By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
July 14, 2010
I have always insisted that I will not praise a husband for impregnating his wife because that is his obligation. No celebration. However, if he fails to perform that unmarked conjugal function, he deserves scrutiny. The same applies to the President of a country. It is his unswerving responsibility to ensure the development of his country and he deserves no special praise if he does so. That is what he is in office to do. If he fails to perform competently, he must be taken to task because it is his responsibility to ensure that he governs properly to improve living conditions for the people.
In this context, I take issues with Dr. Sekou Nkrumah over what is attributed to him: “A member of the ruling National Democratic Congress and third son of Ghana’s first President, Dr. Sekou Nkrumah, has stirred further controversy by declaring NDC founder Jerry John Rawlings as Ghana’s best leader, compared to ex-President Kufuor and current President John Evans Atta Mills” (Ghanaweb.com, July 13, 2010).
Sekou’s categorical statement is a clear demonstration of a needless, misguided praise-singing approach to national politics, which must be criticized, because it creates erroneous impressions, raises tension, and unduly emboldens those being praised to persist in having their way. Praise-singing is one of the major problems that bedevil Ghana politics. It is an integral part of the vicious circle of sycophancy and clearly indicates immaturity in politics. In one sense, well-placed Ghanaian politicians like sycophancy; and when seeking opportunities to become well-placed, some turn themselves into shameless sycophants. It is a troubling reality.
Sekou Nkrumah’s adulation of Rawlings is misplaced. Yes, Rawlings played his part but he shouldn’t be given what Sekou has showered on him because the systemic problems that prompted his overthrow of the Limann government are still with us, indicating that he is no different from Kufuor and Mills as far as policy directives and their impact on the country are concerned. After all, nobody forced Rawlings into office on December 31, 1981. He shot his way into the Osu Castle and even offered himself as a sacrificial lamb when he dared Ghanaians with this brazen death warrant: “I am prepared to face the firing squad if Ghanaians don’t like what I have come to do for them for the second time.”
Ghanaians have tolerated him thus far, not because he solved their problems for which he must be singled out as the best leader. Let Sekou Nkrumah come out to tell us the yardstick that he used to measure the performances of these three Presidents we’ve had in the 4th Republic that made him choose Rawlings as the best. Without much digging, we can tell that Sekou thinks that because President Mills’ attitude to decision-making may not endear him to hearts (like his), he is weak. Of course, there are several perspectives to be considered when it comes to that aspect of governance.
We all know that some may rush to make decisions, which end up being not only fatalistic but which also serve wrong purposes. In Rawlings’ case, can we not point to some effects of the decisions that he took to condemn him over the rashness of his approach? Evidence abounds to confirm that much of his approach to decision-making didn’t work well in the favour of the country or its people. Otherwise, why would people keep complaining about the ills that occasioned his administration? If the approach to decision-making alone is Sekou’s basis for condemning President Mills, then, he needs to know better not to rush to judgement. Every leader has his own strategies for framing and solving problems and we must not try to confuse matters.
While Kufuor’s lack of charisma might make him unappealing to some of us, we can’t deny the fact that he has left his lasting impressions on the Ghanaian political map and is doing what he thinks will make his post-office life meaningful to society. He has chosen to concentrate on international assignments; and to his credit, his choice enables him to maintain a low profile as far as national politics is concerned. I don’t know whether to praise him for that but I can say that this line of action ensures that he doesn’t dabble in issues, especially controversial ones, which might dent his image or create needless tension.
On the other hand, Rawlings has chosen to do otherwise. No day passes by without his name and image looming large in news reports, mostly for the wrong cause. He has persistently roused sentiments against the very government that he laboured to bring into being. To his discredit, then, Rawlings has indicated that he is not only a problem to his own NDC but is also a national problem. As someone who controlled the destiny of Ghana in varying circumstances and is expected to be circumspect in his post-office conduct, he is disappointing. He behaves as if he thinks that Ghanaians owe him a special debt of service and honour for allowing him to rule for almost two decades, leaving behind daunting problems, which others are still struggling to solve.
What irks me is that people like Sekou Nkrumah often fail to look at the issue from a futuristic perspective and choose to concentrate on the past. If his adulatory comment on Rawlings is anything to go by, why are Ghanaians still complaining that Rawlings’ government didn’t do what was expected to get the country to where it should have been within the long period that he ruled? No one is saying that Rawlings’ government alone should have solved all Ghana’s problems. Far from that. We know that no single government can solve all the country’s problems; but, at least, considering the long tenure of Rawlings, couldn’t he have done better than the legacy he left behind?
Of course, there are visible signs on his achievements (especially the development projects and establishment of the 4th Republic) just as there are others that expose his incompetence and failures. In that sense, Kufuor must also be given credit for his achievements, some of which President Mills’ government has retained (the NYEP, School Feeding Programme, Capitation Grant, Metro-Transport Network, many development projects, etc.). Kufuor’s failures can also be identified, especially those that affected industry (collapse of Ghana Airways and many others, for instance), just as Rawlings presided over the collapse of the Black Star Line and the disposal of State-Owned Enterprises under circumstances that led to the prosecution of high-ranking officials of the Divestiture Implementation Committee and others who profited from those deals.
We have so far seen how President Mills is also going about running the country. Despite the persistent criticism of his style, we can see visible signs of his accomplishments although the failures are also evident.
Pointing to development projects as a mark of achievement worthy of praise is laughable because these projects came at a huge cost to the economy. Yes, under Rawlings, development projects sprang up in deprived communities, the national electricity grid was extended to rural areas, and roads were constructed. But the overarching question is this: Is it economically feasible to contract huge foreign loans with high interest rates to construct development projects instead of enunciating policies to strengthen the economy and use its benefits for growth and stability? All these Presidents have failed in this area. All they presided over was panhandling in the international donor community, which has saddled the country with huge foreign debts. Is this what is being praised as an accomplishment?
In situations like what we live in today—and which our children and their children will likely condemn us over tomorrow—we need to look far beyond such pettiness in politics to ensure that we don’t create needless tension with our utterances. The problem with Ghanaian politicians is that they are too garrulous, making much ado about nothing except that they want their voices to be heard. It is not necessary for one to begin comparing past Presidents and drawing conclusions that don’t contribute anything useful to our quest for a proper direction for our country’s development. The emphasis should be on what we must do to improve conditions in the country. The past belongs to itself even though we have to learn the useful lessons that it offers to build a better tomorrow.
To be continued…