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Opinions Sun, 17 Apr 2011

Is President Mills that bad?

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

April 16, 2011

From the manner in which the Rawlingses and their collaborators are sinking their teeth into President Mills, one will think that John Fiifi Evans Atta Mills is the devil incarnate in Ghanaian politics. What exactly will make the Rawlingses “hate” President Mills so much as to attempt doing the weirdest thing ever: to cut off their heads just because they have a headache?

They have levelled all manner of allegations against President Mills, the result of which is the persistent undermining of his very personality and the government that they themselves worked hard to put in power. We are privy to the ugly cat-calls and near physical confrontations between Rawlings and President Mills (according to reports from the NDC’s recent National Executive Council meeting in Accra).

Is President Mills that bad as the Rawlingses are portraying him to the whole world? I don’t think so. Neither do I think that he is the one endangering the NDC in any way. His detractors are just looking for dung where no cow browsed. That’s the problem with Ghanaians, as the late General I.K. Acheampong would have it—“Ghanaians are difficult people.”

The doom hanging over the NDC will not simply go away of its own accord or with the swapping of horses midstream. The Rawlingses and FONKAR should face the fact that eliminating symptoms does not cure diseases. They had better solve the party’s problems instead of running away from them through this backdoor approach of pitting Nana Konadu against the incumbent President.

Those party functionaries accusing him of neglecting them and, therefore, disconnecting himself from the party’s base or losing touch with the rank and file of the party may be going too far in their mischief. It is preposterous also for anybody to blame President Mills for anything that may be perceived as the demoralization of the party’s functionaries or that the party can’t embark on membership drives or retain its membership because President Mills “doesn’t care about or for them.”

In the first place, party-building is not the responsibility of the President. What will the party’s local, district, regional, and national executives be doing if President Mills takes up that responsibility? The NDC’s problem is caused by the laxity on the part of its executive officers and those who think that being in politics means appropriating every material thing for personal gains or to witch-hunt political opponents.

Of course, we may have a good cause to question some aspects of President Mills’s attitude to party issues (or leadership style) but we need to do so with good reason. Being the President of the country shouldn’t be a call to serve the party’s interests more than anything else. It doesn’t happen in democracies that are designed to mature. Maybe, there is a fundamental urge on the part of some people to turn President Mills into a dog to be given a bad name and hanged. He is not responsible for the dwindling fortunes of the NDC, if anything at all. How many people have deserted the party since he assumed office? I bet you that more people left the NDC when Rawlings was in power than anyone can say they are doing now.

Drumming on the so-called failure by President Mills to work for the interest of the party and, therefore, encouraging Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings to lock horns with him will not solve the NDC’s problems. The Rawlingses are more guilty of the issues about which they are raising their adrenaline level to spit fire at President Mills. They are the party’s problems, not President Mills, someone who has already achieved self-fulfillment in his chosen career and doesn’t need to make a name or a living through Ghanaian politics. Without amassing the benefits of politics, what can the Rawlingses claim to have achieved through their own God-given talents or careers? Is politics not their only career? It is not as if those in the so-called FONKAR don’t know the negative impact of Rawlings’ madcap politics on the party or the country, generally. They do, but driven by motives that are not difficult to fathom, they have thrown caution to the wind and allowed themselves to be used by the Rawlingses to create needless trouble. They are on a mission whose outcome will be disastrous for the party (and them).

Do they think that President Mills will not enjoy his life even if his political life doesn’t run its full course? He has nothing to haunt him in life and will not seek cover under officialdom.

It is not as if Rawlings’ handling of affairs within the NDC hasn’t created more troubling problems than he will accuse President Mills of causing. Several defections by activists of the party can be traced to Rawlings’ uncompromising and violent reaction to dissension. The list is tall.

Most of those who started with him are today in other political camps. After telling the NPP that even 10 of them put together couldn’t measure up to the intelligence of P.V. Obeng, what didn’t happen the next moment to turn Obeng away from the NDC until President Mills’ victory brought him back? How about all others? Some such as Captain Tsikata, B.A. Fuseini, the late Salifu Bawa Dy-Yakah, Frances Essiam, Bede Ziedeng, and many more deserted for other political camps because of Rawlings’ bellicose nature. No matter what qualms anybody may have against those people, the party might still need them in the political game where numbers count.

By his singularly dictatorial “Swedru Declaration,” Rawlings drove away a good number of the NDC’s following when Goosie Tanoh led them away to form the National Reform Party. Need we recount the departure of Obed Asamoah and others to form the Democratic Freedom Party?

How about several others who even held official posts, for instance, Owuraku Amofa (a Deputy Minister of Tourism whose sudden departure from the government raised eyebrows, especially when rumours had it that he had engaged in a scuffle with Rawlings at the Castle and managed to overpower Rawlings, leading to a severe damage to Rawlings’ neck for which Amofa had to flee for his dear life’s sake?

Do you remember that within that period, Rawlings appeared in public with his neck in a kind of POP and later sought medical treatment overseas? Such rumours travel very fast. Amofa and others whose stories we don’t know are still not back in the NDC. Isn’t that a loss for the party to regret over?

Many other people who identified with the NDC left the party’s ranks for various reasons, much of which they attributed to the Rawlings factor. Others who would otherwise have found their way into the NDC don’t want to do so because they can’t forget the stories that are told them about the AFRC/PNDC eras. Unless those supporting Rawlings to play this idiotic political game want to tell me that they don’t know that in politics it is numbers that count, I will find it difficult to understand their real motive for creating trouble in the party. Under President Mills, some subtle but effective approaches have been made to get all those aggrieved people back into the fold of the NDC. All the noise being made by Rawlings that President Mills and those they perceive as CPP functionaries in the government are nurturing the CPP within the NDC’s stables is pure balderdash. It is pure idiocy that must be treated with the utmost contempt it deserves because it is just part of the grand underhand design for the Rawlingses to remain in politics.

What adverse character traits has President Mills exhibited over the past two years that he has been ruling this country which he hid from Ghanaians when he was the Vice President from January 7, 1997, through January 7, 2001? Is today’s President John Fiifi Evans Atta Mills any different from the Professor John Fiifi Evans Atta Mills, the law lecturer at the University of Ghana, Legon, who was handpicked by Rawlings to serve as the Director-General of the Central Bureau of Statistics, which he worked hard to overhaul into the Internal Revenue Service before being uplifted to be become Rawlings’ Running Mate in the 1996 elections and eventually climbing to the top as the country’s Vice President?

Yes, probably because he has refused to be a “poodle” on Rawlings’ leash. What did Rawlings not say in Atta Mills’ favour those days that he was his Vice President? I remember very well how Rawlings would glibly praise Atta Mills’ humility, honesty, intelligence, problem-solving skills, and hard work as the major attributes that endeared Mills to his heart. It was such effusive compliments that created the goodwill that Atta Mills needed to function in the party, especially when the so-called “old guards” of the NDC seemed to regard new entrants like him with suspicion and fear of being outsmarted for the Rawlings’ (strongman’s) attention. Their apprehensions might now have been confirmed to make them angry that President Mills isn’t at their beck and call anymore.

What was it that recommended Atta Mills to Rawlings all that while until January 7, 2009 when Rawlings caused the tide to change against him?

We must acknowledge the obvious: that as a unique human being, President Mills has inadequacies and is not claiming to be perfect. Neither does he think that he is destined to solve all Ghana’s problems and must have his way to do so. He has openly admitted that the task of nation-building demands a collective effort and that he can’t do everything all by himself. In other words, he is the President with enormous powers and latitude but will not use those strengths to make himself a “strong man.”

We have seen what his administration is able to do and what it hasn’t been able to do so far but is not sitting down, arms folded and looking on in abject despair. The going may be tough but it doesn’t mean the end of the road for him. That’s the stark fact that Rawlings and his wife (as well as those they have coopted into their camp) don’t want to be told but which they need to know if they want to be rational in their reaction to the Mills governance style. Ghana politics stands to gain much if the kind of “loco politics” that the Rawlingses are doing is nipped in the bud before it infects the entire system.

This is the perspective that must guide the NDC’s functionaries in their hustings and the delegates who will attend the July 8–10 Congress to elect the party’s flagbearer. They should remember that as they dissipate their energies undoing each other, their political opponents are doing their best to woo the voters. Of course, when two dogs fight over a bone, the third one that passes by just picks the bone and walks away to enjoy it.
Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.