Mahama’s 2020 bid: A real threat to Nana or a political scarecrow?

John Mahama.jpeg Former President John Dramani Mahama

Fri, 18 Jan 2019 Source: Mathias Dorfe

January 2019 is in full motion, the month in which the NDC was originally scheduled to elect its presidential candidate for the 2020 elections.

I am sure we have not forgotten the euphoric atmosphere that engulfed the Trade Fair site during the congress at which the party elected its national officers.

That Mahama will win the primaries is not in doubt. However, only time will tell whether the new-found vivacity of the NDC and their displayed optimism for 2020 during their last congress are founded on solid grounds or are just monumental exercises of self-delusion.

Deferring judgement to the court of time does not mean the basis of their optimism is entirely lost on me. One of their parliamentary aspirants asked me if I was the only one who had not noticed the speed with which Nana Addo’s goodwill had disappeared. She said teasingly that Nana has burnt his goodwill faster than an “Adjoa Yankey” would fade if it was mistakenly soaked in parazone. For the benefit of the younger ones, clothes made from tie and dye materials used to be called Adjoa Yankey in years gone by.

I admire Nana Addo for his bullish outlook for Ghana. He makes promises with such an infectious conviction that used to inspire even his ardent critics to believe that they would wake up the following morning to see those promises materialize. He inspired a lot of hope with his electioneering campaign and the positive vibes of his early days in office. Who can forget the jubilation that greeted the first budget presented by his government, the Asempa Budget? Hope is, however, a perishable commodity which can only have its shelf life preserved by the timely evidence of what is hoped for. This is where it differs from faith. When God promised the Israelites that he was taking them from Egypt into a land full of milk and honey, they started their journey with hope but it was faith that kept them going till they hit the promised land.

Unfortunately for Nana, those biblical times are long gone and contemporary Ghanaian politics is not a faith-based enterprise. How else can it be when the politicians have themselves bastardized their credibility over the years? They preach virtue whilst in opposition but practice vice amidst self-adulation when in government. I don’t think you have forgotten about Mahama’s Finance Minister. Whilst he was praise singing his smart borrowing and smart taxation policies, the citizens were disquietly christening them as Tekpernomics. Trust the Ghanaian political lexicologists. They have now come up with a new term called Nawumiaism. This, they say, is where Nana makes a bullish promise today and Bawumia declares it the following day as having been fulfilled but nobody else sees it. They say even those that are seen, don’t have a lifespan that goes beyond the duration of an eclipse. How more mean can they be?

I am fully convinced that Nana means well because I don’t see how he can mean otherwise. It appears to me that he and his team have chosen to first polish the macroeconomic aggregates that they met in a somewhat rusty state. You don’t need the expert eyes of the IMF to see that they have so far done quite well in that regard. But the dividends of glossy macroeconomic aggregates take time to show up. In the meantime, Ghanaians are saying we don’t eat GDP and that reduced inflation benefits us in no way if we don’t have the money to buy anything in the first place. But it is not the first time these Ghanaians are saying so. They expressed similar sentiments during Mills’ time when Ghana was touted as the fastest growing economy but the people were not seeing the evidence of that growth in their lives. Do you remember how Nana rode the waves of the people’s cries at the time to call Mills “Professor Do Little”?

The NDC’s optimism and the rejuvenated verve of the Mahama fanatics are thus running on the oxygen provided by what they see as the failure of the Nana government to live up to its hype. Some of them have gotten so intoxicated with it and are behaving as if the only reason why Mrs. Jean Mensa was appointed the EC Chair is to declare Mahama the president of Ghana on December 8 or 9, 2020. If this could be the reason, then they should know that the opposite could also be the case.

It’s true that no dosage of tramadol could make anybody high enough to believe that all the districts in Ghana will have a factory or all the villages in the northern belt of Ghana will have a dam by 2020. There is also no doubt that a general election in Ghana has essentially become a referendum on how the electorates feel about the incumbent government. But NDC should know that it may be delusional to hang their 2020 hopes on these perceived failures. This is because failed electoral promises have not yet emerged as the decisive factor in the general elections of the fourth republic. Perceived corruption of government operatives, harsh living conditions and arrogance of power have proven to be more potent game changers than failed or delayed promises on flagship projects.

JAK did not fulfil most of his election promises including the infamous one for reducing fuel prices, but he comfortably won his re-election bid in 2004. The NDC woefully failed to implement its flagship campaign promise of a one-time premium for the National Health Insurance when it came into office in January 2009 but that did not stop the party from winning the 2012 elections for a renewed mandate. I am yet to hear anybody, sympathizer or critic, blame the 2016 electoral defeat of the fourth John on his failure to build the 200 new SHSs he promised. I don’t know what the Prof Kwesi Botchway Report says about it though.

The elections are two years away and the former president and his collaborators, as well as those who run the NDC party, know better than I do that two year is a very long time in politics. If the NDC believes that the hardships that exist today can make Ghanaians forget the reasons why they voted it out of power two years ago, then it stands to reason that when things change for the better in 2019 and 2020, the same citizens are likely to forget the sufferings of today and go by the sentiments of the day to retain Nana in office. I will be surprised if Nana doesn’t make things change for the better.

I am not a social psychologist but I have a fair appreciation of the concept of motivation. Whilst the presidency was dropped on Mahama’s lap by providence, Nana went through a determined toil at all levels to get it. It should, therefore, mean more to Nana than it meant to Mahama when he was in office. This context alone should give Nana a stronger motivation to retain power than Mahama had in his time. Nana is therefore not likely to sit down for things to degenerate to a level that would deal a fatal blow to his retention bid. Mahama should, therefore, know that his new mantra of coming back to continue his good works may just not be a good enough sell in the long run. He should not forget that the same people who are crying of hardship today, did so under his regime too. He, therefore, needs to raise his game.

But is Nana the only one who is motivated now? A big No! Mahama should be more fired up now about regaining power than he was about retaining it when he had it. He had thought all was going for him at the time and took many things for granted. How did he not realize for instance that his dead goat simile would offend people’s sensibilities? But Nana also seems to be making his own version of mistakes and time will tell how fatal these mistakes will turn out to be. What is certain for now is that the loss has surely taught Mahama a good lesson. He has by now fully known his acts of omission and of commission that caused his loss.

That is, wherein lies his new motivation? The motivation to come back, to correct his wrongs, to show how human he can be with power, to show how he can touch lives, not with slogans but with real human-centred policies and programs. He surely will have a new Tekper, build a better working relationship with his party structures and connect more effectively with the felt needs of Ghanaians. He should, therefore, be more fired up than he was in 2016. If he does get the keys back to the Flagstaff House, he is likely to be a better and more effective president than he was in his previous term. I will be surprised if he turns out to the good old “” president.idey be keke

I have some pieces of advice for Nana. First of all, Nana and his team should temper the chase for macroeconomic glory with what makes people live today. They should pay contractors and all local service providers who the state owes money. They should not dismiss everything the opposition says because many of them actually do reflect the sentiments of the people. Anytime Nana is responding to a controversial issue, he comes across as addressing his opponents, the NDC, rather than speaking to the Ghanaian people. It will do him a lot of good to stop addressing the NDC in his public discourse and start addressing Ghanaians. Nana himself admitted in far-away Trumpland that things are difficult in his country and his own man Kennedy Agyepong has been singing hardship in the country to anybody who cares to listen. Above all, he should take steps to arrest the growing disillusionment at the grassroots of the party where the dividends of power remain largely in arrears. The president should know that if he has to be the one reminding the citizens about the reliefs provided by the Free SHS and reduced electricity tariffs, it simply means those reliefs are not touching the lives of the people enough to be a strong political currency that will buy 2020 for his government.

Let me just give him a couple of reminders. His own presidential campaign in 2000 was hinged on what the NPP touted as the achievements of the JAK government. Mr Asamoah Boateng’s Ministry of Information at the time painted images of “Ghana Now” and “Ghana Then” on all the Metro Mass buses where “Ghana Then” depicted the supposed mess of the pre-JAK era with “Ghana Now” showing the NPP-believed prosperity of the JAK era. The election results pronounced the verdict for Nana and NPP to lick their wounds for the following eight years. Mahama forgot about Nana’s 2000 experience and put up a similar show in 2016 and he is also licking his wounds now. Governments of the day have over the years patted their own backs to the high heavens but it has not stopped our fourth republican electoral machinery from exposing them at the polls. I have heard shouts from the rooftops about how the Planting for Foods & Jobs has created enough glut in plantain production for us to be exporting to Burkina Faso. For this to reflect in the lives of the people let us show the roasted plantain merchants at East Legon where the glut is so that they can stop increasing their prices. One more tip. It is easier for people in hardship to buy into the lies of opposition politicians than to believe the glossy narratives of a ruling government.

Many were those who had thought 2020 would be a walk in the park for the NPP but that was at the dawn of Nana’s presidency. Many more may be those who have since revised their notes as they see the stage being set for a probable mother of all the 4th republican electoral battles in 2020. Isn’t it curious that some NPP bigwigs are loudly pursuing Mahama’s disqualification, whilst his internal competitors remain quite indifferent? Are they seeing anything that we are not seeing? For now, let us hold our breaths till Jean Mensa speaks on December 8 or 9, 2020.

Time, I say, remains my undisputable referee.

Columnist: Mathias Dorfe