By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Since gaining independence, Ghana has been ruled by all kinds of leaders, the majority of whom shot their way into office and suffered the consequences, either chased out or leaving the scene only to be dragged to the firing squad. The three civilian leaders among them (Dr. Nkrumah, Dr. Busia, and Dr. Limann) lost power to the soldiers and lived in abjection till death did them part.
Of all our past leaders, Rawlings seems to be the luckiest, ruling as a military strongman for over 10 years and metamorphosing into a civilian President for close to 10 more years, and still looming large over the political sphere. Had Ghanaians taken him on, his circumstances would have changed too. After all, he had dared them on Thursday, December 31, 1981, with this death wish:
“I am prepared to face the firing squad if Ghanaians don’t like what I have come to do for them for the second time.”
Did his performance satisfy Ghanaians? His successor, John Agyekum Kufuor, is out of office and gloating over his gains while incumbent John Evans Atta Mills is at post, fingers crossed and counting his days as Election 2012 approaches.
Regardless of the circumstances that ushered them into office or how they left the scene, one common trait binds these leaders. All of them are known for making huge promises that they couldn’t fulfill but got away with. Ghanaians know full well why they have a hate-love relationship with such leaders.
There is no gainsaying the fact that President Mills is at the receiving end of public anger over his inability to fulfill his electioneering campaign promises. He will pay a high price at Election 2012 unless something drastically significant comes from him to assuage all doubts, fears, suspicions, and anger. He dug a big hole for himself and is being pushed into it.
Despite the glaring negative backlash that he is suffering from, others seeking to replace him seem not to have learnt any lesson. Bloated with the manic desire to establish themselves at the Osu Castle, they are also digging graves for themselves by making equally high-sounding promises to the electorate.
The NPP’s Akufo-Addo is one such power-seeker who is itching very badly to replace President Mills. From his political stunts and loud cry for attention, he is poised to intensify the campaign to achieve what eluded him at the 2008 elections. If he succeeds, he will be fulfilling two objectives. First, as a satisfaction of his long-sought-after personal egoistic quest to be Ghana’s President; and second, to step into his father’s shoes and reinforce his mentality of regarding the Presidency as an “entitlement.”
Even though his father was nothing more than a titular President, dressed as such and paraded on ceremonial occasions in the short-lived 2nd Republic, he did set a precedent that this Akufo-Addo is bent on equalling; it is a matter of dynasty for him. Examples exist elsewhere to spur him on—from William Tubman to William Tolbert (Liberia); George Herbert Bush to George Walker Bush (the United States); Laurent Kabila to Joseph Kabila (the Democratic Republic of the Congo); Gnassingbe Eyadema to Faure Eyadema (Togo); and Omar Bongo to his son (Bongo) in Gabon.
If he succeeds, Akufo-Addo will not be a ceremonial but an Executive President. The repeat journey toward Canaan has already begun for him. At Election 2012, we shall know whether he will again end up only at the outskirts of Canaan to see the elusive milk and honey flowing therein; and if trounced again, he might as well come to terms with Ghanaian politics and resign himself to a hopeless fate.
As he oils his electioneering machinery for the onslaught on the NDC administration, he can’t miss the enormity of what awaits him. If he braves the storm, he will no doubt get to know the real workings of government and why others before him failed to solve the country’s problems, contrary to their boasts. Particularly, an Akufo-Addo victory will mean many things, especially in the case of President Mills for whom losing the 2012 elections will leave only one option: to retire from Ghana politics as a one-term President in this 4th republic.
It will also give us the opportunity to see Akufo-Addo in his true element. From the manner in which he and his NPP activists are going about things, it is clear that they will move heaven and earth to achieve their ambitions, operating simultaneously from two contradictory positions of strength—“All-die-be-die” (buga-buga politics) and disavowing “bloodshed.” How can there be no bloodshed in an “All-die-be-die” horn-locking escapade with avowed political bitter rivals?
In fine, though, the problems awaiting such a President are daunting. They can’t be solved with the hordes of promises coming from Akufo-Addo. These problems haven’t been solved over the years by such means; they need more than mere promises to surmount. They are frightening, and Akufo-Addo needs to know why the mere promises he is gushing out fall flat. What he has advanced so far doesn’t indicate that he has what will make his administration break away from the past failures of our leaders.
He seems not to know that the systemic problems can’t be surmounted with promises. He is already digging a grave for himself and must be told the truth. I draw his attention to some of the systemic problems awaiting him, seeing that he has taken things for granted:
1. Failures in the Energy Sector (Power Generation) to Support National Life
Is it not too disheartening for electricity to continue to be rationed in the country or for the country to be plunged into total darkness thrice in three months while alternative sources of electricity (wind, solar, animal waste, nuclear, etc.) are abundant but remain untapped? What is the difficulty in harnessing the resources of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission for that matter?
Yet, our political leaders don’t know how to do things to solve this particular problem. Now that Election 2012 is fast approaching, we will unfortunately be bombarded by more of their boasts and high-sounding but empty promises to solve this perennial electricity problem.
2. Weak Institutions of State
Our institutions of state haven’t been designed to perform the functions that our kind of democracy entails; but no one seems to be interested in reversing the trend. All our Ministries, Departments, and Agencies have not seen any drastic re-orientation or retooling to ensure that they perform creditably to uplift standards in national life. They are still weak and under-resourced because those in authority don’t want to shed the “strongman” mentality that has helped them manipulate the system for personal gains.
We are even not talking about human-related problems that have nurtured and reinforced corruption to make it worse than tribalism or nepotism as our major national canker. Of course, corruption and tribalism are bed-fellows. They are well established in our national life and can’t easily be eradicated.
3. Failures in Agro-Industry, Rendering the Country a Dumping Ground
Food self-sufficiency has been our curse all these years. Subsistence farming can’t help us solve our food problems and our political leaders continue to encourage the importation of food items, including those that can be easily and more abundantly produced locally if enough support is given to the farmers. Importing food items will definitely help those in authority line their pockets with kickbacks.
4. Pitfalls in the Management of National Affairs
All sectors of national life are crumbling but our political leaders care less. For as long as their own sources of ill-gotten wealth are not threatened, they dig themselves deep into the situation. It must sadden every Ghanaian.
The ritual of raising the cost of utility services at random irks consumers, but who is to change the situation for the better? The court system? Forget about it. The Judiciary itself is mired in so much filth that it can’t be relied on to help ensure social justice. It is just one of the institutions of state that is on its knees. The rest aren’t any better because they can’t rid themselves of the systemic problems.
While measures are found to drain the earnings of workers (self-employed or civil/public servants) through obnoxious taxes, levies, and other official revenue-generating means, little is done to use that tax revenue to improve their living standards. It is a perennial act of injustice for the ordinary tax payer to be squeezed dry to support a system that does nothing to improve living conditions.
Indiscipline has become the order of the day. It exists in every sector of national life, in civil society and in the security services. In such a system as ours, where indiscipline is deep-rooted and laws/regulations are flouted with impunity, nothing works well.
Our authority figures (especially the politicians) have been at the forefront, openly indulging in such acts of indiscipline as theft of public funds and landed property, swindling of business partners, visa racketeering, violation of motor traffic regulations, hurling of insults in the public sphere, and many more.
These problems have been with us over the years and get reinforced as new ones are created and added to them by the very people invested with the power to solve them. We know of how maladministration by our various leaders at all levels (local, regional, and national) has compounded these systemic problems to make them virtually fossilized and insurmountable.
What New Order will Akufo-Addo usher in?
Given these deplorable circumstances and the incompetence of our leaders, I cringe whenever I hear any politician boasting of being the only person capable of solving Ghana’s problems. This is where Akufo-Addo comes in for a special scrutiny within the context of his own boasts and the expectations arising therefrom.
And the NPP bigwigs reinforced this claim at their rally at the Mantse Agbonaa in Accra three weeks ago. With high-sounding castigating statements, they are pushing their agenda. Akufo-Addo is at the forefront, taking every step to discredit the incumbent. I pity him.
I assume that Akufo-Addo won’t play God to think that he alone has the solution to our problems and should be invested with the mandate he direly hankers after. He still has a long way to go in proving that he is the leader that Ghanaians need to galvanize them to work conscientiously for their own good. Some of us aren’t yet persuaded that he has the acumen to do so in spite of all the big noise that he makes.
More intriguingly, he can’t do it all by himself, which he doesn’t seem to recognize. But unfortunately, those surrounding him (who are likely to be in his government) are the same worn-out faces that worked under Kufuor and didn’t acquit themselves creditably. Those characters can’t persuade me to accept them.
Some new faces (especially those of the youths like Sammy Awuku, Herbert Krapa, Mustapha Hamid, etc.) are more recognizable for their hollow noise and misplaced youthful exuberance than any acumen that will warm anybody’s heart that they can do better than those they are bad-mouthing every day. I shudder to see those characters at the helm of affairs.
Against this background, Akufo-Addo needs to know that if he succeeds in his bid to win the elections, he will be judged by a longer yardstick than what might have been used to vote down his predecessor. He won’t escape the anger that will await him when the time comes for him to be judged too.
If he wins the elections, I will be happy to see how his governance style will make the difference. One thing is certain: that the very stick that will be used to whip the incumbent will be set aside for him. I know Ghanaians—whom the late Kutu Acheampong rightly wrote off as “difficult people.”
I won’t be surprised if those singing Halleluia now turn round to ask for his crucifixion. That is the “nonsense” that makes Ghana politics peculiarly intriguing. Making “huhudious” promises to be elected into office is a definite way to dig his own grave. And if he does so, we will help him lie in it.
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