There are four big Johns in the December 2008 elections. John Agyekum Kufuor's record in office in the first eight years of NPP rule is really where the battle lines are being drawn. Nana Akufo-Addo is very proud and happy to fight the race on that record.
The NDC has also decided to focus on the NPP record, a fair and relevant option as an opposition party seeking to unseat the incumbent.
But, what is most peculiar about the NDC strategy is their bravery in taking the fight to the corners where their opponents have the advantage to meet every NDC southpaw attempt with a swift upper cut. Prof Mills has stated in his manifesto that the NPP has been a failure in education, health and economy. More on this later.
At least John Kufuor knows where he stands in this year's presidential elections. His job is to see NPP succeeds NPP - to see Akufo-Addo succeed Kufuor, based on Kufuor's record, and Akufo-Addo's programmes and leadership. With the NDC, the three Johns are running into one another trying to outdo each other on the How Nasty Am I stage.
One John who is looming very large in this campaign, to the obvious and stated chagrin and anger of a younger John (John Mahama), is Jerry John. This John is so busy re-opening his own chequered record over the previous 19 years before 2001 to the majority of voters who had either forgotten or were not at least consciously around to remember. When JJ Rawlings says, "That fight is still on today…between good and evil, between corruption and accountability, between what is right and what is wrong,' Ghanaians know just what he's talking about.
That rather than strengthening public institutions to do their jobs properly when he had the opportunity to do so, he rather focused on rule by man, believing rule by fear was sustainable, when his own principles were increasingly being made nonsense by the profligacy of his own household and Cabinet colleagues, who had to be rescued by white papers.
Then, there is that John who has tried three times and failed to convince Ghanaians of his leadership. In 1996, when he was thrown into the limelight by President John Rawlings, Ghanaians kind of saw him as a nice man. Very soon his lack of character in certain matters of principle came to the fore. The latest being his embarrassing statement in his party's manifesto finally outdoored last Saturday.
Prof Mills states in that document which is threatening to take Ghana backwards that 'In the areas of the economy, employment, the environment, health, education, and the utilities - you name it - failure is the best mark that can be given to the NPP government.'
How any man can have any legitimate go at winning an election by believing that he can tell the people differently to what they know to be the truth is beyond basic political logic. Opinion poll after opinion poll puts health and education as one area a vast majority of Ghanaians, from Volta Region to Upper West Region believe the NPP has far out-performed the NDC. On the economy, too, in spite of this year's global price crisis hitting Ghanaians in the pocket, the majority of the people continue to say they trust the NPP better when it comes to managing the economy.
John Mills and John Mahama have taught Ghanaians one thing: that the problem really is with the NDC. It is a party that turns nice people into nasty people. You can simply call it the Nasty Party in Ghana's politics.
In a feature article of October 25, 2003, NPP's newly wedded Calus von Brazzi said this of the former Communications Minister under the NDC; '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'.'
Von Brazzi said further, '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.'
The bottom line? It is this brave streak of objectivity that got many Ghanaians to fall in love with the man, John. But, he has completely changed. The only thing that hasn't changed, perhaps, is his dislike for John Rawlings and his feeling that his former boss is 'bad news' for the NDC campaign this year.
For example, the MP for Bole-Bamboi would, characteristically, be among the first to praise Nana Akufo-Addo for the proposal to set up the Northern Development Authority and back it with a $1 billion Northern Development Fund as seed money. But, what did we see and hear: John on a campaign platform, as running mate to John Mills, ridiculing Akufo-Addo's promise with the jibe, 'if Nana knows how to raise $1bn then he should first show Kufuor how to pay off the $1bn [sic] VRA debt.'
Indeed, John used this NPP pledge to transform the north to say that Nana was all about empty promises. It was only when the NPP in the north seized on it to tell the voters that John does not care about bridging the north-south development gap that he impressed upon the NDC to insert in their manifesto a 'Savannah Development Fund' and a 'Northern Accelerated Development Authority.'
All of a sudden, the NDC has managed to find money for their harshly put together 'northern development fund' but the NPP can't do the same! John Mahama's changed calculus of what constitutes success or failure is most shocking. Commentators are now beginning to say with increased regularity that John is a changed man. This is not the John we all fell in love with.
Nothing that the NDC does can change the fact that John and his team were incapable of taking care of things that voters today take for granted - the School Feeding programme, free basic school education, a national health insurance system, more freedoms, more police on the beat, cheaper credit from banks, lower inflation, stable cedi, etc.
John Mahama recently called on Ghanaians to vote for a change of government in December so that the economy of the country could be transformed. Really?
Ghanaians begin this week with the knowledge that all the major political parties (i.e. NPP and NDC) have come out with their plans for the next four years. The question is which of the two teams can you trust to deliver? Which team has the competence to deliver?
It took the NDC 19 years to grow Ghana's economy from U$1bn as at 1982 to only U$3.94bn by 2000. The NPP managed in under 8 years to grow the economy from U$3.94bn in 2001 to U$16.5bn by mid-2008. Who can you trust?
Under the NDC in Dec. 2000 our foreign reserves could cover imports for only 3 weeks. Since 2001, the international reserves of Bank of Ghana have grown progressively from US$233 million to over US$2,830 million in 2007 - more than 12 times increase. Who will you trust?
By December 2007 under the NPP, actual economic growth rate was 6.3%, inflation was 12.75%, and bank interest rate stood at 20%. By December 2000 under the NDC, actual economic growth rate was 2.3%, inflation was 41%, and bank interest rate stood at 51%. In whom to you put your trust?
In 1981 when the NDC shot their way into office, 1 US Dollar was equivalent to ¢2.65 (old cedis). By the time they left power in 2001, the same $1 was trading at ¢7,050.
Under the 8-year rule of the NPP, the Cedi moved from ¢7,050 (old cedis) to $1 in December 2000, to ¢10,900.77 to a dollar as at last Friday. What this means is that in 19 years of NDC rule, our currency depreciated against the US dollar by a Mugabean 254,000%. Now, let the voters tell us who they know they can trust.
The total value of Ghana's crude oil imports in 2000 was US$520.1 million (1999: US$333.3 million). Total value of Ghana's crude oil imports in 2007 was US$2,105 million (2006: US$1,416 million); 400% increase since 2000. Yet, the economy is not in a free fall. In the decade 1993-2003, world crude oil prices traded in the region of about US$20/bbl with the exception of 2000 when it averaged US$27.40.
It is worth knowing that 25-year lows of about US$8/bbl were also recorded in the 4th quarter of 1998 as a result of the Asian economic crisis and OPEC increasing production quota by 10% (translating into 2.5 mbpd of supply effective January 1998) when demand was going down.
What is also clear is that the NDC enjoyed a better terms of trade in 2000 (under their worst economic crisis since 1993) than the NPP has done in the first half of 2008, in spite of gold and cocoa prices being on the high side.
No volume of sophistry and character u-turns of John Mahama can undo the mediocrity with which they approached matters of governance during their era. Speaking at a mini-rally of the party at London Bridge, in Cape Coast, John Mahama said NPP was practicing property owning democracy by selling off state properties.
He said, very soon the NPP will sell Parliament House and the Castle, and after selling all the properties of Ghana, they will sell Ghanaians as well. Surely, it has to be sad how ambition can turn people from nice guys to nasty. And, this is even before they take office!
John Mahama was recently on record as saying the continuous stay in office of the NPP after December would make the country look like 'an airplane that continues to taxi without taking off'. A very rich metaphor coming from a man under whose government the Ghanaian economy had to queue for fuel to even start the rickety engine.
Let the NDC tell us that they are now focusing on the quality of life agenda.
As if to compound this halting lurch to the politics of negativity, Prof Mills' foreword in the manifesto appears to be a confirmation to the country that the NDC has gone back to being the nasty party that Ghanaians knew. Prof Mills is simply an analogue politician in a digital age.
The volte face story of the two Johns reminds us of the patient who shook his doctor's hand in gratitude and said: 'Since we are the best of friends, I would not want to insult you by offering payment. But I would like for you to know that I had mentioned you in my will.'
'That is very kind of you,' said the doctor emotionally, and then added, 'Can I see that prescription I just gave you? I'd like to make a little change...'
They will tell you what they want you to hear and say they care for you when they only care for your vote. Dare you give your prescription card back to them.