by Daniel Danquah Damptey
In Matthew Chapter 14, Verses6-10, we read that "when Herod, the Tetrarch birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, 'Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.' And the king was sorry: but because of his oaths and his guests, he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison."
The above extract from the Holy Bible is the subject of this write-up, which has to do with the National Award being proposed for Prof. John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills, flag-bearer of the National Democratic Congress.
Before I proceed, I wish to re-iterate the fact that I am deeply committed to the ideals of Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition. I will therefore not wilfully or deliberately do any thing to affect the chances of our New Patriotic Party in the forth-coming elections. I will therefore entreat committed members of our great tradition to take this criticism in good faith. Constructive criticism is not synonymous with destruction. It has the effect of bringing about changes in an otherwise hostile or rotten situation or environment.
THE ARGUMENTI have been also emboldened to write this piece as the points and facts flew freely from my head into my system. For one thing, the New Patriotic Party, unlike the other political parties like the National Democratic Party, is a party that allows individuals to air their views on any subject without let or hindrance.
This is one of the legacies our founding founders bestowed on us, and we are eternally grateful to them.
With this in mind, I want to say that the announcement about giving the highest award of the land to Atta Mills will be regarded as "the most unkindest act of all" [with special apologies to Mark Anthony] against Nana Akufo Addo's Electioneering Campaign. In fact, it should be regarded as an anti-party art of the highest order. I will explain why and how.
Yes, we all agree that there is the need to reconcile, but at what price? When was the country more polarised? Was it during the NDC's time or now? When the President of a country spoke at a public forum and ordered Ghanaians not to patronise the businesses of hard-working Ghanaians, that was not polarisation!
It was the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Premier of the defunct Western Region of Nigeria who made a practical deduction to the effect that one does not come to the aid of his enemy. The most logical thing, according to the late sage, is to starve him. He went ahead to put such a deduction into practical demonstration during the Nigerian Civil War. As Minister for Finance, he realised that the only way the succesionist bid of the breakaway Biafran Republic could be halted was to cripple its economy. He recommemnded that there entire Biafran enclave in the whole Eastern Nigeria be placed under an economic blockade. The policy was implemented and that led to the demise of the Biafran Empire.
THE BATTLENow, we are engaged in a battle of wits with the NDC to see which of the two political parties will outwit each other to gain the mandate of the electorate. The National Democratic Party is not our enemies in the real sense. But in politics, they are! Thus, any act which will go to enhance the political fortunes of our rivals must not be condoned.
It is in the light of the above realm that I regard the proposed highest honour of the land, "The Star of the order of the Volta" to the former Vice President and flagbearer of the NDC, Professor John Atta Mills as an attempt by the Presidency to unsettle the hornet's nest. Wouldn't the country have been better off if the presidency had not ventured into that "no go area." It was morally wrong and unethical for the Presidency to have even dreamt of honouring the flag-bearer of a rival political party with just about six months into a major election.
The award, if allowed to hold, will amount to a tacit endorsement of the candidature of Atta Mills. Period! This is an uncontested fact and whoever thinks otherwise is not abreast with human nature. if it was not so, why should the pro-NDC papers make a huge cry and loud voice over it. If you doubt it, go and buy "The Lens" of the previous week and you will understand the point I am driving at. Giving the highest honour of the land to our "arch-enemy" will be detrimental to the campaign of our flag-bearer, Nana Akufo Addo.
The first announcement came via a press release from the Press Secretary to the President to the effect that Mills and other three other Ghanaians were to be given the highest honour of the land. After much public outcry against the award, mostly from members of the New Patriotic Party, a modified version of another statement came from the Office of the Chief of Staff and Minister of Presidential Affairs. In this new version, the public was informed that the award to Professor Mills was not a done deal, for it was yet to receive presidential assent. The release went on to further state that other personalities were also being considered for similar national honours.
NOW THE POSERSBetween the office of the Press Secretary to the President and that of the Chief of Staff, which of them is authorised to issue press statement on behalf of the Presidency? Secondly, since when have names of nominees been announced before those of confirmed winners? Can somebody give me an instance when after the nominees have been announced, one or more of them got rejected on the actual date of the event?
Dr Frimpong Boateng's case is an exception. What we know is that the moment a person's name is announced, the one goes on to win the award. We are even told that Professor Mills had already been contacted and he had given his consent to it. He was just waiting for the great day when he too would become a Member of the Companion of the Star of Ghana.
Why is Mills being honoured? Is it for his tenure as Vice President or for his exploits in the academic sphere? If it is for his stint as VP, then I make bold to say that he was a collossal failure because he, being the Head of Economic Intelligence Unit, presided over the wantom dissipation of our national wealth. Members of his government apportioned the national assets among themselves. His human rights records during the time he was VP was nothing to write home about. Either he acquiesced to those brutal treatment of fellow citizens or he pretended that such things dod not exist.
Assuming that he was being honoured for doing something good, then the next question should be: Why Mills, but not Rawlings? Rawlings was President and so all blames and credits ought to go to him, not Mills. Therefore, if today President Kufuor and his special advisers feel and think that the records of the NDC far surpassed that of the NPP and so they deserve an award, it should rather go to John Jerry Rawlings. And if Mills is being honoured for his exploits in academia, I feel there are other academicians who are his seniors and who have equally carved a niche for themselves and ought to be recognised. So you see, whichever way you look at it the award is neither here nor there.
Now the clarification from the Office of the Chief of Staff is just a soothing balm in the midst of an excruciating pain. We are told that other high ranking personalities are going to be honoured in addition to Mills and others. I learnt, our flag-bearer, Nana Akufo Addo and that of the CPP, Paa Kwesi Nduom are also slated to be honoured, but in an inferior capacity.
This is an election year. We should expect the President to do things to enhance or brigten the fortunes of our flag-bearer. This is politics and the President must be seen to be 'playing' politics. The people have given the mandate to the New Patriotic Party and the President must not shy away from the fact that he belongs to the party. The National Democratic Party utilised its incumbency to its advantage. On the eve of the Decembe 2000 elections, President Rawlings made a public broadcast where he blamed the New Patriotic Party for the serial killings of women in the country, and the heavens did not fall.
Now, with the presidential pardon coming in close succession to the award for Professor Atta Mills, some of us are inclined to believe that the Presidency has lost faith in the party's flag-bearer and has entered into a secret pact with the opposition NDC so that in the unlikely situation of the NDC winning the December, 2008 elections, the President will be given a safe exit. At least, that is how it appears to some of us. I may be mistaken, though, but that is the reality of the situation on the ground.
In the coming days therefore, the presidency will have a great deal of explanation to do to calm frayed nerves and debunk the notion that the President has endorsed the candidature of Mills.
But the greatest thing agitating my mind is this big question: What is the role of the Council of State when it comes to in recommending those for national awards? It is my strongest conviction that the Council ought to play a big role in recommending and vetting citizens for such state and national awards. We should not reduce such an important State Institution to an only ceremonial and advisory capacity. The way the Council of Stae has been structured has reduced it to a toothless bulldog.
Now, like Herod, the Tetrarch, a big question lies on the head of President Kufuor. Is the honour to Mills going to stand or be cancelled? Whichever way one looks at it, it is abundantly clear that the whole apparatus sorrounding the Presidency, including the Information Ministry, the Offices of the Chief of Staff and that of the Presidency have done a great deal of dis-service to the nation. They have embarrassed the New Patriotic Party and also brought the highest office of the Presidency into disdain and disrepute. Heads will have to roll in order to redeem the image of the dented Presidency. All the square pegs in round holes and vice versa should be found out and dealt with drastically.
The Presidency is not just an ordinary institution to be toyed with just like that!