Re: NDC In A Fix Over JJ

Thu, 7 Aug 2008 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

“NDC In A Fix Over JJ” was the title of an intriguing article that appeared on modernghana.com on July 31, 2008. Authored by a Bennett Akuaku of the Daily Guide newspaper, the writer provided a chronological account of the events that have transpired within the upper echelons of power in the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Ghana’s main opposition party, in the last few months, with special emphasis on the political quagmire the party’s leaders are presently facing prior to this year’s democracy-ensconcing presidential elections.

That former president, Jerry Rawlings, is known for the occasional faux pas is an undeniable fact, but the ex-president’s impatience with his party’s leaders may inhere in his long years as head of two democracy-stultifying juntas ? Jerry Rawlings’ reign as a military leader had spanned some 11 years ? where he did not have to subject himself to the rule of law, and what some call the “slow process” of democratic governance: In a democracy, there are measures and countermeasures woven into the system to increase accountability and prevent abuse, a medley of checks that military leaders generally find aggravating.

Without a doubt, Jerry Rawlings ? and I must give the man some credit here! ? had to endure the “slow process” of democratic governance in Ghana from 1992 to 2000, when he was twice elected to lead the nation, but Mr. Rawlings did have his great moments as head of state as well. The ex-president’s lack of patience notwithstanding, Ghana is on the verge of yet another democratic transition, with neither the ex-president nor the incumbent in contention for the nation’s highest office, so we should pat ourselves on the back for coming this far, even if we had to contend with a smorgasbord of allegations ? unsubstantiated or otherwise ? of vote-rigging and other electoral malpractices in the last four presidential elections.

So, what is this issue about Jerry Rawlings and John Atta-Mills not getting along? Well, Jerry Rawlings remains, largely, a popular figure in Ghana; in fact, Mr. Rawlings is a more popular figure than John Kufuor, the sitting president! As such, Jerry Rawlings’ looming stature poses a certain problem for John Atta-Mills: the latter has been unable to completely get out of the shadow of his political mentor. To make matters worse, Mr. Rawlings’ occasional “boom” speeches have only emasculated the persona of Atta-Mills in the eyes of the electorate, a conundrum John Mahama aptly captured when he stated, “[In] an Executive Presidency such as Ghana is operating, voters want to be sure that the buck stops with the person to whom they give their mandate on Election Day” (the full article appeared on ghanaweb.com on July 10, 2008).

I agree with the faction within the Atta-Mills camp that believes keeping the ex-president away from the campaign trail would be the wiser of two difficult choices. In fact, Bennett Akuaku, the Daily Guide reporter who wrote the initial story, may have encapsulated the mindset of Atta-Mills when he said, “… sources close to [John Atta-Mills] and his running mate have revealed that the campaign team is okay without the former president.” This stance by the NDC flag-bearer will be displeasing to many of the avowed supporters of ex-President Rawlings, but these supporters must allow Atta-Mills and his camp to pursue the options that the NDC flag-bearer believes will maximize his chances of winning this year’s presidential elections. Is Atta-Mills not supposed to be in the driver’s seat?

John Mahama, the man Atta-Mills has chosen as his running mate in an attempt to wrest power from the National Patriotic Party (NPP), may have accurately summarized the acrimony in the NDC when he said,“[E]very member of the [NDC] party including the founder must fit into the campaign strategy for the 2008 elections as approved by Prof. Mills, ‘if we are to avoid creating an impression of disorganization and an unpreparedness to govern’” (see the same aforementioned July 10, 2008, story on ghanaweb.com). It is a matter of public knowledge that the Rawlingses did not approve of John Mahama as Atta-Mills’ running mate, but the Rawlingses’ continued refusal to meet with John Mahama will eventually both divide the NDC leadership and polarize the entire NDC fraternity.

On a different note, I was surprised that John Atta-Mills had cringed, allegedly, at Mrs. Rawlings’ recent outbursts in which the latter had questioned the legal qualifications of John Kufuor and Nana Akufo-Addo. Well, I disagree with those who insist that Mrs. Rawlings’ fire-spitting rhetoric that had called into question the legal credentials of both men was inappropriate ? I addressed this issue in an earlier article that was published on a few pro-Ghanaian Internet portals ? for once people declare themselves candidates for public office, their curriculum vitas and other matters pertaining to their backgrounds ought to become public knowledge. Honestly, I still believe that unless Nana Akufo-Addo clears the air on the afore-referenced issue, he is taking a huge political risk the outcome of which no one can predict at this time.

I call on Jerry Rawlings to retire from active politics, as he has had a profound effect ? both positive and negative ? on Ghana’s political terrain in the last 20 years. The ex-president may be finding it hard to let go of a party that he, somehow, still believes he primarily founded alone, but his influence in his party is waning, and justifiably so. While Mr. Rawlings’ reign as leader of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) are not particularly legendary in contemporary times, his transformation into a civilian leader from 1992 to 2000 must be applauded in the annals of the nation, and he must always be acknowledged in that regard.

Just as life itself, sadly, is not interminable, Mr. Rawlings must realize that his stranglehold on Ghanaian politics has come to an irrevocable end, and like an ageing soccer star who realizes that it is either retirement or a continual dismal performance on the field, the time has come for the ex-president to take a final bow! Fortunately, Mr. Rawlings has a few adult children who may be considering procreating themselves, so the ex-president’s “retirement” may be filled with the joy of babysitting his grandchildren, instead of trying to ruin his legacy by attempting to stay actively involved in politics!

Finally, John Atta-Mills must get into high gear and get his political ideas across to the people, for Ghanaians may have reached the point where a new party coming to power may be the alternative to the extensive cronyism, nepotism and inefficiency that the NPP is enmeshed in presently, except for a few distinguished men and women in the ruling party. Whether Nana Akufo-Addo can win the hearts of the electorate to become president is debatable, but at least the NPP flag-bearer has a few months to do so. As I have always stated, the presidency is bigger than any individual, so we must respect the rule of law and allow the will of the people to triumph in Election 2008. For John Atta-Mills and Nana Akufo-Addo, this may be the last opportunity that either man has to become president, so each must work doubly hard to achieve his lifelong dream of leading Ghana, but not at the cost of plunging the nation into infernal darkness!

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.