Blame President Kufuor for Akufo-Addo's Political Demise!

Fri, 2 Jan 2009 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

After having garnered 102,805 more votes than John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) during Round One of Election 2008 on December 7, 2008, the National Patriotic Party’s (NPP) Nana Akufo-Addo was, for all intents and purposes, simply going to execute the coup de grâce on December 28, 2008 and confer on John Atta Mills the title of “Perpetual NDC Candidate for President.” Sadly, Ghanaian voters had their own ideas, at least that is what the pundits and the numbers have indicated so far, but I will boldly and unapologetically assign the blame for Akufo-Addo’s not-so-shocking defeat to the sitting president, John Kufuor. I will explain my reasons shortly.

While incumbency is no yardstick for success in a presidential election, it is a huge advantage if policies by the ruling administration were properly tailored to the needs of the majority of the citizenry. In effect, for incumbency to work on behalf of a party’s new candidate, the party itself must have favorable ratings among voters. Thus, most political analysts in the U.S.A., prior to that country’s 2008 presidential election, had predicted a win for the Democratic Party, irrespective of who it fielded as presidential candidate, since the American people had been ? and still are ? extremely unhappy about the nation’s economic downturn, which many blamed on George Bush’s myopic foreign policy, resulting in the U.S.A. spending 10 billion dollars a month in Iraq, even while American citizens at home could not afford basic health care and could not send their sons and daughters to college because of prohibitive tuition costs, along with a litany of others problems that had left the U.S. population embittered, disillusioned and despondent. Thus, John McCain was probably doomed at the outset of the U.S. presidential election campaign! Similarly, Nana Akufo-Addo had been a victim of what I refer to as the burden of incumbency.

Although Nana Akufo-Addo is quite popular among Ghanaian voters, he faced enormous obstacles at the outset in his quest for the presidency because of many of John Kufuor’s policies. For example, the NPP has never been able to, dating back to 1992, make significant inroads in the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions, so it was extremely disappointing for many NPP aficionados when John Kufuor, even while he had a golden opportunity to break the throttlehold of the NDC in these regions (remember the floods of 2007?), decided to travel abroad instead of visiting and conferring with leaders in these regions! If there was a reason for our brothers and sisters in these northern regions to believe that John Kufuor did not care about them, this was it! Alas, Akuffo-Addo has suffered defeat because of the “sins” of John Kufuor! The lesson here for all politicians is that voters, the people with the real power for change, do not forget when they receive abysmal treatment!

While John Kufuor’s underlings tried futilely to elucidate the president’s absence during the floods, the irreparable damage had already been done, for there is a marked difference between the president going to these regions himself and sending emissaries from the presidency! In fact, had the NPP chosen Aliu Mahama, the sitting vice-president, as its flag-bearer in Election 2008, even Aliu Mahama’s candidacy would not have made any significant difference, his ancestral links with the north of the country notwithstanding! Concerning John Kufuor’s aforementioned gaffe and how I interpreted it back then, below is an excerpt from one of my articles, titled “Credibility: An Essential Presidential Quality,” which I got published on ghanaweb.com on September 21, 2007:

“In all fairness to the president, he has visited the devastated region (see the Ghanaweb.com article of September 15, 2007, titled ‘Floods wreck havoc across Africa – Ghana Hit Hard!’), but why will the leader of the nation fly out of the country when a state of emergency is presently in effect to help better manage the conditions on the ground in the three northern regions? While President Kufuor has vowed that ‘the government would mobilize resources to restore roads, bridges and other infrastructure destroyed by the floods,’ nothing could have enhanced his credibility ? the goodwill would certainly have benefited those in his party eager to succeed him ? more than if he had stayed behind and actually toured the affected areas a few more times.”

“Should the presidency go to the National Democratic Congress in December 2008, this faux pas would have contributed in a large measure to the ‘baton changing hands,’ as the impression has now been created that this president and his cronies do not care about the very people whose votes his party will attempt to garner!” Call me a soothsayer or prognosticator if you want, but my position at the time was based on common sense!

During his presidency, John Kufuor upheld the rule of law, encouraged freedom of speech, promoted freedom of association, and created an enabling environment for small businesses (these are the true engines of economic growth!) to flourish. On the contrary, John Kufuor did not effectively and continually exploit the political goodwill Ghanaians had conferred on the sitting president and his party in early 2001, and by December 2004, when John Kufuor was re-elected, people had begun to seriously complain about the general direction the president was taking the country. Add a few bad decisions by President Kufuor to the equation, such as the re-appointment of Richard Anane (a minister of state who squandered the nation’s meager resources over a dalliance, or tryst) and the conferral of medals on largely undeserving recipients and one understood why voters collectively changed course in Election 2008!

Akufo-Addo is an honorable man but he was unlucky to have sought the presidency on the platform of a political party that had lost all of its post-2001 goodwill. John Atta Mills is also an honorable man, a very honorable man, and his patience has finally paid off ? he will be our next president! While Jerry Rawlings’ association with Atta Mills may have had its negative connotations for the NDC as far as Election 2008 was concerned, John Kufuor’s apathy towards Nana Akufo-Addo’s electioneering campaign was even worse, as it sent the wrong message to voters about what the president thought about his party’s current presidential candidate. How accurate is the aphorism that “actions speak louder than words!”

Although I sympathize with Akufo-Addo for losing this election ? Tain constituency will not deliver the required votes that Akufo-Addo needs to overtake Atta Mills! ? I blame his loss on the gross exaggeration of his party’s strength among voters as well. Whereas many had expected Nana Akufo-Addo to make a concession speech on December 30, 2008, I believe he will do so on January 2, 2009, after the results from Tain have become official. I truly hope that the leadership of the NPP will learn some important lessons from Election 2008: Never take anything for granted and learn from your opponents, for while Atta Mills was waging a tedious, door-to-door campaign prior to Election 2008, some leaders in the NPP were mocking the good ol’ professor for his “antiquated,” albeit, effective tactics! So, who is laughing now? With the NPP now confined to life on the fringes of power until 2012, let us all be magnanimous and rally behind the good ol’ professor in the interest of our dear nation, as the incoming administration has a lot of work to do!

Written and submitted January 1, 2009

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.