It usually comes across to many as a grueling process; the intensity, absolutely critical; the stakes, ever so high; the resolve permanently present and the outcome, so elusive to all. Election is a critical undertaking with the aforementioned attributes and continues to be the best avenue for choosing leaders through defined and highly acceptable processes and systems.
Undoubtedly, post-colonial Africa gained prominence through a host of coups, political upheavals and murky governance systems in which despots held sway.
Indeed, Africa has been relevant in international tabloids due to political unrests, upheavals and dark developments, with countries like Rwanda, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Somalia, Burundi and
Sierra-Leon giving credence to these worrying and devastating trends.
In recent times; however, Africa has rewritten its script of prominence and shown great commitment towards enhancing and consolidating its democratic credentials as a continent. As a people, we need to acknowledge our strides. As a continent, there is reason to celebrate our modest gains and strive to achieve even better laurels ahead of times.
A Star Across The Horizon
Ghana, a trailblazer in Africa’s quest for political independence and economic emancipation continues to illuminate the orbit of good governance and democracy, much to the admiration of the comity of nations.
Through successful elections and change of governments since 1992, Ghana never ceases to impress and write Africa’s name in gold once the polls are set upon the beautiful country with a rich African heritage. It has been four years since the last election was held in 2012; an election that held a nation spellbound and produced a historic election petition contesting the results at the Supreme Court of Ghana. Though the petitioners lost the case through a split decision, electoral reforms evolved to strengthen, provide more transparency and enhance our electoral processes. How wonderful time flies! The politically alive and passionate citizens of Ghana have gone to the polls and elected a new president and members of parliament since December 7th 2016.
Ambitions and Stakes
The 2016 general elections will go down as the most fascinating, explosive, tactful and highly elusive elections yet in the history of the country. It can be judged as unbelievably traumatizing as it has been expectantly soul soothing and exciting, depending on which political divide one finds himself. The stakes were exceptionally high. On one side stood an unyielding septuagenarian who was having a go at the presidency for the third time after two failed attempts. The odds of losing yet again were too depressing to comprehend. Age was going to be less of a friend and failing as standard bearer for the third time would have certainly drawn the curtains on the well-travelled political journey of an illustrious and dignified lawyer, a distinguished public servant and a diplomat extraordinaire to an unfulfilled and agonizing end. Losing the election was surely not a slot on Nana Addo’s chess board.
On the other side of the tale of two cities came this affable, handsome, free flowing, mild mannered and easy going personality embodied in our youthful president, John Mahama. As a product of the political mill of Ghana, the Adonis had valuable experience by way of service to the nation through multiple political portfolios to the presidency. On the backdrop of massive infrastructural development, he sought re-election. Failing to win kept him on the threshold of making unpalatable history as the first president to serve Ghana for just a term under the fourth republic; a feat that would definitely put a blemish on the other wise impeccable political record of a fine gentleman who has been favoured by destiny.
THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
The NPP Story-Nana Addo/Bawumia Effect
A very profound advantage of being in opposition and contesting an election is the latitude to have heads start to the race. Delving straight to business with verve and alacrity, Nana Addo kick started the campaign of his life with a mantra of change interlaced with an assurance of hope and a reassurance in the belief that Ghana could work again. Concentrating his campaign on critical concerns of public interest such as unemployment, ripple effects of “dumsor”, taxes, corruption and general mismanagement of a once upon a time viable economy, Nana Addo found the ambit to articulate his call for change and to roll out with gusto, his vision towards a better Ghana that will work again.
Being presidential is rare quality most presidential aspirants seldom exhibit. However, Nana Addo has always espoused great presidential traits in his public life and service to Ghana. Through engagements, he has always carried himself in an aura of self-belief, commitment and focus; great traits of a leader. With a rejuvenated spirit, imbued with inner strength and confidence, he appealed to the sensibilities of the masses by focusing his campaign on simple but critical concerns such as health insurance, taxes and cost of doing business, cost of living, student allowances, jobs, agriculture etc. In the clearest of terms, he touted his belief in Ghana as well as his ability and capability of fixing the myriad of problems confronting Ghanaians.
While he was at it, the ruling government instead of proffering better solutions and show of good will about the plight of the people and how to fix these issues, staged a grand campaign on over-subscribed personality attacks on Nana Addo. Using the whirlwind of rough times in the NPP leading to the suspension of chairman Afoko and Secretary Agyepong, the NDC tore Nana Addo’s leadership abilities to tatters and claimed he could never be president. To further make matters worse, the NDC campaign pooh – poohed almost every policy intention and proposed strategy to be used in solving problems of the masses without proposing alternatives. In fact, he was heavily ran down and termed desperate.
In the scheme of twists and turns, Ghanaians realized that the battle for the jubilee house was not one based on issues between the NPP and NDC but a carefully crafted one between the NDC and the personality called Nana Akufo- Addo. It is therefore within reasonable limits to state that the vote difference of one million and above votes has sympathy playing a major role on the minds of voters in favour of the septuagenarian.
It is true that some people make up their minds on which party and whom to vote for before election day. It is also true that some minds linger in limbo until the last day before election. The last rallies of the two major parties played a significant role in getting people to make up their minds at the eleventh hour. Through the last rally, Nana Addo effectively outlined his vision. He forcefully reiterated his commitment to a better Ghana. He appealed to Ghanaians with all seriousness and with undiluted charisma he carried his party along and made a profound and poignant statement for change that captivated millions of people across Ghana. His last minute display settled minds and projected him to victory eventually.
To add impetus and mojo to the serious minded campaign Dr Bawumia, Nana Addo’s wing man brought economic clarity to Ghana’s sinking situation that needed restoration. The savvy economist who made a bold statement of self-worth to Ghanaians through the election petition case brought government to its knees by way of exposés on the Ghanaian economy and macroeconomic stability.
Campus lectures afforded Dr. Bawumia the opportunity to articulate his arguments and deliver with panache, a technocrat’s point of view on the state of the Ghanaian economy, the debacle of our electricity situation which spanned three years or more, fiscal indiscipline in the Ghanaian economy and well thought out alternatives aimed at tackling these issues under an NPP leadership. Through these economic analyses interlaced with political sound bites, Dr Bawumia made a strong case for change and came across as the nexus around which the NPP’s campaign revolved.
The NDC’s inability to counter these bold and well-presented lectures by Dr Bawumia articulately sent a signal to students, intellectuals, business men and keen followers of economic and financial trends that Bawumia’s analyses weren’t flawed.
Instead of tackling the issues, minions in the NDC attacked his person and asked Ghanaians to disregard him and his lies. How could Ghanaians ignore such a man and join in the chorus of calling him a liar after his predictions on the economy with time lines as well as government’s decisions and effects on the markets all came to pass? No wonder students on the various campuses voted massively for the NPP!
With vice president Amissah Arthur in the NDC camp with equally strong credentials in economics and financial markets, many Ghanaians looked forward to similar sessions where cogent rebuttals and records could be set straight on the true nature of the state of the economy from government’s perspective so as to give Ghanaians the opportunity to really gauge Dr Bawumia’s peddling and draw conclusions between propaganda and truth.
The NDC and Amissah Arthur missed out in convincing Ghanaians on the true state of the nation and deflating the soaring personality of Dr Bawumia and instead, organized media sessions where minnows engaged in puerile propaganda much to the detriment of the winning fortunes of the umbrella fraternity.
As the nexus of the campaign, the NPP did not only make capital out of Dr Bawumia’s intellect in economics and number crunching ability, the party effectively utilized his background as a Mamprusi, thus a northerner. It is instructive to mention that, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, a fine and distinguished gentleman of blessed memory won reasonable northern support for the NPP during his time. With a profound air of affinity and a telling influence Dr Bawumia maximized northern support for the NPP significantly. By mounting a spirited campaign in the northern part, Dr Bawumia effectively contained the tribal appeals made by president Mahama to northerners to vote for him. Given his youth, Bawumia was seen by many to be strategically positioned and favoured to lead the NPP in the near future and become president. The president’s tribal appeals condemnably as they were, never made any impact, especially that he had not improved the lot of the northern part of the country per the expectations of his kinsmen.
His spirited campaign and influence in the northern part also doused the fire that had been stoked by the NDC on chairman Afoko’s suspension as a sign of dislike and persecution of northerners in the party in order to cause apathy and influence them to vote massively against the party.
It wasn’t therefore a wonder that, the votes for the NPP in the northern part of the country appreciated in percentage and nominal terms and also resulted in a staggering number of parliamentary seats won by the party towards a lopsided seventh parliament of the fourth republic. Dr Bawumia’s role in the 2016 election is crystal and unmatched. He will go down in the annals of NPP history as the party’s most significant contributor to its electoral successes in 2016.
Enter The NDC, John Mahama / Amissah Arthur
The success of a political party in an election year, to a large extent, depends on its campaign team and overly dependent on the political strategies set forth by the campaign teams. With a national campaign team with composition totally excluding the old guards of the NDC, an observer from a far could easily see that the NDC also had its share of cracks and divisions which were subtly hidden because of the cloak of being the party in government. Not only did the NDC’s national campaign team lack the old guards who are oasis of knowledge on strategy, it also lacked personalities with the depth and experience to manage and execute a successful campaign. I believe the campaign should have been anchored around personalities who managed successful elections for the party in the past. Talk about the regional campaign teams, the NDC assigned leaders who didn’t have clout, influence and ability to connect with the masses and effectively sell the message of changing lives and transforming Ghana.
As if these low points were not blunders enough, the NDC has a youth leader superintending over youth affairs in the party. With a very youthful Ghanaian population, one would have thought that the youth wing of the party would have been given a formal role to play in the elections. This was never the case. Demands to present their own budget and run an independent campaign led to the relegation of the youth leader and his retinue to the back benches of the campaign. Yet, splinter campaign groups marshaled by non – NDC people just because of their star status and new arrivals to the NDC fold were greatly resourced to mount campaigns which didn’t have the edge and the political touch to feed meaningfully into the overall strategy and politicking of the NDC.
As a matter of failure, the NDC campaign teams carried a campaign that largely revolved around personality attacks on Nana Addo instead of projecting John Mahama beyond infrastructural development and his impact on employment and the little but critical survival concerns of Ghanaians. By constantly proclaiming throughout the campaign that Nana was short and couldn’t be president, the campaign teams unconsciously sacrificed votes because the average Ghanaian is short and felt insulted that being short was being reduced to disability. By constantly making mockery of his age and inability to rule, the campaign teams ignited a passion among senior citizens to stand in solidarity with him by voting for him. In brief, the campaign teams simply failed to tell the NDC story for eight years and concentrated on John Mahama’s four years with wrong and out of tune messages that only cost them votes.
Shaping Defeat: The Role of President John Dramani Mahama
One major advantage of being president and contesting in elections is the advantage of incumbency. Sitting presidents have at their disposal, state resources and unlimited funds with which sophisticated and extensive campaigns could be waged. On the comfortable pad of incumbency and wide pool of resources at his disposal, our youthful president unleashed a campaign anchored on infrastructural development. It is worth commending that president Mahama’s era witnessed massive development in infrastructure.
New hospitals, health centers, some roads, the famous day schools – E-Blocks and other commendable projects such as the circle over pass all came to life. On this score and as an election winning strategy, most of these projects were commissioned by the president at the tail end of his campaign trail in order to make a bold statement to Ghanaians as to why he deserved a second term in order to move Ghana to the next phase of development.
However, the time of commissioning of these projects incurred the angst of the populace especially since president Mahama in one of his gaffes claimed Ghanaians had short memories and usually forget easily. Even though these were welcome developments, people interpreted the late commissioning as a veil that was being used to hoodwink them into voting for JM and the NDC since they had short memories and might have forgotten all the torrid times of ‘dumsor’, high fuel prices, unemployment and unbearable conditions of living. This was not to be the case!
As a vice president for four years and a president for four additional years, president Mahama’s inability to explain to the citizens in concrete terms, achievements, progress and policy in job creation and permanent employment especially, set the tone for the crucifixion of his ambitions.
Referring to seasonal jobs whenever he was put on the spot was simply nauseating: Acknowledging and informing Ghanaians that, the private sector was the main creator of jobs and employment and at the same time forgetting the effects of ‘dumsor’ on the private sector coupled with high cost of doing business through killer taxes which didn’t guarantee growth and expansion in the private sector to create employment and give away jobs was simply unacceptable.
The issue of jobs, political bottlenecks and decisions affecting private sector growth and expansion coupled with the hard head decision not to decrease fuel prices (which has a multiplier effect on general conditions of life) in spite of drop in world market prices cast him in the shadow of an insensitive leader. His inability to address these critical life concerns of the masses simply dwarfed and made mincemeat out of his trump card of massive infrastructural development in the eyes and minds of people who couldn’t wait to cast their votes.
Under president Mahama’s regime, there has been great hue and cry about the wanton life styles of government appointees, mismanagement and financial loss to the state as well as pervasive corruption epitomized in a flurry of institutional scandals such as GYEEDA, SUBA, SADA, BUS REBRANDING among others.
Upon all the exposés of rot caused by public officials in cahoots with private people with tight political connections, president Mahama and the attorney general couldn’t bring any single official or person to book. In fact, the president and his government were seen to be lethargic in the fight against corruption. In response to the barrage of attacks on the government about corruption, president Mahama posited that we couldn’t be lovers of democracy and at the same time adherents of arbitrary justice. I agree in toto with the president but when a minister is neck deep in an ugly affair like the bus rebranding case, the resignation of the minister should not be a tradeoff for justice. When a minister leads a team to a sports tournament and comes back with more questions than answers as to how monies were expended, with a competent committee of inquiry drawing conclusions that found the minister culpable, president Mahama’s decision to take off the minister and reassign him as a presidential staffer showed weak leadership and how the fight against corruption was a mirage under his watch.
Addendum, the government’s posture and sudden withdrawal of the attorney general from the Wayome case under the guise of terms of settlement consideration when it had not entered stay of proceedings made Ghanaians more skeptical of the president and his will to get justice for the ordinary tax payer. Strikingly, Ghanaians learnt later that upon the cloud hanging over Wayome and his business deals, president Mahama’s government, without any hindsight and sensitivity went ahead to award the smart man a sumptuous contract. Unbelievable!
The decision: bizarre as it was, settled as an insult to nationalists, intellectuals, lovers and strict adherents of probity and accountability. Such personalities after all the harm to the state and the tax payer stemmed the perception of corruption and exposed government’s lame duck approach and subsequent inability to fight corruption with all intents and purposes. President Mahama’s actions and in actions on corruption eventually cost him votes.
Poor and Costly Executive Decisions
One of the most difficult and yet important aspect of being a president is making tough decisions. President Mahama’s time was full of so many challenges that required mettle to make decisions. In some instances, he did just fine and in other instance, he mortgaged his stay as the president of Ghana albeit unknowingly. The decision to exercise the prerogative of mercy under article 72 (d) of the constitution to the trio who engaged in opprobrium and threatened the lives of judges through a radio program was as ill-advised as it was catastrophic. With hindsight, Ghana’s history has a sad chapter on how judges were killed and buried in unmarked graves. The judges who were killed during the dark and turbulent times in history have sons, daughters, grandchildren and relatives who are in pain and anguish over the treachery that was carried out.
The Bench continues to bemoan the sad incident and as a nation we give thanks to God that these unfortunate times are history. For the trio to therefore go on a radio program noted for spins and opprobrium and threaten the lives of judges in their bid to influence impending court rulings of political nature simply opened Pandora’s box and woke a nation up to a sensitive and devastating incident on which the nation didn’t need reminders about. The incarceration of the trio by the court was to stem the tide of vitriolic and mordant effusions aimed at bringing some semblance of sanity on our airwaves as we inched towards elections.
With calls by party people through petitions on the president to reduce the term of sentence simply because they felt the court’s decision was harsh, president Mahama eventually heeded the call. By his action, president Mahama told the whole world that threatening to kill and rape judges was of little consequence to him compared to people who publicly admitted to working for him to spend time in prison. By kowtowing to party pressure, the president showed weakness in leadership and a bad exercise of article 72 (d) on the basis of partisan political benefit.
By this stance, he had incurred the wrath of the Bench by devaluing their security and welfare conditions of members against the freedom and comfort of his party attack dogs. By his conduct president Mahama sent signals that ignited sorrow among relatives of the murdered judges and heightened discomfort and insecurity among judges and relatives as to the worth of the honorable men in the line of service for God and country. This calamitous decision by the president informed these people and keen observers to show president Mahama the exit in order to guarantee safety of relatives and comrades.
Shouldn’t the president have seen this coming?
Nursing Trainee Allowances
As if being held by a spell, payment of nursing trainee allowances which had been halted for a considerable long period was reinstated suddenly albeit, with some difficulties. It is a fact that the government support for nursing institutions halted as far back as 2011. For this matter, these institutions are run on Internally Generated Funds (IGF); therefore, these institutions have to charge high fees and levies on the students in order to stay afloat. The lack of student allowances had a toll on students and families especially in the north. The sudden turn to reinstate payment of allowances due to political punch lines by the NPP on such payments exposed the government and president Mahama to Ghanaians vis-à-vis the plight of these students with families who strive on peasantry to educate their wards. To make matters worse, monies sent to the nursing institutions were not enough to pay all students per institution. These desperate and flawed acts drew the line and the tone was set to vote against the president who had superintended over the development. Can one fault them?
The Tribal Call
In my humble view, the last self-inflicted wound by the president was his call to northerners to vote for him at Lawra while on a campaign trail in the Upper West Region. On the occasion he expressed regret that Dr Bawumia belonged to a party which was anti- north and was only being used to be dumped later: On that, we look up to providence when tomorrow comes. The tribal call by the president was very unpresidential and didn’t represent responsible leadership. As a father of a nation, his efforts should have been geared toward uniting the country and encouraging coexistence between tribes and religions and not the other way round. How could changing lives and transforming Ghana become a reality in the midst of divisive tribal pronouncements which are inimical to progress and development?
The contaminated comments by the president earned him apathy even among northerners who felt belittled at attempts by the president to lure them to vote for him on the basis of tribe and not a track record that has reduced poverty or improved lives.
With this as the icing on the cake, president Mahama had successfully made history of being the first president in the fourth republic to serve for a term. It was only just a matter of time before voters helped him to actualize and put his patent on the prize he tirelessly won for himself.
OBSERVATIONS AND GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
Through the campaign a new chapter of the role of women was opened. Samira Bawumia, a gem with a majestic personality and the graceful and elegant Rebecca Akufo-Addo mounted campaigns independent of their spouses. They made significant contributions to the campaign through combative complementary roles .By their contributions, they earned for women, very enviable positions and roles in the scheme of campaign trails and politics in Ghana.
After some attempts to be president, Nana Addo has finally become president. In the quest to be president, his life, attitude, behavior, habits and actions were kept under public scrutiny. The failed attempts surely became learning curves which impacted on genuine changes in the attitudes, behaviors, actions and habits to suit the preferences of what the ordinary voter sought in a leader. I believe we have a better Nana Addo now who has eaten in same bowl with market women and farmers in communities down south. I believe today we have a much more outgoing Nana Addo who sat at a popular stand at Wa sports stadium and ate groundnuts and drank sachet water. Today Ghana has a man who has labored to actualize his dream; he is well positioned to know and understand what wishes and dreams mean to an ordinary man in the face of obstacles. We can only pray and hope he succeeds in the interest of Ghana.
For this to happen, Nana Addo needs the unalloyed support of all Ghanaians especially the elephant Family. The need to tame and resolve the furore in the NPP couldn’t have been better situated. I expect Nana Addo to show good will and commitment towards a united Party and country.
President Mahama and the NDC have contributed their bit to the development of Ghana. Governance is always a work in progress and as such they have played their part in consolidating the gains of Ghana. As the NDC counts its losses, Ghanaians expect them to work hard towards building a better NDC devoid of; self-seeking individuals, monopoly by family and friends as well as disregard and disrespect of the old guards by flippant appointees. Ghana needs a better opposition to put the ruling government in check. She also needs a better opposition as a viable alternative to a failed government hence the relevance of a better NDC.
The gains in the election petition case in the form of reforms which were adopted by the electoral commission have helped shape our electoral processes. This particular election has been more credible, transparent and acceptable to all parties and actors. In line with this, it is imperative to keep reviewing our electoral laws and systems towards a more enhanced system that guarantees trust and absolute transparency.
When CNN and other international news agencies came fishing for negative reportage and attempted to take away the shine upon a beautiful African story that was unfolding, Ghana defied all odds and refused to implode. The desire to show the world was intense; the will to succeed was firm. As a focused people, we set the tone for a nation that guarantees a better future for our kids and unborn generations by simply agreeing to disagree through universally acceptable terms and norms. How well we continue to hoist the flag of a better Africa with passion and pride. God bless our home land Ghana.
Source: DANAA ABDUL-SAMADfirstname.lastname@example.org