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Opinions Wed, 8 Jan 2014

Assessing Mahama’s first year

Orangeburg, SC

8TH January, 2014

In an event grandly titled “ONE YEAR OF RESPONSIBLE, TRANSPARENT and ACCOUNTABLE GOVERNANCE”, the President has reviewed his first year in office. In reality, this Presidency has lasted more than a year. The rather boastful title would make Squealer of “Animal Farm” proud of the brazenness of the President’s communication team. In honestly appraising this government, words like “responsible”, “transparent” and “accountable” do not readily come to mind. One thinks of their opposites—like ‘irresponsible”, “obtuse”, “unaccountable” and tafrakye, “corrupt”.

Let’s begin with the media, who shared the limelight with the President. The questions were generally better than the answers and the media were having a good day until the President of the GJA, A. Monney stepped in. According to media reports, he said, “This is not propaganda, all of us know where we vote but without using a partisan lens, I think he did extremely well so I will give him an “A”.” The report continued “He (Monney) said the President was on top of issues and showed a depth of knowledge and mastery in answering questions posed by the media.” Unfortunately for the GJA President, the story continued, “The GJA President found it intriguing how President Mahama was candid with journalists when he did not have any idea about the subject in question.” Now how was he on top of issues when he did not have any idea of some subjects? Indeed, to buttress the point that the President was uninformed about some issues, Alhaji Bature excused the President’s ignorance on cocoa farmers bonuses by pleading that he had been standing for too long!!

In the interest of brevity, let us focus on just a few of the issues the President attempted to address. Responding to a question about Merchant Bank, he denied using executive power to stall attempts by Merchant Bank to recover a loan granted Engineers and Planners and insisted that no conflict of interest situation arose. The President stated that, “I have no interest in Engineers and Planners and I don’t own a single share in E and P….. The President (Mills) called a meeting which I attended, to discuss the distress in which Merchant Bank was…. E and P happened to be owned by my younger brother, Ibrahim and so I sat in that meeting.” He went on to say that “out of that meeting, no intervention was made to direct Merchant Bank to do anything.” Wow!!! Mr. President, you did and do have an interest in E and P and that interest is your brother, Ibrahim. An intervention was made and that intervention, Sir, was the meeting. That singular meeting illustrates the culture of impunity amongst our governing classes and the glaring blind-spot about conflict of interest. Mr. President, you should never have been at a meeting called to brow-beat a bank and prevent it from collecting a debt from a company owned by your brother. Your continuing defense of this lapse is more worrying than the lapse. That your aides would permit you to attend the meeting and continue to let you defend that indefensible conduct distresses many Ghanaians. Dr. Kpessah Whyte’s defense of this episode was embarrassing. Nobody has thrown mud in this case. The President waded into the mud and has continued to stay in the mud on his own.

When asked about what his administration was doing about the suffering of Ghanaians, the President resorted to an analogy that was confusing. Said the President, “If you are the head of a family and you are the breadwinner and you find yourself in a situation where, what in economic terms you call a deficit, what it means is that your expenditure exceeds your income—what is going to happen to your family? You will get into debts and your family is probably going to end up in prison. And so, what you need to do is to take some measures that will include sacrifices.” Up to this point, on this question, even I was about to join Monney’s “A”—giving. Then there was --- nothing except platitudes. Of course, to take on the President’s analogy, the head of a family would not take off for a luxury vacation just after asking the other members of the family to make sacrifices. If I did that, my son Kofi would call me out on it. The head of the family must lead by sacrificing more than the other members of the family.

Finally, when asked about energy, the President said, “I am not saying that anybody should celebrate us for solving the energy crisis.” Then after rambling for a bit he concluded, “And so I accept that we have an energy crisis and I must do something about it. I can blame previous governments and I am doing something about it. That’s all and I don’t expect to be praised for that.” I was wondering whether “dum-so-dum-so” had ended till he admitted we still had a crisis. Now who are the previous governments? The Rawlings government? The Mills government? He was part of both so the President does not appear credible when he talks about dereliction of duty by previous governments.

The sum of these parts is that the President does not deserve a passing grade—let alone honours. However, if this were a soccer game, we would be in the first half of the first half. There is a lot of game left to be played and the President can recover. So those who are writing him off are as wrong as those already proclaiming his re-election. Those already proclaiming the NPP’s victory in 2016 and measuring the drapes of Jubilee House are unwisely ignoring the lessons of history. In 2009, there were defiant declarations of “We will be back” and “Winning 2012 by all means” and that ended in another defeat. We are hearing the same empty slogans again. There is a lot of time between now and 2016 and that is good news for both the President and his party, the NDC as well as the opposition NPP. For the President, it means there is time to turn things around. For the NPP, it means even more. While the President has failed, it is hard to see the NPP as a party ready to govern. It is divided, demoralized and doing little to inspire the suffering masses and to feel their pain. In the next three years, if the NPP heals its divisions, learns the painful lessons of defeat and finds its voice as the voice of the masses and the party of new ideas, new attitudes and new leadership, it will be worthy of victory and it will get victory.

Let us move forward—together.

Arthur Kobina Kennedy

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina