THE STAKES ARE HIGH FOR THE 7 DECEMBER 2012 ELECTION IN GHANA
Africa Today MagazineOctober/November 2012
There is no doubt that the election that Ghana is preparing to hold on 7 December 2012 will be one of the most dangerous it has ever conducted.
Dangerous because there is increasing evidence that the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) will desperately attempt to hang on to power. According to a speech made to NDC ‘foot-soldiers’ by the party’s national organiser, Mr Yaw Boateng Gyan, which was clandestinely recorded and leaked to the nation by the party’s opponents, the NDC is ready to infiltrate the national security organisation and, under its cover, use brute force to disrupt the election and put the blame on the opposition.
So far, the new President and flag-bearer of the NDC, Mr John Mahama, who took over from the late President John Evans Atta Mills on 24 July 2012, has not commented on the tactics advocated by his party’s National Organiser. Does he condone them? If he does, in what manner does he expect the opposition to react if such tactics are actually deployed during the election? Even more interesting is the attitude of one of the President’s top national security operatives, Lt.-Col Gbevlo-Lartey.
Although the tape claimed that NDC party workers would be provided with identity cards from his organisation before being set loose on opposition members, Lt-Col Gbevlo-Lartey said: “I have listened to the tape not less than five times… and have not found anything wrong with it”.
It is ironical that although he liked to see himself as the “King of Peace” (‘Asomdweehene’) the late President Mills now appears to have left as a heritage to Ghana, a thuggish political machine made up of unscrupulous political agitators, who will not hesitate to incite their followers to create violence and thus ruin the election. If that were to happen, it would be doubly ironic because despite the raucousness that the henchmen of Mills – especially his “Communications team” — have brought into Ghana’s political discourse, Ghana has managed to create a reputation for itself, in the eyes of the outside world, as one African country in which governments are changed “with ballots, not bullets”.
In view of the violence that is often triggered by elections in other African countries – Kenya and Zimbabwe come readily to mind – it would have been thought that President Mahama would not look on unconcerned, while people claiming to work on his behalf are inciting others to violence.
For in Ghana, as in many other African countries, the position of “leader” of a political party goes with responsibilities that are unknown in the more mature democracies. For instance, elsewhere, the conspiratorial scheme conceived by the NDC National Organiser would immediately lay him open to a charge of conspiracy to instigate violence in an election. This is because the police and the national security services are neutral, and loyal only to the state, not to political parties, and would therefore try to ensure that whoever seeks to disturb the national peace is dealt with according to the law. In these mature democracies, presidential ‘protection’ is impossible in situations where conspiracies become exposed to the public. Indeed, if a party functionary acts in a way that compromises the party leader in the eyes of the law enforcement agencies, he would be required to resign his position. The Watergate scandal’s victims — all erstwhile political ‘heavyweights’ in Washington — spring readily to mind. In the end, even President Nixon himself, having taken part in the sordid conspiracy, had to resign, or face impeachment.
The absence of such a scrupulous approach to law and order under Mills, who, ironically, was a law professor before he entered government, does tarnish the late professor’s legacy to Ghana. The question is: why did he allow such a situation to exist? The answer must have lain in the insecurity Mills felt as President. During most of his presidency, he was embroiled in a bitter dispute over the leadership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) with the party’s founder, ex-President Jerry Rawlings.
Even now, with Mills “still warm in his grave” (so to speak) Rawlings thinks nothing of belittling the contribution made to the party by the dead Mills. In a statement which displayed scant sensitivity towards the feelings of the bereaved family of Mills, Rawlings told the Volta Regional House of Chiefs that “divine intervention” had occurred within the NDC to provide it with the spark necessary to achieve victory in the coming December 2012 elections!
Rawlings said: “Prior to the demise of our late President (Mills), there was a lot of nervousness; there was a lot of anxiety, amongst the governing party [NDC] on how much of a chance it stood in the forthcoming elections” But, (Rawlings went on) the ascendancy of President Mahama had “brought a spark to the presidency which hitherto was missing and could have cost NDC the election.”
However, at the same time as appearing to give the thumbs-up to President Mahama, Rawlings tore the very NDC party, whose victory appeared to matter to him so much, completely apart. The corruption that was going on in the party, Rawlings said, was “ so deep. Some aspects of these corruptions are literally holding your national resources to ransom by just a handful of people.”
“I’m not here to poison your minds at all,” he told the chiefs. But he wondered why the NDC had done so little to avert the situation; why it was ready “to turn a blind eye to it, for fear of the opposition NPP.” If the situation could not be salvaged in the last three years, what was the guarantee that it would be curbed in the future? Rawlings asked.
Readers outside Ghana can be pardoned if they wonder why almost no discussion of politics in Ghana can go on without reference to Rawlings. The fact is that he has ruled Ghana longer than any other person (19 years and 3 months) and it was also he who founded the ruling NDC. Therefore any instability he can cause within the NDC also reflects on the stability of the nation as a whole. Not only that: his background is such as makes it unwise to dismiss him from the national discourse. At one stage during the reign of President Mills, the late President was so exasperated with Rawlings that he burst out, “There is only one President in this country!”
Rawlings is not entirely to blame, because the phenomenon of the “founder” of a political party as an all-powerful potentate to whom even persons with electoral support must pay obeisance, is strongly embedded in the political culture of Ghana. The first Ghanaian politician who actively promoted a strictly hierarchical system in a political party was Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah. He formed the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in 1949 with a band of able lieutenants and fellow rebels, against the leadership of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC).
Among Nkrumah’s lieutenants were politicians of good calibre who could hold their own, such as
Komla Gbedemah, Kojo Botsio, Nathaniel Welbeck, Krobo Edusei and Kofi Baako. But by 1960, Nkrumah had managed to turn the Central Committee of the CPP into a rubber-stamp body over which he presided as “Life Chairman”. After he had been overthrown by the military in February 1966, one of his followers, Mr Kwaku Boateng, told newsmen that members of Dr Nkrumah’s Cabinet had become – in Mr Boateng’s memorable phrase – “gaping sycophants.”
When the military who overthrew Dr Nkrumah handed over power to a civilian government, its leader was another “patrician” politician – Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia of the Progress Party (I969-72). The next civilian to come to power was Dr Hilla Limann of the People’s National Party(1979-81). Again, Limann held sway in his party, even though he went into the party after it had been formed. Even the relatively young J A Kufuor (President between 2000 and 2008) bestrode his New Patriotic Party like a colossus. It was only Prof. J E A Mills who, having taken up the mantle discarded by the soldier-politician, Rawlings, was at risk of being turned into a “Simpa Panyin” (puppet) when he became President in January 2009.
There is no doubt that the performance of Mills as President of Ghana would have been several notches more impressive had he not had Rawlings breathing over him in an attempt by Rawlings to impose what would have amounted to a “duopoly” on Ghana. To his credit, however, Mills saw off the Rawlings challenge. When it became crystal clear to Mills, in 2011, that the ultimate
objective of Rawlings was to supplant Mills as the NDC’s 2012 flagbearer with the wife of Rawlings, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, Mills hit the roof. He thought of himself as a “winner” – after all, he had lost to Kufuor in 2000 and 2004 before winning – improbably – in 2008. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to enjoy the two full terms to which he was entitled constitutionally? Rawlings would, without doubt be the President if his wife was allowed to contest and win.
Having exercised power for so long (over nineteen years) what more did Rawlings want? Or – as he would have been asked had he been in Nigeria — “What was it that he had forgotten or left behind in the presidential office that he now wanted to go back to collect?”
The inevitable showdown between Mills and the Rawlings couple occurred at Sunyani, in the Brong-Ahafo region, in late 2011. A congress of the NDC was held to allow the party to choose either Prof Mills or Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings as the NDC’s 2012 flag-bearer. Mills polled 2,771 votes (96.9%) and Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings had 90 votes (3.1%) out of the total of 2,861 valid votes cast. It was a comprehensive victory which left the Rawlings couple with no option but to start a new party, if they wanted to contest the 2012 election in reality.
Undeterred by the size of their ignominious defeat, man and wife – rather surreptitiously (through “proxies” ) — registered a new party called the Naional Democratic Party (NDP). Whether they will only use this party to bargain with Presdent Mahama (who has, in the mean time, been formally handed the mandate of Mills) or actually contest the 2012 election, was not yet known at the time of writing. BHut Nana Konadu, having made serious mistakes whern registering the NDP, had been disqualified from contesting. She was challenging her disqualification in court but has now abandoned all hope of taking part in the electio herself, though she says she’ll campaign for 153 NDP candidates.
But whatever the Rawlingses do, the new flag-bearer of the NDC, 54-year-old President John Dramani Mahama, is unlikely to be fazed by them. In fact, the first “olive branch” appears to have been thrown at Mahama by Rawlings, in the form of the the speech to the Volta Region House of Chiefs, in which he stated that Mahama was a “new spark” that had ended the “nervousness” within the NDC membership. However, Rawlings was once again back to his enigmatic — some would say confused — self, as soon as he had made that remark. For when the media began to interpret his Volta Region statement as an “endorsement” of Mahama, he got it denied by his sidekicks. What will President Mahama make of that?
As far as the New Patriotic Party (NPP) — the largest party pitted against the NDC — is concerned it has so far had the luxury of sitting back and quietly enjoying the multi-faceted “confusion” that has been rampant in the NDC camp – thanks mainly to the ambitions of the Rawlings couple and their supporters. Unlike Mahama (his main opponent) the NPP candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has not had any serious intra-party rifts to contend with, in the NPP, this time round. (In 2008, he lost a lot of ground because he faced an uphill task, garnering the NPP flag-bearer position, due to a stiff challenge posed against him by a former Minister of Trade, Allan Keyeremateng (popularly known as “Allan Cash”) who was reputed to enjoy the support of ex-President Kufuor from behind the scenes. Kufuor, of course, denied this and publicly backed Nana Addo all the way.)
Furthermore, Nana Akufo-Addo’s campaign has been gifted with a bizarre set of corruption cases in which NDC Ministers – and even the late President Mills – have been exposed as being either corrupt or incredibly stupid. The most notorious of these cases involves an NDC ‘financier’ called Alfred Woyome. Having clobbered together a company to try and bid for the construction of sports stadiums for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) competition that took place in Ghana in 2008, Woyome lost out when it was discovered that he could not adequately finance the operation. The contract then went to a Chinese company instead. But Woyome was not to be outdone. He waited until the NPP Government that had denied him the contract, had left office. Then he presented a bill to the new NDC Government that took office in 2008, claiming that the defeated Government had illegally abrogated a “contract” he, Woyome, had with it.
Woyome took his claim to court, where, strangely, it was not properly defended by the new Government’s lawyers, drawn from the Attorney-General’s Department. The Government#s legal advisersd did not even taker ther elementary precaution of ascertaining from their predecessors, the exact nature of their contractual relationship with Woyome’s company, and whether there were indeed any valid grounds for Woyome to institute litigation against the state of Ghana. The NDC’s legal advisers just “settled” Woyome’s claims out of court, paying him a whopping C51 million ($20 million). The then Attorney-General, Mrs Betty Mould-Idrissu, having reached a “settlement” with Woyome, then had the “settlement”presented to the court for its endorsement as a “judgement debt”. It was on the basis of that “settlement” that Woyome collected his cool C51m from the state. There is widespread speculatgion in Ghana that this money was so,mehow “shared and eaten” (as the popular expression in Akan, “kye di”) puts it.) Even if a criminal action mounted by the state against some of the conspirators — including Woyome — is successful, it is doubtful whether there will be any of the money left to be retrieved by the state.
The scandalous “settlement” of the case somehow escaped the notice of Ghana’s largely unadventurous media; indeed, it received no publicity at all at the time the “settlement” was reached. It was only when the Auditor-General spotted the irregular payment and drew attention to it in his report on the accounts of Ghana, tjat Opposition Members of Parliament took the matter up. The resultant scandal cost Mrs Mould-Idrissu her job as Attorney-Gerneral and Minister of Justice. The case is still making waves in both the courts of Ghana and in Parliament.
Most important, the case caused a “gargantuan” clash between President Mills and the Attorney-General with whom he replaced Mrs Mould-Idrissu, Mr Martin Amidu. As Amidu is himself a member of the NDC, his denunciation of the payment to Woyome by his own former colleagues, probably with the clearly-implied complicity of President Mills, has beewn received with astonishment by the public.
Other cases involving judgement debts similarly facilitated by the NDC Government. are before the courts and Parliament. So, in effect, all that the NPP has to do to receive a hearty response from the public at its political meetings and rallies during the election campaign is to yell the words: “judgement debts!” It’s a phrase that resonates with the populace and puts the NDC in a very bad light indeed. For never in the history of Ghana — a country in which corruptipon is not uknown — has evidence emerged indicating that money can be filched from state coffers in such a blatantly fraudulent manner.
Nana Akufo Addo has also got a popular campaign message in the form of an easily recognisable slogan: free senior high eschool (secondary school) education. In a country where the voter population is as young as that of Ghana, getting the youth on his side is quite clever. Moreover, he has managed to trap critics of his proposal into saying merely that he hasn’t been able to demonstrate how he will “fund” free senior high school education. He can answer that by saying simply that his economic team has crunched the numbers, and that, in any case, Government revenues are due to be swelled up in the next few years by the full inflow of oil revenues, and that it would be too conservative not to factor such revenues into the objectives an NPP Government would pursue, if elected.
Indeed, enhanced income from oil is one of the main reasons why the stakes will be so very high in the 7 December election. If handled properly, oil revenue will put Ghana’s economy on the path of achieving the fastest growth among the nations, not only in Africa, but of the world. Already, according to the World Bank, Ghana registered a GDP growth of “14.4% in 2011”. This is projected to decelerate to just over 7% in 2012. But even that figure is not to be sneered at, in a world currently plagued by economic recession.
The stakes, in other words, have never been higher in Ghana than now!