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Opinions Wed, 13 Jun 2012

The things that will hurt President Mills at Election 2012

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Progressive People’s Party leader, Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, has chided President Mills for not showing good leadership by reacting to national events, especially the negative ones now erupting to threaten social cohesion. And he is right.

How can a President seeking re-election make himself so invisible in national affairs, especially when social/ethnic/religious strifes are tearing apart many communities all over the country?

What sort of weird leadership style is this one? If he doesn’t leave any lasting positive impact on the citizens’ minds before his first term in office expires, why should they re-elect him?

It is not often that countries get Presidents of Atta Mills’ type. Since being mandated to rule the country, President Mills has given some of us to know that he won’t be the overbearing, overweening, and autocratic type to be constantly deferred to or feared, depending on his mood at the Presidency. But his style is more alarming than soothing.

Does he have any means to know what public sentiments are? What are the intelligence and security institutions doing to inform him about PUBLIC REACTION to his style of leadership? Or is he so stubborn as to pooh-pooh such reports or not to know from them how his fate will be determined at Election 2012?

Truth be told, President Mills’ leadership style is doing more harm than good. Laid back he may be, but that’s his bane. Many aspects of this weird leadership style are already in the public domain—he is perceived as indecisive, too slow to act, unnecessarily flexible and malleable, uninspiring, uncharismatic, and boring!!

His opponents have the harshest adjectives for him—vindictive, wicked, ungrateful, lax, and incompetent.

I see him as too “soft” for the good of his own government. He may not want to exhibit the obnoxious characteristics of his predecessors (which Ghanaians know all too well); but he is taking matters to an astonishingly dangerous level for himself. He is behaving as if he doesn’t know where he is.

He hasn’t been travelling as much as some in his position (with all the vast opportunities at their disposal) would do; but he isn’t active enough to register the kind of presence in the country that will endear him to the hearts of the people.

Simply put, President Mills is more satisfied with life at the Osu Castle (receiving foreign dignitaries) than anywhere else in the country (to interact with those who put him in office and will determine his fate at Election 2012). Maybe, that’s why he can’t go on nationwide tours, even in this electioneering season to reconnect with the people. He is fast disconnecting himself from the people, which won’t work to his advantage at Election 2012.

That is why Dr. Nduom’s observation is right on target. President Mills has been too silent and invisible, which gives the wrong signal that he is “lost” in the workings of his own administration. He has a tough call ahead of him.

In his particular case, the odds stacked up against him are enormous:

1. The Woyome judgement debt scandal

This sordid act of thievery is definitely a major campaign issue that will hurt President Mills, more so if the case is not disposed of for the money to be retrieved and lodged in the national coffers; but from the manner in which a “nolle prosequi” twist has been given to it and new but amorphous charges filed against Woyome, I am left in no doubt that the case is a non-starter. The President must brace himself up for the negative backlash.

2. Division/cracks in the NDC

Unlike the previous electioneering period when the party was solidly united behind the Presidential Candidate. Rawlings’ anti-Mills campaign is damaging and will further erode goodwill for President Mills, especially as those supporting the Rawlingses tear away from the Mills camp

3. Socio-economic issues

Living standards haven’t appreciably picked up to instill confidence in the citizens that they have a brighter future under him. I stand to correction, but that’s the impression I have gathered from public complaints here and there.

4. President Mills’ own awkward leadership style

It is unusual for a President to be so invisible even though present in the country much of the time. What would have happened if he had also resorted to senseless foreign travels as Kufuor did?

5. Inability to fulfill the 2008 electioneering campaign promises

Based on development projects that his government is pursuing in many parts of the country, he may thump his chest; but the government hasn’t yet fulfilled the promises that the NDC’s bigwigs and leading campaign officials made to the electorate all over the place to win the mandate at the 2008 elections.

The tons of complaints and threats that have emanated from many parts of the country indicate that the citizens are unhappy at the government’s inability to fulfill those promises. No matter what anybody in government says, their anger cannot be allayed all too soon, which means that it will translate into an electoral decision.

6. Social strifes

There are too many conflicts all over the place, which suggests that the government isn’t in full control of affairs, more especially when the President hasn’t been up-and-doing to stamp his authority on the situation. The impression being created is that President Mills ins’t firm, decisive, and proactive enough to instill confidence in the people. That is a dangerous impression for the people to have at this time.

7. Improprieties in government

There is much public concern about corruption in government circles without anything concrete being done by the President to allay public suspicions. The more the people perceive the government as corrupt, the better chances are that they will turn against it at the polls.

On this score, any optimism framed around the claim that President Mills is not corrupt will be the most foolish one to have ever been nursed in government circles. What has that incorruptibility meant in the administration of affairs by President Mills? If he can’t bring his own personal trait of uprightness to bear heavily on his administration, any reference to his uprightness is more than hollow. The situation now is deplorable.

Added to that, there seems to be a climate of unclouded arrogance on the part of those government functionaries who have allowed their youthful exuberance to take the better part of their politicking and are shooting their mouths anyhow to incur the contempt of the citizens.

Those displaying yawning sycophancy aren’t helping President Mills in any way at all. They are all over the place, acting with impunity and creating credibility problems for the government. There are many of them at the Presidency.

President Mills’ inability to discipline his errant appointees is a huge liability for which he will pay a heavy price. There are many appointees who aren’t fit to continue in office, but President Mills seems not to recognize that fact and has retained them to continue messing up and creating very serious credibility problems for him.

President Mills’ strategy of self-effacement has given his appointees (especially Koku Anyidoho) the undeserved elbow room to fool around. Having created numerous credibility problems, one would have expected Anyidoho to be removed from office. But he seems to have also developed a tap root and is not only appropriating powers but is also consolidating them to act with impunity. Such a character is the chief grave-digger for President Mills.

Maybe, President Mills is relaxed, hoping that the development projects initiated by his government will do the trick for him. But that will turn out to be his gravest mistake. No matter what the government constructs, the people need to be assured that they have a President who has a “human face” to put on the affairs of governance; that they have a President who is quick to relate to them; and that renewing such a President’s mandate will be the best decision to make at Election 2012.

For now, I have serious doubts if he is well poised to enjoy the goodwill that ushered him into office. He is too invisible and detached from where the votes lie!! No last-ditch manouevres will undo the harm being done now.

As he continues to enjoy the comfort of the Osu Castle while pockets of conflict erupt to threaten social well-being and erode confidence in him and the government he heads, I wish him all the best. More grease to his elbows, then.

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.