The president who never was and matters arising
Quite a lot of journalists have had to revise their notes since most did not foresee a President Mills emerging from Ghana's latest elections. All they saw was rather a President Akufo-Addo.
Like the many journalists, I had plans for a write-up to pat Prof. Mills at the back and wish him all the best when he is reincarnated. But how wrong I was to think that we had seen the last of Prof. John Mills! In view of this, it has become necessary to examine the strengths and weaknesses of Prof. Mills as against that of Nana Akufo-Addo, the two main rivals in the just ended general elections.
Candidate Mills' strengths
Mills started off his campaign with a number of obstacles. These ranged from issues about his health that were unearthed from within his own party and to the fact that he was an old train who had run out of steam. Even though it destabilized his campaign a bit, he put together a formidable team that hit the grounds running with an unprecedented house-to-house strategy. It is very similar to the strategy that Obama used in reaching out to people on the ground and on one-on-one basis.
His opponents mocked him and said it was an infantile strategy that would crown his third defeat in the general elections. The resilience of Prof. Mills and his team in the face of this ridicule was heartwarming since it remobilized and energized the foot soldiers of the NDC.
Again, Mills was unwilling to back down on his decision to select John Mahama as his running mate even amidst the brouhaha that surrounded the latter's choice with the outrage of the Rawlingses. He just stood his ground and was unwavering.
Another show of the “never say die” spirit is evident in his persistence in winning the votes from his home region. He virtually spent about 60% of the campaign period in the region. Did it pay off? That is not for me to say.
Moreover the NDC's decision to use a 3-prong approach in the campaign paid off. Whiles John Mahama was in the Volta Region, John Rawlings was perambulating the Ashanti Region and then leader, John Mills, was in the Central Region. This was a strong team of crowd pullers who made it work for the party.
You cannot look at the strengths of Mills and leave out those who spoke on his behalf. The affable Hannah Tetteh, the 'lets-be-clear' Alex Segbefia, the indefatigable Haruna Iddrisu and the intelligent young Mahama Ayariga. These people complemented the work of Prof. Mills in the best of ways and helped play up the humane nature of the party which had long been forgotten.
Mills had a weakness of allowing a few of the 'wolves' to have their way in damaging the wheels of the campaign. During programmes such as Cross Fire on Joy FM, some of these abrasive speakers did not help matters for the party. Again the red herrings from Kobby Acheampong who lost his cool every now and then worsened matters for the campaign. At least they managed to back-bench him in the dying embers of the hotly contested presidential elections (after he was torpedoed from AUCC).
One other major flaw of Prof. Mills was that he was sometimes not visible enough, allowing John Mahama to take centre stage in the campaign trail and leaving people with no choice but to talk about his health. This issue came up a few times, pushing the propaganda that John Mahama would take over from Mills after the elections. This was to say the least, preposterous.
Nana Addo's Strengths
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo had branded and positioned himself strategically as the next president in the 4th Republic of Ghana. He had put together a strong team which helped to package his personality for the election. There is no doubt that the NPP presidential candidate was very appealing to the public. His demeanour portrayed him as a confident man who had command over what he does.
The use of musicians and artistes was clearly a feather in his cap. He made judicious use of the services of quite a number of the musicians, not forgetting the famous Daddy Lumba song that still rings in my ears. Musicians such as Kwabena Kwabena, A Plus, K.K. Fosu, Wutah and others joined in Nana Addo's campaign. This made the NPP operations strategy very formidable.
The most important strength of the Nana Addo campaign was the social policies of the NPP government. Even though the NPP believes in property owning democracy, they promised a number social intervention policies that were meant to mitigate the hardship of Ghanaians. Nana Addo had the easier task of hammering home the positives of the Capitation Grant, School Feeding Programme, LEAP and the Almighty National Health Insurance Scheme.
The major problem with Nana Addo's campaign was the Communication Team headed by Dr. Arthur Kennedy. The communication arm of the campaign team was daft, to say the least. It was difficult to identify a well thought out communication strategy for the team. There was no concrete coordination and plan between the communication arm and the operations arm of the campaign team. At a certain point it was clear that the team could not match their opponents. I doff my heart out to Dr. Arthur Kennedy who was left in the ocean to be devoured. I do not believe he was the best man for the job because he did a pathetic job in that position.
He may be a fine physician but he is nowhere near a classic communicator. Let's face it, the biggest problem of the campaign of Nana Addo was with his communication team and I was appalled at the puerile way they argued in the media. They really messed up Nana Addo's campaign.
The arrogant statements made by some topnotch members of the NPP also reinforced the belief that they had been intoxicated with power. Clearly it was visible in the parliamentary elections when the mighty fell with a big bang. The leader could not rein in on the loud mouths and he paid dearly for it.
Nana Addo shot himself in the foot when he surrounded himself with political novices. Mustapha Hamid and a couple of others who were also making politically naïve statements did not help the process. If people misconstrue confidence with arrogance and contempt, they are bound to face an ugly reality.
Another severe smack on Nana Addo's campaign was some of the unwarranted statements made by former President Kufuor. I believe former President Kufuor never meant to say Ghanaians were lazy or that Mills was not healthy, but he created room for people to make deductions from his statements. The former president could have said these things in a more understandable manner to clear any kind of ambiguity or even a misconception.
Finally what put the last nail in the coffin were the irrational decisions made by President Kufuor after the first round of the election. Releasing motor traffic offenders, decreasing petroleum prices and increasing the fight against pair trawling were just politically suicidal. My God, who advised the president to do that?
Free and fair election
There is no doubt that all foreign and local observer teams admitted that the election was free and fair. So why then are some people crying foul after the elections. Let us examine what the 'free and fair' idea in Ghana really is.
Firstly, 'Free' means that every political party has an opportunity to participate in the electoral process after going through the legal frameworks stipulated by the Electoral Commission. It means then that every one had the right to exercise his or her franchise without any impediment and at no cost.
Secondly, 'Fair' means that there is a level playing field for all participating political entities and individuals. It further deals with the even nature of the stakes where all parties including the one in government get to show what they can do with similar resources.
This definition notwithstanding, it has become a norm that the idea of free and fair elections means something different from what it should be. The 2008 election was free because people could go round freely to vote without the needed or appropriate checks. Thus it was free for all; even minors and multiple voters. It was also fair because every party had an opportunity to rig in its stronghold and that the party that managed to rig the most in its stronghold won the day. This is the stark truth and reality on the ground. It is hypocritical to blame one part of the divide when both sides are equally at fault.
We should be ashamed of ourselves with close to one hundred percentage turnouts at the strongholds of the two parties. We as a country should know better than that.
Nonetheless Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is the president who never was, maybe for now.
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