Hard Questions to ask even as we mourn President Mills
8/2/2012 9:54:39 PM -
It is culturally a taboo to discuss the dead, more so when the death has only just occurred. It is with such caution that I dare to ask the reflective questions in this article. In the same manner that the Constitution recognises the need to swear in a new President in the immediate aftermath, the country should also begin to raise certain pertinent questions that need asking even amidst the mourning.
The President's illness was shrouded in a lot of secrecy to the extent that, even after his death, we were being told it was as a result of a sudden illness. Thus, in a bizarre manner, whilst the BBC was reporting that he was battling throat cancer, the government rather preferred to inform Ghanaians differently. Any keen observer would have noticed the deteriorating health of President Mills in recent months with his changed features; his considerable loss in weight; his failing voice; his deafening silence on pressing national issues; and of late, the increasing urgency with which he was travelling to the USA.
In the face of these overwhelming pieces of evidence, President Mills and his handlers (I will not say advisors) would let Ghanaians believe all was well with him. With the benefit of hindsight, the advice he was given to jog and brisk-walk at the Kotoka International Airport to demonstrate his good health was cruel. At a time when he might have been in great pains, he was being 'carted' to inspect road projects and to cut the tape to open a school building. Due to this lack of candour, a man who many accept was a great teacher and a humble person, died with loud criticisms of his non-performance ringing in his ears. At a time when he needed the love, sympathy and prayers of an entire nation, his handlers were rather inviting for him harsh criticism because they sought, in a very juvenile manner, to rationalise why he would not be campaigning even though he was seeking re-election. But as an Akan proverb says: 'if your mother is dead and you claim she is asleep, you reap the eventual consequences'.
So we must ask a lot of questions at the same time that we mourn our President, for the nation must not go through such an orchestrated deception again. The first question to ask is: was the late President a willing accomplice in this grand deception? Not only did he manage to hide his illness from Ghanaians to win the Presidency, but he was also bent on securing a second term when all indications point to the fact that he had had a handicapped first term. If he was a willing accomplice, was it due to an overwhelming ambition to be President or was it because he wanted to serve his nation so badly, even at the peril of losing his life? Could he really, as someone who was reputed to be an honest man, be comfortable in looking his doctors in the face whilst telling Ghanaians this untruth? Perhaps we will never know the answers; only posterity will judge.
The incoherency with which he spoke could be detected in the last few months (evident when he met the IMF team and when he spoke to the press before he left for the 'routine' medical check up). There is a Latin saying: 'mens sana in corpore sano' translated as: 'a healthy mind in a healthy body'. If he was suffering in the body, one is tempted to ask whether his faculties were about him in the last few months. If perchance they were not, who was taking major decisions on his behalf? In short, who was taking decisions affecting Ghana? Can the nation trust every treaty, accord and deal signed by the President or is there a case for calling for a review?
In this modern era of the internet and 24-hour radio and television broadcast, a President represents both the face and aspirations of a nation. He is required to marshal and direct the resources, ambition, energy and drive of a nation towards the betterment of all. This job brief requires the President to have vigour and to be mentally and physically alert. Can the nation continue to place the fate of 25 million people in the hands of one individual without knowing if he or she has the capacity to discharge this onerous responsibility? Do we from hereon adopt the American practice where the President undergoes annual medical checks with the results disclosed? Our Constitution alludes to the requirement for the President not to be physically and mentally incapacitated, yet the prescribed procedure for ascertaining so is very cumbersome. Do we need to simplify the relevant constitutional provisions?
When we are done with the mourning, we should reflect on the dearth of national leadership of the last three and a half years. The country laboured during this period. For over three and half years, the country drifted and lacked direction. For over three and half years, the country was polarised. This was all because the nation had an ailing President. Never should this gargantuan deception happen again.
God bless Ghana!
Long Live Ghana!
Dr Yaw Ohemeng