By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Sunday, September 4, 2011
As he intensifies his public appearances to catch the eye (and sympathy) of the electorate, the NPP’s Akufo-Addo continues to confirm claims by his detractors that he has nothing new to offer Ghanaians and doesn’t deserve the Presidency that he is craving for. Indeed, it has been bandied about that he has nothing to recommend him for that high office. He seems to be setting himself up for unpleasant times waiting for him at the end of his vote-seeking campaigns.
Even though the main season for seeking the consent of the electorate is not yet here, Akufo-Addo has found refuge in the early bird catching the worm syndrome. He has set off on his electioneering campaign trail, visiting some parts of the country to “listen” to the people.
In his pre-season preliminary contacts with the electorate, Akufo-Addo has already provoked unfavourable reaction to his lack of substance and indecent desperation for power. I have taken him on for indulging in the very promise-making campaign that he had condemned earlier. Like a run-away horse, he is now gone haywire, making wild promises left and right as if he is out of touch with the reality that Ghanaians have come to know about their politicians and the promises they make in search of mandate.
Here is the latest of his vote-poaching move based on promises when he addressed traders and drivers in some communities in the Akuapem South Municipality as part of his tour of the Eastern Region:
• He said that when (Shouldn’t it be IF?) voted into power, he will ensure that gas and fuel prices become stable in the country.
• He also promised to build more decent markets where traders will be saved from the rains and the heat of the sun, provide good roads and extend the health insurance program to every citizen.
• He asked the youth to vote for him in the 2012 election to enable him make education free for them.
• He also appealed to the farmers in the area to vote for him to make extension services and farming inputs such as fertilizers easily available to them.
Four wild promises in just one breath!! Stabilize gas and fuel prices in the country? And this is just the tip of the huge iceberg of fly-blown promises that lies under his campaign agenda.
Akufo-Addo is already on a slippery path and risks losing his balance and bearings unless some level-headed members of the NPP rein him in. The path he has chosen to tread is worn out; it has already caused some politicians to lose sleep as the 2012 election approaches. Public confidence and trust for them have flown out of the window.
Will Akufo-Addo not be wise enough to learn anything from what has befallen those before him (President Mills currently) to do better than base his campaign on promises? Why has he chosen to go that same way this early in the search for sympathy among voters, anyway?
To me, what he has begun doing—even going against his own assertion to base his campaigns on only policies and programmes—gives him away as a really desperate person who has nothing new to offer Ghanaians but is at pains to acknowledge it. He has chosen to hide behind empty promises, which will not appeal to those who have already become disillusioned at the politics of promise-making.
The quick reference to President Mills’ failure to fulfill his electioneering campaign promises and the threat to “punish” him at the 2012 elections clearly show that the voters have become so politically conscious as not to allow themselves to be hoodwinked by cunning politicians of Akufo-Addo’s type who think that they can sail through easily to victory by making the kinds of sweeping promises that we have begun hearing from him.
Of course, there are still many gullible people who will be carried away by such promises, lose their hold on themselves, and enter the ballot booth with nothing in mind but to vote for the one making the sweetest promise as Akufo-Addo is doing now. But it won’t take long for them to lose tempers.
The danger for him is that those who have no desire to root for promise makers will turn away from a politician of this sort who, knowing very well how impossible it is for him to fulfill those sugar-coated promises, will still want to take the people for granted and attempt currying favour with promises.
Akufo-Addo particularly has an arduous task on hand. Apart from the challenges that promise-making will pose for him in many respects, he will have to counteract the danger that President Mills’ failure to fulfill his part of the electioneering campaign promises has caused, which makes it now unappealing for anybody to want to base his electioneering campaign on promise-making. Now that the people know how sly the politicians are in terms of their promises, they will be least prepared to be hoodwinked.
Akufo-Addo will have it tough getting his campaign message to sink if all he is doing is going about making promises. The people know that such promises are mere ploys to get their mandate and will not buy into them. For Akufo-Addo to win their hearts, he will have a lot to do.
Here is where his personal public image comes in to add to his woes. From all that has been circulating in the public domain about him, it is clear that he is one candidate with many hurdles to jump. Putting aside the never-ending allegation of drug use against him, there are other problems such as his perceived arrogance and poor performance under the Kufuor government.
Those who know him very well on this score will not be persuaded that he is the one to galvanize the people to solve the country’s problems. To his detractors, he is simply not well-cut-out to be a President. His darker side far outweighs his lighter side (which is that he is a human rights activist and has spent 30 years on Ghana’s political landscape, making him a household name; but his questionable traits overshadow such claims).
Ghanaian politicians have used promise-making and rabble-rousing in various ways, which is what Akufo-Addo is doing in contemporary times. Kwame Nkrumah set it all off with his audacious statement to the white colonialists that “the black man is capable of managing his own affairs.” After many years now, is that statement confirmed? Why is it that our people are poorer now and living in narrow circumstances if we’ve been managing our affairs properly?
Nkrumah’s successors also had their own aspects of what might be understood as promises. The National Liberation Council might have “liberated” those who felt oppressed under Nkrumah; but the records don’t really confirm that it liberated or solved Ghana’s problems. Promise of national liberation gone wild?
Then, Dr. Busia stepped in with his Progress Party’s manifesto. I commend that administration for its rural development programme, which laid the foundation for what Rawlings was to capitalize on to establish development projects that earned him the support of those in rural areas.
Acheampong and his National Redemption Council ended up redeeming themselves, their girlfriends, and cronies but not Ghana. Promise of national redemption ditched the country instead!
Bring in Rawlings and you will wonder whether his suicidal statement really justifies his continued looming presence on the Ghanaian political scene. He had promised to give Ghana what others before him couldn’t, challenging Ghanaians with his statement on 31st December, 1981: “I am prepared to face the firing squad if Ghanaians don’t like what I have come to do for them for the second time.”
He might have done a lot but couldn’t take the country out of the woods. That’s why sustaining his legacy under the Mills-led government has become a thorny issue, especially viewed against the background of Mills’ own numerous electioneering campaign promises and the challenges that are making it difficult for him to fulfill them. The promises have only become an albatross choking him!
The Kufuor government lies in-between the Busia agenda and Rawlings’ development project-oriented approach to governance. We can all tell what Kufuor did and which of his promises he couldn’t fulfill before leaving office and why.
Thus, for Akufo-Addo to deceive himself that making promises will win the day for him puzzles me. Is he so desperate for power as not to know that promise-making is nothing now but a big trap for the one using it as his trump-card in this electioneering process? Or is he rather a daft politician? Or just being plain mischievous?
I leave him to his own fate in the end; but I want to stick my neck out here to say that if he goes about making all these high-sounding promises, he will be setting the stage for an unpleasant encounter with the electorate. He will have a rude awakening when it will be rather too late for him to make amends.
When the dust settles, it should be clear to him that Ghanaians are wiser than what he is taking them for. If, indeed, he succeeds in swaying voters with his promises, he will not escape the haranguing that will be unleashed when the promises fail to materialize. He is not telling us anything about how he will generate the revenue to fulfill all these promises, which reduces him to a pitiable miscalculating opportunist.