Democracy can be very messy but the mess is worth it if the players and their supporters remain true to the very basic principles on which the democratic process rests.
Mrs. Rawlings has every right to contest the leadership position of her party but whether it is in the interest of the party's longevity is an entirely different piñata.
For the NDC, the looming contest between the sitting NDC president and the former first lady may have well been inevitable since the Rawlingses have not been known to embrace restraint in anything they have done since they entered Ghanaian public life in 1979. The NPP can only smack their proverbial lips as they relish the outcome of this internecine conflict. The issue may settle once and for all whether the NDC is an open party founded and operated on democratic principles or if it dances to the beat of some it's leading personalities.
After Prof. Mills won the squeaker of a victory 2 years ago, I cautioned that his greatest adversary would be party discipline rather than the NPP who were slowly finding their way to the cold and hard opposition benches. The specter of a very divisive contest now looms. Mrs Rawlings' candidacy has so far been devoid of policy planks other than a vague promise to review oil contracts. There is a constant clamour from the candidate and her ex- president husband for Prof. Mills to go after allegedly corrupt past NPP officials without recourse to due process, which Ghanaians are rapidly recognizing is essential to a thriving democracy. The voting public accept that corruption is endemic and that we must find ways to prevent its growth within our society and to punish those who abuse the public trust but we are yet to find the calibre of leadership to foster the necessary transformation of attitudes and processes required to tame the tiger of endemic corruption.
Only the naive will suggest that all corruption is from across the river. If she had started off by saying she would rid her own party of corrupt elements, her credibility would have been enhanced. Corruption is a national problem transcending party affiliation.
The unspoken resistance to Mrs Rawlings's candidacy is the new found abhorrence of Ghanaians to any sort of dynastic dimension to presidential politics. We are trying to build a meritocracy which will be the envy of all of Africa and say to the world, we are a worthy partner at the table of nations. This very resistance to anything dynastic in a presidential run may have hurt Akuffo-Addo in his narrow loss to Mills 2 years ago.
Although one can respect Mrs Rawlings's inalienable right to pursue the presidency as a Ghanaian, she will have to prove to her party that she is more capable than the sitting president and that she has not only ideas but the ability to manage a winning team to run the affairs of state for the benefit of all Ghanaians who cherish their freedoms and wish to live in a progressive and just society. Her early pronouncements suggest that she has not grown politically with the voting public and may be using an old playbook.
Both the president and his opponent will face the formidable task of uniting the NDC after their convention, no matter who emerges victorious.
President Mills' steadfast refusal to kowtow to his old boss has defined his presidency but he has a lot to do beyond fighting off the animal biting him from his own cloth. It has been an unfortunate distraction.
The fear of a neo - feudal state, should Mrs. Rawlings become the NDC flagbearer and possibly win the presidency, which is not a forgone conclusion by any means, is a nightmare most voters are waking up from. Stranger things have though, have happened in politics.
The stress of these events is telling on the president with an increase in religious pronouncements. Again, he is free to worship as he wishes but Ghana is a secular republic and many may not share his views on the Holy Spirit and the like. Our leaders must always remember that ours is a pluralistic society and they must always be careful to separate their personal practices and views from their official duties. Every vote counts and in a politically polarized electorate like ours, there is no need to alienate those who may be of a different religious persuasion. God help us all.
Ironically, the needs of the people have not changed much in 54 years. Clean water, sanitary conditions, eliminating preventable deaths, quality education, strong and functional institutions, unequivocal enforcement of laws, protection of human rights and advancement in life rooted in honesty, industry and fair play.
How the society is led to achieve these goals is what is fundamentally at stake.
Those who characterize the president's team as a "B" team, may well be yesterday's team. Enter candidate Spio - Garbrah ....the plot thickens.
Prof. T. P. Manus Ulzen
May 17, 2011