play during the campaign towards the December 2004 general elections. I really felt sorry for the good old professor, when the producer of the BBC African programme, Joseph Warengu, asked him pointedly “are you your own man?” Once could sense the tension and quivering in the professor’s voice. Yes he could be his own man but the ever-ubiquitous influence of the immediate president will continue to undermine the professor. Something ought to be done or else, the professor and his team will be reduced to a rump.

Ghana needs a decisive leader to tackle the tough development challenges facing the country and not one who will always look over his shoulders. Given the choice, Ghanaian electorate will not go for a co-presidency.


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.