When the late President John Atta Mills first took office in January 2009, CAMERON DUODU spelt out for him, the tortuous political path that lay before him. Did Mills listen to the good avice offered to him? Read and judge for yourself!
CONGRATULATIONS, PROF JOHN ATTAH MILLS
When he became Vice-President of Ghana, under President J J Rawlings, he couldn’t have been unaware of what had transpired between Rawlings and his previous Vice-President, the late Mr John Nkensen Arkaah. Well-wishers would have warned him that Rawlings might disgrace Mills in the same manner that he had disgraced Arkaah.
Nevertheless, Mills went with Rawlings. And more important, he managed, with personal charm and an indomitable spirit, to hang in there with the Rawlings crowd. Important personages who had had great influence under the regime at one time or another, split from it and went their separate ways. But Mills stayed.
And then came the most testing time of all — it fell to him to stand for election himself, on his own, as President. The wahala [kerfuffle] associated with obtaining the party (NDC) nomination, followed by the toughness of the electoral contest itself, could have cured him of politics for good. But it didn’t — although he lost the election of 2000, he got up again like a boxer who had been knocked down and ran again in 2004. And yet again, he went down.
Many people, including some within his own party, thought he was now a “spent force” and urged him to retire from politics and go to stay at home to ‘grow old gracefully.’ They pointed to the disastrous results he had obtained in “his own Central Region” and said he had no chance of beating the NPP candidate, whoever he might be, in 2008.
It seemed he might succumb to such advice, especially as pictures of himself, looking in poor health, circulated on the internet.
But Mills refused to sign his own political death warrant. Instead, he rejuvenated his campaign. Travelling across the country, he behaved like the gentleman that he is, even when he was subjected to enormous provocation — and not only from the side opposing him.
All this goes to show that Mr Mills possesses the sort of qualities that can help tremendously in a nation’s development: patience; optimism; an indefatigable sprit; and above all, a thick skin.
People whom he used to teach law at the University of Ghana, Legon say that he respects the rule of law. That will be one of the greatest tests of his administration’s ability to unite our nation, which has shown itself completely fractured, what with the phenomenon of “World Bank Regions ” having manifested itself once again in our election results. I don’t think that this “World Bank” phenomenon will go away of itself, unless our entire body-politic takes up arms against it. For it is disgraceful that in a well-respected country like Ghana, with a fairly self-congratulatory population, some parts of the country should become no-go areas for peope of particular [different] ethnic groups, during elections.
If Mr Mills can assure all Ghanaians that they can go about their legitimate business without fear that someone will point at them as belonging to the wrong party and get them to suffer inconveniences, then he will go down in history as the man who finally cut the NDC off the militaristic umbilical cord, with which it has wrapped itself for so many years.
The freedom of expression which the NPP government has allowed to flourish in Ghana — to which our radio stations testify very loudly indeed every day — will be difficult to emulate. But Mr Mils should make sure his administration does even better — by fostering a liberal attitude amongst members of his Cabinet and other holders of important positions.
Mr Mills will also, having suffered so much in the past at the hands of the Ghanaian electorate, be in a good position to run an administration that does not take the electorate for granted. Some of the incompetence shown by the NPP in Parliament — such as coming to the House with loan proposals or bills on which even the majority front bench were not properly briefed — was pathetic to behold and demonstrated a disregard for the perceptions which the party must have known the public was gathering about it, but which it appears not to have cared too much about, given its constantly poor performance. Now, the electorate has punished the party for it. And poor Nana Addo has had to carry the can.
A demonstration of indifference to what the electorate feels is fatal. How can you think of building a presidential palace when people living in your capital city have been buying water from tankers for decades? How can you think of acquiring presidential planes, when your capital city smells to the high heavens because you have not been able to construct a good enough sewerage system that takes your wastes down covered drains that cannot be blocked, because precautions have ben built into the system to prevent that happening?
What looks like ‘small things’ like that, are extremely important and by ignoring them, especially when they have been pointed out by the more discerning sections of the populace, the NPP has shown itself to be too obdurate for its own good.
Then take the awful timing of the increase in the petrol price and add the way the lotto doctors and lotto kiosk operators appear to have had their interests ignored. You ignore their opinion and they ignore your picture on the ballot paper. Quite simple, really. Now you can go and ask the IMF and the World Bank to come and give you good marks for ‘good budgetary book-keeping’. Even if they do, the rewards will be given to your successor government, as you sit on the opposition benches chewing your finger-nails and watching.
But it shouldn’t worry the NPP too much: it is through mistakes that political maturity is acquired. Experience, they say, is the best teacher. Another best teacher is what happens to your neighbour: “it is the fool who says they are doing it to my neighbour but they won’t do it to me!” says the proverb.
Prof Mills and his team will, of course, have a tough time in Parliament, what with not having a working majority there. Everything will have to be negotiated. Which means good governance will, theoretically, become attainable. Because — theoretically at any rate– if you need to persuade MPs to vote for you out of conviction rather than out of party loyalty, then you must have a good argument to present to them to begin with.
Once again, I congratulate the people of Ghana. To take power from a sitting government and give it peaceably to an opposition party is, in an African context, a very unusual act. We all deserve to bask in the glory of that.