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Opinions of Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Columnist: Asante Fordjour

The Casualties of Democracy

So Obama Couldn’t Be US’ First “Black President?”

An Overview of Professor Mills’ Presidency

Asante Fordjour

Some Fantes in the Central Region of Ghana have a proverb which roughly goes like this: “long before the arrival of “Borbor Fantes from ancient Takyiman in the present day Brong Ahafo Region, to their current geographical location, were indeed the Aboriginal Fantes”.

If location rather than genealogy was the determining factor in tracing one’s family tree, then historian William Estabrook Chancellor, might have had it all wrong in the early 1920s when he accused Republican Presidential Candidate Warren Harding Gamaliel of covering up his family’s “coloured” past. Republican Candidate Harding, was said to be a great-grandson of a black woman- a blasphemy that if a remark in the concession speech of the recently-defeated conservative presidential candidate Senator John McCain- vis-à-vis President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of a Negro Booker T., to a Dinner in Washington were to be correctly understood, should have carried not only a baggage of political crucifixion at the time but also, racial shame to those who nicodemously or openly, nurtured it in the United States#.

Notwithstanding this historical racial arms-twisting in the 1920 election that appeared to have been characterized by Trans-Atlantic slave trade, Harding was lucky to win an election that was seen in part as a referendum on whether to continue with President Woodrow Wilson’s “progressive” work- dubbed “New Freedom program of business regulation” or to revert to the “laissez-faire” approach of the William McKinley era. He won ((60% of the popular vote)) against Democratic Ohio Governor- James M. Cox, and was crown 29th President of United States. From this premise, Obama could certainly not go to history as US’ first black president, as most “black writers” made us to believe. Indeed decades since, many biographers, as US’ current political and international relations unfold, have dismissed Harding’s mixed-race family as little more than a political scandal and rumours and discredited. Most American historians and biographers are cautiously suggesting that Democrats approach was nothing less than mudslinger and racist ideologue. “But with the long-denied and now all-but-proved allegations of Thomas Jefferson’s affair with his slave Sally Hemings, they sceptically concede that genealogically, there is still a reason to question Harding’s mixed-race ancestry denials.” But could writers and journalists be trusted in every word? Sierra Leonean writer Karim Bangura may be right in arguing that every election has its own share of myths and perhaps, its own propaganda as we just witnessed in Ghana. According to Bangura, one of the most pernicious of the myths during the recent US presidential election campaign, was that Obama will be the “first Black President” should he win. “Around 10:30 P.M. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday, November 4, 2008, every radio and television station repeated ad nauseam the myth that “America has elected Barack Obama as its first Black President in what is its most unprecedented historic election,” the author added#.

In what appeared to be similar in spirit in Republic of Ghana, Presidential Candidate John Evans Fiifi Atta-Mills- of then main opposition National Democratic Congress P(NDC), was also taunted by his charring supporters that “the Fantes had never been president in Ghana so he must be given a chance”. The Convention Peoples Party’s 2008 presidential flag-bearer- Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, who sees CPP’s defeat as an internal sabotage and lack of funds, which could have been used for effective electioneering campaign, probably attests to this political rumour that nearly corrupted our current democratic trials?

In an interview with Times in Accra, not long ago, Dr Nduom said among others that his chances to be president of our republic was shattered because ((his ethnic)) Fantes decided to vote for Prof. John Evans Atta Mills instead of him. "Fante leaders in the Central, Western, Ashanti and Greater Accra regions called me and told me to allow my senior brother, Professor Mills, to go because he has been in the queue for a long time,’ the CPP presidential candidate, is reported to have forcefully, told the Ghanaian Times. But as Akans, could the learned law professor, who hails partly from Cape Coast and Ekumfi Etuam, in the Central Region of Ghana and Dr Nduom from Edina but born in Tarkwa(?), not trace their mixed-ancestral home to our modern day Brong Ahafo Region?

In terms of infrastructural and human resource development, perhaps, the late President Kwame Nkrumah could not only be seen as the first “Northern president than Dr Hilla Limann- and if we were to be correct, than Mills. Here, on education and personalities that constituted the Nkrumahist Government. Nkrumah appeared in Batakari- a cherished northern outfit in proclaiming Gold Coast’s Independence. He also spoke Fante rather than his native Nzema or the known Akuapem/Asante Twi Language? Col Minyila- a Northerner- is known for the phase lift he gave to Eastern Regional capital- Koforidua.

Applying this to the US’ election, the first answer, per Bangura, is that the media do not know that there had been at least one “Black President” of the United States, if by Black we mean a person with African blood. “This is not a plausible answer, since there are many folk in the media, particularly the Black media, who are well read in African American history. The second answer is that the Black media did not want to dampen the excitement of voters who wanted to be part of an “unprecedented historical event” in electing the “first Black President of the United States” while the White and other media did not want to acknowledge a very important aspect of American history that is Black. This second answer seems the most tenable. “A related question then is… Why did Black professors who know better not step forward and nip the myth in the bud,” he puzzled.

To anyone who tracked the 2008 parliamentary and presidential elections campaign, the condoned ethnocentricities that were hoisted across the country also come as a laughable partisan screed- an amalgam of bizarre ethnic rhetoric, outlandish stereotypes and cheap political insults. While the reader may still be finding it difficult to reconcile the sudden political rebaptism of Ms Grace Omaboe- who contested fiercely on the ticket of NDC as parliamentary candidate in the then Birim North Constituency that we guess, she lost narrowly to Dr Akoto in 2000, the motto: “Adze wo fie oye” to “I will be President for All” and again, the subscription to “I’m free of Drugs”, question the prudence in democracy.

Here in London, while Kuukua could no longer withstand the unjustified generalities being peddled against Fantes and “Uncle Atta Mills”, and for once appearing to have taken a stance in knowing the trends in the Agona Constituencies, in the Central Region, she was dismissive about the idea put up by the former first lady- Mrs Agyeman-Rawlings, at one polling station which captured by OBE TV, that the crucial presidential bid of 2008, was between “a learned professor and a drug addict?” Indeed, some of these worrying accusations which contain a notable trove of political biases- the kind of inter-ethnic gossip and ideological farce that rarely appear in official mouthpiece provide clues to richer insights- the “Fante and Northern/Ewe alliance” had its similarly ugly connotations.

As for example, whilst the then President John Agyekum Kufuor was overheard on one political campaign platform in Medina, questioning the political credence in Candidate Mills’ over-concentration presidential campaign in the Central Region, by surrendering the other regions to his vice- John Mahama, Ex-President Jerry John Rawlings, was reported to have advised Fantes in the Central Region, not to be “subservient to Asante hegemony. In the Volta Region, the military strongman, who ruled Ghana for almost two decades, was alleged to have told his kinsmen” to vote to liberate themselves from being a “fourth-rate” citizen under NPP Administration. Elsewhere, NPP presidential candidate-Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, whom Maame Donkon hyped as “Akyem Big Brother”- was hopeful that Kufuor’s “good works”, will certainly poled him to the Black Star throne.

But Mills saw it differently. Under the heading: “Oil find, God's honour to Nkrumah”, NDC Candidate Atta Mills, the now president of Ghana, who according to Daily Graphic report, was sceptic about Kufuor’s Good Luck omen about the oil find in Ghana, said that the oil find in the Western Region was the making of God to honour the memory and intentions of the nation’s first President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and that his future government would ensure that people from the area benefited first in terms of development before any other area of the country so that the area would have a befitting status as the area that produced the oil and that illustrious son of Ghana. What if one does not hail from minerals or oil-rich area but had been for example, at the forefront of food or even from an intellectual pool? But had it been ok in living in Tarkwa, Obuase, Akwatia or Prestea?

Addressing party supporters at Jomoro, where Samia- the Osagyefo’s daughter had been elected parliamentarian, the Graphic quoted Mills, who complicated his earlier position on national development, by saying that by his training and upbringing, he had come to believe and understand that when resources were being shared, those who had nothing or very little must first be taken care of before the rest, alleged that the NPP had squandered state resources and was looking at the revenue from the oil as another opportunity to amass wealth at the expense of the state and that the people must be wary and vote them out of office. He expressed surprise at the manner Ghanaians exhibited their abhorrence at the arrogant, corrupt, and disrespectful, nature of the NPP The NDC Candidate who according to the report, singled out the Ghana Police Service for their exemplary show of professionalism and "excellent work" throughout the campaign, especially by providing protection for his campaign team and controlling traffic, lamented that after persistent calls, and cries, by Ghanaians especially about the high cost of living, corrupt nature of the NPP government and the need for the Kufuor-led regime to intervene had fallen on deaf ears. The electorates, had therefore, shown that they, were the king makers by voting (indeed) massively against the insensitive NPP Administration? It is almost six months since NDC democratically, captured power from the NPP. Yet it is unclear whether the (100 days?) change that the Prof- a better man for a better Ghana, urged the military, teachers, farmers, nurses and doctors, to come out in their numbers to effect, is at hand. At the time of going to Press, the Mills-led Social Democratic Government- which is said to have some Nrumahist leanings and, backed by Rawlingist economics theory- “ I’m not an economist but if my stomach is empty then I can feel that I’m hungry”, according to Ghana News Agency report (8 May 2009, Ghanaweb), is having talks with the known International Monetary Fund (IMF), to secure a total of at least, one billion dollars of support to prop up our country’s foreign exchange reserves.

On this score, this might have been clear manifestation to the reader that none of our political leadership and indeed, the ideologies that we have today in Ghana, could perhaps, be self-reliant. As part of its effort to measure up to it electoral promise- making Ghana a drug-free zone, the New NDC regime, like its predecessor Kufuor-led NPP, is also here in the UK to solicit the needed traditional push if our country were to triumph, President Atta-Mills and his Deputy Chief of Staff- Alex Segebfia- who told a section of Ghanaians that NDC were not given 100 days mandate but four years, had said here in London. But at which terms and conditions ((express or implied)) this logistic support is going to cover, our learned Mills and Segbefia dismissed direct open questions.

It is the opinion of JusticeGhana that it was not enough for President Mills who told us that he sometimes baffled about some of the news he reads about himself and so we should not believe everything that we read from the media back home, to say he is not here to answer our many questions but has come just to thank us (all?) for supporting or voting him as president? Professor Mills, who wants his stewardship to be judged by the number of lives he positively impacts, said he yearns for “A Better Ghana” built on the “strengths and weaknesses” of his predecessors- in that a nation that does not recognise this worth not dying for. Kufuor instituted the Public Assembly platform- which we think offered both friends and foes, to challenge some his contentious policies and inactions.

So, for a president who once justifiably refused Christmas presents from the presidency in that perhaps, his car was seized without notice while in Church Service by the operatives of the sitting president, but now telling Ghanaians at abroad, to overcome what he described as bitterness and acrimonies that have characterized the outcome of the fiercely contested Parliamentary and Presidential elections, ought to have grab this opportunity to reconcile and probably, on his own feet, clarify these issues, face-to-face.

Indeed, in the face of “global credit crunch, the learned President, who said he is not “super human or God” and mentioned “Brothers and Sisters” several times in his short delivery but said everything is achievable, prayed for Ghanaians abroad for secured jobs so as to be able to remit the needed foreign exchange that the Ghanaian economy badly needed. He promises not only equity and rule of law, but also transparent and honest government- leadership that believes in the improvement of the standard of living of its people through infrastructural expansion and job creation. “I believe in fairness but not selective justice- those who broke the must be brought to justice,” the law professor said. Professor John Fiifi Atta-Mills also is quoted by GNA as emphasising that Ghana could not forever rely on donor hand-outs. “The time has come to look for home-grown solutions, “our team is capable of putting the economy on a strong foundation,” he said.

The fundamentals of Mills’ domestic and foreign policies combined with his recent visits- first to Nigeria, followed by Ivory Coast and more recently, to London, in the judgement of JusticeGhana, illustrate perhaps, the “strengths and weaknesses” of political leadership: in-and-out of government. Unlike Kufuor, who was perhaps, haunted by military destabilization of Busia’s government and therefore, put his brother at the helms of national security, Mills-led government is keen and indeed wary of failure on economic front, so he too has his academically qualified “blood brother” as part of this team. Mills is yet to reduce the taxes on petroleum products, building materials and in the face of falling cedi and, based on how we may define “selective justice”, scatter school uniforms, universities, airports and hospitals, where they may be needed- impossible, we agree.

Yes, it appears like what President Barack Obama is rumoured to have hinted elsewhere in the American media that his election as President should not be seen by “die-hard” from both sides, as “Black and White” affair- but rather, a moment of historical reflection and fairness? By using the words such as: God, superman, brothers, sisters, to overcome bitterness and acrimonies, divisiveness and togetherness, in his speech, President Mills, who said nobody has divine right to rule and while echoing the judicial prudence in pardoning 99 convicts, equally cautioned the dangers of imprisoning one innocent soul, where the crucial evidence is lacking, might have now come to term with Realpolitik

Indeed it is not yet sunset, to evaluate the belief that leadership is demonstrated where the number of lives have been positively influence, JusticeGhana advocates that Mills’ stewardship, would not only be measured on shoe-shine boys, kaya yoos and dog-chain peddlers that get off our highways, but also and yes, as the president disdains selective justice and stands the for rule of law, the number of Trokosi Child-Girls that he sets free.

Asante Fordjour

Credit JusticeGhana.com