Letter from the President: Elephants looking ahead?

Wed, 15 Aug 2007 Source: Daily Dispatch

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, isn’t it amazing how time flies? So soon, my dearly beloved elephant party is 15 years old and we have just recently concluded the birthday celebrations. It was a mammoth rally in Tema that wrapped up the celebrations and as I looked around at the large crowd that had gathered to hear party leaders speak, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the loyalty and support of the party faithful who have stayed on for the past 15 years.

It’s not been easy, you know. Struggling against Jerry Boom’s civilian dictatorship wasn’t an easy thing. They jailed our members, beat some of them and even killed a few. But we fought on. Besides the intimidation and all, Jerry Boom, I must concede, wasn’t an easy opponent. He beat Prof. Adu in 1992 and beat me in 1996 and I am sure that if he had contested the elections in 2000, I would have lost. I believe very strongly that if the constitution allowed him, Jerry Boom would have contested in every election and would have won each and every one of them. People like him a lot – not for his brains and leadership qualities, but, I think, for his charisma and good looks.

So as I stood on that party platform in Tema, I thanked God for constitutional term limits. Where would I have been without them? And where would our party be without them? Without those term limits, Jerry Boom might still have been in power, the NDC would still be looting our country and we, the children of the elephant, would still be in the political wilderness.

So as we celebrate our political fortunes as children of the elephant, we have to spare a moment to think about our future and reflect on how our party will like to influence the governance and development of Sikaman. The future looks very bright for us (both party and state) but I am beginning to think that things might not be as rosy as we might have thought or would have liked them to be.

Despite our achievements in government (respect for human rights, getting the economy on track, jailing a few NDC hoodlums and essentially opening up the democratic space), there are many things we’ve also done that seem to suggest that we also delight in shooting ourselves in the foot.

For example, our party in government hasn’t done as much as it could have done to check corruption. Forget about what the World Bank says. We’ve made some progress but a lot more could have been done to give real meaning to the “zero tolerance for corruption” proclamation I made at the start of my first term. I have been told several times that the “party maketh the government” so on those occasions that I have tried to punish some of our own corrupt officials, I was forcefully reminded that I need to ‘soften up’ in order not to “damage the party.” As a result what do we see? What do we hear? Ministers of state who were near paupers when we were in opposition have become so wealthy that they can afford to literally waste hundreds of millions of cedis on the campaign to try succeed me, even though they know very well that they do not stand a dog’s chance. I wouldn’t say I’m totally clean but let’s face it, without party interference and intervention, I would have done more to keep my government as clean as possible. Unfortunately, party officials have made it abundantly clear to me that “this is our time” to make as much money as possible before (God forbid!) we are sent back into the opposition wilderness. As a result, we have been engaging in one of the major wrongdoings the NDC was often accused of: awarding contracts to party faithful only and diligently receiving sacks full of kickback cash. Ekesu unwittingly made this public a couple of years ago and what did we do? We relegated him to political oblivion. In this party therefore corruption is not punished as much as it should. Rather those who (even unwittingly) expose it are severely dealt with.

Another issue of concern is how I have been literally forced to create a lot of ‘jobs for the boys’. I came into government with a promise to keep the size of government as small as possible. But that’s one of the numerous promises I’ve not been able to fulfil because I have been forced, sometimes, to place party interests above that of the nation. I know (and everybody else knows) that there are too many government officials – in fact, even more than the NDC had. In our obstinate quest to create more jobs for the boys, I have been compelled to create ludicrous positions such as Ministers of State who are a few notches below some substantive ministers but a few steps above deputy ministers. For example, who the heck is a Minister of State at the Interior Ministry when we have an Interior Minister and a deputy? What in heavens name is he supposed to be doing that the substantive minister can’t do? Under the NDC few ministries had two deputies. Under our administration there are many ministries with even more than two deputies. Consider the fact that almost all our ministers have special assistants (or hangers-on, who are not a public servant but are paid by the state) and you will realise that our politically motivated appointments have done this country more harm than good. Initially, we promised to form an “all-inclusive” government. But now what do we see? The government has lost all traces of all-inclusiveness and some vital positions are filled by under-qualified, incompetents who are only suited to be in government because they hold party membership.

We came into government promising to listen to the people. But recently, I sense a very high level of intolerance for opposition views. We don’t even listen any more. We do as we please. People are saying the money for the independence celebration is too much and we tell them to go to hell. People say we don’t need certain laws and we tell them that we will pass any bill we want, even if we don’t intend to implement it. What sort of warped logic is that? Finally, look at the large number of presidential aspirants in the party and you will think that ours is a grouping of power-hungry, nouveau riche, egomaniacs who have tasted power for a while and want to enjoy more than a bite. Don’t believe those who say the large number of aspirants is an indication that ours is a democratic party. Of course, we are democratic. But the large number of presidential aspirants is not just testimony to our democratic credentials. It also indicates an unhealthy lust for power which ought to be checked.

The party maketh the government, indeed. That’s why people refer to us as the “NPP government.” As we prepare for the next general elections, Sikaman citizens are increasingly realising that there is only a thin line between the elephant and umbrella parties. If we had a serious ‘third’ party, I believe citizens might want to try them out as well. But there is none and so the contest is still between us and Jerry Boom’s crew. As we celebrate our 15th anniversary, I am grateful for our achievements. But I worry about the future. I worry that we have become complacent and, some say, arrogant. We have reneged on a lot of our promises. We have sometimes placed party interests above that of the state. These do not auger well for a party that claims to have the formula for turning the fortunes of Sikaman around. The earlier we change our ways the better.

When I’m gone, I will be expected to be an elder statesman. I cannot be seen to be too political. But I would be happy to see my party still in government – if for nothing at all, at least, for me to be taken good care of and not to die in ignominy like Limann did. That’s why I say these things now. A word from an old elephant at the head of government must be taken seriously.

Excellently yours,

J. A. Fukuor

Columnist: Daily Dispatch