The story is told of an African businessman who worked very hard to get his presidential candidate elected. On the day of his inauguration (swearing-in), the incoming President called his friend aside and asked him to name a favour “and I will do it for you”.
“Only one thing, your Excellency. When you sit in state, I want you to call me and whisper “thank you” into my ears. So at the ceremony, the first act of the President when he resumed his seat after being sworn in was to call his friend up from the crowd. Into his ear, he whispered, “Thank you” plus a few other words. All eyes were on them. The TV cameras caught the action.
The stream of visitors to the man’s residence the next day was unprecedented – mostly contractors and people who needed favours from the President!
In Ghana, since 1992, this has been the scenario, post-swearing-in at the residences of regional party chairmen and people known to be very close to our Presidents, including the Presidents’ wives and siblings. Personally, I know the sister of one of our Fourth Republican Presidents who was so powerful she once asked her next-door neighbour, a former military intelligence officer, what he desired: either a national security coordinator or a military attaché at one of Ghana’s rich embassies.
In the history of our 4th Republic, two groups of people have emerged. “Footsoldiers” and “Vigilante Groups”. Leaders of these groups are recipients of promises in the run-up to presidential elections. They pass on these promises to the rank and file. Pumped up with promises, they are seized, in the two years before the elections, with delusions of grandeur.
In the run-up to every election, they see how powerful they are and can be. They know and are made to believe that without them, the party or the flag bearer is nothing. With their candidate now President, they cannot divorce themselves from this feeling of almightiness: the group that must be obeyed.
That is why vigilantes and footsoldiers think that their wish must be the President’s command. Otherwise, dear reader, what could enter the head of any group of Ghanaians to think that they have power to remove the chief executive officer (CEO) of a hospital or prevent a district or metropolitan chief executive appointed by the President after extensive consultations, from taking office - because someone else is their favourite for the job!
Within the Presidency and in the ranks of the party’s top guns, the hope is that “all these (acts of violence) shall soon pass”. The reality, however, is that they are not “passing”; the situation is getting out of hand and the instances are multiplying.
I intended this article for the attention of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Apart from Rawlings’s charisma, no other President has enjoyed the goodwill of Ghanaians the way the current President has. It is not just the people’s unprecedented overwhelming endorsement of him in the 2016 election. It was a vote against impunity and feeling of untouchable-ness.
I wrote recently and I will repeat it here that if a truly scientific poll is organised today or if presidential elections were held today, Nana Addo will still win but the margin will be narrower. The people in Nana’s kitchen cabinet have forgotten why the National Democratic Congress (NDC) lost. Why are they sacking medical directors?
That is why I decided to write to the President this week. By what will Nana Addo want to be remembered? Impunity? Leaderlessness?
Nana Addo will forever live in the hearts and minds of the people of Ghana if he is able to show leadership – and I beg to point out that leadership is not shown by official statements of condemnation alone. Can you imagine the President taking time off to personally meet these vigilantes – One-District One- Meeting – to reason with them?
Will Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo start a non-govermental organisation (NGO), twisting the arm of embassies and multi-nationals for donations, ostensibly for charitable causes but actually to build a war chest for Election 2020? Will Nana Addo appoint his siblings and children into public office? A President’s child in public office is like a pastor’s wife serving on a church committee: she never goes wrong.
I don’t know but I have so much hope in the One-District One-Factory. If it succeeds, we shall, four (eight) years from today be citing Ghana’s success story of transforming villages and deprived districts into semi-urban centres, with all the amenities which the youth migrate from villages to the cities in search of.
To be or not to be depends on Nana: to remain incorruptible himself, to punish corruption and to refuse to allow cronies, powerful party gurus and relatives to have their way. In the process, if he insists on the right things, he may lose a few friends and incur the ill-will of relations but within this is the seed of greatness. What we write admiringly today about Rwanda’s Paul Kegame, what we have written about Malaysia’s Mahathir Muhammed and Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew will be written about him.
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