By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Saturday, October 20, 2012
If the NPP’s Akufo-Addo doesn’t win the upcoming Presidential elections, it will not be because he hasn’t campaigned well enough or that he hasn’t projected the best of himself to the electorate. In truth, he has done his best so far, going to all lengths, selling himself under many guises, including embarking on nationwide tours to “listen to the people” and to “restore hope” whatever that may mean.
If he loses the elections again, it will be because of issues beyond the promises that he is gushing out. May be, because of unappealing personality traits or just that he is not the person that Ghanaians wish for a leader. It may have something to do with how he performed under Kufuor or the stated failures of that administration itself. Or simply because he is just not destined to be the President of Ghana. Or all combined!!
Indeed, contrary to any skeptic’s expectation, he has been all over the place, interacting with prospective voters, speaking at several rallies, public forums, and lectures and addressing diverse audiences.
In fact, he seems to be doing a more focused and purposeful campaign for the December elections than his opponents—a clear indication of the lessons he might have learnt from the previous stunts for the 2008 elections that got off the ground and flew out of control as a mere carnival heavily catalyzed by the kangaroo dance and drunken debauchery at the end of the day.
At the end of the elections, the carnival approach brought him close to the outskirts of the land of milk and honey but his Presidential quest blew in his face as a sharp disappointment. He lost the elections because Ghanaians didn’t see him as their problem-solver. No amount of near subterfuge—such as the attempted abuse of the judicial process to favour him—could win the day for him. He has remained at the periphery, cursing his star all along.
That’s why he is moving heaven and hell this time to overturn the electoral table in his favour. Seeing him perambulating the countryside on his “Listening” tours, sweating profusely and quenching his thirst with bottles of iced water gave me the impression that he must be more than determined to defy all odds this time to realize his dream in the December elections.
Not only did he he use the occasion to “listen” to the people but he also commiserated with them, entering some kitchens in some areas in the Gomoa area to eat “uncharacteristic meals” with the common people. He was not soaking up all that pressure of sweating under the sweltering sun or eating meals that would give him diarrhoea just for its own sake.
He descended from his high horse to do so because of the political capital he sought to reap. And he has taken that approach to other parts of the country in different guises, using his presence to imprint himself on the minds of the electorate. Who will blame him for adopting that approach?
Knowing very well how gullible the Ghanaian voters are, Akufo-Addo has cleverly turned to a more touchy issue of high cost of education and is exploiting a Constitutional provision for political purposes. His huge promise of making senior high school education free in the country has given an impetus to the rivalry between his camp and that of the NDC.
From what has transpired so far, we are persuaded to see this promise as the NPP’s main electioneering campaign message.
Then, a few days ago, Akufo-Addo added another “freebie” in the form of a free health care for all Ghanaian children under 18 years. This promise has added more fuel to the controversy on how much a government can do within the stipulated 4-year tenure or an additional one if re-elected.
We have heard more about promises for electoral convenience than Akufo-Addo is gushing out; but the truth is that he is doing so for the December elections with a religious fervour, even to a fault, because he knows the benefits of sophistry. We expect him to hammer on this promise to make everything available to Ghanaians, gratis, until the day of the polls. Then, we’ll all see how the tide will flow.
If Akufo-Addo wins the elections, it will be because Ghanaians are fed up with the incumbent government’s attitude to governance—perceived in all its entirety, including the conduct of its officials at all the levels, its handling of the economy, and many other issues.
Indeed, the pressure on the government is threatening its campaign efforts. Over the past three years, a lot has happened to dent its credibility and it is finding the going really tough either because it has been unable to surmount problems or because it has added new problems to the existing ones.
Not even the unfortunate events involving former President Mills’ passing on can win public sympathy for it as it struggles to restore public confidence. Allegations of bribery and corruption (particularly, the Woyome judgement debt scandal) are weighing it down. The NPP is taking advantage of such negative instances to do much harm to its public image and to make inroads into its traditional support base.
We can tell from the calculated attempt at tarnishing President Mahama’s image in connection with his brother’s business transactions that the NPP is leaving no stone unturned in its hatchet job for political leverage.
One factor that seems to be favouring Akufo-Addo’s campaign efforts is the unimpressive performance of the government in terms of the 2008 electioneering campaign promises. Many communities all over the country are embittered and prone to manipulation by the NPP.
Added to this problem is the bad relationship that local government officials have with the traditional rulers and important personalities and institutions in their domains. Generally, some government appointees (Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Chief Executives) and MPs have strained relationships with those that matter and large segments of the society, which rubs off negatively on the government.
Reports of public demonstrations or physical assaults on some government functionaries and NDC operatives in some parts of the country attest to this fact. Being the eyes of the government (indeed, the President) in such communities, these people have contributed much to the credibility problem that the government has in those communities.
Some are alleged to have either instigated ethnic conflicts or taken sides in chieftaincy and land disputes, alienating segments of the population and turning them against the government. How can the misconduct of such characters create goodwill for the President?
They aren’t vigorously campaigning because they won’t get the audience they need to propagate the government’s message. The President and his Vice have a heavy official schedule at the seat of government and aren’t out campaigning in the nooks and crannies as Akufo-Addo and his running mate are doing.
The reported turning against the government and the NDC that occasioned Akufo-Addo’s tours of some parts of the country, especially the Ashanti and Brong-Ahafo Regions, is a case in point. In parts of the Northern Region visited by Akufo-Addo’s running mate, Mahamudu Bawumia, similar sentiments were expressed.
The defection of NDC functionaries to the NPP in some areas was reportedly motivated by their dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of matters. Obviously there is much disaffection, engendered by disillusionment, which doesn’t work well for the NDC and President Mahama.
Let’s not even talk about the head-butting going on and the breaking away of the NDC activists rooting for now-deflated Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings and her NDP. There is still in-fighting in the NDC itself. That house is still not in order and can’t stand despite the string of denials by the human ostriches constituting the party’s leaders.
The stage seems set already for a straight fight between the NDC and the NPP, although Paa Kwesi Nduom and his PPP are also nursing hopes of springing an electoral surprise.
No matter how one looks at the situation, the onus seems to be on President Mahama to acquit himself well in order to retain power.
Akufo-Addo may be parading the country with his promises, but he has serious limitations too and won’t win the support of those millions who have all along regarded him as a problem.
I say so with a gut feeling that he doesn’t seem to be getting the overwhelming support of the entire NPP machine in reaching out to the electorate. Otherwise, it won’t be only he and Bawumia doing the field work. I am yet to see or hear of the involvement of other key NPP figures, contrary to what happened in 2008. Of course, we still have some few weeks to December 7. Maybe, Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen and others will take up the challenge to dispel rumours that factionalism is a major problem for the NPP too.
With all that has gone into Akufo-Addo’s campaign efforts, if he fails again to win the elections, he shouldn’t blame the Electoral Commission. He should blame (and possibly curse) his own star. Probably, it may be that he is just not well cut out to be Ghana’s President in this life. Maybe, in the one beyond if we retain our Ghanaian identity and domain.
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