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Opinions of Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Columnist: Awuyah, Kwame Adin

Ghana's Self Determination: Best man, Clean Hands, and Gritty Hands

Even if there is no absolute indication that Prof Atta Mills would be elected President of Ghana during the re-run on December 28, 2008, there certainty that the December 07, 2008 election marked a general renunciation of the ruling party. With nothing more than the indelible marks from their thumb prints, Ghanaians have altered the political map of the country. They have limited the number of the parliamentary seats of the ruling party, and effectively curbed the incessant thirst of the NPP for absolute power.

The groundswell opposition has come like a break-away tidal wave that has carried the incumbents from the high seas and left them straggling on the wide beach. Once the clouds have cleared, Ghanaians can see that the power house and high society government officials have been swimming without cloths in the deep sea. Now, they lay naked on the beach. Suddenly, Ghanaians can see the clay feet that Nana Akuffo Addo and his team of powerful men have hidden in shiny shoes and other gaudy accessories. These men, who have personal egos the size of Mount Olympus, now appear disheveled and shell-shocked as they stand naked before the public.

In desperation to cover their nakedness, the leaders of the ruling party seem to outdo themselves in appeasing the Ghanaian electorate. There have been outpourings of mea culpa from the ruling party. The government has released commercial drivers who have been jailed unfairly, slashed the price of fuel, and apologized to traders for keeping them from selling at store fronts. These bizarre developments should not give anyone hope since the NPP party propaganda machinery is, at the same time, busy planting seeds of distrust in the Ghanaian electorate. They have engaged in vitriol and cerebral attacks on their political opponents. They have raised alarms about supposed threats of assassination of religious leaders and judges, prompting the IGP to come out with a statement that anyone with such information should contact the security officers.

The last general election is a classic case of a faux pas by a narcissistic, self-absorbed flag bearer who has insisted that the election ought to be a coronation rather than a campaign of competitive ideas. Mr. Akuffo Addo has never been able to function beyond his own assumption that he deserves to be president. His campaign throes range from his self celebrations with easy-to-please religious leaders and musicians, to his most impalpable slogan that he is “Ghana’s Best Man”. As farcical as that phrase appears, Mr. Akuffo Addo actually believes it. Each pronouncement of that slogan carries with it a classic Juvenal irony. Thus he struts about, putting swagger in his walk in a peacock-like display, with no awareness of the dirt he drags around with each stride.

Mr. Akuffo Addo’s one-dimensional campaign is transparent as Ghanaians understand that the “best man“ always comes second, after the groom. The best man is never the groom. Seen in this manner, Mr. Akuffo Addo’s campaign slogan has become a sardonic irony. Such a travesty might work in a second rate movie where the best man eventually supplants the groom. However, Mr. Akuffo Addo is a law and order man; he has a strong aversion for coups. Thus, he will stay like a potted plant in second position, an unshakable best man. Ghanaians understand that the best man is not the groom even as Mr. Akuffo Addo gloats and craves for the limelight.

Mr. Akuffo Addo has predilections for tawdriness and pretension. He remains a walking contradiction, a man caught in his own ambiguities. This tendency to double speak has also defined much of President Kufour’s presidency. Why else would the president of Ghana proclaim that “his hands are clean”? That such a statement would come from the leader of the republic is indeed astonishing. It may even appears to be a dastardly act. The travail of Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth to keep a clean hand has become a leitmotif for all cultures. Under colonial rule, the queen and her representatives kept their hands hidden in white gloves to insulate themselves from the pillage and atrocities in the colonies. Thus, a clean hand is no indication of innocence or lack of corruptibility.

In any case, no one, most of all , no leader should have clean hands if they have been truly busy in the trenches, working with the people. The gritty palms of ordinary Ghanains are measures of their hard working abilities. The coarse and rough hands of teachers, masons, drivers nurses, doctors, and fishermen are the visible marks from hard-work; these stains, scratches, and bruises would never disappear. The hands of road builders, farmers, and carpenters are never clean since they are continuously working to feed their families and to build the nation.. A stained hand is a telling sign of hard work. A gritty hand is sine qua non to effective leadership.

While he holds up his clean hands, President Kufour has turned a blind eye to Ghanains who do not have even water in their home to wash their hands after their daily toil. A drive along the scenic road between the Castle and President Kufour’s home at Tetteh Quarshie Circle reveals the horrid experiences of street children. President Kufour’s handkerchief would have been soaked and his hands soiled if he cared enough to stop and dry the tears of these deprived children. But then the president has the entire street to himself during his drive to and from the Castle. He actually travels, unimpeded, against the flow of traffic as the security officers stop oncoming cars. The president hardly gets to see the dejection in the faces of these very young children who run in and out of traffic, trying to eke out a living, only a few meters from his home. Most often, President Kufour just flies over and away from the country, regardless of the conditions of the citizens. Guess who is left behind as they are “moving forward”?

Mr. Akuffo Addo’s campaign is about self-affirmation much in the same way as President Kufour has embarked on self-congratulatory celebrations. However, Ghanaians have proclaimed loudly on December 07, 2008 that “the emperor wears no clothes.” Ghanains remain resolute about throwing out the “bums.”

Ghana’s democracy has evolved over time. Ghana has moved on from the era of political juggernauts. Today ideas, not personalities, matter. Ghana has raised the political bar and Ghanaians demand more from their leaders. Ghanaians no longer want to dance the limbo beneath a bar that is set lower and lower. Ghanaians understand that good leadership matters and bad leadership will ruin the nation.

Today, the country wants leaders who would be in the trenches, working with their hands in providing good drinking water, schools, and health centers; they want leaders who would not move forward and leave the ordinary people behind nor fly over and above them. Ghanaians want leaders who are humble, who are willing to stay in the country, and who share their pain. The election is about leadership and accountability. It is about leadership by example.

Ghana’s next parliament must pass laws to ensure that they do not create privileges for themselves; it is inexplicable why MPs continue to represent their constituencies when the become Ministers of State. Either role demands full attention and MPs who are appointed in government positions must resign their parliamentary posts. Parliamentarians must fulfill their fiduciary obligations rather than help themselves to the resources of citizens. There should be no more “car loan” to parliamentarians. Each parliamentary cycle comes with perks for the representatives. The charade of giving parliamentarians a sweet heart car loan must end. We must ensure that all those who have taken such loans have met their obligations. The government can provide a number of minibus for use by parliamentarians on official business. Such official business does not include transportation to and from the office. We must pay parliamentarians and government officials adequate salaries and provide them with pension to reduce incidents of graft.

The ruling government must take steps to separate itself from the judiciary. It is important that the winning party would not engage in a selective prosecution of members of the oppositional party. There must be open asset and tax declarations by high government officials before and at the end of their service. There must be open information on such issues as the competitive bids for contracts, and allowances for the president and top government officials. The public must have access to the yearly tax declarations by high government officials.

It is important to change which party holds the seat of power ever so often. After 8 years, NPP must stay in opposition to reorganize and refine their ideas towards forming a future government. It is important for the NDC party to take up the mantle of office so that they can implement their ideas for developing Ghana. CPP and the other parties can organize and make themselves viable in order to form a future government..

Regardless of the party that wins, I pray for peace. I believe that Prof. Mills has the best temperament and preparation to lead Ghana at this time. I urge Ghanaians to vote massively for him.

Please permit me to speak directly to Prof. Mills:

Now is the time to unite Ghana. Now is the time to set up the huge umbrella of national unity, and to have an inclusive society. Now is the time to appeal to members of the other parties to vote for you. Now is the time to give Ghanaians Hope.

Translate your ideas into a handful of clear and simplified statements for the electorate. Let them know that you share their dream and pain. Let them know that you are a leader who will be defined by how many jobs you provide; by your fairness; by your fair distribution of national resources; and by promoting oneness in Ghana.

Speak to the people in a language they understand; seek to bridge the wedge in the society. Appeal to all ethnic groups to cast their votes for you as a way of uniting the country. Have faith in Ghanaians; show through your actions that you value every Ghanaian, young and old, rich and poor, rural and city dwellers, educated and uneducated. Put your arms around all Ghanaians. Establish kinship with all Ghanaians, not just your family immediate members.

May God Bless you and the good people of Ghana

Prof. Kwame Adin Awuyah, PhD