Opinions Sun, 29 Nov 2009

Is The President Listening?


Kwasi Adu

The NDC congress is just around the corner. The various factions and interest groups are clamouring for positional advantage hoping that either they or their supporters would be elected to the commanding heights of the NDC at the congress. Some are doing so relatively quietly while others have started shouting over the rooftops. In the wake of the constituency and regional elections to determine who has the right to vote to vote at the congress, Rawlings is becoming increasingly high-pitched.

Earlier, he had been heard complaining that the right people were not appointed into Ministerial and other high positions following the NDC victory at the 2008 elections. He initially refused to acknowledge these unnamed “wrong” appointees as Ministers; he opted to call them “characters”. Of late he is reported to have even described these “characters” as “baboons” and “bastards”; hardly a decorous language for a founding FATHER and above all, a former Head of State and President who expects to be to be treated with etiquette. I understand “bastard” to mean someone who was born and brought up without a known father, or born out of wedlock or whose father was just “not there to provide fatherhood”. I winced at that one. A founding father calling some of his own “children” bastards? Since then, I have been wondering who in the NDC is the greatest “bastard”.

It has never been the fault of a child if he were born without his/her father been there. It is therefore very hurtful if people called him bastard. It is even more agonizing, when the person believed to be the “founding father’ should describe some of own his “children” as “bastards”. I had, until then, never considered that not having known one’s father in childhood was one of the disqualifying criteria for being in high office. If that were really the case, I wonder how many of our former Heads of State should have qualified to hold that high office. I earnestly hope that Ex-President never said that and that this was one of the inventions by his “political opponents”.

Ex-President Rawlings campaigned vigorously for the NDC in the last elections. After the elections, the NDC needed to appoint its Ministers to form a government. However, within the NDC family, there are camps, or blocs, or factions. Each of these camps or blocs wanted to have their people in the Ministerial line-up. To the outsider, it would appear that the Rawlings camp had their fair share of the posts. Firstly, the Rawlings’ darling for Vice President, Mrs. Betty Mould Iddrisu, was appointed Attorney General. It looked, at first glance, that this should have satisfied the Rawlings’ wish to have NPP former Ministers and functionaries arraigned before the law courts very swiftly on corruption charges. In the area of national security, General Nunoo-Mensah, one of the Rawlings favourites, is the Presidential Advisor on State Security; Col. Gbevlo-Lartey, another Rawlings man, is the National Security Coordinator. Among leading post-holders who are “Rawlingstas” are Hon. Shirley Ayittey (Minister for Environment, and member of the 31st December Women’s Movement), Dr. Benjamin Kumbuor (current Minister of Health), Major-General Smith (the Minister of Defence), Hon. Yiele-Chire (Minister of Local Government) and many others who may not be openly wearing the Rawlings badge.

Judging from his pronouncements, it is clear that Rawlings has two main expectations of the Mills’ government. The first one is the swift arrest and arraignment before the courts of NPP former Ministers. President Mills can hardly be blamed for the “slowness” in putting NPP people on trial if our “Rawlingsta” Attorney-General is refusing to fulfil her calling. After all, she is known not to want to put her “ilk” on trial. Her “ilk” is a reference to the NPP people. After all, she and her husband, Alhaji Iddrisu Mahama, whom Rawlings brought into his P/NDC family (in the wake of his “All-Hands-on-Deck” policy in 1982), are dye-in-the-wool closet UP adherents who have never severed their political and ideological links with people of the UP tradition. The danger is that if anybody tries to force her hand, she may be more likely to prosecute the NPP people on the wrong charges, a situation more likely to result in the acquittal of those accused. The shambles surrounding the current BNI passport court cases is a lucid pointer.

It now looks as if, while the Rawlingses thought that they could rely on Betty to achieve their endeavours in the wake of the Vice-Presidential clamour in 2008, they were woefully mistaken. In the end she achieved what she wanted, (or nearly) and now look at the results! Good on her! This is a spectacular lesson especially since in 1982, when the then Rawlings “foot-soldiers” warned him against such people, he called those foot-soldiers “extremists” and “super-revolutionaries”.

The second Rawlings objective is that he should be the “back-seat-driver” of the Mills’ government. In this way, he would effectively be ruling the country by remote control. To accomplish this, he needed to have his favourites in the key positions. He achieved part of it when several people he thought were “Rawlingstas” got appointed. It may indeed, be sore and disappointing that it was not possible to secure “control” of the Finance Ministry, Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Trade. This is the reason why some of the Ministers have been described as “illiterates” and “foreigners”.

Again, Rawlings needed to be in direct control of the operational decisions of the Presidency. When the then Candidate Mills stated that he would regularly consult ex-President Rawlings that is exactly what he meant. He has fulfilled this promise by scheduling monthly consultations meetings with him. However, the problem with “consultation” is that the one in charge does not need to take all the advice. It is a fact that a few days ago, just after one of such consultation meetings, Rawlings came out ranting that he is “tired” because his advice is not being taken.

It is because of these factors that the “Rawlingstas” are striving to secure some of the commanding heights within the party structures at the congress. They may hope to use their positions in the new NDC executive to hassle the Mills government (as they have been doing) into doing their bidding. However, having sent their scouts to the regions, they are quickly beginning to realise that they are losing the battle. It would be humiliating for them even if they attain second positions in the coming elections. That is why they are going for the safer positions of Vice-Chairman, etc.

In order to avert a possible humiliation, every disaffected person or grouping in the NDC is being marshalled to show strength. These “contras” range from constituency chairmen and back-bench MPs (who think that they should have been made Ministers) to polling station chairmen who think that they should have been made M/DCEs. For these NDC “contras” who have jumped unto the Rawlings’ side, the motivation is not necessarily because they agree with Rawlings. Just like some of the others before them, they are using the Rawlingses to draw the attention of President Mills to themselves for some post. It has become a game of “if you think you are using me, I am also using you”.

The “contras” should admit that when they say that President Mills is too slow, they are referring to two main issues. The lack of employment opportunities is one of them. Rawlings is using the unrealistic expectations of jobs by ordinary NDC members to his advantage. Paradoxically, it was Rawlings, under his policy of “government has no business engaging in business” that he sold more than one hundred and thirty state-owned companies to foreigners, who then threw out the workers the following day.

In Ghana today, the indigenous private sector is not interested in production or processing; a prospect that could have created jobs. Our private sector is only interested in trading in imported finished products. A wholly trading economy does not create jobs. However, this policy is not an exclusive Mills’ policy; it is a policy to which all NDC factions subscribe, including the “contras”. After all, it was the first NDC government, under the leadership of the current “contras”, which initiated this policy and went ahead to sell a vast majority of state-owned industries to the foreign private sector, resulting in the near collapse of state participation in production, distribution and exchange. As a result of this policy, mass unemployment worsened. Subsequently, some of our fellow citizens, for the first time, started walking across the scorching sands of the Sahara Desert in search of jobs overseas. Under a private sector-led economy in an under-developed economy, the best that the NDC government could hope for are peripheral job opportunities in the sanitation sector and to a lesser extent, the agricultural labour market. As for the artisans and the young graduates, they cannot hope to secure employment that befits their training. With the NDC’s declared policy that the “the private sector is the engine of growth” there is no chance in hell that jobs would be created unless the government sets up state-owned companies.

There is also the clamour that NPP functionaries should be put on trial. On this issue, the people have to turn their attention to the Attorney-General. If they do, they would realise that the current Attorney-General was their preferred choice for Vice-President before the 2008 elections. Since their preferred candidate, now Attorney-General, is on record to have stated that she would not put any NPP functionary on trial, who can they blame but themselves?

President Mills must remember that if his government falters, he, and only he, would be held responsible. He would have no alibi in any claim that he only acted on instructions from above. Beyond the President, there is no other “above”. In the meantime, he should not lose his cool and start descending into the pit with labelling such as “baboons”, “illiterates” and “bastards”. When Prime Minister John Major of the UK described some members of his Cabinet as “bastards” it was because he had become terribly desperate and reached the end of his tether in the losing game. In the end, he lost the 1997 general elections miserably.

It was Mrs Esther Cobbah-Tsikata who, following the unjust imprisonment by the NPP of her husband, Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, pointed her fore-finger upwards and defiantly stated: “God is watching, God is watching!”.

It was also the renowned Algerian nationalist and revolutionary, Frantz Fanon, who stated that “Every generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it". It is up to President Mills to either fulfil his mission or betray it. The people of Ghana, not only those of the NDC, are watching. Above all, God is watching!

Note: This article appeared in The Insight newspaper on 26th November 2009. Mr. Kwasi Adu is a regular contributor in the Insight. He is the author of an earlier article in September 2009 entitled “Why is Rawlings Disgruntled”.

Columnist: Adu, Kwasi