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25.10.2003 Feature Article

Hammering "Mahama's Hammer"

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I have wanted to do such a piece for so long but as is usual in print media practice, events keep pushing away propositions and yet it does keep returning: “isn’t this the right time?” Having just read the piece of “The President is in a Dilemma”, I couldn’t help delving into what has been one of my most favored topics: Politicians. My first contact with the Honourable John Dramani Mahama was somewhere in the mid 1990s when Radio Gold was celebrating its first anniversary. Accompanying then information minister Kofi Totobi Quakyi, the man had the air of difference around him. I did comment to some younger colleagues that “this man seems to be in the wrong place…his countenance gives him up so easily”.

I was asked how I came by that assertion because the man kept a very low profile in the political machinations of his own party and within the wider body politic. My basis was simple. I had known Hon. Mahama from a purely coincidental issue during my high school years. Those were the days when my bosom friends Inusah and Ibrahim “ruled Accra”. I would however not bore readers with a litany of events that brought me into close proximity with John Mahama at that point of my life.

What concerns me however was his rapid rise to the higher echelons of Ghanaian politics and his legacy, which has remained strong and interestingly continues to shine and impress even if operating from a relatively deprived position in Ghana’s contemporary politics. John Mahama became the “darling of the media” during the years when some members of his party had allegedly arrogated to themselves the power to “shit-bomb and heavy fine” media practitioners from the “other side”. Those were indeed some turbulent times, what with the much-dreaded Section 185 hanging out there like some albatross? Nonetheless whether by dint of his Public Relations stint with the Japanese Embassy or (I suspect strongly) his own demeanor, John Mahama carved a niche for saying it as it is without necessarily politicizing the issue, little wonder then that very little or no unkind word or attacks were “unleashed” on his good self by the most ardent of P(NDC) bashers on the Ghanaia! n media scene. Never once did he refuse to attend a radio discussion, knowing very well that his government would be at the receiving end of criticisms. What amazed me most was his promotion of the rare concept by which government ministers unable to attend discussions call in to clarify issues of national concern. It was almost as if John Mahama ate, breathed and slept around a cacophony of radio discussions in readiness to contribute his quota towards national development. If ever objectivity was personified, it was in John Mahama. He really did make it difficult for the opposition then because on more than one occasion, many of the present ministers of state did openly say to me “if Mahama is on your program I will not come…. you know he would ‘dilute’ our attacks so get somebody else”. The alternative then was Vincent Assiseh who although the party scribe was NOT the communications supremo of the government and hence the challenge.

I have taken this long diatribe to establish the background of one of the rarest gems of Ghana’s politics. It is a shame that in the immediate aftermath of election 2000, John Mahama seemed to have tangoed with “mischief” perhaps as part of the internal reorganization of the NDC Parliamentary wing. He remains without doubt however, the star communications chief in his capacity as Minority Spokesperson on Communications. So what of “Mahama’s Hammer”? I have been closely following the writings of this Honorable Member of Parliament for some time now as a regular visitor of and contributor to Ghanaweb. John has kept his objectivity untainted to the best of his ability even if occasionally the NDC streak manifests itself in reasonable swipes at the ruling party and its officials. Of course that is what democracy and party loyalty does and it would be ridiculous to expect otherwise. What amazes me is the simple fact that of the 200 Parliamentarians Ghana! has, he is the only one who finds time to do pieces for the benefit of those of us in the diaspora although his schedule inside the motherland home must obviously be busy. For people like me, this attitude confirms the proverb that “a leopard doesn’t change its spots”. His critique of His Excellency President J.A Kufuor’s “zero tolerance” concept is of course as frank and objective as is humanely possible; not a direct frontal attack or an effort to play to the gallery because he points fingers right at the heart of the problem and offers practical suggestions on the way forward. Mahama knows my political affiliation and it isn’t with his NDC but credit must be given where it is due. With such ideas being espoused and three more “Mahama’s in the NDC how can Ghana get it wrong?

Colleagues on my side of the political divide would no doubt be fazed by what I have written herein, more or less simply because it is a direct way of extolling the virtues of a “potential threat” to the ruling NPP. But let us for once be objective and consider the following:

a. Would John Mahama have dealt with the removal of “Kweku One-on-One” the way it was shabbily handled back in 1999?

b. Would John Mahama have handled the Information portfolio of the NPP government the way it is being handled presently?

If the answers to the above are tilted heavily towards no, then I would move to what is in my opinion, the “Osu Curve” of the NDC’s quest to return to power via the 2004 elections. It is my firm belief that the NDC shot itself in the foot in 2000 when they chose Mr. Martin Hamidu as a running mate. Martin Hamidu to all intent and purposes is a fine gentleman, a learned lawyer and stalwart of the party in his own right. His background could be seen as anchored in the early days of the revolution. Nonetheless, he was loathed by the media, for his unceasing attempts and “shylock-like” treatment of private press personnel who dared to take on the government. He thus loved the criminal code. His famous ‘stare’ has been commented upon over and over again and judges of the Superior Courts of Judicature have found cause to express concern about his ‘body language’ in court both openly and privately. I have taken pains to contrast these two for one simple reason. T! he very person who was loved by the media who could have easily brought the NDC ‘apar’ with the favor enjoyed by the NPP prior to the 2000 election was given up in exchange for the “tormentor-in-chief” of the same media. How on earth the NDC thought they could pull a successful stunt with that combination is better left to the party’s planners. The only other possible running mate at the time in my opinion who could have given the NDC a run for its money was of course good old Donald Adabre; but that would be another matter altogether.

I am convinced that we are presently in the “Osu curve” once more, given that former first lady Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings has categorically stated that she would not be throwing in her lot as a running mate to the learned Professor Mills. The NPP would most definitely retain its winning formula of H.E vice-president Aliu Mahama (no pun intended) and H.E President J. A. Kufuor barring any unforeseen circumstances. Would the Professor take the Osu curve as one of Dr. Bart-Plange’s horses used to mesmerize others at the racecourse or once again overlook the “Hammer” that is likely to give the NPP a run for its money? I am all for the growth and sustenance of democracy in Ghana and if people with real and true credentials would be given the opportunity to compete in the true framework of party politics irrespective of expediency, then at least the NDC has a golden opportunity to present a credible team that would maximize especially the input of the media i! n its quest for power. Hammering Mahama’s hammer reveals almost nothing but pluses for the party. The man has an excellent rapport with one and all, his objectivity is second to none and his loyalty seems unquestionable. The question remains however as to whether those who cannot tolerate the rise and rise of the Mahama’s would let good sense prevail. In the final analysis, it would not be the NDC, Mahama, Adabre, Bagbin or some petty idiosyncrasies that would gain: Ghana is the only gainer when democracy becomes entrenched in parties with the background of the NDC.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Calus Von Brazi
Calus Von Brazi, © 2003

The author has 20 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: CalusVonBrazi

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