By Michael J.K. Bokor, Ph.D.
I have watched excerpts on the inauguration of Prof. J.E.A. Mills as Ghana’s third President in the Fourth Republic. In one word, I can say that the ceremony was “impressive.” Congratulations to all those who made it happen. The way is now clear for Prof. Mills to administer the affairs of state. As I watched those video clips, I noticed that the ordinary Ghanaians who took part in the ceremony had good reasons for being happy that a new government was taking shape. One unmistakable sentiment that ran through the excerpts of interviews that GTV and MetroTV conducted with some of the participants was that they expected the new NDC government to solve pertinent problems so that they could live their lives in peace and happiness. They expressed the desire for living in better circumstances. Good expectations.
But the alarm bells have already begun tolling, at least, judging from the apprehensions that the World Bank’s report on the country’s economy has already created. On the very day that this inauguration was taking place, the World Bank painted a gloomy picture of the Ghanaian economy, saying that the macro-economic situation that the incoming government will inherit is “extremely worrisome.”
In its January Report signed by the bank’s Country Director in Accra, the World Bank warned that the incoming administration would inherit high fiscal and balance of payment deficits that were unsustainable, given the current state of international financial markets. This report raises numerous questions and immediately puts Prof. Mills government on its toes. One would hardly expect to hear anything of the sort at this time. But it has already happened, implying that at least, threatened by this “gloomy” picture, there is need for immediate action to settle doubts and fears.
I don’t want to think that the light at the end of the political tunnel in which the new government has found itself is that of an oncoming train. The party has survived the whirligig of the NPP’s vicious party politics and now in government, it must take prompt steps to reach out more to Ghanaians in the purposeful effort to retain their favor and build on it to advantage. By placing their trust in the NDC for the next four years, Ghanaians want to see an improvement in their living standards. They don’t want to be told stories that only seek to rationalize official incompetence and mischief in the creation and distribution of the national cake. Ghanaians are fed up with official language that massages their feelings only for political expediency. They are not prepared to be told to continue tightening their belts when they know that those in government making that call don’t even have any belt to tighten. The belt-tightening must take place across-the-board, if anything at all. But shouldn’t there be an end to this belt-tightening episode at all? Within the context of the country’s enormous and abundant material and human resources, it is expected that Prof. Mills and his government will enunciate meaningful and productive policies as well as implement programmes to relieve the people of their socio-economic burden. They’ve carried that socio-economic burden for far too long and need relief in several respects. Unlike crustaceans that carry their shells as an inextricable burden, Ghanaians are human beings and should not be made to carry their shells of burden throughout their life time, only to die and be buried in those same shells of problems and despair. Will Prof. Mills rise to the occasion? I hope so.
If he fails to move Ghana beyond where he has taken over from Kufuor, let me forewarn him that he will not only be attracting the worst form of venom from Ghanaians but he will also be creating conditions for the party he leads to register itself on the minds of Ghanaians living and those yet to be born as a political culture that must be condemned in the harshest of language and rejected at every turn until it folds up into oblivion.
Those who sacrificed to get the NDC back to power must not sit down to allow the party to do the wrong thing. The penalty could be stiff and swift. They must inject much dynamism into the government’s attitude to national issues and rise beyond the level of armchair critics. In the same vein, they must not constitute themselves into any cabal of power-brokers to frustrate anybody’s efforts. Putting country ahead of all other considerations must be the clarion call.
They should remember that the majority of Ghanaians in the country, especially the eight regions out of 10 who voted overwhelmingly for Prof. Mills and the NDC MPs, are the real power-brokers. All in all, Prof. Mills must be given the support he needs and must be allowed to rule the country as his natural abilities will permit within the framework of the NDC’s Social Democratic agenda, whatever that entails. At least, the Ghanaian voters could distinguish that agenda from the NPP’s failed property-owning democracy.
Working in concert with all identifiable individuals and groups that conform to the NDC’s agenda for national development, a Mills-led government must listen to the voices of the people. Let us see a government that will listen to its critics as well and position itself to be reasonably flexible and accommodating enough to sift through all manner of criticisms that are raised by both its admirers and critics.
Beyond it all, we want to see the Mills-led government as one that will be sensitive to the feelings of the people and be down-to-earth enough to do what will endear it to the hearts of those it rules. What is worse than a government that makes genuine mistakes by acts of omission or commission but fails to accept its faults and instead spoofs the people or engages so-called spin doctors to shift the blame to the people? I don’t want to imagine that the new NDC government will do so; but it is the trademark of politicians; hence, my presentiment.
Considering the fate of the NPP, it is not preposterous for me to say that a failure by the NDC to fulfill its campaign promises will not redound to Ghana’s wellbeing or the NDC’s own image. Giving the NDC the mandate after all that the Rawlings critics have glibly said about it (and continue to say or point to) as evidence of his administration’s failures, suggests that the Ghanaian electorate have taken a huge risk in this political gamble and expect to be fairly treated by the Prof. Mills government.
Unless the new crop of NDC leaders wants to work for the demise of the party, they should steer clear of anything that has the potential to endanger the country’s well-being or the party’s own interests. Everything must be done to punish errant conduct (especially by those in official positions). Having assessed (and vehemently criticized) the NPP government from the sidelines over the past eight years, it will be unpardonable for the Prof. Mills-led NDC government to follow the trails of bad policies of the Rawlings or Kufuor governments.
I want to remind Prof. Mills that the NDC is under as much pressure to solve the country’s socio-economic problems and to restore public confidence in government as the situation was before the 2000 polls when the electorate bought into the NPP’s hot-air-blowing slogan of “Positive Change” to give Kufuor the mandate.
The harm caused by the NPP government’s persistent satanization of the PNDC and the NDC governments is real. And the party’s opponents will not abandon that cause just because they lost the 2008 elections. No one in the NDC should delude himself into thinking that the party is without blemish. A quick glance at the strategic efforts made by the Kufuor government to portray the NDC in the worst light ever should leave no one in doubt that the knife has cut deep into the party’s body, drawing much blood. But for the NPP’s own strategic failures in governance, I can stick my neck out to say that the Ghanaian electorate wouldn’t have shifted grounds so quickly to favor the NDC in its comeback bid.
The NDC’s own mantra of “Change” reverberates far and near and must influence any step the government takes. It should be a “change” that must not be translated into wealth and good fortunes for only the NDC politicians and their families and friends but must be reflected in the improved living circumstances of Ghanaians. The stakes are really high. Having rejected the NDC once and gone for the NPP, Ghanaians have seen the difference and turned to the NDC again. Will the Prof. Mills-led NDC government do its best to vindicate Ghanaians for making this turn-around?
The baton is now in Prof. Mills’ hands; and Ghanaians expect his government to run the race to its logical conclusion. Just as Ghanaians have turned round to “punish” the NPP, so will they do to this NDC government after four years if it fails the test.