By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
December 3, 2010
With the persistent media focus on events surrounding Vice President John Mahama, no one can deny the fact that he is in the news, mostly for the wrong cause. Whether by accident or design, he has become the target of wanton verbal attacks on the basis of accusations concerning either wrongdoing or provoking controversy through his public pronouncements. He is, indeed, in a double bind and must find the appropriate means to ease himself out. One immediate solution is for him to hasten slowly.
Being in the news for the wrong cause doesn’t reinforce his public image; instead, it creates very damaging credibility problems that have the potential to destroy his future political aspirations. All in all, the Vice President has his back to the wall and needs to uplift himself or face unpleasant consequences. Is he a victim of unavoidable circumstances or that of self-created problems leading him toward unfortunate consequences?
Circumstances certainly have a part to play in his case. He has enjoyed the benefits of exposure in the government’s approach to sharing responsibilities, which has given him prominence and even threatened to make him overshadow the Executive President. As the face of Ghana (and the NDC) wherever he goes, the Vice President stands tall. Unlike what we saw under Kufuor when he alone hogged every opportunity to remain in the limelight and consigned his Vice, Aliu Mahama, to the political doldrums—reducing him to a virtual spectator in the corridors of power—John Mahama is actively playing the frontline role in governance.
This prominence has its negative fallouts, though. It has given the NDC’s political opponents more ammunition to intensify their verbal attacks on President Mills, whom they haven’t ceased portraying as sick, weak, and incapable of performing his functions to the satisfaction of Ghanaians. Playing this role, the Vice President has travelled outside the country on numerous occasions to transact government business, some of which were clearly within the President’s purview. This delegated responsibility has its toll on him.
The ongoing controversy surrounding his acts of omission or commission is, therefore, damning enough to warrant an analysis. He is Ghana’s first youthful Vice President who has the potential to become the substantive President in future, and must be viewed within that light as we attempt to put everything in perspective. Some of the issues that have engulfed him and threatened his public image include the following:
1. THE INTERNAL CRISIS IN THE NDC
The Vice President has forces within the NDC’s own circles to contend with. He was at Winneba last Friday to reveal the machinations going on to destroy his political career—an indication that all is not well. Seen as a possible contender, his opponents want to bring him down, and he should be the last person to do anything that will turn him into a sitting duck to be easily picked and disposed of.
There are too many issues already:
• The choice of him over Betty Mould-Iddrissu as Professor Mills’ Running Mate jolted the Rawlingses and can’t be glossed over because it is one of the remote causes of the ongoing internal crisis in the party. It is no exaggeration to say that John Mahama hasn’t been in the good books of the Rawlingses.
Just before then, he had given us to believe that he was more interested in pursuing personal interests than doing politics, especially in terms of his intentions to pursue a Ph.D. program; but since then, he has shelved that ambition.
• The allocation of an official bungalow to his wife at the time that Kufuor had been divested of one raised serious questions of injustice, especially because it hadn’t been the norm for the Second Lady to be given such a preferential treatment over a former President.
• Allegations that he was on the payroll of the former Minister of National Security (Francis Poku) to do the NPP’s dirty job from within, which he has vehemently denied but not yet persuaded his detractors over.
• The concerns being expressed by a section of the NDC youth who attended the Winneba Congress of the Tertiary Educational Institutions Network of the NDC against what they called his “provocative” utterances don’t redound well to his image.
2. OTHER DAMNING ALLEGATIONS
The Vice President seems to be dogged by allegations and is forced into a reactive position, which shouldn’t have been the case had he been playing his polítical cards well to deflect the needless scrutiny:
• As the MP for Bole-Bamboi—and just before his choice as the Running Mate for Professor Mills—we heard the allegation of impropriety over a corn mill that he was said to have collected money from his constituents to buy but did not. That allegation didn’t harm his political fortunes even though they portrayed him in a bad light as “questionable.”
Granted that the allegation came from his political opponents, some of us regarded it as part of the usual dirty politics that Ghanaian politicians are fond of doing.
• The Armajaro conflict-of-interest case also comes to mind. Although the British authorities and management of Ghana’s Cocobod have made statements to clear the air, the dust has not fully settled on the matter to give him a clean slate in the estimation of his opponents.
• Matthew Opoku Prempeh, NPP MP for Manhyia, is leading the Minority to open another can. His disclosure that the Vice President had indulged in impropriety by writing to a Chinese company to collaterize Ghana’s petroleum revenue for foreign loans is the latest attack on him.
To me, his letter is not as alarming as the NPP Minority will want Ghanaians to believe. The NPP Minority’s allegation of impropriety is overblown, given the fact that the letter clearly establishes that the Vice President did not unilaterally commit the country’s petroleum industry to the Chinese company. After all, he makes it clear that “our government will be willing to secure repayment of the financing for this and other projects over a 15–20-year period through sovereign guarantees and/or appropriate commodity collaterals (e.g., cocoa, oil, etc.) subject to Parliamentary approval.”
For emphasis’ sake, the letter to Pierson Capital Group clearly says that whatever the Vice President proposed would definitely need the approval of Ghana’s Parliament to take effect. Secondly, he did not single out petroleum (oil) as the only possible item for collaterization. I read that letter (courtesy myjoyonline.com) and saw that he mentioned cocoa and “etc.” Why aren’t the NPP MPs not being honest enough to present the matter as it is? Or why are they fast expending their energies to raise a false alarm?
Obviously, they have singled out oil because it is currently the “hot cake” on the political menu that is pitting the NDC government against all others with vested interest in the revenue to accrue from the Jubilee Oilfields. The NPP has already begun its “oil politics” and will use anything that has to do with oil to paint the NDC black. In any case, it seems that the Vice President and the NDC government should blame themselves for this hiccup. After all, was it not the Vice President himself who made promises that have provoked the current agitation by the chiefs of the Western Region for 10% of the oil revenue?
There is nothing incriminating in this letter about which anybody should be alarmed; but the NPP Minority will clamour for his head because that’s what will prop their party up in its struggle with the NDC for the people’s goodwill. If persistently hammered on as an act of impropriety, this issue has the potential to damage the Vice President’s image and further create credibility problems for the government. That’s what the NPP is aiming at. In politics, anything that will destroy the opponents is worth using, right?
The NPP Minority’s threat to expose “more secrets” about the Vice President suggests that the fire burning around him is not likely to die out soon. They know that if they continue drumming home half-truths or outright lies about the Vice President and the NDC government, they will eventually sink as the “truth” to be used for political capital in the 2012 elections. That is why they are poised to do politics with this allegation concerning “collaterization” of Ghana’s petroleum. But should we blame them when it is the Vice President who is sending himself to their slaughter house?
To be continued…