By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Monday, June 18, 2012
For all that he may be to political observers, President Mills is definitely uncharismatic and lacks the drive to act decisively—and with authority too—as expected; but his approach to governance has to be viewed on its own terms and judged as such. Being self-effacing and reluctant to use the enormous powers at his disposal, his approach comes across as a painful novelty.
Ghanaians are used to the looming presence and “strongman” mentality of former heads of state (probably, excluding Kufuor) and will definitely regard Mills’ leadership style as awkward. That’s why he has become an easy picking for his opponents.
To worsen his circumstances, his health has become a major concern. The rumours about his health condition have not let down all these years. They have added to all the negative impressions that his opponents have about him and compounded the credibility problem weighing him down as the country moves toward Election 2012.
We are aware of his previous trips to South Africa before the 2008 elections and the United States recently for medical attention and his own claim that his problem could be boiled down to a “sinus infection.” That explanation didn’t end the rumours.
Unscrupulous characters are known to have circulated rumours on several occasions that he was either dead or in the throes of death. In truth, he is still alive and nearing the end of his first term. His seeking re-election without any confirmation of his health status has definitely re-ignited the rumours about his health condition, especially concerning observable evidence on his skin (the darkening of his fingers and cheeks), which some have interpreted as outside manifestations of a very serious internal deterioration of his entire system.
His sudden departure for the United States last Saturday has stoked the fire. He might have found humour in the rumours concerning his health condition to toss around; but he hasn’t handled the matter as resolutely as one expected. I think that the President must come clean to end all these dangerous rumours and speculations. Is he really as healthy as his pre-departure posture and joke at the Kotoka International Airport will have us believe?
It shouldn’t be a subject matter for dangerous speculation. As the public face of Ghana, he can’t hide anything about himself without feeding the rumour machine with what may not work in his favour.
Although his health condition may be treated as a “private matter” to be jealously guarded against prying eyes and ears, I think that the manner in which it is being handled is doing more harm than good. At least, it appears not to be serving any useful purpose if it continues to be wrapped up the way it has been done all this while.
The point is that the more this matter is treated as a national security secret, the more tongues wag, especially when the President wasn’t seen in public or heard from for many days, even when many disturbing events were happening all over the country to threaten peace and tranquility. Out of the blues, when he emerged, it was nothing to solve those problems but to leave the country for a “regular medical check-up.”
Happenings that suggest that he is not in the best of spirits or health won’t redound to his good image for as long as the matter is handled in this manner. That is why we must be concerned that those surrounding the President have resolved to keep us in the dark as if doing so will erase the health problem from the slate. It won’t; and the earlier those people—and the President himself—come to terms with reality, the better chances are that an informed Ghanaian public will know how to relate to him.
As of now, the situation isn’t favourable to him. As we can infer from the rumours doing the rounds about him, this so-called “regular medical check-up in the U.S.” has political twists that are worsening the President’s credibility problem.
What is it about his health that should warrant such a “regular medical check-up” in the U.S. and not in Ghana? What kind of health condition is it that Ghanaian medical doctors can’t handle for him to know whether he is still fully healthy or not? Or is it because the equipment and expertise needed for his kind of diagnosis (or “regular medical check-up”) are not available in the country? If so, whose fault is it?
This last question is important because it highlights the failures of our various governments over the years as far as the health sector is concerned. Had they been honest and competent enough to support the health sector with the requisite equipment/facilities and experts, won’t they be prepared to handle responsibilities of the sort that have taken President Mills to the U.S.?
But what should we expect when leaders of countries such as ours lack foresight and can’t solve pertinent national problems to help the vast majority of their people live in decency?
On a larger note, how do these political leaders consider the vast majority of Ghanaians whose sweat and toil sustain their lifestyles? That they are mere nobodies who don’t need their lives to be prolonged through exquisite medical attention, unlike those of them who quickly rush to get help outside the country? All human life is precious in the sight of the Creator, though; but to these leaders, theirs is more precious on earth. Mortal as they are, they can’t eventually escape death’s icy hands. The folly of it all.
How many of these hardworking Ghanaians will ever get the opportunity to depend on the national coffers for this kind of service? Yet, these are the very people being depended on to sustain the democracy that has become the goldmine for these politicians.
The NDC’s Johnson Asiedu-Nketia may want to indulge in anti-NPP politics over this health issue concerning President Mills, but it won’t serve any useful purpose to create goodwill for the NDC. The point must be made clear that it is immaterial whether the rumours about President Mills’ death emanated from the NPP’s quarters or not.
What matters is that the President’s health is no secret to be tucked under anybody’s armpit. For as long as Ghanaians know that they are the providers of the money spent on him, they have every right to monitor what happens and be told the truth. Anything short of that will promote more damaging rumours and no amount of damage control or the apportioning of blame will solve the problem.
The President must come clean. If he can’t, then, anybody who knows what is ailing him should tell us the truth. He stands to get genuine sympathy and good wishes if he levels with us. It is not a difficult thing to do because as human beings we all know that our bodies are mutable and vulnerable to any kind of disease that infects us. His will not be anything extra-ordinary. We expect that our bodies will not forever resist the vagaries of life and won’t be shocked to learn of his health problem.
Some heads of state have died from all kinds of diseases or causes—consumption, madness, suicide, assassination, beheading, poisoning, syphilis, and many more. What may be happening to President Mills isn’t anything that humanity wouldn’t have known before. Even if it is a new disease to medical science, he will set a record as the first person to have contracted it, which should give researchers some substantial stuff to work on for some panacea to save other human beings from its scourge.
I reiterate my demand that President Mills’ health condition isn’t any secret and shouldn’t be made into one as such. We want to know what his problem is so we can better relate to him and anything concerning him, especially as we prepare for the December elections. He is a candidate and we want to be assured that he will be fit on the occasion to deserve any vote that goes to him. That’s my call.
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