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Opinions of Saturday, 23 June 2007

Columnist: Kwamena, Ato

Do A Baptist, JAK!

This is not a sermon. Trust me, it is not! But allow me, friend, to beg your indulgence to cite biblical text to support a point am just about to make. Thanks for your attention.

Soon after the launch of Christ’s ministry on earth, a huge debate arose between His disciples and those of John the Baptist. You see, friend, for many years, prior to the start of Christ’s ministry, John the Baptist had been the only person who had been baptizing the Jews “unto repentance”. In a sense, he had monopoly over the act of baptism. Diverse people trooped to the River Jordan to hear the words of the ‘wild’ prophet, which was spoken with deep conviction, without fear or favor. After hearing his words of warning about the imminent coming of the “Kingdom of God” and the need for repentance in order to make one fit for partaking in that Kingdom, many a Jewish people from all sorts of backgrounds elected to undergo John’s baptism by immersion in water.

But now, a new ‘prophet’ had arisen. Nay, a great prophet! One whose shoe – John the Baptist himself confessed – he was not fit to loosen! Soon this new ‘prophet’, like John the Baptist, also took to himself disciples. It was becoming apparent to the disciples of John the Baptist, that in Christ they had a new competitor in the ‘fame industry’ – because Christ was drawing “all men” to himself! And not only that, He was also baptizing the people for the remission of sins. He had become a competitor, so reasoned the disciples of John the Baptist. In their minds, if Christ were to be allowed to exercise this act of baptism which had apparently been trademarked by their master, John the Baptist, they would soon lose their popularity and all men would veer towards the latest preacher in town – that Man, Christ Jesus. So naturally, they were upset – the disciples of John, that is. And so they went and complained to their master saying “Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan [Jesus Christ], to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.”

Look here, master! If you don’t get your acts straight, you’ll lose the popularity contest to that new guy in town. You’ll no longer be so popular. People would think you too old and a relic of the past. They will turn away from you and give all their attention to this new preacher with so much charisma, so they advised the Baptist. But John the Baptist had an astonishing response to them. His response to his own disciples’ caring advice was rather radical. Said the Baptist, “He [Christ] must increase, but I [John the Baptist] must decrease.”

Was John the Baptist accepting to be a ‘loser’ by conceding defeat even before the popularity contest with that preacher from Galilee had already started? Was he in so much short supply of a competitive drive, so much so that he would not even bother trying to stand up against this new, ‘inexperienced’ preacher who was drawing all men to himself? Why was he refusing to compete with Christ? After all, was he not the one who had ‘made’ this new preacher popular? What if he had refused to baptize Him when the Galilean preacher sought him out for baptism? Would Christ have been so popular if He (the Baptist) had not borne witness to him and introduced him to the Jewish nation? All these could have been a source of enormous motivation to ginger John the Baptist into competing with Christ in the popularity contest. But nay! He would not. He refused to compete. “He must increase, but I must decrease,” said he.

Why? Because John did see the big picture! He saw that he and Christ were working towards the same course. Yes he preceded Christ in the act of ministry. He was more experienced in preaching to the people. Yes, he could baptize more people faster than anyone else could. But what would the point of all that be, if at the end of the day, the very purpose of his own work would be defeated by his sheer competitive drive or a strong desire to maintain his popularity. He saw that there was a unity of purpose in his own goal and that of Christ – that their main goal was to convert souls and save them from eternal damnation. Hence, so long as they shared a common goal, it didn’t matter who was more popular, so long as they were able to achieve that aim of winning souls they were collaborators and not competitors. He also knew that no one gets to stay at the top forever.

Such is the lesson that we all have to take. And it is the lesson that the President, Mr. John Agyekum Kufuor (JAK) needs to be reminded of. Mr. Kufuor, by every objective measure, by every empirical evidence, your tenure as President of our beloved country has been marked by one giant achievement to the other. We could spend our whole time counting all these achievements, from the expansion and entrenchment of true democratic governance, the stability of our economy and our once volatile currency, to the building of institutions of State, through to the vast improvement in the infrastructure of our country. Mr. Kufuor, you’ve done well in office. So far, so good! You’ve not usurped power. You have refused to use the power we gave you to brutalize us, even your sworn enemies, but have rather governed with utmost civility and humility. There's no doubt that your period of office so far has been a turn for the better in the affairs of our nation; whether economical, socio-political, etc. Ghana is far better now; under your able leadership than it was 7 years ago.

But Mr. President, as you well know, everything must come to an end. And that end, must be phased out gradually. Despite all the huge successes you’ve chalked since you assumed power in January, 2001, you must begin to “decrease”, so that your successor can “increase”. And I must add that it is for your own good that you accept this truth and actively work overtime to ensure that those who are going to succeed you “increase”. Mr. President, your demand for resignation of your ministers with presidential ambition is not a very wise decision, and would definitely backfire if you do not rescind this decision. You are playing to the advantage of your professed enemies. Your argument they are peaking too early is not a good one, Mr. President. It is not tenable. You are ignoring our Ghanaian circumstance. The party might have made a mistake by demanding that, but that very provision by the party that ministers interested in running for the presidency should resign is actually unconstitutional. It is against the spirit and letter of our fourth-republican constitution. Can we make a similar demand on ministers with parliamentary ambition? Should all incumbent MPs who are interested in keeping their seats be asked to resign first so they could run? Do you honestly think, as the lawyer you are, that if someone should contest this provision in a court of law, you and your party – the NPP would win? Whoever made that a part of the NPP constitution made a dumb decision, which needs not be followed but rather quickly amended with the rapidity it deserves.

In developed countries, your point may hold – that ministers competing for higher office may not be able to perform their duties to the best of their abilities. But ours is a peculiar situation. Democracy is not as entrenched as can be. We still have old foxes lurking around the coup, ready to plunder if given any opportunity. We can’t let our guards down for the sake of Ghana. More so, when we know that the opportunity cost of having these evil, blood-thirsty hoodlums back to power - to loot the nation’s coffers, murder, brutalize, and torture citizens, and turn back the clock of true democracy – far outweighs any marginal lose of productivity that this country may experience in the next few months as a result of the retaining of these ministers in office. Please Mr. President, let them increase. Your own legacy is dependent on the succession of your office by an NPP. So for the sake of party unity, let there be peace. Don’t create any storm in a tea cup. This is not the time to do that. Maybe down the line, years from now, when our country is more secure, it may be possible to do what you had intended to do, but certainly, now is not the time to do that. Let sleeping dogs lie.

True, the party is yet to choose a successor to you. But you must begin to fade yourself, albeit gradually. You must begin to provide the platform for those who are intending to succeed you to attain more national news coverage. The opposition has already chosen their presidential candidate – that old poodle. And he and his lord have been making noise all over town. So that a huge vacuum be not created due to the NPP not having selected their presidential candidate, it is necessary that the NPP’s potential candidates fill in the vacuum for now. We shouldn’t punish them for desiring to serve their country. So for the sake of the party, and of mother Ghana, like John, you must decrease, John, as they increase.

Biblical reference was taken from John 3:22-30.
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