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Opinions of Thursday, 2 January 2014

Columnist: Mohammed, Umar Najeeb

Myopic Thinking: The Most of US

They are disingenuous. Look around you. I mean you, and the one next to you.
The average Ghanaian has a very short memory; too short to remember to reward righteous politicians or punish unrighteous politicians. Blame him/her not. It’s neither her duty nor her fault that she can’t remember politicians’ political records. For peace sake, she has job responsibilities, family obligations, and personal life to take care of. Hence, it’s no surprise if she can’t follow what her elected officials’ promised her or what they have actually achieved while in office.
The NDC understands that mentality and exploit it accordingly.
Few weeks ago, President Mahama grumbled about the lack of any appreciation from the Ghanaian people for ‘fixing’ the load shedding crisis. But my friends from the NPP ‘run’ to the defense of the good people of Ghana from the President’s ‘insult. I beg to defer. President Mahama was half-wrong and half-right.
Let us reason together.
In truth, the President promised to end the load shedding crises but deserve no appreciation for fixing it. It’s like MTN causing disruption to customers phone calls because the cost for raw materials has increased, increase the price per minute cost, bring back uninterrupted service after the increase price, and then demand that Ghanaians MUST thank them for restored service. I agree. That is insane and irritating. Ok. Think through the load shedding crisis Ghanaians went through under the caring socialist minded NDC. Social Democracy indeed!
In other ways, the President was right—Ghanaians are ungrateful because they have short memory. The NDC government, today, banks on that to secure political victories but care little on the suffering of the Ghanaian population. Knowingly or unknowingly, the government has being working very hard for the past five years to worsen the economic plight of the average Ghanaian. The government is indiscriminate on inflicting pain on the average Ghanaian. Be she NPP or NDC or any political party member. The government is on a destruction spree to end the Ghanaian safety net as we know it. Let’s get concrete and do the numbers.
Ghanaians, including myself, were sold on lies and deceits by the NDC in 2008. They empathized with us. They seem to have solutions to all the problems we were facing. We couldn’t wait to see them come to power, as a result, we entrusted the NDC with our mandate to govern our beloved nation. Four years later, in 2012, we couldn’t look on to a single national policy that has or will reduce the suffering of Ghanaians. If anything, they compounded the suffering. The ordinary Ghanaian lost hope. Workers were not paid on time. The property owning democracy (known to the rest of the world as capitalism) of the NPP was despise by the NDC and replaced with crony capitalism—with the president lobbying for his brother on loan terms etc. The least mention of corruption (i.e. day light theft from the “I care for you” NDC) the better—from Wayome to GYEEDA . And almost every policy initiative the people were promised has failed—from SADA to STX housing. To an independent observer, the NDC was a classic example of a spectacular government failure. Everything seems like Nana Akufo-Addo had already won a landslide victory in 2012. But then, the NDC realized the forgetful nature of the Ghanaian voter and exploited it to its advantage. School children were given laptops, while hundreds of schools were still under trees. The nation was lectured on the importance of these laptops to the Ghanaian student.
Despite the fact that the first Mills/Mahama government were marred with corruption and zero achievement (aka the do-nothing government), almost half of the population voted for laptops and gifts right now and pain in the future, instead of Nana Addo well thought and practical solutions to improve their lives in the near future. Legitimate or illegitimate, the NDC became victors of the 2012 elections.
The 2012 election outcome is in complete agreement with what President Mahama said, that is, Ghanaians have short memory. First translation: it matters not how you rule over the four year mandate. What matters is how you rule few (three) months leading up to the election. Second translation: the past is forgotten, the present is important, and the future is unimportant.
Both translations are iron laws imbedded in science.
Take the first translation for instance. Political scientists who have studied how election are won conclude that elections are won not by how well the government performs over the four year mandate but by how well the government performs few months to the elections. Here are some facts to prove that: The unemployment numbers in America went up during President Ronald Reagan first term in office from 7.5% 10.8 % by 1983. But started falling in the months leading up to the elections, and was 7.4% on Election Day; and coupled with the Iran hostage crisis, President Reagan won 49 out of 50 states. This and many examples all over the world confirm President Mahama’s claim that the electorates have short memory.
The second translation, for instance; has the backing of behavioral economics. Economists who study consumer behavior conclude that people care more about present satisfaction; less about future satisfaction, and the past satisfaction is not even on their radar anymore. That is why people will generally accept smaller pleasures today even if it will bring higher pains tomorrow. That is why people will generally consume more today (aka spend more today) even if that means less consumption tomorrow (aka less retirements). That is why voters only think about what you do for them today when they vote today, what you did yesterday is superfluous, and what you will do in the future is a non-pressing need. The technical term for that behavior is called discounted consumption. And nobody understands this better than President Mahama, his political advisers and the NDC propaganda machine.
The Mahama government has maximized this flaw (the short memory of the voter) to maximize its loot and share strategy and minimize opportunities for the average Ghanaian. For instance, teacher training allowance was a reliable means to move poor families out of abject poverty in to the middle class. For a very long time, especially but not limited to the North, children of poor families depended on teacher training colleges allowance to pay their way through college, graduate to become teachers with secure jobs. Some of them later proceed to universities to further their education, and return to teach or do something else with their lives. Thanks to a social democratic NDC, teacher training allowance now belongs to the good old days. Nursing training allowance is next. Or so we have been put on notice. Continuous increase in prices of essential public services such as electricity bills, water bills, and surprise VAT tax increases are now the new norms. Waking up to be told that we have been denied of some benefits we have come to expect our government to use our taxes to provide is no longer news, it’s how the Mahama administration roll in Ghana.
If the late Mills government was the do-nothing government, then the Mahama government has definitely earn the title of the deny-everything government.
Nana Addo and the NPP must not rejoice over the deny-everything government failed policies and promises because those don’t matter that much. Come 2016, the people will forget about all what they have been denied. The President can and will exploit the forgetfulness of the Ghanaian voter again. Maybe, by bringing back Charismas Pampers or bringing back the 2012 laptop program, and maybe dole out some cash covertly, or do something new to make the race competitive. Nana Addo and the NPP must learn to accept that the Ghanaian voter has short memory and work with it to win 2016 elections to bring back hope and prosperity for all.
Happy holidays!

The views expressed here are solely that of Umar Najeeb Mohammed, a Ghana student in the USA. He can be reached at or through