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Opinions of Sunday, 21 February 2016

Columnist: Amenyo, Kofi

Mahama must go, but who takes his place?

Ghanaians have always complained about their politicians and rulers. And they are right to do so. No government in this Fourth Republic has escaped the bitter complaints of the citizens. The gripes have always been mainly of two kinds: the government is incompetent and it is also corrupt. But it seems the present government has, arguably, attracted the loudest and most vehement complaints ever directed against any government in our history. Why is this so? A few hypothetical reasons can be adduced for this development.

The first may be that the Mahama government is, in absolute and relative terms, truly and actually incompetent. They have been unable to adequately solve the numerous problems facing Ghanaians. They stumble from one bad policy to another. They are also corrupt – more than any government we have had.

A second reason for the high-pitched complaints may be that Ghanaians have now become more aware than ever before and are exercising their rights to cry out against what they perceive as bad governance. The educated middle class (often the wellspring of the more informed criticisms) is expanding and with it the number of complaints.

Another important reason for the increase in complaints is that there are, these days, more avenues than ever to complain and make one’s dissatisfaction known to everyone. At no time in our history have we had so many privately owned FM stations. Many Ghanaians have cellular phones from which they call in to these radio stations to fulminate against the government. These call-ins are often the most listened to programmes on these radio stations. The availability of local stations means the complaints can be made in local languages. You do not have to be fluent in English to pour your venom on the government. There are also many television stations doing much the same things as the radio stations. The talk show has become an important avenue for expressing discontent. There are numerous newspapers publishing all kinds of news. Then there is the internet and the blogosphere, where anybody can write anything. There are also social media that can be used to spread complaints about the government – Facebook, whatsapp, YouTube, twitter, Instagram, etc. It is human nature that where there is an opportunity to complain about something, people will complain!

It is also possible that the government is facing so many complaints because the opposition, led by the NPP, is simply doing a very effective job in painting the government black. The NPP, in particular, with Muhamadu Bawumia as the leading attack dog, has based its campaign strategy on convincing Ghanaians to believe that the government is not doing well koraaa. It is not necessary for them to tell us how they intend to do better. The NPP has its own media to spew its venom. Indeed, it does seem there are more opposition controlled media outlets than the ones owned and controlled by the ruling party. The other side of this argument is that the government is not quite succeeding in defending its record and trumpeting its achievements, if there are any to boast of. But we all know that bad news is easier to spread than good ones.

No matter whether or not you believe all the complaints about the present government, there does, indeed, seem to be some interesting reasons why one will want Mahama and his gang to go. Some of these are just of theoretical interest. In a situation where we have the chance to change leaders, we should seize every opportunity to do so. Sometimes, even if a leader is not exactly a disaster, we can still vote him out. Indeed, I dare say that we can vote out a leadership, just because we can do so! This may sound petty, or even mean, but it can keep our leaders on their toes and prevent some people from thinking they have any divine rights to leadership.

It will be good for our democracy if we show our rulers that we can “punish” them. This means we should not wait until Mahama completes a second term before we vote his gang out. We made that mistake when we allowed Kufuor to do a second term before voting out his gang when we ought to have done it four years earlier. There is no reason why we should establish a pattern where one of the two big parties is allowed to do their “normal” eight years. They must go after four years if they are not doing well, and they can stay on for longer than eight years in the very rare event that they are doing well.

So far in the Fourth Republic, the pattern has been more of “voting out” a government than of actually “voting in” one. When Kufuor won the first time in 2000, it was not so much that Ghanaians thought he was going to do well (they knew he was not going to). They were simply fed up with the ancien regime. When Mills piped Akufo-Addo at the tape, Ghanaians were simply more content on punishing the ruling regime than on any hope that Mills was going to be any different. Now, Ghanaians should try to vote for somebody they believe in rather than just trying to punish an incumbent.

So, Mahama must not be given another chance. Some of us cannot wait to see the long faces of the likes of Ablakwa, Hanna Tettey, Anyidoho, and the other arrogant ones, as they contemplate their fall from power. These are the ones who, knowing the richness of the pickings of political office, are expending every effort, fair and foul, to be returned to power. We should frustrate them at every turn.

Having made the decision to kick out Mahama, we should seriously think of who will take his place. The first mistake we should avoid in this endeavour is assuming, or taking it for granted, that the alternative to Mahama is Akufo-Addo and the NPP. This is a pattern we should break. There is absolutely no reason why we should fly from one frying pan to another one. We need a new kind of politics, and the silverback, steeped in the old ways, can only offer us a variant of the old stuff – the very thing we should be exerting ourselves to avoid. It is now time for us to consider the fact that we do not have to be trapped between two parties that are different sides of the same coin both of which are playing a hideous type of politics that is unattractive to the decent and the truly talented who are being kept away from the corridors of power.

Even though the time seems short, all is not lost for a credible alternative to the duopoly we have so far had in the Fourth Republic. Success in this effort will depend a lot on what the other parties do. There will be an urgent need for them to come together to devise a plan to squash the status quo. The best thing that has happened on the Nkrumaist front of late is the choice of a leader other than someone bearing Nkrumah’s name. After all, it is the core values of Nkrumah’s ideas (“in the cause of Ghana and Africa” with a little less emphasis on the latter), wrapped in a modern package, that can have a real appeal, especially to the youth. Anybody who can genuinely represent those ideas and has leadership qualities should lead the assault on the dominant parties. But the Nkrumaist fraternity is still fragmented with everybody wanting to be the one in charge. There is still time for them to come together, though.

The other opposition parties have to team up with a united Nkrumaist front to break the stranglehold of the big two. The goal, for now, will be to get enough votes to deny the big two an outright victory in November. Such a united front should win, at least, twenty seats in the coming parliament. Will the “real opposition” stand up and be counted on to achieve this very modest goal?

Kofi Amenyo (