Has President Mahama outwitted his political opponents?

Sat, 21 Nov 2015 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Friday, November 20, 2015

Folks, over the past few days, President Mahama has dominated public discourse in connection with his utterances at rallies in Accra and Ho to sell himself primarily to NDC members and Ghanaians, generally, as preparations toward Election 2016 take shape. He took on his critics, telling them what has turned out to be a game-changer as far as political rhetoric is concerned. For the records, President Mahama is not known to stand toe-to-toe with his political opponents in any wordy warfare. He has shied away from reacting to their pejoration all these years until now!

That is not to say that he stooped low to demean himself and the highest office of the land that he occupies. No; far from that. Neither does it mean that he insulted any of his critics or that he used intemperate language to debase them. He simply went the way a good communicator would, addressing those critics in a language that they would be expected to understand. And he preached peace, not the violence that they are highlighting in their public posturing and pronouncements.

He made it clear that their “useless insults” and labelling of him as “incompetent” won’t deflect him from doing what the electorate put him at the Presidency to do. Neither would he lose his bearing or focus thereby. And he pointed out why.

He singled out the NPP’s Dr. Bawumia for emphasis, saying that as far as ruling Ghana was concerned, a political neophyte of Bawumia’s type didn’t know what was at stake and couldn’t be a judge over his performance. So were all ignorant but politically mischievous others jumping on the band-waggon to trumpet their new-found buzzword (“incompetent”). The huge approbation given him by the large crowd should sum it up.

Then, at Ho, he made it clear that he won’t be perturbed by the “rabbit press conference” held by Freddie Blay and the NPP cabal to attempt disorienting or unsettling him. He said a lot more, one of which was that despite all the noise being made by the NPP people about his government’s contracting of loans to raise the country’s indebtedness, the Kufuor government ‘s contribution to the overall debt stock stood at 41%. What is more, whatever his government gets is meant for infrastructural development, among others, to improve conditions in the country.

So much for what the President said. Now, to the reaction from his political opponents. As is to be expected, they have snapped up the President’s words and are chewing on them, fuming and fussing while flexing their buccal muscles to intensify their vilification of him. Already, comments from them prove that they are already chafing and agitated all the more to do so. That is where the trap lies for them. Just a few examples:

• Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie—who is no stranger to us—was quick to say that President Mahama’s utterances should have been reserved for the “babies with sharp teeth” to make. Really? Is Owusu-Afriyie also a baby with sharp teeth who has made ridiculous utterances over the years only to be shown the exit by his party’s delegates? Or to be “caught” by “Gbeshie” at the NPP’s useless petition hearing?

• Dominic Nitiwul, NPP MP for Bimbilla, is reported to have said that he won’t fall into the gutter with President Mahama. He was reacting to the President's taunt that the NPP's "sleeping MPs" joined the Majority to approve loan requests made by his government. Really, Nitiwul? What does such an upstart think he is, anyway? That he can equate himself to the President and behave as if he doesn’t know where he is in the political equation?

• Anthony Karbo is reported to have said that by making those pronouncements, President Mahama has opened himself to attacks (I hope verbal and personal only, though). No surprise here because the political apparatus of the NPP is built on insults and scare-mongering. Intensifying the personal attacks on President Mahama will definitely not be strange. It is the forte of members of the trash-talking communication team of the NPP. But it has its consequences, which I will explain soon.

• In comes the certified buffoon, Daniel Bugri Naabu (Northern Regional Chairman of the NPP) who is reported to have said that President Mahama is a disgrace to Northerners.

• For saying what tangentially ties in with Bugri Naabu’s opinion, Martin A.B.K. Amidu falls in step. He is reported to have said that President Mahama’s “poor performance” is a harbinger of doom for Northerners. According to him, there are ominous signs that no Northerner may be elected President in the next 20 to 30 years!

Folks, we can see from what President Mahama has set in motion that he is on a path to outwit his political opponents. By feeding them with his pronouncements, he has succeeded in giving them nothing but a weapon that will be used for nothing productive. These opponents will definitely spend their time and resources ratcheting up their campaign of insults and lies in the mistaken belief that painting President Mahama black will weaken his political base and win support for them.

Therein lies the danger for them. Insults don’t win votes. Instead, they alienate voters, especially in our current political dispensation when the voters need issue-based political campaign messages to make their electoral decisions at Election 2016. What alternative policies and measures does the NPP have to outdo the NDC-led administration? Mere criticisms upon criticisms and the singing of swan songs by the NPP’s “Concert Party” troupe won’t appeal to the voters. So, if recourse to insults is their means to counteract President Mahama’s efforts at being retained in office, they stand no chance.

We note that President Mahama was roundly welcomed on the regional tours, which made some in the Progressive People’s Party (the platform for Dr. Nduom’s one-man show) accuse him of abusing power on the tours. What constitutes that abuse of power, I don’t know. How else could President Mahama interact with the mass of the people if he didn’t go to them? If he didn’t visit localities to speak to the people directly and to commission projects that his government had constructed for them? How did those critics expect him to use the power vested in him by the very people with whom he interacted on the tours? Desperation doesn’t fetch political capital, folks.

By setting traps for his opponents this way, President Mahama knows how to up the game. He has given them fodder to chew on, and that’s exactly what they are doing, using their favourable mass media for discussions devoid of policies but rich in insults. They are expending energy doing “rally ground talk” and organizing “rabbit press conferences” to listen to their own voices, even as they hurl insults at President Mahama. And such insults even touch on his ethnic origin which, in effect, will infuriate his kith and kin. No positive impact on that segment of the electorate whatever to Akufo-Addo’s advantage. That’s the task now given them by President Mahama.

As they do so with vigour, violence, and determination, they annoy the people because they know that no country is built on insults. The people may be complaining about hardships, but they aren’t fools to go for those using insults as their political weapon in a desperate search for political power. As I have repeatedly said, the sufferings of the people won’t automatically translate into votes for Akufo-Addo. Unfortunately, though, he and his gang don’t see things that way, which is why they have remained fixated on emotions/sentiments and preaching violence if their demands for electoral reforms are not met. They are adding more fuel to the political fire that they have set to burn themselves. In any case, the Afoko problem won’t vanish soon; so also will others emerging not help the NPP’s cause.

Just compare the happenings characterizing Akufo-Addo’s “Rice and Beans” tour and that of President Mahama. While Akufo-Addo talked glibly about the need for party unity, happenings regarding the hounding of Afoko and all those he considers as “enemies within” proved him wrong. In effect, his tour registered nothing conclusive to advance the NPP’s cause. The house is still shaking at its foundation.

On the other hand, President Mahama didn’t only talk to people; he also used the occasion to commission projects dear to the hearts of the people and to reassure them of what his government would do next. Of course, the projects matter. For all the 12 years that Akufo-Addo represented Abuakwa South in Parliament (and even serving in two different Ministerial positions), he couldn’t initiate a single project nor did he commission any for his people. It’s all about talk, talk, talk, and talk!! No walking the talking!!

Folks, I know President Mahama is credited with communication skills, even if he doesn’t indulge in the theatricals and pompous show of oratory in a locally acquired foreign accent as does the NPP’s Akufo-Addo. President Mahama knows what is dear to the hearts of his opponents and has used his speeches in Accra and Ho to entrap them. He has given them work to do but for a bitter harvest. Has President Mahama not succeeded in confusing and outwitting his opponents?

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.