By Asare Otchere-Darko President Mills' statement on Tuesday to the Ghana Journalists Association that there is but one President brought one thought to mind: methinks he doth protesteth too much! His language was drafted and designed to reassure Ghanaians and satisfy the hawks around him that they have a President who will provide the strong, decisive leadership we so dearly need to steer us through these troubled times ahead. Was that really necessary?
The very fact that he felt the need to make such a statement raises warning flags, hinting at a deep-seated insecurity incompatible with effective leadership. Even his body language at the time appeared borrowed. Would Nkrumah have ever felt the need to tell us that there was but one President? Would Rawlings? Would Kufuor? When you think of great world leaders like Churchill, Thatcher or Roosevelt, can you imagine them bleating plaintively, “Let no one mistake my respect for peaceful existence for weakness, timidity” as Mills did on Tuesday?
They say actions speak louder than words. In that case, one is left with a degree of sympathy for the man who, just mere months into his tenure as President, has to resort to telling us rather than showing us that he is master of our country, his government and his party. But who can blame him?
Having waited so long to be President, Prof Mills must be immensely disappointed to not have had the honeymoon he undoubtedly hoped for. But more than this, it is a worrying sign that Mills has already expended his political capital so early on in his tenure – a sign which bodes ill for the rest of his time in office. A leader depends on the goodwill and popularity which supposedly conveyed him to the top office in the land, but this tends to dissipate as his term goes on – hence the moniker of a political 'honeymoon' witnessed the world over and which Obama has recently been enjoying in the US.
So for this capital to already be thin on the ground so soon into Mills' Presidency gives all Ghanaians hoping for strong, authoritative leadership cause for concern. And for a man clearly so consumed with 'other' Presidents, reflecting on Kufuor's popularity in 2001 must be a bitter pill to swallow.
And yet, the actions of past Presidents and Presidential candidates in 2009 have given him little reason for such insecurity. Nobody challenged the legitimacy of his election within the 21 days allowed by the constitution for such petitions. Kufuor has been virtually silent on the performance of his successor in office. And Nana Akufo-Addo has told the national media that he is giving Mills some time to settle in.
Nevertheless, our President persists in fighting phantoms when there are very real monsters facing Ghanaians in the form of criminals, poverty and anxiety about our economic future.
Of course there is one past President whose shadow disturbs Prof Mills more than most. Perhaps the reinvigorated presence of a certain President past – J.J. Rawlings – is haunting Prof Mills more than he'd care to admit, and proving the real source of Mills' insecurity. With Rawlings having attempted to steal the spotlight from his former protégée and openly criticising Mills' decision to retain DCEs and the continuation of some NPP appointees in office, no wonder President Mills is left feeling that this particular ghost is not going to be satisfied with being relegated to times past, but instead, envisages both a present and a future for himself. What about Mrs. Rawlings going on a 'thank you' tour?
Unfortunately, this particular ghost is not going to be vanquished quite so easily, and certainly not whilst Mills remains consumed by reassuring himself and us of his clout and authority. For whilst we are invited to speculate on where real power lies in our new government, Mills will not get the reassurance and comfort he so plainly desires.
The only remedy for such insecurity about one's powerlessness is to stop navel gazing, take control and start taking action. Of course here lies the catch-22: without the confidence of those around you, as well as self-belief, steering a decisive political path becomes a herculean task strewn with obstacles.
Nonetheless, for the sake of Ghana – and of course for Prof Mills' own peace of mind – we can only hope that our President finds a way to show us and not just tell us that he both holds and (more importantly) deserves the title of leader of our nation.
The Author Is The Executive Director Of The Danquah Institute
By Asare Otchere-Darko