A commentary by Asare “Gabby” Otchere-Darko, Editor-in-Chief of The Statesman
THERE is a crisis in Ghanaian leadership that is partly due to the declining authority of a political establishment. An establishment which is formed mainly by a combination of a ruling party that often behaves like it is in office but not in power, and a mediocre opposition of hypocrites and inflators of frivolities who would rather complain in the dark than turn on the alternative light.
Norman Lamont resigned from the British cabinet under the John Major administration in 1993, and later said of that government it “gave the impression of being in office but not in power”. That, in my considered view, is also the hallmark of our government today: still in office, but no longer in authority.
Worse still, rather than being at the forefront of positively influencing the line of discourse for this nation of under-achievers, Government acts like a poste restante, only laboriously delivering its side of the package through an ad hoc mechanism of defensive reactionarism.
A typical example of this is the effort to amend PNDC Law 284. Government's argument is that the part of that law (Section 8) which actively prevents several Ghanaian citizens abroad from voting is unconstitutional. Yet, to undertake the basic responsible task of removing this unconstitutionality expressly inserted by a previous executive (PNDC), the Government of the New Patriotic Party (through the majority in Parliament) has chosen the pleonastic, superfluously arduous and resource-consuming task of touring the country and beyond, to powwow and seek the opinion of Ghanaians on whether or not Parliament should remove a manifest unconstitutionality when it has the authority to just go ahead and repeal the offensive legislation!
But, there are more equally compelling reasons why the New Patriotic Party behaves as if it is in office but not in power. Apparently, the Attorney-General's desk has in the last four years piled up dockets upon dockets running into hundreds of millions of dollars of allegations of corruption against officials of the previous government. If there are indeed dockets pointing the direction to the Fast Track Courts, then this can only be a government in office but not in authority.
Yesterday's Crusading Guide (Vol 7 No 87 – 8th Nov-14th Nov 05) reminded us that over US$2 billion “could not be properly accounted” in the divestiture of state assets between 1993 and 2000. Unless, of course, all that noise of NDC corruption from the early years of NPP rule till now has been found to not be supported by hard facts. Perhaps, on the other hand, we should all be content with the implied logic that the NPP officials through their own chronic dips in the murky ocean of grafting concede they have lost the moral authority to prosecute.
Added to this, is a long list of hundreds of millions of dollars of government-guaranteed loans frivoled away by crony capitalists under the man who today audaciously compares President Kufuor to Atta Ayi, a man on trial for armed robberies and murder. Unfortunately, very little seems to be being done to retrieve these monies. Instead, a person like Francis Doe, handpicked by PV Obeng from relative poverty and given over $60 million of cheap money from the State, which his companies have refused to pay back, is now suing Government. Even on trial Dan Abodakpi has rediscovered his voice!
Due more to the omission than the commission of this government, the public perception of corruption against its officials is growing – annoyingly and frustratingly growing louder than the reality. It is growing because the set of politicians and commentators leading the chorus of allegations have ingeniously managed to convince the public that it is not rather the standards of scrutiny, transparency and governance that have heightened, but that today's officials are worse than before. Only a government in office but without authority can show such utter negligence in the face of such power-losing, deadly arsenal of enemy propaganda.
But, there is more evidence of the NPP's self-destructive paranoia against exercising the inherent authority it has as a party in government. Although the National Reconciliation Commission submitted its final report in October last year, it is as if Government has been afraid to act upon it. Very little is heard of the compensation package recommended by the Commission. Nothing is heard about the Commission's findings and the weight of recommendation – from both victims and people like the National Security Advisor at the time of the gruesome abduction and murder of the judges in June 1982 – to the effect that the judges' murder case should be re-opened. The NRC Report offered the clearest indictment yet against the former Chairman of the PNDC, Flt Lt Rawlings.
For those who thought the NRC was a responsible act by the NPP to foreclose that gruesome matter, they better think again. Does that mean the former President is guilty but we are willing to forgive evil for the sake of expediency? The man has maintained for 23 years that he is not guilty. Is it not in everybody's interest (including Messrs Rawlings and Kojo Tsikata) that the serious indictment on Ghana's longest serving Head of State by the Commission is put to the test and settled once and for all? Or is the NPP resigned to the charge that it is in office but not in power?
The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously. Otherwise the aggregate of all the effusions of former President Rawlings would have sent this country into another orgy of instability. But, there is credible evidence that many of the people are being influenced by the outright lies and hypocrisy of Rawlings and his followers. The Afrobarometer findings on corruption last March were very indicative of that. So much so that the people may risk bringing Rawlings and his people back into power. But, I blame nobody, no institution but the President and his team of executives for this current state of affairs. They have allowed lies to define the national discourse, and to carve people's perception, for far too long. They are sitting on facts – facts that can better inform the public on the real state of affairs situated (as it ought to be) in a prism of comparative study – yet they jealously protect those facts as if they are afraid to embarrass the opposition.
Freedom cannot exist without the concept of order. But, the NPP has further widened the opened gates of freedom without a corresponding mechanism of how to deal with it to protect its own interest and the sanctity of the State. What Ghanaians elected is a president not a pope. What president Kufuor must adopt is the compassion of the bailiff and the patience of the Accra tro-tro driver in dealing with certain issues. The country must put a ceiling to politicians with negative ambitions.
The situation now can be best described as a democratic and accountable shambles. A shallow vortex of accountability in which the opposition and media seem happier to befriend the falsehood of a jilted Syrian than expose the everyday over-pricing of government-awarded contracts.
After 20 years in power, Rawlings, the Ahwois and co believe they have studied the people well enough to take for granted that no one in Ghana has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. But, they can easily be proved wrong by a government that is not afraid to meet lies with facts.
This country has been allowed by the piloting of roguish and knavish politricksters to have so much room for hyphenated Ghanaianism. Politicians on both sides of the major divides are prepared to uphold the national interest only when it is incidental to their own interest. Government, the good people in opposition, the responsible media and the rest of the good people are permitting, through inactivity, Ghanaianism to become a tangle of squabbling partisanship and sectionalism.
There is currently a spell-binding wedge splitting our collective patriotism to serve the national interest rather than the emperors of sectarianism. In my opinion, President Kufuor must show more authority. He must talk to the people. He must be seen to show more decisiveness. He must show more verbal compassion against the growingly debased nature of the national discourse. He must lead the crusade to put back confidence where it belongs – in the national psyche. He must be seen to care more and more. He must find more and more time to travel the country and meet with the people. He must deal with legitimate ruthlessness those who deserve such a treatment.
In my opinion, the other man who had the potential of healing this nation has been so consumed with bitterness and hatred that he can be said to be a candidate for political chemotherapy. For his cancer to be allowed to malignantly fester only supports the case that the NPP is in office but not in power. Rawlings is a fitting national symbol of a people desiring not to break free from pettiness, mediocrity and underdevelopment; a wonderful political structure that stands for nothing peculiarly constructive; a stunning shell with a hole where its patriotic heart should be.
Ex-rulers, like rulers, have no authority from God to do mischief. A man cannot be so scandalously indicted by a statutory body of inquiry for a responsible government not to take the extra natural step to either confirm his guilt or exonerate him. If the NPP decides to accelerate a legitimate run-down on Rawlings – and by implication the priority NDC attaches to the politics of hypocrisy, populism and destructive criticism — that wedge would be removed. With it would go one of the principal props which have allowed Luddite ignorance to punch its weight in our politics.
As a measure of how persuasive opposition propaganda and how timid Government's response have been, if an election were to be held in the Diaspora today the NPP would probably lose. Rawlings, like a man of genius, has mastered in the art of persuading an efficient and loyal minority to coerce an indifferent and self-indulgent majority to buy his junk.
The NDC may be telling lies about the NPP but have expertly cowed the NPP from telling the truth about the NDC. A stock check of the last four years has convinced me that the dominant aim of NDC politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing the populace with an endless series of NPP hobglobins, many of them imaginary.
Ghana's basic limit to the realisation of its tomorrow is, in my view, the cynicism and doubts of today, as much as the negligence of those in power to add efficient governance to good governance. Yet, to buck this requires leadership (from all sides) that can charge us to move forward with strong and active faith. Ghana is not going to walk backward into the future. We should not allow Ghana to become once again Africa's Crucible – where the hopes and dreams of a continent's peoples are squeezed into a melting pot.
A must-read for Rawlings is Henry Taylor's 'The Statesman' (1836): “He who has once advanced by stride will not be content to advance afterwards by steps,” it prophesised.