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Opinions of Friday, 27 January 2017

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

How did Nana Akufo-Addo set four records on December 7?

My last article on the presidential election was on December 5, 2016 but not had time to do any post-election analysis after the elections. However, numerous articles have been written on the subject since the Electoral Commission announced the results on Friday December 9, 2016. All the articles enumerated reasons why Nana Akufo-Addo (now president) and NPP won or Mahama and NDC lost. This article is a contribution to the post-election analysis but taking a different approach.

It was not surprising that then candidate Akufo-Addo won the presidency. From my aforementioned article (see, “December 7, Will it be President Mahama or Nana Akufo-Addo?”, Ghanaweb, December 5, 2016), it was obvious that the odds were in his favour. The only reason why I avoided making a definite prediction was that I was unsure to what extent incumbency advantage would play in the final outcome, especially when no incumbent had lost the presidency to the challenger under the fourth republic or in Ghana.

Having said the above, how did President Akufo-Addo make history by setting four records on a single day? Before attempting to answer the question, it would be useful to mention the four historic records. The son of a former ceremonial president to elected president of Ghana (his father, the late Edward Akufo-Addo was not only one of the Big Six but also became president of Ghana under the Second Republic from 1969 to 1972). Candidate Akufo-Addo is the first non-John to win the presidency under the Fourth Republic after four Johns (Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor, the late John Attah Mills and John Dramani Mhama). The oldest presidential candidate in Ghana’s history to win the presidency and last but certainly not the least, the first to defeat an incumbent president in Ghana. Some of these enviable records will last for generations to come, particularly the first and the third.

How were these achieved? There is an adage that, “oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them” and that was exactly what happened in Ghana prior to and on December 7, 2016. This is not to take credit away from Nana Akufo-Addo, his team and party from their hard-won victory. NDC lost the elections before the vote and facilitated the above records for the following reasons.

From 2008 till today, NDC’s main strategy for defeating Nana Akufo-Addo has been to portray him as belligerent, arrogant, a dictator, etc not fit for the presidency. What NDC did not know is that the Nana Akufo-Addo of 2008 is not the same as the Nana Akufo-Addo of 2016 in the eyes of Ghanaians. After two electoral defeats in 2008 and 2012, including the presidential petition, Nana Akufo-Addo shed his old image to become a humbled politician. That is what the public saw and therefore did not believe the NDC propaganda. In fact, NPP took advantage of this and called press conference on November 29, 2016 that then president Mahama and his brother allegedly bribed the Northern Regional Chairman of NPP, Daniel Bugri-Naadbu with Ghc 500,000 to destroy Nana Akufo-Addo’s character beyond repair and it worked (see, “Mahama and his brother bribed Bugri Naabu with GHC3.3m and a V8 - Mustapha Hamid”, Ghanaweb, November 29, 2016).

The acceptance of the Supreme Court verdict on the presidential petition by Nana Akufo-Addo and his speech was the smoking gun in the reinvention of Nana Akufo-Addo. That singular speech (the “Al Gore” speech, which I recommended to the loser in an article entitled, “Are Nana Akufo-Addo and President Mahama Lying?”, Ghanaweb, August 24, 2013), “I disagree with SC’s verdict but I accept” (Ghanaweb, August 29, 2013) is and would continue to be the most important ever in his political career as it shed the so-called arrogance and belligerent image imposed on him by NDC. From that day, he won the hearts of many across the globe and NDC’s propaganda against him become ineffective, a major contributing factor in their defeat in 2016. Even after the election and the swearing in, the NDC propaganda machine is geared towards damaging president Akufo-Addo’s personal image. It was sickening listening to NDC Chairman, Kofi Portuphy at his press conference over the takeover of state property by NPP supporters on January 12, 2017. He blamed everything and anything on president Akufo-Addo.

Ex-president Mahama’s government was the worst ever in terms of communication, despite the claim that he is a communication expert. The communication policy, strategy and practice could best be describe as talking to one’s self and at same time, not listening. They denied anything that became public knowledge through propaganda by explaining the inexplicable, justifying the unjustifiable, defending the indefensible and glorifying the condemnable. When found pants down, they refused to admit wrong doing so no offer of apology and no one held accountable. A typical example was how the Mahama government dealt with the 2016 Independence Day celebration brochure international embarrassment to Ghana contrary to how the new president Akufo-Addo’s office responded to the allegation of plagiarism in his inauguration speech. The speechwriter immediately admitted the omission of acknowledgement and offered an apology.

A lot has been said on how dumsor contributed to Mahama’s defeat and I need not repeat same (collapse of small, medium enterprises, astronomical increases in electricity prices, damage to personal properties, etc). The other impact of dumsor that has not been considered by earlier articles was how Mahama communicated the problem and measures to resolve it such as, “dumsor will be a thing of the past, I will fix it” and others yet dumsor is no near fixing. The lies, the propaganda and the deception were such that Ghanaians did not believe a word of it. In fact, Mahama and NDC in their deluded minds believed that if there was regular supply of power for three to six months before the elections, Ghanaians will believe that dumsor was over and vote for them. They assumed Ghanaians were that simplistic in understanding national problems. Dumsor should have been resolved at least, two or one and half years before the elections in order for it to have impacted positively on micro and macroeconomic indicators for Ghanaians to disregard it in their voting decisions.

Corruption per se alone was not the cause Mahama’s defeat but also how he handled the so-called fight against corruption, especially the Woyome trial (refusal to call Betty Mould Iddrisu as prosecution witness, deliberate efforts to frustrate the recovery of the looted money from Woyome; prosecuting only Abuga Pele in the GYEEDA scandal whilst the big fishes were left off the hook, the establishment of a World Cup Commission deliberately designed to let the corrupt officials go free instead of police investigation, prosecution and recovery of stolen money from the culprits, the Bus Branding saga and the defence of Dzifa Attivor over the contract and many others. All these caused irrecoverable damage to Mahama’s government as being corrupt and unwilling to fight corruption.

It was “political improvised explosive device” for Mahama and NDC to believe that despite poor economic performance, serious power crisis, higher youth unemployment, corruption and very high increases in utility prices, infrastructure development would win them the elections. The question is, do people eat roads and what is the immediate use of a hospital when many who were not on the NHIS could not afford it? In fact, Mahama could have secured a second term if he had spent some of the money on infrastructure projects in resolving dumsor earlier because that would have created jobs and improved the micro and macroeconomic indicators to the benefit of Ghnaians.

The irony of the infrastructure projects was that, there was no immediate snowball effect on the people or the economy such as jobs for local youth or increased in foreign currency circulation in Ghana because most of the workers came from the donor nation and most of their needs including food came with them. There were no subsidiary economic activities from the projects such as local manufactures and service providers gaining contracts. The huge sums of the money did not stay in the Ghanaian economy and therefore there were no immediate direct benefits. In fact, for many, the immediate direct benefits were disruption to their daily and economic activities such as traders who were expelled from Circle to make way for the Interchange. It’s rather the medium and long term that will benefit Ghanaians and normally, voters to do not reward incumbents at elections for future benefits since their voting decisions are based on actual immediate benefits.

Another factor that has not been sufficiently discussed as one of the root causes of the defeat is the role the government played in opposition parties’ argument with the Electoral Commission, particularly, the Voters’ Register and the disqualification of presidential candidates. Though the EC is an independent constitutional body, ministers and NDC officials regularly spoke for and defended the actions of the EC. For example, when the Supreme Court in the Abu Ramadan versus the EC ordered the EC to clean the register by removing the names of those who used the NHIS card to register, minors and the deceased but the EC was recalcitrant, ministers and NDC strongly defended the EC’s position. Voters therefore saw the government and NDC as being in cahoots with the EC to rig the elections and punished Mahama for it.

NDC also created an illusion that it was united when in reality it was as divided, if not more, as NPP. The scale of their division only came to light through the number of failed primary parliamentary contestants who stood as independent against the party’s candidates throughout the country. This was the result of how the party managed the primary elections through the imposition of certain candidates or bending the rules to favour some contestants. For example, the Central Regional Chairman unilaterally declared that some incumbent MPs would go unopposed and such mismanagement of pre and post parliamentary primaries caused them lot of seats in the legislature.

Finally, the presidential petition also contributed significantly to the victory of president Akufo-Addo or the defeat of Mahama. First, the Ghanaian public through the hearing became more educated on the organisation and management of national elections and clearly understood how critical what happens at the polling stations and the role of candidate and party agents. These reduced the risk of rigging at the polling stations. The most powerful tool against electoral fraud and rigging (also the direct consequence of the presidential petition) was the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Kwesi Nyame-Tease Eshun (former Director of Research in Parliament), versus EC that ordered the inclusion in the CI 94 that, EC provided copies of the collation (pink) sheets to candidate and political parties’ agents at the polling and collation centres. With this Supreme Court order, the possibility of EC or anyone tempering with the records on the pink sheets became unachievable as this meant being able to change the results on the pink sheets of all agents.

For the above reason, those who claimed that a NASA IT guru prevented the EC from changing the results in favour of Mahama or hacked into the EC’s website did not know what they were talking about because the EC was powerless to do so as copies of the pink sheets were already in the hands of candidate and party agents would have exposed the rigging. In 2008, a high court judge, Justice Edward Amoako Asante was my hero for refusing to grant the then NPP’s Chairman’s ex-parte application to place an injunction on the EC from declaring the result of the presidential election, in 2016, Mr Kwesi Nyame-Tease Eshun is my hero for making it impossible for the elections to be rigged by the EC and or the incumbent.

Against these shortfalls were well organised and executed campaign strategy by Nana Akufo -Addo and NPP, relying on technology including social media, constant reminder of voters the failings of Mahama’ government such as the poor economic indicators, corruption, incompetence, etc, By the time of elections, the advantage was with Nana Akufo-Addo and the usual attempt by NDC to belittle him having a drink, horribly backfired on them when Ghanaians became obsessed with the drink. The scene was set for records to be set by Nana Akfo-Addo and some of his records could last decades, if not centuries.

Welcome president Nana Akufo-Addo and I hope your government, ministers and appointees will avoid Mahama’s mistakes, which lead to your deserved victory. In my view, your victory is good for Ghana and Ghanaian voters made the right choice because had Mahama won, his ministers and appointees would have become more arrogant and more corrupt (“power corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”). Ghanaians will hold you and your government accountable.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK