Opinions Sat, 19 Jan 2013

The Praise-Singing Starts

By Kwasi Adu

Now that the elections have been won and lost (depending on which side of the political divide one is located), various individuals and groups are taking positions (without the “womma funu” aspect). In the taking of positions, some people have resorted to the age-old act of praise-singing and pathetic sychophancy towards the President.

From “foot-soldiers” and serial callers to the President’s personal friends, as well as party people who would want to be handed political appointments, there are frantic acts of idolising and praise-singing for the President. Such servile flattery are now a daily occurrence on radio and television. Suddenly, President Mahama is not capable of doing any wrong, he has been “ordained by God”, “he is humble” “he is endowed with the wisdom of Solomon” etc, etc.

There are currently reports of the President’s personal friends, not being members of the NDC but finding themselves perched near the seat of power, even telling him that President Mahama is more popular than the NDC and that he should take no notice of the party and rule as he wishes. In effect what these friends, some of whom are not members of the NDC, are saying to the President is that he should make them the only source of advice.

The President may well be advised to be careful of such friends, because they are “BAD COMPANY”. The President should ask whether before 24 July 2012, he was more popular than the party. If no, then he should recognize that it was the party that propelled him to victory in the elections. The people giving such praises think nothing but the attempt to pursue their personal interests. Some of them are even known to be boasting that they would make sure that they sideline certain leading NDC activists. It is the case of the pheasant fighting for turf on someone’s farm.

At some point in the 1980s, Mrs. Thatcher, then Prime Minister of UK was made to believe that she was more popular than the Conservative Party. It went into her head, and she proceeded to make statements such as “To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the "U" turn, I have only one thing to say. You turn if you want to. The lady (i.e. Thatcher) is not for turning”. When the party finally decided to “turn”, she was left alone crying bucket-full of tears as she was bundled out of the seat of government at No. 10 Downing Street.

Whereas the serial callers who praise-sing mostly do so to ward off their party’s opponents, those close to politicians who praise-sing do so because they want to hang around the seat of power to advance or protect their personal interests.

The President may do well to remember the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes in which a stark naked Emperor’s courtiers kept saying the clothes he was wearing were beautiful, although the fact was that the Emperor did not have any clothes on. The President may also be advised to remember the tale of Rasputin of Russia who, when he became so close to the Russian Emperor and Empress took advantage of them by convincing them to fill some governmental offices with his own handpicked candidates and in the end contributed to the demise of the Emperor.

Angels are bright, but the brightest fell. Rawlings and his wife were made to believe, and they actually ended up believing, that they were personally more popular than the NDC. Until the 2012 elections, they genuinely believed that the NDC could not win an election without their support. We all know what happened. Now they are squirming and looking to be accommodated within the NDC.

All of us have egos. But politicians holding high offices tend to have such big egos that sometimes they are unable to carry them. The beauty about President Mills was that he did not allow praise-singing to get to his head; and President Mahama may well be advised to take a leaf from Professor Mills on this issue.

Osagyefo Dr. Nkrumah was accused of encouraging a personality-cult around him. His critics were wrong. It was rather the population that kept singing his praises with people like Okyeame Akuffo in tow. Ghanaians are generally very guilty of making deities out of their leaders. Such behaviors defeat the whole ethos and purpose of democracy and participatory governance. One can decry such behavior from the ordinary, less sophisticated citizens who still carry with them the trappings of chieftaincy and feudalism. However, it is unforgiveable for people who consider themselves as educated elite to descend into that sort of pit. It must be added that such people do so deliberately to advance their personal interests rather than the common good. Such people do not want to be accountable to the political party which the President leads and which put the President on the pedestal.

The danger of allowing praise-singing to get to one’s head is that the one may begin thinking that he/she is omnipotent and that t s/he can do what s/he likes. In the end, they go overboard and do the wrong things. The sad thing is that when trouble comes, those who massaged the President’s ego and led him to ignore teamwork within his party members would walk into the sunset unscathed.

Leaders who tolerate hero-worshipping always end up with tragic consequences. A word to the wise is enough.

Columnist: Adu, Kwasi