January 2011: Half – time for the Professor’s Presidency.
The Mills administration is at about the half –way mark of its mandate. Yes, mandate is the word. With a margin that sent the Bush – Gore election to the Supreme Court in Florida, Ghana showed the world that we at least understood democratic elections. However, the nuances of democratic governance seem to have escaped us over the last two years.
Press freedom which saw its most sustained consolidation during Mr. Kufuor’s tenure as President, has continued to thrive with some interesting twists. An interesting issue came to the fore when Ex-president Rawlings’ home caught fire. A young NPP party activist one Nana Darkwa, brazenly hypothesized that the fire may have been set by the ex-president or his agents for unspecified reasons. He was strangely arrested for expressing this view in a democratic nation. NPP members of parliament staged a walkout to protest the arrest of the activist. This act was ill advised as it amounted to undue pressure by one arm of the government on another, the Judiciary. The president was embarrassed by his party cadres and placed in the position of having to remind the citizenry that the judiciary was an independent arm of the government. The question: Has the judiciary really matured and is it serving the nation as it should?
As a party in opposition, the NPP seem to have forgotten that the opposition is truly a part of the government serving all people. In addressing the best application of projected oil revenues, they want Ghanaians lacking basic needs such as good roads and access to rail transportation, which all increase economic activity and access to education and health, to wait until they come back to power. There is something very cynical and arrogant in their position in the “collateralization” debate. The key concern about collateralization is corruption and the well founded fear of many Ghanaians that the large resulting inflow of funds could be grossly mismanaged. The NDC government ought to provide transparent mechanisms to assure citizens that this will not happen, so that the needs of citizens are met with dispatch.
The popularly held opinion emerging of the president is that he is an extremely honest individual who is modest in his requirements. He is seen as being tough on the illegal narcotics trade where his predecessor is faulted with looking the other way and lending his party the moniker the “Narcotics Peoples Party”. The NPP continue to dispute this assessment of their apparent coziness with drug traders. They are entitled to their opinion but not to their own facts.
The greatest anxiety about Mills was whether he could contain his irrepressible, sometimes charismatic and often disruptive former boss and ex-president, Mr. Rawlings. He has managed to assuage the fears of most of his worried supporters with his display of independence from Mr. Rawlings. The latter’s stock has fallen partly because of the mysterious fire (no conclusive forensic report yet? – Oh! Ghana). Also, the unseemly machinations of his wife, whose “friends” have been promoting her as a candidate to succeed Prof Mills, so early in his tenure, have not helped. Ghanaians are quite rightly frowning on the cult of personality that would be supporting her more than rumored future candidacy for president. If Mrs. Clinton started campaigning for 2012 during the 2nd year of the Obama administration, how would this viewed by the Democratic Party?
Many observers including this author were concerned about party discipline within the NDC, coming out of a history of largely unpunished human rights abuses. These problems came to the fore with the arrest of the NPP activist, who was exercising his freedom of speech. Mr. Rawlings has remained uncharacteristically silent on the issue of the fire other than the absurd request from his supporters that his family be resettled, though the cause of the fire has still not been conclusively been identified. This should not have been a complicated task in 2010. He has also recently led a commemoration of his December 31 Revolution at the seat of Government. Some have called this treasonable but at a minimum, it is a demonstration of very poor judgment by a former president and a setback for the current president as he seeks to assure citizens that he is truly an independent man.
No one disputes the right of those who wish to celebrate December 31. Who is out celebrating the NLC or NRC? We all recognize that these are events, which have for better or worse contributed to the history of our nation. The principals should have obtained a police permit and rented the Accra Sports Stadium or other public facility because it is an entirely private affair. Our failure to recognize a strict firewall between what is private and what is public continues to harm our image and productivity as a nation. Mr. Rawlings has continued to fail his party by demonstrating poor judgment and acting only in his own and his wife’s self –interest at a great cost the nation as a whole. There is a measure of respect owed to the body politic of the nation which Mr. Rawlings has failed to deliver. This recent act is an insult to many self-respecting Ghanaians. No state funds should have been spent on this commemoration. In a functioning democracy, there should be a price to pay for this. Prof. Mills, Ghana is waiting for a mature and effective response.
Though Mills’ personal honesty is thought to closely rival that of Kwame Nkrumah, he is doomed to a mixed legacy as he has failedto get all his ministers to declare their assets 2 years into his administration. He has however been more categorical in removing members of his team who do have not met his expectations. He appears quite methodical and data driven. This does not produce “shout from the roof tops” excitement but this approach should eventually produce tangible results for the ordinary Ghanaian. Mr. Rawlings and his wife in their narcissistic pursuits continue to be this administration’s greatest distraction from what is otherwise a sound social democratic agenda.
Our greatest problems as a nation are in losses from mismanagement, institutional inefficiency, poor planning and horribly poor execution, implementation and evaluation of programs. There is a great deal of waste of resources and unrealized human potential in Ghana. This is very disturbing as we are poised to add a complex petroleum industry to a poorly managed and corrupt society at all levels. The police continue to extort money from citizens on a regular basis. This is where the rubber meets the road. When this practice dies we will have awakened to a new day.
The debate on the number of years students should spend in SSS is misplaced. What we need to examine critically is the content of the curriculum. Is it preparing students for an increasingly complex economy? Will our graduates be competitive on the world stage? After all, we are reaching for Middle income status as a nation. Is our educational system up to the task? Are we graduating students with management skills to meet the increasing complexity of our agricultural, health and infrastructural needs? I say nyet!
Our operational systems in both the public and private sectors are cumbersome and not at all efficient or consumer oriented. If you are stopped for driving at 60 mph in a 50mph zone, this is not a felony. There is no reason to appear in court. You should be issued a ticket which should be paid at a bank or some other site. If you dispute the determination of the arresting officer, then you can go to court to argue the case. This simple change in procedure would increase government revenue 10 fold from traffic violations.
We need to rely more on technology for effecting various levies and payments due from citizens. Most payments should be made at banks for traffic violations, property taxes and other fines so that corrupt officials are bypassed and revenues go to the national coffers.
The Ghana National Fire Service could not tell us what caused the fire at the Rawlings residence. We still do not know if a mass rape occurred on a bus or not? Are these issues too complicated to be resolved conclusively? If the rule of law prevailed on a daily basis, these would not be puzzles? Two recent national exercises, the census and the on – going district assembly elections, are examples of our continued problems with the planning and execution of basic but necessary functions of state. When these lapses occur, there is never a price to pay by those responsible for the failures. Nobody resigns; no one is fired and if a crime is involved, rarely is anyone prosecuted unless there is a political imperative.
We cannot be leaders of Africa, which we should be, until we resolve some very basic issues on the importance of facts and the rule of law in our society. Not everything is negotiable in a functioning society and nobody should be above the law. Who are we to take a position on Cote d’Ivoire? Therein lies the dilemma for most regional leaders. At least, so far we have accepted the will of the people at the ballot box. A good start but on the finer details which sustain a democracy, we have a long way to go. The solutions to these problems are non- partisan and elected parliamentarians, the judiciary and the executive all need to work with a greater sense of purpose.
If Professor Mills can deliver a more efficient government at all levels, internal revenue growth will be so significant that the commensurate improvement in services will guarantee him another term in spite of the bug biting him from his own cloth. He has returned a measure of integrity to the office of the president not seen for decades. Maybe the tortoise did after all; beat the hare in the proverbial race. Professor Mills faces a challenge he understands well. He needs a team, whose members are above reproach, have conviction, are patriotic in outlook and committed to measurable results. He certainly cannot afford the distractions and indiscipline from within his party. The next two years will tell the story.
Prof. T. P. Manus Ulzen;
January 2, 2011