By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
August 9, 2010, 2010
The NPP’s Ursula Owusu has touched raw nerves with her castigation of President Mills as “the lousiest President that Ghana has ever had” (MyJoyOnline.com, August 9, 2010). I want to take her on.
My Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary defines “lousy” as: “infested with lice”; “miserably poor or inferior”; “amply supplied”; and “totally repulsive.” Synonyms for “lousy” include: atrocious, awful, bad, deficient, inferior, rotten, sub-standard, terrible, unacceptable, unsatisfactory, wanting, wretched, contemptible, despicable, etc. These descriptors are pejorative in every sense of the word.
So, in effect, Ursula is saying that all our Heads of State have been anything but…. And President Mills is the worst of all those negatives…. She must really be going through traumatizing moments at the time she made this utterance. What about President Mills gave her that ill-thought-of impression?
For some of us, this utterance smacks of nothing but empty arrogance, paralyzing childishness, damaging shortsightedness, and vain parochial politicking. Ursula Owusu cannot persuade me that her perception of President Mills is worth anybody’s bother. In any case, it only exposes her desperation and the pain of being part of the NPP-in-opposition. Her utterance is misplaced and she must be told clearly that descending into the gutter this way will not win the day for those she is fighting for.
Winning political power in the 2012 elections goes beyond mere unwarranted personal attacks and misguided descriptions of President Mills by loudmouthed idlers like this Ursula Owusu. What remarkable accomplishment can Ursula boast of as a human rights activist or President of FIDA? As a beneficiary of the Kufuor government’s misguided policy of “property-owning,” she has no moral right to qualify anybody the way she does in her public utterances. But here she comes in the name of freedom-of-speech.
What yardstick did Ursula use to determine the degree of lousiness of our Heads of State? Or is she particularly bitter against President Mills for leading the NDC’s political assault that kicked her beloved NPP out of office? Maybe. Otherwise, what does she think all other Heads of State had that President Mills lacks?
For purposes of this response to Ursula Owusu’s dreary utterance, here is what Ghana has had so far:
i. Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, whose charisma and personal investment in confronting the forces that militated against Ghana’s (Africa’s and the entire Pan-African world’s) progress made him go all out to indigenize the socio-cultural, economic, and political environment. His laudable achievements (infrastructural development and national unity, for instance) are still evident. Perhaps, his overzealousness to see Ghana developed was his undoing, as General A.K. Ocran (one of the traitorous elements that overthrew him in 1966) says in his Politics of the Sword that “Nkrumah wanted Ghana to fly, forgetting that at the time, Ghana hadn’t yet developed wings.” Nkrumah is still admired by many who know what it takes for the oppressed (Black) person to attempt resisting the oppressor. Others see him as autocratic.
ii. Gen. Joseph Arthur Ankrah (first Chairman of the NLC) is remembered mostly by his disgraceful removal from office for his complicity in the Nzeribe bribe-taking episode. He was nothing but a stooge.
iii. Gen. Akwasi Amakwaah Afrifa (second Chairman of the NLC) cannot be said to be the kind of leader that stands tall above President Mills in any way. For his treachery (one of which was to supervise the denigration of everything associated with Nkrumah and the CPP as well as creating a favourable environment to install the Mate Me Ho elements in office), he ended up at the firing squad.
iv. Kofi Abrefa Busia headed the short-lived Progress Party government and left behind bitter-sweet memories. His intolerance against the Judiciary and the Aliens Compliance Order left behind bitter memories although his Rural Development Programme endeared him to the hearts of many. He was an effeminate leader, to say the least.
v. Edward Akufo-Addo was a titular President (under the Parliamentary system in the 2nd Republic) and is not worth much attention because he did not come across as anything else but a ceremonial President.
vi. Gen. Acheampong (NRC/SMC I) began well with his policies on agriculture and many others (especially in inculcating the spirit of patriotism in the people) but his personal inadequacies caused his doom. His profligacy and senseless love for mundane things plunged him into the abyss of moral decadence and economic stagnation for the country. His fate is well known.
vii. Gen. F.W.K. Akuffo (SMC II) did not do anything spectacularly different to change the atmosphere of general malaise that occasioned the SMC I rule of which he was a part. His fate is also known.
viii. Flt. Lt. Rawlings (AFRC and PNDC) is well known for his personal charisma and dogged insistence on the Mosaic law (“tooth-for-tooth and nail-for-nail”). His entry into national politics caused a huge paradigm shift that will be difficult to gloss over. Surely, the NPP doesn’t like him, and Ursula and those who think like her may be satisfied now that he doesn’t wield the clout anymore.
ix. Dr. Hilla Limann (PNP) was said to be good-hearted but not characteristically strong enough to stamp his authority on affairs; hence, his ouster from office even when indications were rife that such a move was in the offing.
x. John Agyekum Kufuor (NPP), who for eight years, gave Ghanaians a perfect example of what a property-owning democracy entails in the NPP’s conception. His lack of charisma is legendary although he is good at listening to people and making biting utterances against his detractors. He has just demonstrated that acerbic aspect in his bad-mouthing of the Mills government. Kufuor cannot be said to be more authoritative than the others except that under him, there was a general understanding of what the NPP was in office to do. The evidence is there for all to see.
xi. President Mills (NDC) is a celebrated academic who is in politics to add his contribution to national development. To some critics, his lack of charisma and inability to make on-the-spur-of-the-moment decisions detract from his leadership acumen. Granted that he claims to be a lawyer and will not rush to make decisions or take action against political opponents just for the sake of political expediency, he may leave people wondering what he hopes to achieve in the kind of political dispensation in which a tit-for-tat fervor (not a “Father-for-all-Ghanaians” mantra) determines the ebb and flow of political sentiments, especially between the NDC and the NPP.
This is the broad background against which we must view Ursula’s utterance. Instead of rushing out to make unguarded utterances of this sort, NPP functionaries like this Ursula Owusu must be grateful to God that it is President Mills who is in charge of the NDC’s machinery of governance. Considering the implacable anger with which the NDC entered the corridors of power, fears abounded that all might not be well for the NPP elements.
I want to say at this point that but for President Mills’ reluctance to take up the issues that have been at the center of the NDC’s anger and electioneering campaigns against the NPP functionaries, the situation would have been different. Had President Mills heeded calls to take prompt and decisive action against NPP elements accused of financial impropriety and outright theft of public funds and property or for doing acts detrimental to the interests of the country and its people, most of these so-called NPP elements making these unguarded utterances would have long had a different fate to contend with.
President Mills has persistently refused to go that way, thus opening himself up to frontal attacks from within his own NDC and across the political divide. In all these instances, it is inadmissible for Ursula to want to throw mud at him as “lousy” (or in its superlative). If by not taking action to prosecute and punish these NPP elements he has come across as “lousy,” so be it; but Ursula and those who think like her will be laughing at the wrong side of their mouths if they take matters too far on this score and write President Mills off as a failure. The story goes far beyond that point.
If the import of their ruthless verbal assaults on President Mills is to create enmity for him and open a window of political currency for their Akufo-Addo, they must be told aboveboard that they are embarking on a fool’s errand. President Mills’ failures will, certainly, not redound to Akufo-Addo as his successes.
In our effort to build a strong, workable, and lasting democracy, we must rise above personalizing matters, pettiness, and gutter politics. We must look for means to solve the problems that prevent our country from developing. Even though a good and effective leadership is one of those means, I don’t think that “crucifying” President Mills on this altar of personalized, gutter politics will be a good solution. As a human being, he isn’t perfect. He is the leader of a team that took over the administration of this country from the NPP and cannot build Ghana alone. In sincerity to him, therefore, people like Ursula should be honest to admit that notwithstanding their boasts that the NPP under Kufuor uplifted Ghana beyond what Rawlings bequeathed to them, they didn’t hand over a rosy economy to President Mills. Expecting miracles from him in 18 months in office is the height of mischief. Bad-mouthing him worsens the matter.
We are all witnesses to the rot that occasioned Kufuor’s rule, which the Mills-led government has been grappling with since January 7, 2009. Between that time and now, a lot has happened to give us a clear peek into what the future holds for us. It is not all bleak as these NPP elements will mount rooftops and want us to believe. Whatever their recriminations may be, President Mills’ government has not hit any dead-end yet. It still has about two years more to prove its mettle. Judging it now and dismissing it outright as a failure is not only premature but also politically naïve and wayward.
For all his supposed failures, President Mills has exhibited qualities that one shouldn’t hesitate to admire, especially within the context of his humility and self-denial. Given the profligate and self-acquisitive nature of Kufuor while in office, President Mills’ demeanor and attitude to mundane things place him far above any of those Ursula might have in mind as the measure of comparison.
More importantly, President Mills has demonstrated a huge capacity to tolerate dissent and unsavory verbal attacks. His ability to remain focused on his assignments despite the deluge of criticisms and vitriolic personal attacks is exemplary and must be appreciated, not condemned. His posture has so far given me the conviction that for once, we have a leader who is not interested in using all the powers and resources available to him to hound his opponents and put “the fear of God” in them. This peculiar instinctual display of self-control is good for our democracy.
For Ursula and those who think like her, I have a simple message, couched in this proverb: “Politics is a rotten egg; if broken, it stinks.” The stench that Kufuor’s NPP government (which Ursula admires) left behind is still in the atmosphere. President Mills’ political egg hasn’t broken fully for us to assess the impact of its stench on us.
In doing their kind of politics, these NPP elements need to know that any move to paint President Mills black will not fetch them the votes they may need to return to power. Their hard words will not break bones, after all. Ghanaians already know Akufo-Addo and are familiar with the workings of the entire NPP machinery. They are closely monitoring the performance of President Mills’ government and will make their voices heard in December 2012. Then, and only then, will we know the truth. Personal insults will not influence voters in the decisions that they will make. Till, then, Ursula Owusu, be advised.