Book Review: A Nation in Denial or was it a Better Ghana?

Wed, 28 Nov 2012 Source: Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

In a ‘ A Nation in Denial or was it a Better Ghana’ the writer Asare Adei has taken on the personal task of examining the NDC’s claims of achievement during their last four years in office and his conclusions are self-evident in the book’s sub-title; ‘Criticising the performance of a rather loud government that scored itself extremely high marks’.

The book sets out to record some of the main political events of the last four years and to document this era so that we can see the actions of the current NDC government in sharp perspective. It is a layman’s contemporary history that helps us to analyse the times we are living in and to examine the very large gap between the government’s claims and the reality of life for Ghanaians. There are well-researched chapters on all the main policy issues affecting Ghanaians such as the Economy, Employment, Education, Health and Housing and Sanitation. ‘A Nation in Denial, or was it a Better Ghana’ is ultimately a scorecard on the NDC’s policies and its much touted achievements and from the very start of the book you can tell that the Mills-Mahama government have failed the assessment. As Asare Adei writes in the preface, ‘the regime should go down in history as one of the worst we ever had, in spite of vast opportunities it had to better the lot of Ghanaians’

Asare Adei, however, did not start out with this grim assessment of the NDC; when the party narrowly won the 2008 election he along with many other Ghanaians had great hopes for the administration. He thought that John Evans Atta Mills was a decent man of integrity who would try to stamp out corruption. But those early hopes for the NDC government were soon dashed as a long list of corruption issues unfolded from the Mabey and Johnson scandal, Muntaka’s per diem issue, the tea budget case, Stan Dogbe’s budget education saga all the way down to the questionable, gargantuan judgement debts. The writer was not alone in his disappointment in the NDC even the party’s founder JJ Rawlings claims the party is riddled with corruption.

The writer bravely takes on a government that is increasingly intolerant of any criticism and which automatically sends its attack dogs out on anyone who tries question their record or to raise important issues. Whether you are a respected man of God or an independent think-tank you will be vilified if you point out any of the NDC’s many shortcomings, propaganda tactics or lies. But Asare Adei is determined, as a writer and as an ordinary, well-meaning citizen, to hold a magnifying glass up to the NDC so that the nation can assess where its government has gone wrong.

Alongside the many corruption issues that have blighted the body politic over the last four years the period has also been marked by the NDC government loudly trumpeting socio-economic achievements which it claims are unprecedented in Ghana’s history. This message is churned out relentlessly by the NDC’s large propaganda department and for the writer that means ‘we were saddled a government that was run more by mouth than by actions, as the NDC sought to sought to retain power through propaganda rather than good governance.” (page 26) And for nearly four years, ‘ the Mills- Mahama government praised itself as the best government par excellence. Key members mounted platforms and moved from one media house to another, throwing lofty statistics around as indicators of their ‘ unprecedented achievements’…with such vaunts from the government, one would think that Ghana was a paradise of some sort.’ (page 23)

He gives many instances of the government’s false claims of having achieved development when in reality little has been accomplished. For example, in the chapter on Sanitation and Beautification, the writer examines the NDC’s promise that it would clean up the country within 100 days of taking office. At the time Asare Adei had the impression that ‘when the Mills-Mahama government declared that we were going to have a clean country within its first hundred days in power, I thought they had it all planned out, and that we were immediately going to see them roll out a programme to that effect. But by their poor performance, you and I can testify that they never had any plan whatsoever when they made those wild claims; it was just political talk; it was a sham.”(page 62). In spite of the overwhelming evidence that very little cleaning had been done NDC apparatchiks went from radio station to radio station claiming they had turned Accra into some kind of nirvana. For Asare Adei this constant praising of themselves over non-existent achievements means ‘the Mills Mahama government spent more time thinking how to deceive Ghanaians rather than planning how to develop Ghana.’ (Page 109) and in addition whilst the NDC government of 2009-2012 called itself social democrat, it did little in the social front, but the worst of all it did not even realise it.

The reason he believes for this stark contrast between the party’s claims and the reality of government under-performance is that the NDC is suffering from an unhealthy psychological condition called denial. This syndrome, identified by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, is when a patient is unable to accept uncomfortable facts about themselves even in face of overwhelming evidence. Such a patient cannot face up to reality but instead they blame others for their predicament. So if the NDC is in denial then maybe it actually believes its own propaganda, such as claiming to have eliminated 1,700 schools-under-trees, because denial means you lie over and over again until eventually you believe your own lies. In order to protect and comfort themselves the denier then insists that anyone who does not believe their falsehoods are in the wrong and any opinion that is different than theirs has to be attacked and crushed. Thus ultimately the NDC can only hope to heal itself of this sickness when it starts to face up to the truth about its own corruption and its lack of achievements.

This is very interesting and extremely plausible theory and the book ‘A Nation in Denial’ serves to provide a sharp lens on the current NDC administration for future generations but for sake of Ghana we have to hope that the 2012 electorate can see through the mountains of propaganda and take a clear view on Ghana’s reality. As Asare Adei says ‘The practice where public officers score themselves high marks, when a large majority of us do not even have water to drink, and huge numbers of our children roam about uneducated, must stop by all means.’(page 32) .

Columnist: Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK