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Opinions of Sunday, 11 January 2009

Columnist: Afreh, Manu Bernard

President Atta Mills: The man of the people.

It was the type of news the whole world hardly expected from an African country. An opposition party had unseated a government by a small margin of votes. We thank the Almighty Father for his mercies and the electorates for trooping out to exercise their civic responsibility at the valley of decision. A lot of thanks also to the Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Afari Gyan, for showing that he is, indeed, an unwavering defender of democracy. In spite of unrestrained behaviours from some people coupled with multiple voting in some areas, all observers were unanimous in their assertions: ‘The election was free, fair and transparent’. It is no wonder then that an African brother, who was completely amazed at how Ghanaians exuded calm demeanour at the polls, remarked: ‘You guys must be learning civics in your schools.’

If there is anyone who, before ascending a presidential seat, drank the very dregs of the agonizing chalice, then it is Prof. Atta Mills. At the grounds of the Independence Square where he swore the oath of allegiance, and enunciated his vision of the future, you easily perceive that he is geared up for the task ahead. In fact, it is not often that you have a politician never losing vigour in the face of two consecutive defeats. But that is vintage Atta Mills. The newly elected president must therefore go down in the history of the nation’s politics as the most serial victor. The harder his opponents came, the harder they fell- from one forum to the other, he floored them but they still continued to come forward for more and harder humiliation. A devout Christian that the president is, I am sure he must have encouraged himself with the texts in the Holy Bible.

The president, we all know, is humble and a captain of his own soul. He is peerless in every sense of the word. And there is one thing that has endeared him to the populace: In all of the years in opposition, you never saw or heard him throw verbal firecrackers at anyone. Even in the face of hateful words, he did not utter a single syllable, let alone a concise word.

As one problem triggered another and the nation gripped by apprehension, the immediate past president, John Kufour, came out boldly to say he would uphold the tenets of democracy, and follow due process, much to the displeasure of his party members. I believe golden crowns should, therefore, be reserved for such act of bravery.

I know there is no party, no matter how stifling, which does not have people who would challenge orthodoxy of the present. But I never thought it would assume a dimension where a party chairman, so hungry for power, would threaten to force an electoral process to its illegitimate knees. For rushing to the legal arena to help rearrange the sitting order in a sinking Titanic, the NPP exposed to the whole world that it has been consumed by an idée fixe: To cling to power whether the electorates liked it or not. Have the NPP forgotten that it is the Almighty God who anoints a ‘king’? This explains why the decision to foist their candidate on Ghanaians crashed! What is more, to keen observers of the political interplays, it would have been unfair if the NPP had won the last elections. For at a time when Atta Mills was said to have immersed himself in a door-to-door campaign, 17 NPP party men, jostling for power, were busy dishing out monies like confetti (campaign expenses in the neighbourhood of $450,000). I hope the NPP takes a leaf out of the NDC’s book.

Now that the electorates have given the mandate to His Excellency, John Atta Mills to lead the nation, I hope the president would put to shame critics who said he would surrender the instruments and faculties of the presidency to someone. In these times that try men’s souls(apologies to Thomas Paine), Atta Mills should tread cautiously, keeping in mind that his traducers are all over the place, waiting endlessly, to celebrate his misfortune- God forbid-with plenty of guffaws and haw-haws. ‘Mother Ghana’ is indeed confronted with a myriad of problems. But no other thing has been known to hobble the success of our nation than that hydra-headed demon called Corruption. I pray the Lord would help the president root out corruption, and, more especially, illicit drugs.

This surely must be a season of celebration for supporters of the NDC. Sadly, thanks to the nerve-racking sentiments of phony patriots and doomsayers, the nation is being polarized along ethnic lines. In the light of this, as the supporters enjoy themselves in a gleeful carnival amid corks popping off bottles of choice wine, I beg of them not to attack their political brothers on the other divide. We are one nation, one people, with a common destiny, no matter our political differences.

The race to the Jubilee House was tough, heart-stopping and full of intrigues. Nevertheless, only one victor emerged. And by God’s grace, whether antagonists love it or hate it, Atta Mills has been anointed as the president. But then, questions have begun to form in my mind. What would those who, in their wildest and crooked imaginations, wish death for Atta Mills now do? Would they now beg for forgiveness or allow nemesis beat them into submission? What about those false prophets who said he (‘Asodwehene’) was born a loser? What about those armchair critics who, from their American suburbia, spewed hot air and threw irrelevant darts at him?

Even though Atta Mills’ credentials as a God-fearing leader are already well known, I hope he would not lend himself to the shameful enterprise of witch-hunting and selective justice. I hope he would bridge the gap between the north and south of the nation in terms of infrastructure. I hope he would strengthen poverty-alleviation programs like LEAP (Livelihood Empowerment Alleviation Program), School Feeding, National Health Insurance. As a former educationist, I am sure he would transform the educational sector to save the nation from churning out half-baked graduates who learn by rote. I hope the nation would become the ‘Better Ghana’ he promised.

I listened to ex-president Kufour’s final State of the Nation Address. His submission was quite reconciliatory and insightful. His suggestion of having to repeal the law that mandates most ministers be chosen from the legislature is good. He goes on to talk, among other things, about an extension of the president’s tenure! After long years under the jackboots of dictatorial regimes, I think any move, by any party, to extend the tenure of presidents from 4 to 5years, as suggested by Kufour, would be more or less a political suicide. Now, with no party having a clear-cut majority in parliament as well as a thoroughbred leader at the driver’s seat, I believe it is a wonderful opportunity for the nation to rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes. The destiny is in our hands! Afreh Manu Bernard