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Opinions of Sunday, 21 December 2014

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Is Prayer What President Mahama Really Needs?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK December 19, 2014

This week, two prominent personalities have asked for prayers for President Mahama and his government to succeed in delivering his election manifesto promises. The first came from the Executive Director of IMANI Ghana, Mr Franklin Cudjoe who called on the entire nation to remember President John Dramani Mahama in prayers so he leaves a good legacy as a president. According to him, the president’s recent interview with Al Jazeera clearly showed that he is capable of ruling the nation despite some mishaps in his government (see, “Let’s Remember Mahama in Our Prayers – IMANI Boss”, Peacefmonline/Ghanaweb, December 15, 2014). The second came from no mean person than the Vice-Presidential Candidate of the NPP, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, who also called on Ghanaians to support President John Dramani Mahama to bring about development and end hardship in the country when he spoke at the Bona festival celebration of the people of the Adansi Traditional Area over the weekend at Fomena in the Asante Region. According to him, the Mahama-led government required prayers and the support of all Ghanaians in its quest to move the country forward, asserting that partisan politics was not needed at this crucial time (see, “Mahama Needs Our Prayers – Bawumia”, Peacefmonline, December 19, 2014). The objective of this article is to assess whether prayers are in fact what President Mahama and his government need to succeed and if so, for how long?

There is no doubt that most Ghanaians believe in the power of prayers whether Christian, Muslim or traditional Ghanaian/African religion (through libation). For that reason, I will not dismiss outright the calls for prayers for President Mahama and his government by the two personalities. In fact, I am aware of the belief that leaders need God’s wisdom and guidance to be good and successful leaders. However, I am also of the view that there are times that prayers must be backed by action, for it is said that “God helps those who help themselves”.

Let’s analyse the facts on the grounds when it comes to contemporary Ghanaian politics and religion or prayers. I do not intend to bore you with a long catalogue of historical facts so let me start from the late President Mills’ era. He was perhaps, the first president that brought the Christian faith in prayer so close to the heart of government. During his short reign, the practice of libation pouring at national events, particularly at Independence and Republic Day Celebrations were banned. There were rumours of the Castle being turned into a prayer camp under the influence of the fake Nigerian prophet, T B Joshua. There were also reports of the late president attributing is election victory to prophet or prayers.

Was the late President Mills a successful leader by achievement and if so could the success be attributed to prayers, action or both? It is really difficult to answer these questions objectively and adequately because the late president did not complete his first term. However, we can briefly assess his six months short of a full four-year term in relation to his belief in prayers vis?-a-vis actions. He was slow to action and depended too heavily on prayer or God with the typical Ghanaian philosophy or cliché of “fama Nyame”. Under his watch, huge sums of dubious judgement debt payments were made to Woyome, Isofoton and Waterville even after he had supposedly instructed that they should not be paid. That is what happens when one depends too much on divine intervention instead of action. I believe that had the late President backed his instructions with action, Ghana today would have been richer by those huge sums of money paid to fraudsters.
Nana Akufo-Addo was also perhaps, convinced by the late Mills’ claim that he won the presidency by putting his fate into the hands of God through prayers. Subsequently, his 2012 campaign was based on believe in payers. He made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and prayed at the Wailing Wall in the City of Jerusalem. The popular slogan was “It is the Lord’s”. What he forgot was that prayers alone could not win him the presidency and that was exactly what happened. He left action out of his ambition to win the presidency through his failure to ensure that the election was won at the polling station and not at the courts. He did not stop there but continued to have faith in prayers after his defeat was confirmed by the Supreme Court on August 29, 2013. He was reported to have decided to go abroad on holiday, pray and consult God before deciding on his next action but this time he did not only put all his eggs in one basket of prayers alone. Whilst abroad praying and consulting God, his henchmen and women were actively scheming to secure him a third attempt at the presidency as the candidate of the NPP and guess what? That was exactly what he achieved. Had he folded his arms and immersed himself only in prayers twenty four seven without action at home, he would have suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of his own party.

Indeed, there are times that a leader undoubtedly needs the prayers of the whole nation and President Mahama is the single Ghanaian President that has benefited most from such times. The first was on the occasion of the sudden and tragic death of President Mills on July 24, 2012. The nation came together in shock and grief for the loss of President Mills as well as in unison in prayers for the new young President Mahama who fate had bestowed on him the heavy burden of leading a divided nation, yet, united by tragedy. Again, when the Supreme Court confirmed his election, I believe the nation prayed for him. Recently, some religious leaders prayed and laid hands on him in the midst of self-inflicting leadership and management failures that plunged the nation into crisis, including GYEEDA, SADA, SUBAH, the free fall of the cedi, ‘dumsor’, World Cup fiasco, etc. I do believe that on weekly or daily basis religious leaders from different faiths and beliefs continue to pray for President Mahama and his government. So, what have all these prayers achieved so far that the nation should still continue to pray for the president and what for precisely?

Prayers without action will achieve nothing or very little and that is what Ghana has witnessed for some time. Perhaps, Ghanaian leaders are waiting for manna to fall from the heavens for the seismic shift in the socio-economic and political development that President Mahama has been talking about. My beef with President Mahama is too much talk and less action so no amount of prayers will help him improve the lots of Ghanaians without the prerequisite actions to buttress the prayers. Inaction by his government in pursuance of total refund of Woyome, Isofoton and Waterville illegal judgement debt payments, incompetence and inefficiency of ministers and appointees coupled with inaction on the part of the president to hold his ministers and appointees accountable for their incompetence and inefficiency.

In my humble opinion, what President Mahama really needs is not prayer but he must kick some arse/s, before his arse is kicked by the electorate on December 7, 2016. For example, President Mahama should have dismissed the Energy Minister and his Deputy instead of establishing a new Power Ministry and adding another level of bureaucracy as well as increasing the public wage bill. I am not against my old colleague, Dr Kwabena Dorkor on his appointment as the first Power Minister. I wish him success through action and not prayers. Worst, the Deputy Minister for Energy has been appointed onto the Board of the national strategic energy body, GNPC. Was he not part of those at the Energy Ministry who either ill-advised or deceived President Mahama into proclaiming “dumsor would be a thing of the past”?

President Mahama should have acted to secure refund of all illegal payments to companies and individuals under GYEEDA and SADA for no work done and non-existing contracts and all those involved prosecuted. The same applies to illegal judgement debts payments to Woyome, Isofton, Waterville and all others as well prosecuted Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu, Hon Batron Oduro (the then Attorney General and Minister for Justice and her deputy), Messrs Paul Asimenu, the Director of Legal at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and Samuel Nerquaye-Tetteh, the Chief State Attorney at the Attorney General’s Department.

In his State of the Nation address in February 2013, President Mahama told the world that Ghana’s meat had been eaten to the bones through huge public sector wage bills with his intentions to address ghost workers within the public sector, etc. What action has been taken so far to address these problems? Does Ghana have to wait for foreign assistance to arrest ghost workers and bring the perpetrators and their beneficiaries to book? Ghana loses millions daily through corruption in various forms (tax avoidance and underpayment, foreign companies deliberately going into insolvency in order to reinvent themselves to operate in the same sector, doing the same business and even operating from the same premises with the same directors just to continue to enjoy tax concessions, yet no action is taken against them. Day in day out, customs and revenue officers collect bribes from importers, exporters and individuals transacting business or paying their taxes, leading to the loss of millions in state revenue, yet very little action is taken to sanction them, whilst the state is unable to generate enough revenue for energy to power the economy.

Ministers, ministries and presidential appointees overspend their budgets on unnecessary expenditures whilst vital public services (health, education, energy, water, transport and other infrastructure development projects) are starved of funds. Even the presidency is the worst enemy of living beyond its means. President Mahama has failed to act in checking such wanton dissipation of scarce public resources, yet Ghana is negotiating a financial bailout when action to plug all the leakages within the revenue collection, huge recurrent and capital expenditures, not to mention corruption and wastage through judgement debts would have resulted in probably, a budget surplus for Ghana. And you tell me the president needs prayers? Give me a break!

President Mahama needs no more prayers but rather he more action and must act sooner than later. He must shy away from ‘fama Nyame’ and step on some toes, sack poor-performing ministers and appointees; prosecute the corrupt, retrieve monies illegally paid to organisations and individuals or stolen from the state; identify and punish beneficiaries of ghost workers, etc through concrete actions but not mere prayers and promises because action is the best means through which the prayers and promises could be answered and fulfilled. Is that too much to ask? President Mahama can act by ensuring that, laws, rules and regulations are enforced and complied with to the letter and without fear or favour. After all what is the role of government? According to Abraham Lincoln, “the legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot, so well do, for themselves, in their separate, and individual capacities." It’s not about the people praying for the government but action from the government.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge