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Jun 11, 2009 | Political

The President: Between A Rock And A Hard Place

President John Evans Atta Mills
President John Evans Atta Mills

Barely five months after winning the Presidential election, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills is facing enormous pressure from all quarters to deliver on his campaign promises. Are Ghanaians being unreasonable in their expectations or is the NDC failing to live up to its mandate?

As Ghanaians become more politically savvy, they are less inclined to give their leaders a long honeymoon period.

Thus, our new government has had no breathing space since its inception. Much of this can be attributed to the razor thin voter margin between the two leading parties that meant that for about half of the population, their candidate lost in the bitterly fought 2008 elections.

Though it conceded defeated, the NPP still nurses a lot of anger, and disaffection for the new government, which seems to colour its view of the government affairs. I agree that during the eight years that the NDC was in opposition, many of their members and sympathizers similarly condemned Kufuor government, sometimes unfairly.

The magic charm for the NDC was the good Professor, whose integrity within Ghanaian political circles is unmatched.

His only bane was the general distrust of the NDC party and the perception that Rawlings would control Atta Mills. But given the disillusionment with most politicians and  the honesty of Atta Mills and John Mahama, their assurances to fight corruption and put the people first persuaded many non-hard core supporters to vote for them.

The NPP was also not able to convince people they were telling the truth when amongst the larger section of Ghanaians, a third term was considered another opportunity to loot the country.

It was time for change and Ghanaians dared to dream of an administration where the Presidency would be marked by modesty and leadership by example.

Unfortunately, for President Mills, many of his campaign promises were seemingly grandiose.

He promised to review the tax component on petroleum products after convincing Ghanaians that the NPP was fleecing the people through exorbitant pricing. Also, he guaranteed that half of his government will be made up of women to demonstrate his recognition that females should not be shortchanged in the developmental process.

He said corruption within his government would be swiftly dealt with and he would institute the election of District Chief Executives. Additionally, the NHIS premium would be paid only once in a lifetime, school uniforms would be given out free of charge, jobs will be created and there will be no witch hunting of political opponents.

On all these scores, many are convinced the President has faltered, with the opposition capitalising on these issues to criticize the government's performance.

Many of the promises the NDC made prior to winning the election are no different from what the other political parties gave. The worry for pundits analyzing the various manifestos was the lack of any clear ideological differences.

This meant that whichever party won the election was likely to continue to manage the nation's affairs like the predecessor.

 Many of the steps taken by the new administration have caused some supporters to wonder whether he is capitulating to the party's dictates rather than his own convictions.

It seems many of the appointments to government were made based on a person's loyalty to the party rather than on the candidate's competence.

Even though women occupy less than 40 per cent of key government positions, many of those in place have not won the people's confidence.

It also seems, from the President's press conference held after 100 Days in office, that the election of DCEs has been discarded while party functionaries determine the acceptability of a nomination.

The information and public relations arm of government has apparently not been able to manage adequately the messages relayed to the people and the grape vine has been rife with misinformation.

The NPP has succeeded in creating the impression that they are being harassed because they've been asked to return state property and account for their stewardship.

Currently, the attention of many has been shifted from the possibility that previous state officials mismanaged resources by accounts of cars being unlawfully seized and reports of harassment by security forces.

 The President, with the recent 30 per cent  increase in fuel prices, has suddenly become known as insensitive and wicked and is accused of lying to the people just to win the elections.

Of course, while most of the loudest protests are coming from people who did not utter a word of criticism when NPP was in power, certainly, it seems unfortunate that the increase is so high.

Kufuor took the wind out of Mills' sails by reducing petrol during the election period thus rendering the eventual removal of some tax components a mere drop in the ocean.

What the opposition does not tell us is that while Ghanaians were paying taxes on fuel expressly to defray our indebtedness at the Tema Oil Refinery, these monies were not being used for that purpose.

 But just as the NDC capitalised on the price of fuel to score political points, the NPP is doing the same without closely examining the facts about whether we can or cannot afford to subsidise fuel.

For the ordinary Ghanaian, it is not his support of the government that is responsible for his protests but his dire financial state. Many people are barely making ends meet and even a modest increase in fuel squeezes them even more.

They are incensed that while they struggle, government officials continue to enjoy free fuel allowances, earn fat per diems and take their girlfriends on foreign trips at state expense.

 To this category of Ghanaians who are in the majority, nothing except an improvement in their living conditions will satisfy them.

They will remember the heartfelt pleas of Atta Mills to be given the opportunity to create jobs, increase salaries, eliminate corruption and propel Ghana to a higher developmental plane.

Dear Mr. President, while we should have given you a little more room to settle down, the needs of your people are so immense they cannot wait much longer.

Source: Yela Awunyo-Akaba -

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