Opinions Fri, 17 Apr 2009

100 Days In Office: Why President Mills Showed Teeth

‘The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict’ Martin Luther King Jr.

‘‘Asomdwoehene” President Atta Mills tried to get some ‘bitterness’ out of his mind in an address to members of the Ghana Journalist Association when they called on him at the castle a few weeks ago.

‘Certain people think Atta Mills is quiet so he will not apply the laws when there are threats and killings.’ those were some of the statements released by the President, Professor John Evans Atta Mills as he tried to tell the good people of Ghana that he is the good professor whom they elected President of the republic in the last election.

The startling outburst of the President was described by many as needless; others say it was but a wanton release of misdirected venom of malicious intent. whichever way one looks at it and even before I move into making any case about it, I think it is imperative for the President to know that often, one’s utterances and the expressions of your face reveal the secrets of your veiled thoughts.

Whiles the clear essence of the President’s ‘threatening’ statements looked quite unimaginable, a number of possible reasons have been variously assigned by people of different political persuasions.

In the first place, the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) members who have resumed the old practice of defending every indefensible act of the President, are again up on their toes; assigning every good reason to justify each comment made by the President. whereas some of this people try to blame the President’s comments on some recent actions and utterances of the minority by pointing to the press conference held by some minority MPs on the spate of lawlessness and insecurity in parts of the country; others look at the welcome that was accorded the NPP former presidential candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo; as the ‘recent events’ which according to the President imply the establishment of parallel presidency.

In any case, these arguments are quite feeble and indeed absolutely calculated to undermine our democratic credentials or better still, send us back to those days when you dared not challenge any action taken by the president. Does the president need to be peeved when his attention is drawn to the fact that lawlessness was on the ascendancy? If no, was it not a sort of ‘self-contradiction’ when he said that he had directed the law enforcement agencies (who under cherished democratic principles must not wait for a presidential directive to do their work well) to apply the laws to the latter? Do we have no reason to believe that the recent violence in Bawku and Tamale were in the interest of the President since he had not given the go ahead for law enforcement in those areas? These are salient questions for your objective analysis and judgment.

Looking at or pointing to the rosy welcome for Nana Addo as a reason for President Mills’ explosion seemed rather funny and somewhat malicious. Was it wrong that some NPP supporters in their own wisdom chose to welcome Nana Addo at the Airport? Is President Mills interested in being given a flamboyant welcome anytime he returns from any trip abroad, to be regarded as the President of the Republic? My good God! I don’t think this is a good case to be advanced by any well-meaning Ghanaian.

Other people who have commented on the President’s ‘threats’ or ‘warnings’ or whatever you think they were; have opine that it was just a way of telling Ghanaians that he was faced with numerous tussles from within his own party, the NDC.

Former President Rawlings who is seen by many to be ‘remote controlling’ President Mills, has indeed on a number of times tried to endorse this perception by some of his actions such as the call for the immediate withdrawal of the security heads of the former regime; his utterances against the continuous stay in office of the MMDCEs and his call for the revocation of the nomination of Hon Mosses Asaga among others.

The President was said to have made these furious pronouncements to tell Mr. Rawlings that, even though he former President Rawlings was the one who brought him (President Mills) to the limelight of Ghanaian politics; he (President Mills) was the one elected President by the electorate of Ghana. Must the NDCs internal heckle on the good Professor’s Presidency prompt him to misdirect his displeasure? In the same vein, if the President’s patience was over-stretched by issues such as forces from within his own party which were calling for the withdrawal of the Minister for Foreign Affairs; I still do not see any usefulness of his ‘boom’ statements. If President Mills is in anyway trying to make us believe that he is his own man, fair enough but we should by all principles be spared some of his impulses of anger.

There is also, this category of commentators who would somehow coax us to find reasons from the then media publications and comments aimed at assessing the performance of the Mills’ Administration before his 100th day in office. If this is true, I will entreat the President to reflect over the fact that democracy is both a challenge and a promise, it is a challenge because it depends on the citizens’ activism to ensure its continued existence and it is a promise because when we act, we reap the true benefits of living in a free and progressive society.

President Mills would not be very right to think that such a move would be right if it was really designed to silence the media, I don’t want to believe that the good Professor is taking us back to those days when journalists could easily be matched to the castle and given ‘military training’ and ‘haircuts’ for merely speaking their minds. Only within a hundred day period in the Mills led-administration, the tendency to exercise the P/NDC excessive powers is gradually creeping into our political landscape, ‘tofia Kwa’.

The ‘leanness’ debate is still on-going and I like that, the ‘drastic reduction’ in fuel prices that tends out to be hypocritically beneficial to the rich’ and impoverishes the poor is likewise an issue in the media (keep the fire burning); we can’t remain quiet over the issues of witch-hunting and the wanton seizure of cars; comments about which may all have invited the fury of President Mills. Can we ever be boastful as been the bastion of true democracy and the rule of law if we can’t maintain a free and independent press? Ghanaians are better judges of the countless ills of the NDC within these 100 days period.

President Mills in his comments did indicate that recent developments in the country had given him enough cause for anxiety and concern. May I ask which ‘recent events’ the president meant? The best answer I can give will only be a guess, just maybe, a good guess. Was it about Nana Addo’s welcome or the issue of former President Kuffuor’s office? Your guess may be as good as mine.

Members of the opposition New Patriotic Party did also indicate in reaction to the flames from President Mills, that if his comments were projected to threaten the NPP, then he should better re-consider another alternative since this would not work for him.

“I respect civility and politeness and I believe that people have taken my respect for peaceful co-existence as weakness, timidity and inability to act,” the president retorted.

I still remain mystified as I struggle to make meaning out of this part of the President’s speech. Mr. President, would you have brought back the NDC principles of power by beating up your vice or suppressing the media if you did not ‘respect civility and politeness’? Would you have murdered your body guard for refusing to lead a team of military men to attack and brutalize a political opponent? Or would you have suspended the constitution and dealt with ‘the people’?

I think the president’s focus should be on how to deliver on the NDC campaign promises. Yes Professor Mills, you are the President of the Republic of Ghana and no one can take that from you. On the 7th January, 2009 you were the only one who took the presidential oath (even though with some significant amount of difficulty).

As a matter of fact, every Ghanaian irrespective of one’s political affiliation must be working for the prosperity of Ghana in the face of this global credit crunch; President Mills is 100 days in office, hurray! Any way, we may have all come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now.

Our lives begin to end the day we became silent about things that matter.

God bless you

God bless Ghana.




Columnist: Kasuli, Doobia Mahama