By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
January 3, 2011
Both Rawlings and Mills know what the Presidency can be used for. From how they approach issues, it is easy for one to see the difference in what “power” and how to use it means to them. Rawlings used his power in ways that Ghanaians can be better judges of. Ghanaians also know how President Mills is using or not using his power and can better judge him as well.
We must, however, not misconstrue President Mills’ leniency as his weakness. I don’t think that he is weak as is being alleged; he is just too lenient, which is something not known in Ghanaian politics. We are witnesses to how our leaders have worn their power on their sleeves and how some have (ab)used that power to cause pain and the gnashing of teeth. Some are known to have hounded their critics and opponents out of the country or into utter nothingness and inflicted limitless anguish on them. Carried to that extreme, this (ab)use of power wreaked havoc on the society in many instances.
Ghanaians are used to high-handedness on the part of those who wield power to torment their opponents. Such spectacles have pervaded the political spectrum over the years. Recall what happened under Nkrumah (when he unilaterally destooled chiefs opposing him or installed those supporting him as chiefs even when not eligible; or when he threatened the politically recalcitrant chiefs that they would run away and leave their sandals behind; or the Preventive Detention Act that he used to clip the wings of his critics; and ultimately, his declaration of Ghana as a one-party state with himself as its Life President).
Then, consider all that happened thereafter up to the era of Rawlings and Kufuor when politically motivated acts were done and power was (ab)used to intimidate people. It shouldn’t be lost on you, then, how our leaders have (ab)used their power to punish those against them (whether within their own parties’ ranks or outside them). The atrocities that the military governments committed can’t be forgotten all too soon. Under both the civilian and military regimes, the senseless abuse of power has left ugly scars on people’s bodies, memories, and property. That’s the image some want to be remembered by.
The NDC is still reeling from the negative backlash of the excesses that occurred in the Rawlings era. That’s the main thorny problem that a new NDC (with a social democratic agenda) should tackle so as to reinvent itself and win public goodwill. It cannot do so if it bows to Rawlings’ undue pressure to hound the NPP functionaries. The new NDC must break with that sordid past and do what will help it braze the trail for creating a tension-free political atmosphere. This approach needs support, not what Rawlings is leading his faction to do. After all, solving Ghana’s problems doesn’t necessarily revolve around hounding political opponents. It calls for a purposeful re-engineering of the NDC to use power to serve national interests and not the parochial mischief-laden agenda of those to whom power means brutality.
It, therefore, must have come as “unusually strange” to many of those denigrating President Mills for his reluctance to use his office to perpetrate those very acts of barbarity or banditry that Ghanaians have unwittingly accepted as the fait accompli of political office-holding. However jolting this departure from the norm may be, it must be assessed within the context of President Mills’ peculiar disposition and accepted as a necessary change for the betterment of Ghanaian politics.
Proclaiming himself as “a Father for all Ghanaians” and bent on prosecuting his “Better Ghana” agenda, President Mills is not overzealously using the huge power and authority he has to have things done his own way. This reluctance to exert his authority and (mis)use the enormous powers that he wields seems to be his undoing in the estimation of those in the NDC who have been at his throat for two years now—and will continue to do so until doomsday.
It seems the NDC’s functionaries have pushed themselves to the crossroads, locked up in a gridlock and strenuously indulging in a Tower-of-Babel politics that is destroying the party’s public image. They have resorted to speaking different languages (some always babbling in incomprehensible tongue-lashing) and can’t understand each other to know that their future depends on their ability to work in a concerted manner to help the party achieve its objectives for being in government. They are behaving as if the political power vested in them at the 2008 elections has gone into their heads and maddened them.
If they claim that their main objective for forming the NDC and expending energy and resources for it to win political power is to use that mandate to tackle the country’s problems of poverty, want, and disease, why shouldn’t they do just that but fritter away this glorious opportunity to outdo the Kufuor government and make it difficult for the NPP to reclaim power? Or do they want to tell us that they can’t see eye-to-eye with each other because they are at odds over how to share the hordes of booty that political office holding ensures?
Let them be reminded that the NDC won the Presidential elections by just a stroke of luck. This quirk of circumstance was the quick change of mind by the electorate to choose President Mills over Akufo-Addo because they saw better qualities in him to recommend him.
We all know how it all played out. In the first round of the elections, the NPP’s cocksure Akufo-Addo had defeated Prof. Mills but didn’t get the required quantum (50% plus one vote) to become the President of Ghana. Just like the Biblical Moses, he was so close to his prize, yet so far from it as he stood on top of Mount Sinai, seeing the honey and milk flowing on the streets of Canaan below but wasn’t destined to reach the Promised Land to taste of it. His woes were further deepened when the miracle happened in the run-off three weeks later for the electorate to settle on Prof. Mills as their choice for President. We don’t need any diviner to tell us why.
This victory for President Mills ran counter to the situation on the ground, especially considering how the NPP had demonized the NDC for all the eight years that it was in opposition. The NDC wasn’t as resourced as the NPP was but it stood the test because of the united front it presented and because of how its functionaries spoke one common language to reach out to the electorate. Apparently, the reality of the situation also helped the NDC because of the dissatisfaction among the electorate over Kufuor’s handling of major national issues, especially the perceived spate of bribery and corruption, nepotism, and rising cost of living.
For the elections, the NPP had had a huge advantage over the NDC and the other parties. The benefits of incumbency aside, the NPP had everything in its arsenal to cause havoc to the NDC at the polls: financial and material resources, more appealing electoral slogans and rabble-rousing antics to create a carnival-like atmosphere that made the party a household name. Its “kangaroo” dance caught on and made the party clearly visible.
Additionally, the NPP’s organizers knew how to hurt the NDC’s interest most by continually harping on the atrocities of the Rawlings era and the fact that “a vote for Atta Mills means a vote for Rawlings.” The NPP drummed up hatred against the NDC and created fear among the public to such an extent that one might be tempted to conclude that the NPP was poised to win the elections “one touch.” But it didn’t happen to be so. Electoral victory eluded the NPP in circumstances that the party’s functionaries can’t still comprehend to be able to devise better approaches to the next elections in 2012. They are still using the self-same ineffectual means to reach out to the electorate. But that’s another story altogether.
To be continued…