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20.02.2009 Politics

JJ Dodges Kufuor

By Daily Guide
JJ Rawlings and J.A. Kufuor JJ Rawlings and J.A. Kufuor

THE SEEMING bad blood between the two living former presidents of Ghana could not have been better expressed than yesterday when the two distinguished persons avoided making eye contacts with each other.

Ex-President Jerry John Rawlings like his successor former President John Agyekum Kufuor, graced the State of the Nation address in Parliament House yesterday, but even though they were just a few meters away from each other, the two statesmen did not even engage in a handshake as each of them took different exit routes from the venue when the curtains were drawn over the event.

The session, which was President John Evans Atta Mills' maiden address to the august House, also kept a number of NDC gurus present, including Vice President John Dramani Mahama, on tenterhooks all through the programme.

The hearts of many NDC MPs seemed to jump into their mouths as the President read (or recited?) the address, which was characterized by a number of hiccups.

Some observers even described the address as 'public lecture' as the President only looked through the speech and then talked from his head, with occasional sipping of water, which the Minority described as 'Joshua Water'.

The Minority in the House did not help matters for the nation's Number One citizen anytime he reached for some water to quench his thirst. Led by Isaac Kwame Asiamah, MP for Atwima-Mponua, the Minority side yelled, “Joshua Water, Joshua Water” to poke fun at the relationship between the President and his Nigerian spiritual consultant, Prophet T.B. Joshua.

Former President Kufuor and his wife Theresa were the first to appear in the august House. After acknowledging cheers and salutations from some security chiefs and Members of Parliament especially those from the Minority New Patriotic Party (NPP), and traditional heads present, the immediate past President and his wife quickly headed for some seats reserved for them at the public gallery.

A few minutes later, ex-President Rawlings and his wife Nana Konadu also arrived, receiving thunderous cheers from the Majority National Democratic Congress (NDC) and other leaders present.

As they were being led to their seats adjacent the ones occupied by their successors, many keen observers thought the NDC founder and his spouse would, as custom demanded, acknowledge the presence of former President Kufuor before taking their seats.

And as if to further entrench the long standing bad blood between them, ex-president Rawlings, throughout the address, faced the opposite direction to Kufuor, a development that set tongues wagging among the audience about the demeanor and conduct of the NDC founder.

Both former presidents and their wives finally exited the public gallery after the presentation without any eye contacts.  

The presentation itself was a test for President Atta Mills with many Ghanaians assessing the quality of his delivery and body language vis-a-vis those of Kufuor and Rawlings.

The assessment was against the backdrop of the president's performance when he was being sworn in on January 7, 2009 during which his occasional slips attracted copious and varied comments.

While some even called for a repeat of the constitutional procedure others thought sleeping dogs should be left to lie.

President Mills' delivery yesterday was segmented into the various areas of governance, education, health, social services, energy and others.

Some observers even thought the President used his experience as a teacher to discuss the sub-topics as opposed to actually reading it to Ghanaians.

This, according to them, could be gleaned from his flipping several pages over his bulky compilation, ostensibly to finish the day's job early.

At a point, observers were not too sure of the import of John Mahama's countenance as to whether he was praying or simply assimilating his boss' speech.

Vice President Mahama was swarmed by beads of perspiration despite the presence of air conditioners in the chamber. He was seen constantly fanning himself with a booklet to relieve himself of the apparent tension over the fears of the President committing gaffes.   

In like manner, the countenance of Presidential Spokesperson, Mahama Ayariga, indicated his uneasiness throughout the period.

Indeed others were caught by the cameras almost biting their nails as President Mills gave his address.

By Awudu Mahama & Sheilla Sackey