Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia's Presidency: A vision Swamped in Integrity Crisis and Naive Meritocracy - David Zekpa of 1957 Group

Article Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia's Presidency: A vision Swamped in Integrity Crisis and Naive Meritocracy - David Zekpa of 1957 Group
FEB 11, 2024 LISTEN

..."Every man deserve a fair hearing we gave president Mahama a chance to be President the least we can do is to give Dr. Bawumia a fair and objective hearing he is not president and has never been president I have no doubt that he will be better" - Kofi Bentil, Imani Africa

Ghana’s fourth republic, backed by the 1992 constitution reintroduced multiparty democracy after a spate of military regimes. How refreshing! People with political ambitions interred in their bones can finally let out heavy sighs of relief. Right from the onset, competition for the top office has never been boring. We all preserve fond memories of the days of Adu Boahen vs J J Rawlings, J A Kufour vs J E A Mills, Akufo-Addo vs J E A Mills and Akufo-Addo vs J D Mahama. Each election cycle marked a fragile macabre dance with destiny. Notwithstanding the usual accusations of rigging and other electoral infractions, we have collectively sustained the fourth republic as our nation’s longest democratic dispensation.

The Good
Fast forward to end of 2023, the NPP in a relatively disappointing showing chose the de facto and anointed successor to the Akufo-Addo leadership. Keenly fought out, but unimpressively won by the establishment candidate in the person of Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia. Obviously a reward to bona fide and loyal friend and partner of the President for sixteen (16) years of dedicated service.

As usual, mending intra-party ugly nuances is his first and foremost duty, i.e. the yeoman’s task of ironing out creases with severely apathy-stricken Kennedy Agyapong, and possibly the leadership of the recently breakaway Movement for Change proponents. Aside that, he also has the burden of fixing a broken trust relationship with public Ghana.

Thus, a robust manifesto, or vision statement as he captioned it, presented a pristine opportunity to tackle especially the last of the aforementioned problems hanging around his neck. Without fail, Dr. Bawumia presented his vision with the gusto, vim and rigour characteristic of him. A dramatic art from the 2016 election playbook. Classic Bawumia! Confident posturing has been a tool the NPP has exploited to the full since their unsuccessful 2008 election bid. Just as political watchers hoped and prayed for, he stayed clear of jargon and the be-laboured vilification of Ex-President Mahama.

Pardon him for following the trajectory of many African and third-world leaders who fail to dream and envision beyond institutional agendas. He submitted as part of his vision, a flat tax system (an initiative originally mooted by the late Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, circa 2007). A system that seeks to significantly simplify tax collection and possibly widen the net. As expected, this tax policy direction seems to have obtained the needed endorsement of the business community. He duly expressed intentions to leverage technology and push further the STEM agenda with the youth. Not sure if he agrees with public Ghana on the fact the current anti-Galamsey strategy has not delivered, he posited quite bold extractive industry vision statements that beckons attention. His new ideas though, grossly depart from what he together with his boss are currently prosecuting. There is emerging conversation on whether these ideas (e.g. making millionaires out of alluvial miners) have any practical relevance. That is for public Ghana to scrutinise.

Political communicators of ex-President Mahama’s 2013-2016 government claim a share of the digitization gains the country has made. These claims are undeniable in the face of the evidence of Fiber Optic Network installations, Accra Digital Center, Data Centers, and other foundational infrastructure at the Finance Ministry, NIA, GPHA, GRA, etc. towards an e-governance environment. However, it is also undeniable that Dr. Bawumia deserves credit for being the visible poster boy of digitization in the current government. Through his relentless emphasis, government initiatives like the Ghana Card, Asaase GPS, and Digital Address system were born. Government also made significant digital progress at the Passport Office, Ghana Health Service, Ports, etc. All governments will lay claim to that which is good, but it is also expedient in our public discourse to give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

The Bad
For a presidential manifesto that lasted more than two-hour, posthumous analysis is inevitable and very important to give life to the issues. As mentioned earlier, Dr. Bawumia’s well-wishers hoped and earnestly prayed for him to not take the easy bait and temptation to employ the frail veils of the Covid-19 and Russia-Ukraine narrative as a defense mechanism for a woeful economic management. As the government’s favourite go-to hiding place, and with the reflex of muscle-memory, he run straight to the Covid-19 and Russia-Ukraine sanctuary for safekeeping. It is mind boggling how the NPP boldly lays claim on elitism and astuteness, but fails to see how warped that narrative sounds in the face of other third-world countries’ economic indicators. Institutionally, it appears the NPP finds it convenient to play dumb when the need be. Fact check buck-passing. It is not a leadership trait.

Without any doubt, the NPP won the 2016 election on the back of Dr. Bawumia’s apparent superior economics know-how. That electoral victory was a surrender that says, “here, make it happen”. It is therefore a betrayal of trust for him to tout his drift to the safe haven of digitalisation leaving behind the first derivative duty of managing the economy. Constitutionally, Dr. Bawumia has implicated himself by abdicating all his responsibilities to people we hitherto did not know. The Vice President is the Head of the EMT and his responsibilities thereof are clearly defined in the mandate document of his office. The infrastructure and technology for e-governance was already in place and self-manifesting. Thus, progressively, “ways of doing” will eventually demand the need to upscale with technology. For example, intra-network MoMo transactions will inevitably lead us to interoperability. It is a natural evolution. We did not need him there. We needed him on the economy side of governance. Our pocket, he said, is the economy. All these TECH initiatives lay under the purview of the Ministry of Communications through the Accra Digital Centre (est. 2016) and the National Information Technology Agency (NITA, est. circa 2008).

In 2016, one of the flagship taglines was the 1D1F agenda. Referencing Kwame Nkrumah’s exploits at industrialization, Ghanaians were swept away thinking the new government was coming to build local factories based on the unique advantages of the District. They would later tell us it was a figment of our imagination because they never told us how. Absurdly, the famous 1D1F policy became a variant of PPP. As 1D1F struggled to kick-off, the government chose to run to the doorsteps of self-funded profit-driven entrepreneurs offering the breadcrumbs of water, electricity, road and tax breaks in exchange for partnership. In any case, whose responsibility is it to provide these amenities and platforms for businesses? The NPP made a bargaining chip out of their responsibilities. Even at that, the government is still struggling to point out 1D1F projects in the various Districts. Dr. Bawumia’s PPP propositions for jobs and prosperity are therefore suspect.

In a subtle approach, he pursued an agenda to jab ex-president Mahama’s 24-hr economy. To call a spade a spade, it is rather self-deprecating for an economist of his stature to repeatedly denigrate the 24-hr economy conversation to chop-bars, and now to nighttime USSD and MoMo transactions. In pursuit of mischief, he doubled down on the impression that he lacks understanding of the topic. Many advanced countries are still exploring the ambits of a 24-hr economy. To subtly suggest and make nonsense of introducing a 24-hr economy in Ghana because it is already here is both mischievous and gives him no mileage on his campaign. Economists and Trade Unions have thus far touted the 24-hr economy idea as an innovative path to chart. It does not have to come from Dr. Bawumia to be germane. There are enough thinking caps across the street as well.

Dr. Bawumia’s government, just like the Electoral Commission’s officiating of the 2020 elections, has churned out several conflicting data regarding their job creation credentials. His vision for creating jobs and citing jobs created at the Ghana National Fire Service unnerved public Ghana. To dish out jobs to cronies and allies in state institutions and SOEs only to be placed on payroll to do little to nothing is not job creation. By April 2017, some SOEs did not have enough seats for newly employed workers. The perennial case of non-performing SEOs is not rocket science. This model of ‘job creation” is both lazy and unsustainable. Job creation policies like Youth in Afforestation, NaBCO, etc lacked the political honesty to ensure sustainability.

One other “bold” item on Dr. Bawumia dinner plate on Wednesday evening was the “vision” to abolish the mandatory status of post-tertiary National Service. He obviously underestimated and ignored the framers’ intent and purpose for establishing the Ghana National Service Scheme as backed by Act 426. It was not surprising to wake up Thursday morning to the news that Dr. Bawumia allegedly did not do National Service himself. Testers of the law may want to explore the illegality of not performing a mandatory requirement concerning public service. The Office of the Vice President & President are public offices. The Ghana National Service Scheme 1980, Act 426 is available for reference and interpretation.

Finally, Dr. Bawumia appeared to be benchmarking the Presidential Candidate of the NDC in suggesting his new government will feature a total of 50 ministers & deputies. That is quite eye-popping as it sounds more like telling public Ghana what it wants to hear with no real intention to perform. To all of a sudden yield to axe the infamous e-levy, review the free SHS policy, work with less than 42% of the current size of government, provide sustainable jobs, ensure fiscal discipline for macroeconomic stability, and supervise an easy tax regime beckons James 4:17 “…he who knows to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin”.

The Ugly
The Office of the Vice President has the backing of the constitution as the second highest office of the land. It has enough powers to be responsible for economic management of our resources (i.e., finance, natural resource, et al). At the turn of 2018/19, the then Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Marfo ascribed all the so-called economic gains and resilience to Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia especially as leader of the EMT to which he grinned in satisfaction to emphasise how he deserved the praise.

Fast forward to 2020 and beyond. As the economy slipped into a macabre dance because of fiscal indiscipline, unwise decisions and choices against sound advice from the intellectual community, Dr. Bawumia stepped forward and each time boldly re emphasized sound economic management during his State of the Economy addresses. He churned out figures that only sought to compare with the Mahama administration and forgot that he told public Ghana earlier the economy is what we find in our pockets. Thus, entreating us to disregard Amissah-Arthur and Seth Terkpeh’s statistics.

Having chaired an obstinate group of EMT executives, the same economic Wizkid, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia now conveniently chooses to distance himself from the economic mess we find ourselves. Ghana’s economy systematically degenerated to a junk status from a B-minus in 2016 for which public Ghana went on demonstrations. At a point, Ghana’s economy was only better than Sri Lanka. For Dr. Bawumia to seek to absolve himself by pointing fingers at Covid-19, European regional conflict, and to water down the eminence and impact of the Office of the Vice President is the height of intellectual dishonesty and lack of leadership. Leaders take responsibility for a team’s failures, apologise to stakeholders before attempting to inspire new hope by buoyantly pointing to what can be done differently. For the NPP’s insistence on how well they have managed this economy, Dr. Bawumia sounded more like a Change Candidate than a continuation Candidate. A change from what, if this is the best we can get in terms of leadership as they always made us believe? This grip on power and unwillingness to let alterative opinion prevail is undemocratic and akin to a dictatorship.

Unlike the NDC’s presidential candidate who suggested tightening legislation to put a cap on debt accumulation and prevent future reckless borrowing, placing moratorium on non-concessional borrowing, as well as re-establishing the sinking fund to help debt repayment, Dr. Bawumia fell short of speaking directly to the subject and preferred a broad-spectrum stance such as “ensure fiscal discipline”.

Time-travel back to 2016 and everything he said on Wednesday night would be completely believable and accepted by public Ghana. Not anymore. Not anymore. The speck in our eyes were dissolved by the suffering and indifference we endured in the past few years. The polls are chiming, and Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia’s mesmerizing effect seems to be waning. Alas, he laid his golden eggs long before his own season of need.

To the NDC & Other Minority Parties
Hate it as we may, we live in a two-party democracy with the NDC as the only viable alternative and hope to rescue a Nation for Sale. We are still waiting for the emergence of the third force. In the meantime, as we obviously cannot continue on this trajectory, public Ghana is counting on the NDC and other minority parties to work assiduously to safeguard the people’s will come December, 2024. The rest of us do not have the legal permission to be in collation centers around the country to guard our votes. Public Ghana requires a fiduciary vigilance throughout the electoral process.

Beware of African leaders’ quest for hegemony. The continent is replete with leaders who have no intention to hand over power. Preferring to avert the will of a Nation and perpetuate a travesty of electoral justice.

To conclude, and in quoting Harry Truman, “we the people only preserve the freedom to talk about what is right for Ghana and let the chips fall where they may”. God bless our homeland Ghana, and make our Nation Great and Strong. Bold to defend forever the cause of Freedom and of Right.

Executive Director,
The 1957 Group
[email protected]