Of chiefs, political endorsements and the woes of promise makers

Celebrity Endorsement File photo

Wed, 5 Oct 2016 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Folks, the battle lines for Election 2016 are clear that the two-horse race between the John Mahama-led administration (NDC) and the NPP’s Akufo-Addo is taking a bizarre turn for our amusement. That bizarre turn features endorsements all over the place.

Here is the catch: Genuine endorsements supported by documentary evidence as against imaginary ones or media-cooked ones that detract from the worth of candidates instead of adding value to them.

We already know of what is happening in the circus of the so-called celebrities, much of which provides the comic relief that we need at this time. On a more serious note, though, are endorsements reportedly coming from serious-minded personalities and institutions. And here, I put our traditional rulers on the spot.

They are serious-minded personalities in this context, especially if viewed against the constitutional injunction that debars them from openly participating in partisan politics but which they still do because the constitution itself is weak on that score. It provides no punishment for defaulters.

A good number of traditional rulers have boldly come out to declare their unflinching support for President Mahama, endorsing his bid for retention as Ghana’s President. In doing so, they have been insistent that the massive development projects given their localities by President Mahama is their main motivation, even if other factors such as his ability to secure life and limb and provide national security and stability also matter.

They see his accomplishments as a clear confirmation of his determination to give the people their fair share of the national cake. Sadly, this national cake has been baked all these years (through the sweat, blood and toil of those whose activities feed the national coffers) but hasn’t been made available to them.

It is merely dangled to taunt them and enjoyed by only those privileged to access it. By extension, then, President Mahama’s ability to bring that cake down to the doorsteps of the hitherto deprived communities to enjoy means a huge change that must be appreciated and rewarded at the polls. That is why they are rooting for him.

Indications that beneficiaries of the development projects appreciate President Mahama’s governance style emerged long ago, even before he embarked on the “Accounting to the People” tours, a feat that overshadowed the one undertaken by his main opponent, Akufo-Addo, who went on an “Arise and Build” tour that provided nothing worth hanging on to. No wonder, he couldn’t connect with the people.

Then, President Mahama followed up with the “Changing Lives, Transforming Ghana” tour that the NPP dismissed but which provided evidence-based material for the NDEC’s electioneering campaigns.

In truth, what President Mahama has done in the past four years is unprecedented. No Ghanaian leader has used his mandate to provide so much within a short time, even if harsh economic conditions still exist. The truth is that no country in the world has ever been able to solve all problems facing the citizens.

But reasonable governments identify major problems to tackle in the hope that they will pave the way for measures to lessen the burden on the people. And a good way to do so is to provide development pr5ojects (roads, schools, hospitals, communication networks, security, and many more). That’s exactly what President Mahama has focused on.

A critical look at the government’s Green Book and the NDC’s manifesto shouldn’t leave anybody in doubt. Only those who are so wrapped up in their own infallibility and pure holiness and perfection will think otherwise. But they are mistaken because perfection is not a human quality.

Finding fault with the one carving the path is easy; but when given the task to carve the path, the one finding fault may not even be able to take the first step. That is what the NPP under Akufo-Addo has proved to be. A laughable lot!!

Wherever President Mahama goes, he presents a genuine case on account of his accomplishments to agitate the minds of the people; and those who seek Ghana’s well-being appreciate his good works. Remember that he has been in power for only four years!!

How many of his predecessors could do so much? Nkrumah has 15 years in office and did his best to lay the foundation. His predecessors had their turn and are known for whatever they succeeded in doing or failed to do. Out of them, Rawlings had the longest tenure and is respected for pursuing the agenda of development projects and capping it all with the type of democracy that has ensured national security and stability.

He may still be seen as controversial but he can’t be denied respect for making Ghana what it is. And his legacy is being fleshed out by the Lion of Gonja, especially in terms of infrastructural development (as the prime move for economic take-off) and national security/stability. His opponents can mount rooftops to shout themselves hoarse, but they will end up unfulfilled.

The latest instances of chiefs boldly endorsing President Mahama and urging their subjects to do same include the following examples as reported by the media:

1. The Chief of Sefwi Asawinso in the Western Region, Nana Adu Kwesi II, has pledged his and the unflinching support of the people of Sefwi Asawinso for President Mahama. According to him, anyone who votes against the 2016 Presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the upcoming polls does not have the country's interest at heart.

2. Nana Mpra Besemuna III, Krachiwura and President of the Krachi Traditional Council, has assured President Mahama of his support and that of his subjects.

3. The Acting President of the Kwahu Traditional Council also endorsed President Mahama’s bid for retention on the basis of the development projects given his area by the government. The NPP elements got very much incensed to the point of insulting him and agitating for his destoolment, but he is still at post.

Many other chiefs elsewhere have boldly given their mandate to President Mahama, damn the consequences. Why is it so? Is it because they have read a deeper meaning into the polls to be wary of the future? In other words, do they not want to lose out when President Mahama is retained? They must have a good hunch for rooting for him this way. And those denouncing media reports about their endorsement of Akufo-Addo must have a good hunch too. Why so?

Turn the coin over to see the other side. On his tours, Akufo-Addo interacted with the chiefs and people and news reports had it that wherever he went, the chiefs endorsed him. Hardly had such impressions sunk than the chiefs came out angrily to condemn them.

From Northern Ghana to anywhere else, the chiefs have vehemently denied the news reports that they endorsed Akufo-Addo. The Sege chief’s stance sums it all up. These chiefs can’t be said to be impetuous or mischievous. From their explanation, it is clear that someone sought to put words into their mouths. Alarm blow!!

Interestingly, the Akufo-Addo camp hasn’t reacted to the string of denunciations by these chiefs. Is it a tacit acceptance of guilt for telling the whole world what didn’t happen? Why so?

We say here that on the contrary, chiefs who have been reported as endorsing President Mahama haven’t recanted. They have stood their grounds as such. Even the Acting President of the Kwahu Traditional Council remained adamant because he couldn’t denounce President Mahama, knowing very well what he has done for his area. Like others appreciating reality, he won’t bow to undue political pressure.

In truth, then, the motivation for such endorsements isn’t far-fetched. It’s all based on “development projects. And as Nana Adu Kwesi put it, “the Mahama led government has embarked on several development projects in Sefwi Asawinso including fixing their deplorable roads…President Mahama and the NDC have really developed our town so much that I can’t afford to vote against him… I pray that in this year’s election, NDC government wins again so that he continues developing my town for me.

I really thank God for him. Those who wish that he is voted out can do so to their own detriment. But all I can say is that he (Mahama) will win again” (See https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Don-t-dare-vote-against-Mahama-Sefwi-Chief-474004).

That being the case (that development projects are now the determining factors in shaping political persuasion and allegiance), it is intriguing to note that some communities that haven’t so far benefited from President Mahama’s agenda are up in arms, threatening to vote against him unless he gives them the social amenities (roads, potable water, etc.) that they have not had all these years.

Interestingly, such communities have emerged as strongholds for the NDC, meaning that if the government doesn’t heed the warning, it stands to lose votes therefrom. Such threats may come across as attempts at blackmail or holding the government hostage, but they reflect a lot for us to ponder.

Genuine as those demands are, they are too politically motivated for comfort. The rub is that the government cannot satisfy every community at the same time, which means that government functionaries should have been proactive enough to reach pout to such communities to make the matter clear. A form of hob-nobbing on the way forward should have been adopted long ago to let the citizens know that their concerns would be addressed at the appropriate time. The government cannot carry its eggs in one basket.

But here comes the “against politics” that will paint the government as uncaring and seek to instigate disgruntled communities against it. I urge the government to quickly connect with those agitated segments of the society so it can take them on board.

After all, national development is not a one-shot activity. It takes time but must be done with public support on the basis of trust and confidence. The government must move fast here. Those in the opposition seeking to capitalize on such sentiments will surely lose traction if the government acts swiftly to connect with the disgruntled elements.

Let’s not over-extend issues. It is clear that those communities being given development projects that they never dreamt of having in their lifetime can now face reality. And at the polls, they can make their voices heard. Let’s leave them to do so, knowing very well that they already have a bird in hand and shouldn’t fret over the millions flying about in the bus. That’s what the endorsement given President Mahama by the Krachiwura says; and it is rooted in reality to be appreciated at the polls. I shall return…

Writer's e-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.