By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
April 23, 2011
In every historical epoch, every country deserves the kind of government it gets. Ghanaians have President John Evans Atta Mills and his NDC government. That’s not as an accident of history, but the logical outcome of the exercise of democratic rights to choose leaders in the 16th year of the 4th Republic. Whether for good or bad, President Mills has established a good reputation for himself as the most tolerant, patient, humble, and God-fearing President that Ghana has had so far. Such attributes are useful for tempering the political sentiments of the period. I challenge all his critics to prove me wrong. More importantly, I want to drum it into their heads that President Mills didn’t force himself on Ghanaians. He contested the Presidential elections and won because the electorate saw better qualities in him than the other contestants had. The electorate didn’t vote for him because they expected him to act like Rawlings. They did so because they scrutinized his personal attributes and campaign promises to be persuaded that placing their destiny in his hands would not be in vain. He was elected for four years and should be allowed to complete his term in peace.
Unfortunately, some people in his own political party have arrogated unto themselves the power to write him off just because they think he is not what they thought he would be. Those now treating him like a door-mat should rather be grateful that he was the one to succeed J.A. Kufuor. Indeed, President Mills is the appropriate choice for obvious reasons: but for his manner of handling matters, the country would have exploded by now. The peace that they are taking for granted would have eluded the country had he chosen to do as they are crying for.
The high tension that characterized the 2008 general elections would have resulted in a national disaster if he hadn’t allowed reason and good judgement to reign supreme in his approach to administering affairs. At the time, the writing was clearly splashed on the wall that an electoral victory for the NDC meant doom for the NPP activists. It would mean a massive hounding of them, which would definitely spark upheavals countrywide. How many Ghanaians didn’t go down on their knees to pray for divine intervention in the affairs of the country to avert such a disaster?
We can tell from the anger in the NDC functionaries that their party’s victory was all they needed to take matters into their own hands to cause havoc to the NPP activists. They were poised to show the NPP activists where naked power lay. It wasn’t as if the NPP activists were ready to fold their arms and become sitting ducks to be picked up and destroyed by the NDC activists. They were also taking measures to counteract the anticipated but dreaded confrontation. The tension was gradually grinding to an explosive pinpoint.
In our national and local politics, where strong ethnic attachments can be decisive factors, some volatile situations had already been created in many parts of the country, waiting for just one wrong word from a high-ranking NDC functionary in government for the politically induced tension to explode into communal violence along ethnic lines.
Behind all that tension was the claim by the NDC that it had already compiled the list of NPP activists who had succumbed to corruption and that an electoral victory for the NDC would definitely lead to the rounding up and jailing of those people. Johnson Asiedu-Nketiah (General Mosquito), the NDC’s General-Secretary, made no secret of such intentions.
President Mills entered office with all these pockets of tension threatening well-being. Under the circumstance, should he be expected to do what will inflame passions and ignite the fire that will consume the country or be temperate enough to let the tension simmer down? Being an intellectual and not a rabble-rouser looking for opportunities to use raw power for its own sake, he chose a path that didn’t lead to destruction. Is that a crime for which these opponents should be calling for his crucifixion?
Of course, the tension might appear to have evaporated but it is not; it’s still simmering. President Mills has his eyes set on the “Better Ghana” agenda and should not be faulted at will. Those crying foul are only putting the cart before the horse. They are part of the problem for us to solve. It must be clear to those critics that ruling Ghana goes beyond what they might be deceived into believing. Probably, being used to the leadership style of the Rawlingses (who definitely they see as standard-setters for the NDC), these critics have mistakenly sought to judge President Mills by a Rawlings-induced yardstick. They need to know that the circumstances in which Rawlings ruled Ghana are different from those in which President Mills has found himself. Thus, using Rawlings’ approaches to governance as the yardstick to pass a verdict on President Mills’ performance is nothing but a wasted effort, which will deepen the internal crisis of the party and weaken it for next year’s polls. Beyond that point, the NDC has a bleak future if the crisis persists.
I insist that the performance of Rawlings cannot be made the yardstick by which those opposed to President Mills should judge him. Furthermore, President Mills’ unwillingness to do as the Rawlingses wish (or dictate) is based on sound reasoning and must be appreciated as such. There is evidence that the government is providing the social amenities and other comforts of life that the people need.
Berating President Mills for not making the NDC vibrant on the ground is a wasted breath. What are the party’s executives in office for? Party-building is not for the President to do. How many Democratic Party members in the United States will accuse President Obama for not doing what those in Ghana are blaming President Mills for?
We can tell from the struggle going on in the NDC that the stage has been set for those opponents of President Mills (even from within his own NDC) to do all they can to discredit him just because they think that he is not serving their interests. We have been given the opportunity to know what they have up their sleeves.
The article by SaCut Amenga-Etego (“Mills: heart of a coward, spirit of a sycophant!”) published today by Ghanaweb.com is a clear example of the paralyzing ignorance and waywardness that is behind what an ordinary NDC zealot will do to demonstrate his hatred for the country’s President. The contents of that opinion piece clearly portray the disease that is eating deep into the mental fabric of the NDC functionaries who are still in the dark about how politics is done in contemporary times. Still stuck on the destructive, self-serving, and backward politics that characterized the rule of their idol (Rawlings), they mischievously think that an Atta Mills must necessarily be a replica of a Rawlings at the Osu Castle.
Such benighted activists of the NDC fail to appreciate that the NDC’s future viability has to depend on the intellectual substance that should nourish the party. The NDC cannot survive the whirligig of Ghanaian politics in a post-Rawlings period if it continues to be based on low-level political thinking and actions driven by ill-mannered impulses and a senseless penchant for vindictiveness. The party cannot grow if it continues to depend on the “do-me-I-do-you” mentality. That’s what the pro-Rawlings NDC fanatics must know. Whether in what they write for the online media (Ghanaweb, Myjoyonline, ModernGhana, Peacefm, VibeGhana, etc.) or in the private media that are hostile to—if not overly critical of President Mills—they seek to create the impression that he is ineffective and a failure who shouldn’t be given a second bite of the political pie to contest the Presidential elections in 2012.
From what they put out there, one is tempted to think that President Mills is the devil incarnate in Ghanaian politics today. Their hostility to him isn’t novel nor is it unexpected. It is the logical outcome of the pettiness and mischief that is characteristic of people in a society like us that is in transition. But for how long must we allow this holier-than-thou attitude to drive our national and local politics?
By what yardstick are President Mills’ bitter opponents in his party judging him? What justification do they have to pit his leadership style against those of the immediate past Presidents (or any other one that we’ve had so far), knowing very well how unique each of them is and the peculiar circumstances under which each ascended to the throne as Head of State?
Ghanaians know full well the circumstances under which Rawlings entered the political stables and what he did with his AFRC, PNDC, and NDC. I just want to state the obvious that the evidence of his (mal)administration is there for all to see and judge him by. He is nobody’s political Godfather!!
What raises concern about him is his refusal to know that there is a limit to human endurance. Rawlings’ post-office lifestyle is as turbulent and irritating as his in-office one. I can say with all certainty that he is yet to achieve the kind of stature that such a long-serving leader is expected to establish, long after leaving office. I am saddened by the fact that he has fast reduced himself to a nuisance and lost much of the goodwill that ushered him into the political stables.
By his rough-and-tumble approach to politics in his post-office situation, he makes it difficult for the international community to regard him as a credible tool to use for global assignments. What the former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, appointed him to do in the eradication of malaria ended without his establishing anything concrete. That appointment was even politically influenced—to give him something that would take him out of the country at the time that he had begun creating problems for the Kufuor administration.
Then, the African Union’s appointment of him as the High Representative to Somalia came out of the blues. He is expected to do what will either restore the goodwill and respect that he continues to lose or to “lie low” as all others do as soon as they complete their term in office.
I have continued to take Rawlings on just because he creates conditions for it. I don’t regret for taking him to task on that score. If he learns not to set his own standards as the fait accompli for his successors to follow or be damned, he will fade out of focus. It is within this context that the ongoing attempts by him and his wife to single themselves out for whitewashing must be perceived as obnoxious and dismissed. And those who want to judge President Mills by their standards will only irritate some of us.
I am confident that rushing to pass judgement on President Mills after only two full years in office is the height of foolery. Anybody doing so is wicked and must be feared. Such a person needs a complete change of heart. All-in-all, the conclusion is obvious that there is need to redefine our attitude to those we put in charge of affairs in our country. Then, we should see clearly what to do to help them succeed instead of pulling off the rug from under their feet.
In the end, I hope that we all will learn to do the right thing by supporting our leaders (regardless of their human foibles and frailties) so that together, we can iron out our weaknesses and use our strengths to build our country. Instead of standing aloof and condemning them from afar, let’s cooperate with them. Nation-building is a collective effort. If we sit on the fence just because we don’t like the person in charge of affairs, we will be doing more harm than good. Let’s remember that when we sit on the fence for long, we will force it to break. That is our charge.