I am Disappointed in You, Mr. President!

Daniel Pryce

Thu, 16 Oct 2008 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

“Mills is not fit to be president – Kufuor” is the caption of a “stentorian” news item, written by one Isaac Essel, which appeared Monday, October 13, 2008, on www.ghanaweb.com, the leading pro-Ghanaian Internet portal.

Undoubtedly, the story was both nerve-racking and mortifying for diverse reasons, which I will attempt to elucidate shortly. That John Kufuor, Ghana’s genial, genteel, fair play-espousing and well-respected leader, would effervesce such a peroration ? or speech ? has left me petrified about what the next few weeks might hold, even as we attempt to consolidate the gains of our fledgling, Fourth-Republican constitutional rule.

Speaking at a New Patriotic Party (NPP) get-the-votes rally in Madina, Accra, John Kufuor would indulge in paroxysms ? the statements were supposititious, really ? by mocking the health of John Atta Mills, the presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), instead of focusing on the issues that would convince the electorate that the NPP deserves yet another four-year term at the zenith of the nation’s political power. President Kufuor was quoted as saying that “[John Atta Mills was] unfit for the presidency due to his health status” (Essel, 2008). Additionally, President Kufuor had, allegedly, concluded that the inability of John Atta Mills to spend a significant amount of time in the northern territories of the nation was proof that the NDC flag-bearer was infirm; cared only about Ghanaians in the country’s nether regions; and had already ceded power, even before he gained it in this critical election, to his running mate, John Mahama. What sort of a polemicist is this president, if I may ask? And for whose cause?

I was among a select few who wrote articles to denounce the malefic and infernal statements of some misguided elements in this forum, particularly the rancid and venomous articles of a Nana Biakoye, so no one should accuse me of partisanship, as I am only echoing the thoughts and condemnatory assertions of many Ghanaians, which followed President Kufuor’s ill-conceived attacks on the NDC flag-bearer’s physical state.

First, to declare that John Atta Mills is too sick to run for the presidency violates the NDC flag-bearer’s right to some level of privacy, although I would admit that the health status of a person aspiring to become president of twenty-two million people should not be kept a secret, and it has not been for the NDC flag-bearer: Atta Mills had, on several occasions, debunked this incendiary accusation of frailty leveled against him by his detractors, and has continued to do so. Second, does each person not seek medical attention every now and then, just to be sure that his or her internal processes were okay? Third, when did John Kufuor become a certified physician to make such an underhanded claim? When did vouching for an associate to become president mean that the hard-earned reputation of others be stained or maligned? Does John Kufuor not take any medications at age 70? Really?

The issue of a person’s health is a very dicey one indeed, for even if one followed all of the recommendations of a health expert ? diets rich in fiber, devoid of fats and red meat; vigorous or mild exercise at least three times a week, depending on one’s health status; zero or controlled alcohol consumption, et cetera ? there still could not be a guarantee that such a person will be in good health deep into his or her twilight years. Scientists have always known that large chunks of a person’s anatomy and physiology are consanguineously (or hereditarily) linked to his progenitors. As such, if a family has had, say, hypertension as a risk factor, then all the progenies in that family, if they are to avoid falling prey to the disease at an early age, may have to adopt tangible dietary and lifestyle changes, in order to circumvent their early susceptibility to such a silent, albeit deadly, disease.

That John Kufuor is no true supporter of Nana Akufo-Addo has been alleged by many Akufo-Addo supporters, but I will not dabble in such a conjecture, since I prefer to state what I know to be a fact, rather than an opinion. For such Akufo-Addo supporters, epigones and apparatchiks, John Kufuor’s Madina gaffe can only be seen as another clog in Akufo-Addo’s wheel in the latter’s march toward the presidency. I believe that Akufo-Addo has, so far, enunciated very adequately his policy goals for an Akufo-Addo-led administration, so for the sitting president to make statements that will simply evoke resentment in the electorate is not a positive thing for the Akufo-Addo campaign. Notwithstanding the preceding, obtaining the support of an incumbent can be a huge advantage, especially in a developing nation, such as ours, where the majority of voters are not sophisticated enough to comprehend every policy objective of a presidential aspirant, which means that some will bluntly prefer the status quo to a major overhaul.

The Kufuor-led administration has, arguably, a better human rights record than any previous administration, but this achievement has been tarnished by allegations of corruption in high places, the latter a situation that must be addressed urgently by the next administration, if voter confidence is to be restored in our nation. John Kufuor will soon define Ghana’s history, as he is expected to superintend the peaceful handover of power to the next president. If Kufuor succeeds, which he must as a matter of necessity, he would have ineffaceably crafted his own legacy, putting him at par with Jerry Rawlings, as two of our democracy-ensconcing statesmen. With high expectations for a peaceful transition, John Kufuor cannot find himself embroiled in controversies that will undermine his “neutrality” in this pivotal election.

Unless John Kufuor stops making such malignant declarations about John Atta Mills, the latter a man who has as much chance to win Election 2008 as Nana Akufo-Addo, it would be difficult for any fair-minded person to berate Jerry Rawlings for any of the ex-president’s fiery speeches, past or future. In fact, John Kufuor’s unfortunate portrayal of Dr. Atta Mills’ health condition could open the floodgates to a litany of personal attacks in the waning stages of the fight for the presidency, giving Jerry Rawlings just the right ammunition he needs to “captivate” us ? once again ? with his fire-spitting rhetoric and infamous denunciations of the party ? and the leaders ? in power. And if the NPP chooses to continue with such incendiary, ad hominem attacks on Atta Mills, then Jerry Rawlings’ “boom” speeches may not sound so uproarious and deafening anymore!

I hope that John Kufuor, like any mortal man with inherent flaws, would learn from this experience and lead, henceforth, by example. Ghanaians need a peaceful atmosphere leading up to Election 2008, and who best to set the tone than the nation’s current president? What Ghanaians need out of Election 2008 is the emergence of a new breed of politicians ? led by the nation’s Commander-in-Chief ? willing to attack with puritanical and unrelenting combativeness the nation’s innumerable exigencies: the lack of potable water; substandard education, at all levels of academia; ill-equipped medical facilities; the scourge of armed robbery; inequitable distribution of the national cake; job distribution based not on qualifications, but on one’s ethnicity or familial ties, among other equally pressing socio-economic problems.

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.