Prime News Ghana

Dirges of the sentinel

By Benedict Asante-Yeboah
President John Dramani Mahama
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 Mr. President, how would you assess your communication skills? I vividly remember how Mr. President, you subtly ran away from this similar question posed to you in one of your annual meet the press encounters at the Flagstaff House. Flippantly, Mr. President you said you are not a teacher and you are not good at marking, and that answer brought some dead silence at the venue because some of your critics were anticipating for yes or no answer. And you indeed crept from the trap.


The late President Evans Atta Mills fell into the trap when a similar question was posed to him when he boldly gave himself an over eighty percent mark. It was a total mischievous on the part of my late mentor to exercise that courage more especially in the first tenure in office. How would he have made the self assessment mark if he had lasted for the whole two terms? And I do not want to bombard some of you as far as the instant argument the late professor’s answer threw the country into.

However, Mr. President, John Dramani Mahama, you need to answer this question because in some few months time Ghanaians of voting age would do the marking for you. I do want to behave like Prophet Nathan in the Bible who used parable to judge King David after he had taken Uriah’s wife and killed him addition. He narrated the sins to him and asked him to judge that man afterwards.

Ghana has produced four Presidents under our fourth Republican Constitution. Two of them, I mean President John AgyekumKufour and the late President Mills were lawyers with degrees though the two gentlemen never actively practiced law in courts. The other one we all know was a military dictator-turned democrat, whose field of profession was flying. In short he was a pilot. And indeed, I mean President Rawlings ruled us with his military canon even under the democratic era, and there was no difference under his two regimes apart from voting.

Some of his own critics still miss his military style of leadership whenever there is permeation of lawless and gluttony. Then came the sitting President John DramaniMahama, who is not just a journalist but a trained communicator, and a very gifted orator. His strength, needless to say, is communication, which in modern day leadership is equally powerful to any revered profession capable of making any leader succeed in office since every profession sums everything up through communication.

When the then Electoral Commissioner, Dr. KwadwoAfariDjan declared you the winner in the last general elections, I was least perturbed. I thought that, at least, the paradigm would now move to another profession, where I also belong so that I could see the difference. Mr. President, I am not going to mark or judge you but would like to assess you as far as communication is concerned, and would wholly depend on your comments and pronouncements when you assumed office. In fact, so many issues have passed under the bridge, and I do not want to chronicle them one after the other here.

Mr. President, you might have spoken politically, religiously, or economically, where maybe you did not look before you leaped but its consequence is very infectious. While there are myriads of matters to bring to bare, I would like to rest all my energies on your infamous claims that only former presidents can criticize you, Ghana’s debt stock gimmick and your NDC Green book that houses all the achievements of your administration.

Given the opportunity again, Mr. President John Mahama, would you muster the same courage to demand from the electorates who voted for you alone to stop criticizing you because they do not know what it takes to be a President after voting for you? In some jurisdiction, this statement alone could have called for your instant resignation. It sums up the perception that we don’t have the license to criticize you as a President apart from the aged former presidents who do not have to worry themselves so much about life except for political expediency.

Do you expect the good people of USA to demand former presidents George Walker Bush or Bill Clinton to criticize President Obama because they have led before? Such comments passed through the thinking cap of a sitting President, who happens to be a communication expert, was below the belt, to say the least. I wonder how you could have the effrontery to campaign to me for a vote and won’t expect me to talk when things are not going the way you promised.

On that very day I heard the news on the radio, I thought it was one of the usual political strategies adopted by your opponents to bring you down, but hearing the audio, I gritted my teeth in awe. More than five months down the line, Mr. President, you seem convinced to have communicated so well to us, and no speck of thought tells you it was an insult to the people you claim to be leading

And that is African leadership for you: the citizens are denied responsible and accountable leadership, and there are always mad rush for positions because at the end of the day, you would run away from accountability. And accountability is not solely about figures but comments of this nature. Mr. President, I wonder how you would urge your kids to vote for a leader not just a President but a school Prefect, a Headmaster, a Manager or an MP but could only criticize him when he also occupies the post one day. What if by the time you assume office that leader is dead?

On the issue of Ghana’s debt stock, Mr. President, you came into the drama rather too late. The whole ruling NDC government has given Dr. MahamaduBawumia the proclivity to speak free on our economy, and for your information, most people listen to him more on the economy than your Minister of Finance and Economic Planning.

The vice presidential candidate has assumed that post due to his predictions on your economy which has virtually come true in most times. Some of us who are not even trained economics, sometimes do not need Dr. Bawumia to tell us anything because an economy built by you but can provide jobs for a little over seven hundred thousand people of the country is either fainted or in a serious coma. On that very minute I listened to you on the issue of Ghana’s debt stock on TV3, I was impressed with your analysis but like I said, it was like the miracle of Jesus Christ at the Canaan wedding.

I was impressed because you were spot on with your explanation of the issues, and as a communication student Mr. President, you have leant fast the economic jargons. At end of the interview, I became very confused to whether believe you the President or Dr. Bawumia, who has been a crusader on economic issues for some time now. As a President, I do not think you are the right man to always respond to his criticisms. Apart from your vice president, who is equally the right man for his match, I think the NDC could have other economic wizards to mark Dr. MahamaduBawumia. This should have been done long time ago Mr. President from your own engineering as a communication expert.

The man Dr. Bawumia has been a spoke in the wheel of your administration right from being an extract from the Northern part of the country to his economic taunts. He has always led your regime as far as economic issues are concerned instead of your experts leading the discussion on economy. If they are to speak now, I am afraid the assumption would be for a political expediency, looking at how 2016 election is fast approaching. Needless to say, it is far too late now. You failed to identify this problem from the onset. Whether Dr. MahamaduBawumia is lying or telling the truth, I am scared for you that he is already an economic apostle in the estimation of most Ghanaians.

Why should you hide all your achievements in a book called NDC’s Green book? I do not want to totally believe it was your making but once you are the leader of the party, and bearing in mind it contains all your records you cannot go blameless. Apart from the reality that most of us do not like reading, how do you intend to reach non-NDC supporters with this Green book? And talking about developments, Mr. President you have done something, at least, in a four year assessment. Indeed, infrastructural development is the main bragging right of your government.

That is why your political opponents do not want to argue in terms of developments except to say that most of the projects are over-priced. The late President Mills did something that instantly wooed my heart, when some of us were saying we have not seen anything under his government two years after assumption of office: videos of his achievements across the country from South to the North started showing on the national television. From commissioning to inauguration of projects, it was all over on the television stations. I remember in one of the episodes, I was at a barbering shop, where one guy said, ‘eeh so this Atta Mills has indeed done these?”.

The other cut in and said, “he has done something paa.” The late President Mills with the support of Mr. KokuAnyidoho, now deputy general secretary of the NDC made the video do the talking for him, and they worked like magic. I must say without any iota of doubt that the late President Mills must be credited for the introduction of evidence-based presentation .For some people nothing would inspire them to take the so-called Green book and flip through the pages to see what you have done because the moment they get hold of the book, the assumption would be that they are party members and then tagging comes in or it becomes the propaganda tool of your political opponents. Mr. President, what if this would have been shown on the television stations so that your communicators would not waste their time explaining on television and radio? I have seen some of the adverts on the social media and websites, and it is a step in the right direction. I know we are not in a campaign season yet but you are already campaigning.

Mr. President, as the 2016 crucial general elections draw near I would like to suggest you hold workshop for your Ministers, party Communicators or any executive to sanitize the media airwaves. This brings to mind the recent foul play by your former Minister of Transport, Hon. DzifaAttivor, who claimed more Voltarians would end up in jail if the NDC is defeated in the upcoming 2016 elections. I was not so much surprised at her comments, because the NDC, like any serious party would adopt all manner of tactics to remain in power or come into power with comments of this nature.

The recent one is what your Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Hon. Seth Terkper said of the impending taxes on Pension and Allowances incase the NDC win the 2016 elections. I believe this is one of the distractions and avoidable gaffes if there has been orientation for them as far as communication is concerned. The man Terkper would have realized the consequences of his utterance, whether good or bad, and the instant manner you reacted negatively to his comments depicts your utter abhorrence towards his remarks. This training should have been done long time ago to help develop communication skills amongst the rank and file of your government.

Again, Mr. President, I do not pray for your defeat in the upcoming elections, but because you are almost failing in your own field of expertise, I am afraid to say the same failure would meander its way through to other arms of your leadership to influence the electorates to vote against you. It would always be fair to assess someone from his field of practice first and by your performance in terms of communication, I have not seen any difference if I am to compare yours to your late boss. In fact, I can boldly say you have lost the battle already in your own field of expertise. When indeed you joined the Ministry of Information to Communication, I whispered to myself that an expert was really in charge but my joy was short-lived. It ended abruptly as it had come. If you have succeeded in improving Communication in the country as the President, you could have equally succeeded in winning the hearts of majority of the people by now.

The former Presidents, J.A. Kufour and J. J. Rawlings even did better comparing their background, especially the former, who had the backing of many of the veteran journalists and party communicators to do the spinning before and during his leadership. Mr. J.A. Kufour and his communication team did a very good work by being forthright with explanations on issues that the populace did not wait for far too long unlike yours. While some of the explanations did not go down well with some of the people which is also expectant, it eventually made him succeed, and at least he passed through his eight year two term tenure far easier than President Rawlings. On the part of former President Rawlings, he experienced one of the hostile media relations due to the way he treated the media right from his military take over, but he succeeded as his personal public relations officer to explain issues in his own way that people understood best.

There are so many things the populace have long waited in vain for explanation from your government for the past three years. Chiefly among them, according to my expectations Mr. President, include your government’s failure to provide jobs for the youth although there are more vacancies available, the IMF loans and its conditionality, the debt stock of the country now, the Dumsor and the ECG high bill charges, the perceived corruption amongst your appointees, just to mention but few.

The people you are leading deserve communication accountability from you at all times. While you may think that most of the electorate would not demand cogent answers from you hence no rush to explain matters, Mr. President, your political opponents would answer that for you in a distasteful manner. There are all manner of means of communication at your disposal you could use to talk to us effectively, and nobody could blame you for talking wisely often. I would like to pat you on your shoulders for adopting the social media as a tool to communicate to some of us, and I do not think your political opponents have any point to blame you for wasting time on the social media.

However, the same cannot be said as far as how Mr. President, you have supervised the collapse of the Meet-The-Press series which was a direct connection between the public and your government, and it was introduced by the former President Kufour who is not a communication expert. Ironically, a leader who is a communication expert has supervised its collapse because probably, he did not see the relevance of its functions. I duly expected you Mr. President, to extend the Meet-The-Press series programme by now to the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies in the country to propagate and sensitize the populace on all your programmes and achievements. You would not have the need for a Green book today to spell out your achievements.

Like I compared myself to the minor Prophet Nathan in the beginning, I have pointed out all these deficiencies in your administration, and whether you have succeeded as a Communication student and a President, it is up to you to judge yourself. Mr. President, your case could be likened to a man in the midst of clubs and sticks but waiting sheepishly for a Cobra to bite him.

Mr. President, The Sentinel is not a happy man!

*The writer is the Managing editor of