What Can He Do In the Wake of Two Tough Acts – Presidents Rawlings and Kufour?
February 19, 2009: The day of President Mills' maiden “State of the Nation” address to Parliament. The Professor had the nation's undivided attention and its biggest bully pulpit to paint a precise picture of the “mess he has inherited” from the Kufour government. Since assuming office a month and some weeks ago, his lieutenants have given Ghanaians tit-bits of the gloomy image they purportedly received from the NPP. President Mills' task for the day was very, very simple-COMPARE AND CONTRAST. He was to deliver the 'coup de grace' on the past eight years of NPP rule then contrast that with lofty ideas of a buoyant and prosperous Ghana under Mills / NDC stewardship.
But alas, President Mills' day to shine never was. For the second time in his short presidency, his speech did not rise to the occasion. Reasons - a poorly written, badly organized Speech and the eclipsing shadows of his two predecessors – Rawlings and Kufour.
May 15, 1979: A young lanky “half caste” Ghanaian Flight Lieutenant is arrested for leading a group of fellow junior officers in a failed attempt to overthrow Ghana's ruling Military Junta. His answer to the charges read against him? “LEAVE MY MEN ALONE, I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYTHING.” That declaration, his youthful bravado and exotic looks, his unusual English language accent, the hopelessness of his situation, the simplicity of his life compared to the pomp and pageantry of the SMC members, made him an instant hero of Ghanaian youth.
During the successful June 4th putsch, a liberated Rawlings took over the skies of Accra in an Air force plane for hours. When the AFRC installed him as their Chairman, a legend was born. And Ghana's youth adapted the AFRC's chant “WE NO GO SIT DOWN, MAKE THEM CHEAT US EVERYDAY.” The Rawlings phenomenon soon blossomed into a CULT LIKE following that has endured to this day even as he has metamorphosed from chairman of the AFRC, PNDC to President and Ex-President of Ghana.
January 7, 2001: President John Agyekum Kufour is sworn in as the second President of the 4th Republic and delivers a great Inaugural address. Although, President Kufour arrived at the nation's highest office not from a path of War and Valor as his predecessor, he is exactly the antidote the doctor ordered to quell Rawlings' endemic nineteen year rule. Physically, Kufour is an imposing figure, noticeable in any Ghanaian crowd with a distinctive strong voice. Stylistically, the swanky business man with a penchant for expensive ornaments (awarded himself the Presidential Medal of Honor) dresses impeccably.
He came into office with a boat load of political and executive experience. He had served Ghana as a Member of Parliament twice, a Deputy Minister and even as Secretary for Local Government under Rawlings' PNDC. He also served as the Chairman of both the Asante Kotoko football Club and the board of directors of Ashanti Brick and Construction Company. Kufour left the Presidency with an imposing uncompleted Presidential Palace (which he moved in by the way), an HIPC Ghana with a large national debt and a huge uproar over his Ex-Gratia package.
January 7, 2009: President John Atta Mills assumes office as the third President of the 4th Republic. His Inaugural performance leaves a number of Ghanaians unimpressed. He is accused of mangling the Oath of the Presidency. During the ceremony, the Member of Parliament for Atwima Mponua, Hon Isaac Asiamah, reportedly bowed his head in shame as the President elect “messed all the words up.”
After that performance, Atto Kwamina Dadzie wrote a very critical piece titled “President Mills: Stumbling, fumbling and rambling.” The congruent view of most reviewers is that the President's performances at both the Inaugural and the State of the Nation's Speeches were dismal. Logically, these reviews beg the question: Is the President's repeated poor performance attributable to nervousness on his part of or is it rooted in something else?
The strangest part of the equation is the fact that President Mills has come to the Presidency very, very well prepared. He has six years of apprenticeship as Rawlings' Vice President. He holds a PHD in Tax Laws, is a University Professor who has been lecturing, standing up and speaking in front of people at home and abroad for over twenty-five years. So why President Mills why? Have you lost your Mojo?
POSSITIVE SUGGESTIONS TO THE PRESIDENT
Fire your Speech Writer if you have one. If you have been writing your own speeches, STOP NOW and hire a Speech Writer. Ekua Kwansema, a staunch supporter of yours will fit the bill perfectly. Her piece titled “The Speech President Mills Should Deliver,” published on the Web on the day of your Inauguration was far better than what you gave the world. She might have known something the rest of us didn't. She knew your Inaugural speech was not going to measure up even before you delivered it.
Stick to what you know best. Your expertise is in Law, Taxation and Economic Development. Highlight that to the nation. It was woefully missing in your State of the Nation Address. That poorly organized Speech should have began with the subtopic “Challenging Global Economic Development.” It was the only part of your Speech that painted a picture of the current State of the Nation and contracted it with where you want to go. The Economy is also the biggest thing on Ghanaian minds. Unfortunately it occupied just three minutes of your Hour Long Speech, just a few bulleted points in your text.
Talk more about what you have inherited. Without telling Ghanaians the true state of things and where you stand on issues plaguing the nation now, any lofty ideas about the future will not wash. If we don't know where we are NOW, we cannot appreciate where we are going. You should give a speech about the nation's economy which should include the Ex-Gratia Package and the Kufour Last Minute Pay Increase for workers in the public and civil service - yes we remember that. Although empanelling a new committee to review the package was an excellent idea, your failure to talk about it to Ghanaians isn't.
Ex-President Kufour took the wind out of your sail last Thursday. He broke his silence over the Ex-Gratia package and said Ghanaians are making too much noise about what is essentially a constitutional provision. TOO MUCH NOISE about the absurd and the unaffordable? Is that your opinion too? Is that why you are keeping quite? That short interview of his drowned your whole State of the Nation Address. Why? He was talking about how you are going to spend the people's money. Your former boss Rawlings, didn't help you much either. He hopes you will take Ghana back to the PNDC and NDC era, OUCH!!
Mr. President, you need to change course. You need to put your stamp on the Presidency. Please give frequent speeches but limit them to a maximum of forty (40) minutes per speech. You are a lecturer by training and long drawn out lectures are boring irrespective of the deliverer. Try and take questions from the media. As a professor you are well equipped to handle those. Please take my advice, it is free. And try to read my next article on the much needed changes to the 1992 Constitution. I wish you well.
By L. Kojo Yeboah, Raleigh NC, USA – written and submitted for publication on this the 22nd day of February 2009. Pertinent facts discussed herein may change before you read this on the WEB.
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."
Reproduction is authorised provided the author's permission is granted.