By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
December 3, 2010
Anyone who understands the ebb and flow of Ghanaian politics shouldn’t be surprised that the Vice President is caught in a political whirlwind that has the potential to cut short his political ambitions unless he takes the appropriate steps to redeem himself.
It seems that the forces that are gradually mounting pressure on him will increase, not diminish. Other possible sources of negative politicking against his interests are not far away. One is made up of critics who are concerned about government’s handling of matters concerning the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), which they regard as the linchpin in the development agenda for Northern Ghana. At least, that’s the import of complaints circulating in certain circles, especially among some organized groupings representing citizens of Northern Ghana.
Discontent is already simmering among them because they are not happy that in the 2011 budget, the government did not allocate enough money to SADA. Being a Northerner himself, the Vice President will definitely be the target of any agitation just as happened to the former Vice President who was accused of doing nothing to prevent the Yendi Massacre, which has worsened the Dagbon crisis. He risks losing the confidence and trust of his own people unless their concerns are expeditiously addressed before they explode into a politically motivated agitation against him.
In all this muddied political water, the Vice President seems to be stained. He may come across as a victim of circumstance but must not sit down unconcerned to be devoured by the pockets of political fire burning around him.
On a much larger scale, the NDC itself has a tough call and may find the going rough if the current impasse persists. Having already cast serious doubts about President Mills’ competence, the government’s opponents have Vice President Mahama as one more formidable target to destroy and be assured of a successful foray into the NDC’s underbelly. They are bent on destroying the NDC’s chances and are going for the potential successor to President Mills. Now that they have cornered him with this allegation, they are desperately tearing hard at his jugular. To his opponents (especially those in the NPP), leaving Mahama unscathed will endanger their party’s chances of returning to power soon.
Let us remember that even before his elevation, John Mahama had commanded much respect among the NDC’s political opponents, some of whom had even gone out of their way to say that they would not hesitate voting for the NDC if he was the choice for Running Mate. The late Hawa Yakubu was one of them. That acclaim tells us how much of a heavyweight John Mahama was before the 2008 elections.
He performed very well as a Minister of State under Rawlings and as the Shadow Minister for Communications when the NDC was in the opposition. Now as the Vice President, he has been doing well until what has begun striking him of late. Is John Mahama still the same “affable” person that we’ve known all this while? Or has he already succumbed to the corrupting influences of his high office to be doing himself in?
It seems his problems go beyond what we already know. Judging from the shoddy public relations work that staff in his Office do, I am more than convinced that the Vice President needs to do a lot more damage control than he may be prepared for. The performance of John Jinapor, his spokesman, should be scrutinized seriously and steps taken to replace him if he continues to create more credibility problems than needed. He has on a number of occasions stirred up needless controversy. Jinapor isn’t doing professionally what such a high office requires.
His rash pronouncements concerning the NPP Minority’s criticism of the Vice President leave a sour taste in the mouth. Apart from the sloppy manner in which Jinapor reacted to that allegation, he came across as not well-informed about happenings involving the Vice President. Or simply put, he showed extreme political immaturity and damaging ignorance. Otherwise, why the contradictions between what he had said and the admissions made by the Vice President? This contradiction raises eyebrows. More importantly, the shaky manner in which the Vice President’s Office handled the matter leads to one piquant question: What else does the Vice President have to hide?
In any case, the Vice President himself must shoulder the bulk of the responsibility to live above reproach. Sustaining his good image demands that he should be on his toes to hasten slowly. Unless he reins in himself, he will continue to expose his underbelly for destruction by his opponents (both within and outside the NDC). Regarding him as a formidable force or the last difficult target on the NDC’s political menu to take down, the NPP particularly will intensify the pelting until they hit the bull’s eye. That’s why the Vice President must seek good counsel and use better ways to perform his functions. The fear is that if he continues giving his opponents an inch into his political life, they will take more than a yard to destroy his accomplishments and endanger his future aspirations.
At this stage, I don’t want to believe that he wants to quit politics at the level of Vice President when indications are clear that he can proceed to the ultimate at the exit of President Mills. He has an acumen that Ghana can benefit from. The stark reality is that the NDC seems to be bereft of “new faces” who can sustain it beyond the doings of the worn-out ones who are still clinging on and creating serious credibility problems.
If the Vice President can act more prudently, he stands a good chance of redeeming himself and charting the long political career path that lies ahead of him. Otherwise, he will quickly go down the drain as a youthful politician in whom many have put much trust but who failed to meet their expectations. That will be a big indictment on the place and role of the youth in Ghana politics.
Considering the rot in our politics, especially with the active involvement of the recycled old-time politicians, any slight hope that the youth will uplift themselves above the politics of greed and backwardness to take over affairs must be nurtured to fruition. That’s why grooming the youth to take over leadership roles in the various political parties is paramount but not being tackled. Unfortunately, however, from what has happened in this 4th republic, hopes are fast fading that the youth will do any better than the recycled octogenarian politicians.
Some who have been appointed into high office haven’t taken long to fall foul and created the impression that they are not immune to the corrupt practices for which the worn-out politicians are condemned. They have given politics a bad name and dashed hopes for a brighter future under their watch. In this sense, then, Ghana stands no chance of benefiting from its youth.
The Vice President must brace himself for more attacks if he fails to redeem his public image or if he continues to bite off more than he can chew. I advise him to hasten slowly. He should look far ahead and do what will reinforce his political career.
If for nothing at all, he needs to learn from history. One lesson is more poignantly relevant to him than anybody else. His own father distinguished himself as a successful politician and carried into his grave the huge public goodwill that he had garnered. This legacy is monumental and John Mahama must do all he can to add to it and protect it, not destroy it. He should be his own deliverer.