Nothing wrong if President Mills serves only one term

Mon, 9 Jul 2012 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Many voices have been heard saying that President Mills will set a record as the first incumbent to serve only one term in office. There is nothing strange about this wish; and if that is the decision of the electorate, it must be respected. Even before Election Day, it shouldn’t be difficult to tell how the wind blows.

I strongly believe that if he proves unworthy of a second term, he should be voted down. He must be responsible for his own Fate. There is nothing binding for him to be treated as was done to his predecessors (Rawlings, January 1993–2001; and Kufuor, January 2001–2009). Nothing but a credible record of performance should be the yardstick.

The 1992 Constitution provides for a maximum of two terms in office, but we must not make a fetish of that concession to create the wrong impression that anybody put in office as the President must necessarily run the full course. Retention in office must not be reduced to a predictable equation. In our kind of politics where sycophancy predominates in the affairs of politicians, their cronies, all manner of hangers-on, and lackeys in the media and other outlets designed for propaganda purposes, we shouldn’t jeopardize our democracy by leaving anything to chance. If we insist on automatically renewing the mandate of the President, we can’t get out of the woods. But get out of the woods we must!

In our situation, where development projects have become the main bait being dangled by the political office holders, it is obvious that performance will be primarily based on how much infrastructural development the President and his government provide. That is why President Mills is suffering the negative backlash of his government’s inability to fulfill the 2008 electioneering campaign promises that the NDC activists had made while stunting for votes, although evidence abounds on its provision of development projects all over the country.

Development projects provide the congenial means for an improved socio-economic lifestyle and allow the beneficiaries to live their lives in some kind of measured decency provided they can pay for the services. But development projects shouldn’t be the be-it-all-and-end-it-all in the political considerations.

Considering the pervasive corruption that has characterized anything concerning development projects, I am tempted to guess that development projects are the root cause of corruption in the public sector, which defies solution because those in charge of affairs profit from them. Development projects engender vice. Contract manipulation or award of contracts to dubious characters (mostly on political party or ethnic lines) and the inflation of contract costs are too common. Thus, the more attention is paid to development projects, the more likely the tendency for fleecing of the national coffers.

That is why we are hesitant to praise the President or government for its attention to development projects. If the President can put in place measures to curb the corrupt practices associated with development projects, he will deserve our praise and support. Until then, we remain skeptical about this over-emphasis on development projects as a confirmation of the President or government’s performance and, therefore, the justification for their being retained in power.

Other performance indicators should be factored into the electoral decision. And there are many of such performance indicators such as:

• the President’s leadership skills (especially the ability to galvanize the people for national development);

• the government’s policies and programmes aimed at ensuring long-lasting development in all sectors of national life, not just anything transient or based on spur-of-the-moment politically motivated whims and caprices;

• ability to ensure national security and public safety;

• ability to fight bribery and corruption, moral decadence, economic stagnation, and political instability;

• ability to project a positive image of Ghana on the international scene;

• ability to unite the country and shun narrow-minded ethnic politics and nepotism; and many others.

Such performance indicators should be used to determine the extent to which the President and his government have contributed toward national progress and not compounded whatever problems they might have inherited from their predecessors. In this vein, then, the paramount issue becomes: What has the President done to raise hopes in Ghanaians for a brighter future, based on the solid foundation that his government has built for the long-awaited economic take-off?

Mind you, everything is influenced by economics, and the ability of the President to provide the leadership skills needed to use the vast natural and human resources of the country should be on top of the list of factors constituting the yardstick by which the incumbent’s desire for retention in office must be measured.

The question to ask in the case of President Mills is: Has he given enough account of his stewardship as far as those performance indicators are concerned to warrant his re-election bid?

No matter what the answer is, I hold the opinion that the move for retention in office must be made by the President himself. From what President Mills has given us to know of him so far, what is the initiative that he is taking to make himself re-electable? A very serious question with very serious implications!

A President who really wants to remain in office will be more visible on the political landscape than what President Mills has portrayed so far. Forget about the public attention to his health issues or what he says when interacting with foreign or local dignitaries when he interacts with them at the seat of government. That won’t endear him to any voter’s heart.

A President who is desirous of remaining in office will take every step to connect with the people where they matter most. Is that what President Mills is doing? Not at all.

We note that he is more confined to the Osu Castle and doing the routine assignments while his influence on the political landscape wanes either because not much is seen of him or because the political opponents’ propaganda is effectively undercutting him.

President Mills seems not to be cognizant of the fact that his popularity will be judged more by what the people hear about him than from him. And what is said about him from his detractors won’t pave the way for him to win an election. What haven’t these opponents already said to damage his interests? Yet, he remains glued to his comfort zone at the Osu Castle, leaving his aspirations in limbo.

While the NPP’s Akufo-Addo and his running mate are up-and-doing, touring the country and damaging his interests, he seems to have left the political work to his subordinates (government appointees in the regions, constituencies, nooks and crannies). Unfortunately, most of these subordinates are part of the President and his government’s credibility problem that worsens day-by-day.

The forces arrayed against President Mills are enormous. Even in his own political camp, there are many voices singing cacophonous tunes for him to be a one-term President. Added to this internal evil wish is the propaganda work by his political opponents whose daily machinations and public pronouncements have dire negative consequences for his re-election bid.

Probably, already counting his blessings and hoping that the development projects initiated by his government will do the trick for him, he is complacent. But he will curse himself if he doesn’t get up to gird his loins.

Having already told Ghanaians after his medical check-up in the United States that he was back with vigour and vibrancy, what is the need for him to return to his coop at the Castle, shut off from the public sphere?

One expects that by now, he would have begun the move to re-activate his campaign machinery to ensure that he is not overtaken by events. But he isn’t doing so. And if he isn’t, who should?

More troubling is the spate of judgement debts that have dominated public discourse on the performance of his government. Everything points to impropriety, which an up-and-doing President will be expected to react to and use to re-sate his own perspectives on national issues. But President Mills isn’t doing or saying anything reassuring. It seems he doesn’t know the extent to which this Woyome scandal and many others in the same guise are quickly eroding public confidence in him. Will this negative impression help him realize his re-election goal? I don’t think so.

I want to say at this point that the decision to retain an incumbent President/government in office lies with the electorate. No one should create the mistaken impression that once elected into office, such a person must necessarily be pushed on to the mandatory second term as such.

If the electorate are dissatisfied with President Mills’ performance at the various levels, they should get rid of him without any undue influence from the corridors of power. Those who think that providing essential commodities, roofing materials, or corn mills to buy the conscience of the electorate so as to win the day for such a President must be routed.

At this point in our democratic march, we should be using better methods to put in office our leaders. We want those who know what our problems are and will work with us to solve them. Nothing but a creditable performance in office should determine the electoral decision to be made at Election 2012.

Thus, if President Mills will be the first to serve only a term in this 4th Republic, it should be so. It shouldn’t be anything to haggle or bargain over. His own attitude to matters of such an office should tell us what to do with and to him on Election Day. If he really wants to be retained in office, he should get off his butt and be counted. Otherwise, he will be consigned to the political wilderness. That should be it.

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.