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Opinions Sun, 3 Jul 2011

Is President Kufuor also one of the Prophets?

The day of “political prophecy” seems to have dawned all too soon. Former President John Agyekum Kufuor is reported to have predicted that the NPP will win the 2012 elections. He made the prediction on Hot FM in Accra yesterday (Ghanaweb.com, July 2, 2011).

After reading the news report, I asked myself: What has Mr. Kufuor seen to make such a bold prediction? Of course, he may have some reasons: the internal acrimonious wranglings in the NDC, suggesting that the government doesn’t enjoy the fullest backing from the NDC followers; allegations that President Mills is “weak,” and “incompetent”; claims that the government is unable to fulfill its electioneering campaign promises; high cost of utility services; worsening living standards; and the broad claim of slow economic growth against the backdrop of increasing indebtedness to the donor community.

Based on such issues, critics of the government will quickly conclude that it is not performing well and that in this atmosphere of despondency, the electorate will not retain such a government in power. Such a claim may, however, not be supported by other arguments, especially from those who see things differently and feel that the government’s work is satisfactory.

Again, opponents of the NPP have their own good reasons, some of which they used against Akufo-Addo in the 2008 elections, which will again influence their political decision for the 2012 polls. Others have good cause to fault Mr. Kufuor’s own performance for which they will not root for the NPP. That’s why Mr. Kufuor’s claim cannot be said to be foolproof. But he is entitled to his views. After all, democracy allows everyone to have his/her own opinion on issues. But if such an opinion turns out to be the basis for indulging in wholesale political prophecy, it raises eyebrows.

Those conversant with the Biblical story about Saul will remember very well the consternation with which the Israelites received him when he miraculously began prophesying. In reaction, they asked a simple but pithy question: Is Saul also one of the prophets? By his claim, I wonder if the former President has had the anointing of a prophet to make him so emphatic in his claim. In times like these, some politicians know how to massage people’s feelings so as to remain relevant in national politics.

As we move toward the electioneering campaign period, we shouldn’t be surprised that a lot more of such prophets will dominate the news media with their visions. At the end of the day, we wish that such prophets will be blessed with deeper-level insights to help us solve our country’s problems instead of merely revealing to us who will win general elections. Winning the election is not an end in itself. We don’t just need election winners—no matter what happens, there will be winners, even if the results are contested. The overarching concern is whether the winner is capable of providing the leadership skills to solve national problems.

We have for far too long been crying for leaders who will lead us to the “Promised Land.” Unfortunately, our problem is that the winners of the polls don’t end up being the problem solvers that we need. All the noise about the NPP’s winning the elections doesn’t turn my crank. We’ve had the NPP in power for 8 years after Rawlings’ NDC government’s 8 years, not to mention the earlier 11 years that the PNDC ruled the country. But the major problems impeding our development are still with us!

There will be nothing extra-ordinary about the NPP’s return to office, especially once we know that apart from a few changes to the party’s manifesto and strategies for campaigning, there will be nothing new to enthuse over except the hordes of promises to be made on political platforms. The personalities still leading the NPP aren’t different from those who were with Mr. Kufuor. The NPP’s flagbearer, Akufo-Addo, is not a new face who will breathe any new lease of life into how the NPP does its politics. After all, was he not a pillar in the Kufuor government? The only difference may be the change in his status—from a former Minister of State to a defeated Presidential Candidate and to the President (if Mr. Kufuor’s prediction comes true).

Ghanaians will be grateful to anybody in a leadership position who uses his/her acumen to help solve problems. They will not be satisfied just because it is the NPP that has won the elections. Their expectations go beyond that point. Having already had a taste of the NPP’s dose, and now experiencing the NDC’s so-called Social Democracy, they will be the better judges at election time. Any decision they make will be in the hope that the winners of the elections will use their mandate to solve national problems. Not until they solve problems, they will not make any difference.

Probably, Mr. Kufuor’s allusion to wine and water can be understood from a wider perspective. The Biblical account of Jesus’ turning water into wine and the appreciation given the wine by the wedding party-goers is at play here. I don’t want to put words in Mr. Kufuor’s mouth but I can second guess him to say that he must be suggesting the difference between the metaphorical wine (NPP under his administration) and water (under President Mill’s government) to suggest that wine tastes better than water. Therefore, his message to the electorate is simple: Go for the wine (because an NPP government will always perform better than that of the NDC).

Now that we have tasted the “wine and water” (as Mr. Kufuor put it), we should be in a better position to know the difference between both. But we will not forget that although wine may taste better than water, it cannot be WINE without the water element. Neither the NDC nor the NPP is exclusively unique as far as governance is concerned. So, which party should claim to be better than the other?

A careful scrutiny of both the NDC and NPP governments reveals no definitive difference in their attitude to policy formulation and implementation. It is no exaggeration to say that neither the Kufuor government nor the current one has enunciated and conscientiously implemented policies to drastically overhaul the system at all the levels to reverse our under-development. The only differences that we notice are the different faces in government and how much cronyism, nepotism, bribery and corruption, intimidation of political opponents, and many other negative tendencies they perpetrate.

Under Kufuor, many things happened to discredit his administration. Those very traits are still with us in a different government as if no one cares to eradicate them. The status quo continues to be massaged while the country’s problems mount. Unfortunately, those who have the opportunity to draw attention to these issues for them to be tackled choose to focus on trivialities, such as predicting winners of elections. Not until such winners solve our problems, they themselves remain a problem for us to solve.

For purposes of reinforcing my complaint, here is a litany of the problems that make it puerile for anyone to beginning predicting winners at the 2012 polls as if winning elections will save the country:

The standard of living in the country hasn’t improved although routine statistics from officialdom tell us that inflation has reduced or that earnings from exports have increased. Our country still remains a producer of primary commodities whose prices at the international market fluctuate, depending on how the buyers manipulate the market forces. Industries lack support from the banks and government and have been forced to close down. The oil sector may not give us what we need for national development because Ghana is not the major shareholder in this venture.

Our economy still depends on the foreign donor community, especially the vampires symbolized by the IMF and World Bank, and the budget cannot be balanced without input from outside; our agricultural sector is still bedevilled with problems that have existed since 1859 when cash crop farming began (with Tetteh Quarshie’s introduction of cocoa); and we have continued to depend on the hoe-and-cutlass method for producing subsistence crops as if feeding a population of over 24 million is possible that way.

Our universities and polytechnics continue to churn out graduates with no specialized training to galvanize the economy—they can’t even get jobs to do because the job market is shrinking; we have remained fixated on the trial-and-error approach to tackling serious problems; our energy sector is still focused on the Akosombo hydro-electricity project and the expensive Aboadze thermal plant, and we are satisfied with power rationing; our public sector (civil service, especially) is still saddled with problems that it inherited from the British colonial administration. Anachronism in the bureaucracy has remained our god—and we are happy to worship it while our country’s growth stagnates.

Our politics is still being fed with lies, outright treachery, brazen insults, and other negative traits, which makes it difficult to say that our democracy is maturing. Yet, we are satisfied enough not to do anything to overhaul the system. With politics becoming the major goldmine in our national life, we are happy to encourage mediocrity from all manner of people who wriggle their way into the public sphere to look for the mandate of the people to enter the corridors of power, where they fulfill their ambitions.

Neither Mr. Kufuor’s government nor the one he has lambasted is solving serious national problems. The NPP has its own modus operandi although there may be some overlaps with those of the NDC. In the end, however, neither seems to know how to solve our problems for us to advance faster than we’ve been doing all these years. These are some of the concerns that serious-minded people should engage as they participate in the political discourse.

We shouldn’t just be satisfied that one political party has been able to defeat the other because in Ghana politics, many factors other than a candidate’s problem-solving capabilities influence electoral decisions. Tribalism is one such factor. We must, therefore, not expect that a winner of an election is indeed the person with the requisite skills to solve our problems. I am flogging this issue because it hasn’t been seriously examined in our political considerations.

Mr. Kufuor’s claim necessitates that we interrogate such issues. It connotes noxious inferences that many Ghanaians have drawn to suggest that there is no definitive difference between the NPP and NDC’s approach to governance. Until either party breaks away from the unproductive and anachronistic measures for solving national problems, no one should bore us with predictions of the sort that has come from the former President. We will be better off being left to our Fate for now.

I re-emphasize my argument that Ghanaians aren’t really bothered about who wins the general elections but who is capable of solving their existential problems. That’s the angle from which we expect our politicians to approach politics. Let the political prophets help us identify problem solvers to elect into office. We don’t want to continue casting our pearls before swine.

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By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com
Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.