By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
May 23, 2011
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, has lauded President John Evans Atta Mills for his role in the peace process in La Cote d’Ivoire. He said the exemplary leadership role of President Mills in crisis situations in Africa was unmatched, and described him as “the best leader on the continent.” What? The shock (or the cheek?) of it, you might say. President Mills being described as “the best leader on the continent”? What a pleasant surprise? Believe it or not, that’s what the UN Secretary-General has said, and that’s what he wants to be understood and accepted as such. I salute him for his candidness.
What has the UN Secretary-General seen about President Mills that others (especially those Ghanaians critical of him) haven’t? Certainly, being an outsider—and seeing things from outside—Ban Ki-Moon may be using a yardstick different from what President Mills’ detractors use to judge him. But I want to side with him that President Mills has distinguished himself as someone who is doing a good job and must be supported.
That’s where the crux of the matter lies. I want to opine that regardless of the human frailties and foibles associated with his handling of issues, his positive achievements far outnumber the negative ones, which calls for a better attitude toward him than what has come from those who don’t see anything good in him. I have in mind those in his own political party who are criss-crossing the country making ugly noises to paint him black. Being a “prophet,” we expect that he will not be appreciated or honoured in his own home; but there is no justification for his detractors to extend matters too far from the reality that the world has come to know about President Mills’ style of governance.
This commendation may not result from President Mills’ attitude to the recent Ivorian crisis alone but is also definitely based on how he is managing the affairs of the country. Those who are determined not to see anything good in whatever he does or says can choose to disagree but they cannot erase this genuine praise that has been showered on him by the world’s topmost diplomat. Nor can they take away his good luck too.
As is to be expected, this commendation will definitely hurt the feelings of those avowed critics and spark off more bad-mouthing by them in a vain attempt to undermine him. But they will be wasting their breath. The truth is that President Mills is doing his best and needs encouragement to move on, not the unnecessary jostling and verbal attacks that he has been subjected to all this while.
I am pleased that this commendation has come at this time to prove to his detractors that those who monitor political developments worldwide have a different impression about our President than the tunnel-vision stance that they have adopted. And I don’t think that the UN Secretary-General has chosen to indulge in praise-singing just for its own sake or because he is looking for any favour from President Mills. His is a genuine outpouring that speaks volumes for our President.
The lesson to be learned from this commendation is simple. If we want to encourage good governance, it behooves us to support those in authority who are not doing anything to cause needless tension and trouble in the country. The economy may not yet be strong or the country taken out of the woods yet; but all hope is not lost. President Mills hasn’t given any indication that he is what his opponents (especially those in the Rawlings camp in the NDC) have all along been imputing to him. Otherwise, will he attract such a huge goodwill from the UN Secretary-General, among others?
Is it not shameful that the President whom many people disparage at will is the toast of the UN Secretary-General? Is it not shameful that the very person whom we fail to appreciate is being recognized by outsiders as “the best” among all other Heads of State in our African region? Why is it (or should it be) so? Of course, one may want to acknowledge the fact that being the world’s foremost diplomat, Ban Ki-Moon might be hedging in his choice of words to acknowledge the worth of our President. Thus, being calculating in his perception may not satisfy critics of President Mills. Of course, we don’t expect such a personality to be so brazen as to undermine President Mills on his own soil or to describe him in the kind of language that his detractors choose to paint him in.
But given the fact that he won’t want to say what he knows will be the exact opposite of what President Mills is and, therefore, casting doubts on his own credibility, Ban Ki-Moon might be given the benefit of the doubt; there is no shadow of doubt in my mind, however, that he meant what he said and did, indeed, want it to reflect his true perception of our President. Indeed, his praise is not misplaced, given the fact that President Mills has displayed several habits of mind and attitude to confirm that he is a rare kind of President in our contemporary times. A few examples should throw more light on why I support the UN Secretary-General’s commendation.
Never have we had a President of this kind who will not want to use the enormous powers at his disposal to do things anyhow; that is, to exercise such powers with impunity and stand out to be noticed as such. President Mills has been very much reluctant to use those powers to deal with his detractors, contrary to what others before him had done. He hasn’t deigned nor deemed it proper to put any fear in anybody just for the fact that he has those powers and must be deferred to or….
President Mills is on record as the President to whom the raw powers enshrined in the Presidency don’t appeal inasmuch as using them to hound his detractors will not redound to his image or enable him to achieve his “Better Ghana Agenda.” I daresay that his failure to use such powers is being misconstrued as his weaknesses, which has emboldened his detractors, especially those in the NDC led by former President Rawlings and his wife, Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, Kofi Adams, and Michael Teye Nyaunu, to turn him into the bull’s eye to shoot their mouths at anyhow. No sitting President in our country’s history has been subjected to this kind of insulting behaviour; but he simply absorbs it all with equanimity and remains continent.
President Mills has been very tolerant to a fault; but that’s his nature. It is in his character to be at peace with himself and all others; thus, he seems not to be interested in using the powers of the Presidency to deal with those people who bad mouth him left and right. His tolerance is a plus, which has ensured that he remains focused on his agenda. He knows that he is in office to serve the people not lord it over them. That’s the major difference between him and all others before him.
Again, President Mills is a rare example of an African leader. He is selfless and humble enough to know that he doesn’t have to wear his powers on his sleeves to be able to establish his authority on the country. I admire this quality in him and will stick my neck out to say that long after he leaves office, he will be remembered for that characteristic.
He is not known to be amassing wealth or manipulating the system to serve personal interests. We know what others before him had done and must be honest enough to give him credit for his simple and untainted lifestyle. That’s the kind of leader to be admired, not condemned just because he is unwilling to be at the beck and call of those who think they are power brokers in his own party. Furthermore, he is not playing the ethnic card, unlike others before him who conducted the affairs of state as if they were tribal chieftains or warlords mobilizing their kith and kin to assert their supremacy over the others constituting the nation. Some people may do a head count to make allegations that he has packed his government with people from a specific ethnic group but the reality on the ground paints a different picture. I admire him for making his government broad-based to include members of the various ethnic groups.
Those who think otherwise are just being petty.
President Mills’ accomplishments within this short period may not satisfy those who are determined not to see anything good in whatever his government does. That’s their own cup of tea. Certainly, if somebody doesn’t like you, no matter what you do, you can’t change that person’s impressions or sentiments. Even if you cook a whole elephant for such a person to eat, he/she will never be satisfied enough to see the good part of you.
That’s the nature of Ghanaians and I’m glad that President Mills is not doing overtime to please any particular group of people but the country as a whole. Those who are hell-bent on discrediting whatever he does can please themselves. I will advise him to continue to disregard such characters and to remain focused on his agenda. Those who know his worth will give him the praise he deserves. The UN Secretary-General has set the stage, and more commendations should come in to confirm that President Mills is on the right course to move Ghana where it needs to be. It may take time but with our support, it shouldn’t be far off. Ban Ki-Moon’s timely praise says it all. Let the Atta Mills haters take note!