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Opinions of Monday, 13 October 2014

Columnist: Amenyo, Kofi

It is not Akufo-Addo’s age that worries me

A man can be nursing his own dotage and still make a better president than any we have seen so far in the Fourth Republic. He may or may not have sniffed stuff in his wayward youth. That does not bother me. Whatever one smokes in the past does not, necessarily, have to be a hindrance to effective leadership.  I don’t care what skeletons he keeps hidden in his closet as long as I have good reasons to believe he can do a good job as a leader. He may be a bloke but a good one. The fact that he may not be able to speak my ethnic language does not, necessarily, mean he may not have my interests at heart when he presides over the affairs of the entire nation.

People talk of his arrogance. In this age of self-indulgence, celebrity and spin, this may be a concern especially for a person who started behaving as a president even before he is voted to the office. But I don’t think even this should worry any of us. It is better to have an arrogant person leading us who can actually turn the country around than someone who appears humble but presides over a rapacious clique of rulers who add salt to our injury by recklessly flaunting their ill-gotten wealth before our very eyes.

All these things do not worry me about the man. I am more concerned about other things. I am most worried about the scavengers that surround the man. These men and women are telling us that Akufo-Addo will be the best thing that ever happened to Ghana when, in actual fact, what they are really after is the personal benefits that will accrue to them from an Akufo-Addo presidency. These are the people who will be dependent on his patronage but who, themselves, can never get a shot at the presidency.

They are the ones telling us that Nana is so good, very noble, incorruptible, patriotic, experienced, astute, bla bla bla… Some even make the preposterous claim that he has been chosen by God! Only simple minded Ghanaians will believe such tosh. Even members of his party don’t believe such nonsense. The only reason they will vote for him is because he belongs to the party they identify with, comes from their tribe or because they believe the alternative is even worse!

At a time when we should be challenging and questioning anybody, yes, anybody at all, putting up himself to lead us, there are still some Ghanaians actually singing the praises of such persons! Gee!!! Even if Jesus and Mohammed come to put themselves up for election to be our president, we should grill each of them like tilapia to see how they stand it. Yet some people are telling us today that some candidates, including Akufo-Addo, are even better than these highly venerated guys. OMG! Who can know the greatness of a leader even before he becomes one?

Let us face the facts. Akufo-Addo is NOT incorruptible. No Ghanaian is incorruptible, least of all a Ghanaian politician! This includes Akufo-Addo too. He is not different from the rest of them. The fact that he has not been caught with his hands in the soup pot does not mean anything. The very nature of politics in Ghana is such that NO ONE, absolutely no one, can survive at the top without being corrupt in some way. In fact, you need to engage in corrupt acts to get to the top in the first place. And Akufo-Addo was in the top echelons of the government he served for eight years! What does that say of him?

I am worried about the fact that Akufo-Addo will not be different from Kufuor or Mahama. He, too, will pursue the same policies that will enable a few people connected with government to amass tons of wealth while the mass of Ghanaians will still toil to make the proverbial ends meet. For sure, there will be some cosmetic changes but the status quo will be maintained. Indeed, I am worried by the fact that under an Akufo-Addo led NPP government, this so-called “property owning democracy” (which is just a smart euphemism for crony capitalism) will even worsen the plight of the ordinary Ghanaian – the millions who are in the villages trekking every-day over ever lengthening distances to their farms to work the same malnourished earth in order to survive while the politically connected are wallowing in stinking opulence. I was recently in Ghana and saw these things with my own very eyes. Let no one deceive himself in thinking an Akufo-Addo government is going to change the lot of these people.

My dearest reader, every politician who wants to rule us wants Ghana to develop and be a great nation. Despite the unsavoury nature of our politicians, I don’t think there is any one of them who is so callous as to not want the country to develop. Even Mahama, genuinely, wants to lead a country that is making progress. After all, if the country becomes richer, these politicians will be in a better position to steal more of our money without our complaining too much. The problem is that mere wishes are not easily translatable to actual progress being made on the ground. And when it comes to a choice between national progress and the individual welfare of the politician, our leaders will choose the latter without batting an eye. This is as true of a Mahama led-NDC government as it will be of an Akufo-Addo-led NPP one. No one should make any mistakes about that!

The more realistic sections of the educated middle class in Ghana do not believe, for one moment, that Akufo-Addo is incorruptible or visionary or even astute. They have absolutely no illusions about the fact that an NPP government will be even more corrupt than the NDC presently are and hide it even better. But they ask themselves that, given this situation, which party will still manage the economy better (or, rather, less badly). And they seem to give a reluctant nod to the NPP.

In this scheme of things, the difference between Akufo-Addo and Kyerematen will only be a cosmetic one seen only in the phalanx of the party’s power elite that will be the greatest beneficiaries of the goodies of political office. They can make this argument (that of NPP being a lesser evil than NDC) because of the choke hold the two leading parties have on political power in Ghana. In a country where that power is pursued principally to enrich oneself, both parties are increasingly seeing this fight as a zero sum game between them as third party alternatives are being hollowed out.

But there are other variables involved in the political equation. Many jobs and positions in Ghana are so politicised that they leave those who occupy them no political choices. The personal welfares of many Ghanaians in senior positions depend on which party is in power. There are many Ghanaians in the public and civil services who are afraid they will lose out by a change of government. In the private sector, many business contracts, and the fortunes of the contractors, depend on which party is in power. These people fear that if NPP comes to power they will be the losers. It happened the last time around. It can happen again. NPP is, itself, fighting hard to get power so that they will be the ones, rather than someone else, who will be dispensing the patronage. They have tasted the sweetness of power before and know what it is.

As for the chattering masses, those who, unlike Akufo-Addo, actually eat kenkey by the roadside and take trotro to work on a daily basis, they will remain on the losing side no matter how the political equation is resolved. Nobody is GENUINELY promoting the interests of the working-class and the poor in Ghana. The progressive left, if there ever has been one, is completely dead in our politics. The NDC cannot lay claim to any social democratic credentials.

Our immediate problems are fighting corruption and incompetence in the public and civil services, creating wealth and closing the yawning gaps in wealth between individuals and between the different parts of the country. The reforms needed to achieve these will take a ruthless political will to implement. I doubt if Akufo-Addo has that will. He may have been able to browbeat all his opponents in the party to choose him as their anointed candidate but I doubt if he can employ the same tactics to fight corruption starting right away from the vultures surrounding him who so very much want him to win for their own sakes.

Our country needs real change. With Akufo-Addo, it will be Ghanaian politics as we have always known it since the beginning of the Fourth Republic. That won’t take us as far. With Mahama, it will be a continuation of the same mess.

While in Ghana, I seized the opportunity to register as a voter when the window was opened on the exercise in August. I still have the indelible mark on the little finger on my left hand to show for it. I will schedule another holiday to coincide with the general elections in 2016. As at now, I don’t know who I will vote for. Mahama is a huge disappointment but Akufo-Addo doesn’t seem to be the answer. I am as afraid of an NPP victory as I am of an NDC one. There is a strong inclination to throw up one’s hands in despair. But I am keeping my options open…

Kofi Amenyo (kofi.amenyo@yahoo.com)