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Opinions of Monday, 16 November 2015

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.

Martin Amidu stoops too low

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Saturday, November 14, 2015

Folks, the attention-seeking spree of Martin Amidu—no stranger to us as far as public pronouncements on contemporary Ghanaian issues are concerned—has reached a deafeningly striking level that must be interrogated for us to know his motives and objectives. He is being driven by something more than the public spirit that one may deceptively adduce to explain his rampaging political rhetoric.

We begin with his so-called campaign against corruption, taking the Woyome judgement debt scandal as the focal point. No sane person will begrudge Amidu for his singular work in exposing the rot and helping the Ghanaian public know much about the intricacies of that judgement debt paid Woyome. His several court cases and writing of opinion pieces placed everything in perspective to enhance public education and awareness. Good job done, there, even if some might want to fault him for not dealing with those very issues while in office as the Deputy Attorney-General and Minister of Justice until he was kicked out by ex-President Mills. Could his all-out campaign, then, be seen as an act of vengeance?
With that singular act, Amidu found his bearing to become a “citizen vigilante”—a one-man commando at the heels of t6he government and just anybody he sees as “corrupt”. His “tango” with Anas Aremeyaw Anas over the secret recordings of personnel of the Judiciary is a case in point. Suddenly, then, Amidu has become an anti-corruption campaigner, constantly making public pronouncements to that effect. He seems to have overshadowed the NPP’s P.C. Appiah-Ofori. All for the good of Ghana, one might say. But is there any “good” out of such efforts when nothing is done by the state institutions to right the wrongs that Amidu has pointed out?
Woyome’s judgement debt payment hasn’t been retrieved from him, which is a huge source of concern to us. Must it be that the government isn’t interested in retrieving the millions (or billions) of Cedis wrongfully given to Woyome? Why should it be so? What does the government fear will be the negative backlash if it acts as directed by the Supreme Court? Amidu has a case here.
Moving beyond this judgement debt issue, Amidu has taken a detour into what has emerged as “squalid politics”. The banner headline says it all: “No northerner may be voted president in the next 20–30 years—Martin Amidu”. Here is the substance of that pronouncement:
“He says the conduct of President John Dramani Mahama is responsible for his rather gloomy prediction. Martin Amidu told Joy FM and MultiTV’s news analysis programme, Newsfile, the president, who is a northerner, is damaging the brand of northerners. Northerners are largely perceived to be straightforward, truthful, honest and incorruptible people. This brand, Mr. Amidu contends, is being damaged by the president who is running of a government widely perceived to be corrupt”. (See
Folks, I take issues with Amidu for being so shallow and base in his perceptions and pronouncements. There is enough reason to dismiss him as having a discouraged state of mind to make such a claim. It is a dangerous slip-up that must be condemned as uncharacteristic of the “intellectual” that he is known to be.
The history of political development in Ghana reveals a lot to tell Amidu and those thinking like him that their kind of perception, influenced by narrow considerations verging on tribal politics, won’t appeal to right-minded Ghanaians. I will take a short trip into this political history to explain why I think that Amidu is doing squalid politics with his ill-considered prediction.
The Great Osagyefo defeated the reactionary elements of the UGCC/National Liberation Movement and United Party in the 1951 and 1954 elections without any reference to his Nzema extraction. None of the military toads who seized power in Ghana bothered about their ethnic extraction as any beacon for anybody to be in politics.
Dr. Busia and his Progress Party entered office after winning the general elections (even though not in the Volta Region), not on the basis of ethnicity, even though later developments and pronouncements by high-ranking members of that government would portray them as anti-Ewe (Victor Owusu is dead and gone but his negative utterances about Ewes are still remembered and used as a political we3apon to damage the NPP. So also is Akufo-Addo’s “Yen Akanfuo” nonsense). Ghanaians voted Dr. Limann into office, not because he touted his Northern Ghana origin but because they preferred him to the other contestants.
Jerry Rawlings defeated his opponents, not because he cast himself in any tribal mode (be it Ewe, Ga, or Scottish), but because he had the appeal that wooed the voters. Ex-President Mills sailed past the NPP’s Akufo-Addo in the 2008 Presidential run-off, not because he touted his Fante origin as a bait nor did the voters go for him because he was more Akan than the NPP’s Akufo-Addo.
When Kufuor won Elections 2000 and 2008, there was no talk of his having any comparative advantage over his opponents for being an Asante. He presented the best of himself and what he would lead Ghana to do and courted the voters to put him in power. Everything indicated that Election 2008 would go the NPP’s way, but it turned out to be nightmarish for Akufo-Addo, not because he is an Akim or whatever and Prof. Mills a Fante. President Mahama outdid Akufo-Addo at Election 2012 because of many factors, none of which is his Northern Ghana origin. In office, he is supported by citizens of various ethnic backgrounds. Their performance has nothing to do with ethnic extraction; so, why stoop so low, Martin A.B.K. Amidu?
Ghanaians won’t narrow their electoral decisions to the contestants’ ethnic origin either. That is why Amidu needs to be reminded of why President Mahama shouldn’t be set up as a harbinger of doom for Northerners.If Amidu feels he can do better, let him gird up his loins and join the race for Election 2016. A few pointers for him, though:
First, Ghanaians didn’t put President Mahama in office because he is a Northerner. They did so because he appealed to them more than his political opponents seeking their mandate. He stood tall above them in many ways to warrant his being preferred, even though he was tempted to appeal to sentiments drawing on ethnicity when he appealed to the electorate of Northern Ghana extraction to consider him as their “kin” and vote for. We discussed that issue and agreed that it amounted to doing tribal politics, which is not good for Ghana’s democracy. For Amidu to rehash issues and present them as he did is reprehensible, especially when he lumped everything together to make Northerners a homogeneous entity as he characterized them (“Northerners are largely perceived to be straightforward, truthful, honest and incorruptible people”.) How can an intellectual think this way?
Second, President Mahama won the elections because of his government’s ability to present a better agenda for national development than the rival political parties did. No matter what has happened after Election 2012, the truth remains that the government’s agenda hasn’t been abandoned nor has President Mahama failed to perform his constitutionally mandated duties. Nation-building is a collective effort to be led by the fount of authority.
What Amidu doesn’t know is that in the governments that he was appointed to high office, the very issues prompting him to vilify President Mahama existed. When he was the PNDC Regional Secretary for the Upper East Region, there was much poverty and despondency among the people. When he served as Deputy Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, justice delivery in Ghana was as poor as it is today. What lasting impact did Amidu make on the Upper East Region and Ghana, generally? Being glib of tongue to condemn shouldn’t be mistaken for any concrete accomplishment to enhance living standards of the people.
Third, the NDC’s widespread national appeal cuts across ethnic boundaries, which explains why it is capable of going where its opponents fear to tread because they won’t get the support they need to excel at the polls. Does that national appeal of the NDC have anything to do with the particular ethnic extraction of its flagbearer(s)? No!!
In all these considerations, we cannot rule out the tendency to poison thoughts with this reference to ethnic origin. After all, in a country where tribalism, nepotism, acrimony, and many other vices influence people’s political thoughts, electoral decisions and actions, it cannot be ruled out that references to ethnic origin or nonsensical claims about beauty or stature of the contestant will be made. In Ghana, uninformed people play the tribal card anyhow and go scot-free. It shouldn’t be done by people of Amidu’s type.
Here is my question for Amidu. For the 2000 general elections, he was chosen as the Running Mate for then Vice President Mills. Could he tell us why? Or does he think that he was preferred because he was seen as a Northerner? No other qualification could recommend him as such?
When he went on his regional tours, I happened to see the huge crowds of people who welcomed him and rooted for the NDC. In Cape Coast, for instance, when he visited the Omanhene’s palace, he got overwhelmed by the enthusiastic welcome given him but ended up messing everything up when he took on the late H.Q. Jehu-Appiah (then Deputy Central Regional Minister) for what he considered “a security breach” that exposed his life to danger. What was it?
The team leading him to the Omanhene’s palace got off from the official vehicles and walked across the street near London Bridge to access the entrance to the palace. Amidu felt bad because he expected a stronger security arrangement for him so he won’t have to walk to the palace, exposed to all those gathered there.
Folks, the confrontation was nasty to the point that Amidu threatened to have Jehu-Appiah dismissed from office when he got back to Accra. Knowing he had his feet well-planted in the system, Jehu-Appiah retorted and nerves remained flexed until later when some peace was made. Indeed, Jehu-Appiah even refused to accompany Amidu on other tours.
I raised this issue just to prove that Amidu’s stretching of national politics to the tribal level is despicable and uncharacteristic of the kind of public figure that he is. If those of his stature can stoop so low, what can’t others below them not do to endanger national politics? Too bad.
I can infer from his gaffe that he is more than embittered by what will eventually eat him up. Amidu comes across as too puffed-up, regarding himself as more qualified to be what President Mahama is. He needs go no further to know that President Mahama rightly earned the respect of voters. Amidu must be reminded that when the voters rejected him and ex-President Mills at Election 2000, they taught them (and Amidu, especially) a bitter lesson that hasn’t been learnt so far. It was the same thing they did to the NPP’s Akufo-Addo at Elections 2008 and 2012, which has nothing to do with ethnicity.
I want to urge Amidu to tread cautiously because his kind of squalid politics won’t fetch him or Ghana anything worthwhile. I will urge him to retrace his own steps as a politician and see the ugly traces that he left behind, not because he is a Northerner but because he is a fallible human being.
The challenges facing the Mahama-led administration are known; and what the government is doing or not doing to tackle them are also known. President Mahama isn’t in office on account of his being a Northerner to pave the way for fellow Northerners to be made Ghana’s President. He is in office at the will and behest of the electorate, based on what he is worth as a Ghanaian politician. If he appeals to the electorate, they will retain him in office to prove to Amidu that Ghanaians are wiser than he is. Comments of the sort that he has made are borne out by nothing but spite. I will pause here with a piece of my mind for him: A bitter heart eats its owner!!
I shall return…
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