I had to go back to my primary school English grammar notes before settling on this headline. I did so in order to be sure that I don’t sound insulting.
In the process, I found that the word, careless is an adjective because it describes a noun. A noun is a word used to identify a class of people, places, or things. In this article, the noun under discussion is the word president.
I discovered that careless as an adjective has three meanings; a) not giving sufficient attention or thought to avoiding harm or errors, b) – of an action or its result- showing or caused by a lack of attention and c) not concerned or worried about.
The meaning of careless, as captured under ‘c’ is my focus. That’s because, I have observed over the past 30 years since the inception of the fourth republic, that there comes a time, during their reign, when our presidents- three Johns and the current William, have ceased to be concerned or worried about us.
And it usually happens during their second terms. I have therefore decided to wage a campaign against granting any president a second term, forthwith. In my view, four years should be enough for any president worth his salt to give us a vision and demonstrate a clear path towards attaining that envisioned state.
After all, governance is a continuum. What is important therefore, is a long term national development plan that spans at least 20 years. Successive governments would be required, constitutionally, to take the baton and continue from where the other left off.
More so because, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”- Lord Acton. Here is why:
J.J Rawlings and Nana Acheampong’s song- ‘Anka ɛbɛyɛ dɛn’
The late Ex-President Jerry John Rawlings ruled Ghana from January 7, 1992- January 6, 2001. We loved him just as we hated him.
For those who loved him, he endeared himself to them due to his charisma. Those who hated him did so with passion. The reason? he broke many eggs in order to prepare an omelet, according to him.
But I suspect that his longevity as a head of state also had something to do with it. Before 1992, he headed the PNDC, a military junta, from December 31, 1981. In his final years as a democratically elected president, he became fed up with the criticisms from his detractors because, I guess he felt that he was doing his best, yet we did not appreciate his efforts.
I do not readily recall the occasion and Google has not been of help either. But I remember clearly watching him on TV singing ‘ Wu ka nu kuraa na me yɛ nu more,’ a line in the then trending song composed by one half of the divorced ‘Lumba Brothers’- Nana Acheampong. The statement, which is in Twi, means, ‘the more you complain, the more I will do it.’
In his case, at a point, ‘Papa J’ did not even feel like handing over when his tenure expired. “Hand over to who?” He asked once upon a time.
Thankfully, when the time was ripe, he did the needful. Not without taking away 21 cars- Allegedly. Later, one Ex Warrant Officer Patrick Kuntor is said to have returned 7 of the vehicles.
J.A Kufuor, the gold medal and presidential jet
It may not be far from the truth if I posit that Ghana’s socio-economic development is a one step forward, two steps backward phenomenon.
It came to pass that when ‘J.J’ left office, Ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor took over from January 7, 2001 to January 6, 2009.
After going through the handing over notes, JAK told us that we were a Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) and introduced me, for the first time, to the expression- bite the bullet. He asked us as citizens to ready ourselves for the then prevailing hardship. We obliged.
During the latter years of his presidency, when things became even worse and the youth complained about joblessness, he said in Twi, “woa wusi wuni egwuma nu, woyɛ akwagwuro,” to wit, ‘it is only the lazy ones who would say that they can’t find jobs in this country’.
Later, the President of a HIPC ignored all the complaints of economic hardship and decided to award himself with the highest award of the land -Star of the Eagle of Ghana.
Actually, he gave some to his close allies and as a show of magnanimity offered to award ex-Presidents Rawlings and John Atta Mills, then former Vice President, too. Thankfully, they declined. The entire awards ceremony was reported to have cost us a whopping $65,000.00.
As if that was not enough, he purchased a presidential jet at the cost of $37m and agreed that it should be delivered in 2010 when he would have been out of office for two years.
Upon incessant complaints about perceived corruption in his government, he retorted that “corruption is from Adam. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to remember that I have sworn to fight corruption. It includes even the Adam’s apple. The money? They bring it waa, waa, waa!”
And oh! Needless to add, that although he had barely one month left to leave office at the time the Jubilee House was completed, he relocated from the castle to the new Seat of Government before it was all over.
J.D. Mahama and the dead goat syndrome
John Dramani Mahama, a.k.a ‘JM’ is an exception to the second term rule alluded to above. That is legally speaking. Practically, he was in the presidency for two terms. First as Vice President (January 7, 2009-July 24, 2012) and substantive President (July 24, 2012– January 6, 2017).
‘JM’ chopped what we can call ‘sɔpi’ President from July, 2012 to January 6, 2013. For the uninitiated, ‘Sɔpi’ in street language means left over food. This was made possible by the demise of then incumbent President, Prof. J.E.A.Mills, also known as ‘Asumgwehene’.
Additionally, Like ‘JJ’, ‘JM’ was at the helm of governmental affairs for close to two decades. Before his stint with the presidency, ‘JM’ was MP for Bole-Bamboi, Deputy Minister of Communication and Minister of Communication.
There is no gainsaying the fact that this systematic ascension to the highest office of the land exposed him to all the benefits and liabilities associated with public office. At a point, he became nonchalant about the criticisms that came with the terrain.
So it came to pass that in March, 2015 while presiding over the country as President, he was faced with incessant strike actions by labour unions. Then President Mahama told a gathering of Ghanaians in Botswana that he had become immune to threats of strikes and demonstrations in Ghana and will not yield to any of such threats.
“I have seen more demonstrations and strikes in my first two years. I don’t think it can get worse. It is said that when you kill a goat and you frighten it with a knife, it doesn’t fear the knife because it is dead already. I have a dead goat syndrome,” he said.
‘Papa J’ and the ‘Asumgwehene’ are dead and gone. So I posit that dead men don’t care. But Ex-President Mahama is alive and I know he will be very concerned about this article, because it is contrary to an assertion he made while in the dying years of his presidency- ‘Ghanaians have short memory’.
Unfortunately for him, some of us have long memory with the aid of Mr. Google. So we can recall this statement with ease.
This is just by the way. When ‘JM’ was accused of having received a Ford Expedition vehicle as a bribe, he refuted the allegation saying, “I don’t even like American cars.” The diplomatic implication of this statement was completely lost on him.
NADAA and the ‘I’m not frightened by threats to vote out the NPP’ faux pas
Of all the presidents aforementioned, Prez Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo (NADAA) seems to be suffering the most from the second term carelessness bug.
Otherwise, why will he curse his detractors in the Ashanti Region thus, “All those in Asanteman who have been saying bad things about me, you will be shamed one by one, today, tomorrow and tomorrow’s next.”
On October 21, last year, he told the Chief of Aflao, Torgbui Fiti – “eniɛ onko yɛɛ!!!” – To wit, ‘then he should go and do it.’ This was NADAA’s retort to an ultimatum issued by the Chief to the Minister of Education over stalled work on E-block school complexes in his area.
Recently, he had this response for the people of Kwabre who dared to blackmail him with the poor state of their roads, “no problem. I am saying people make those kinds of threats; me they don’t frighten me. If you decide to vote for the NDC in the general election, it is your choice and that is not my problem. No one will force you to vote for someone.”
This is the same NADAA who sat in the front seat of ‘trotro’, pounded fufu in people’s homes and ate in the same bowls with strangers as a way of soliciting votes. ‘Munso me nhywɛ’– Try me, he urged the voters.
Much earlier, he told those asking for a reshuffle of his ministers that they should go hung, “The calls come for all kinds of reasons; NDC wanting to destabilize the government is one. There are people who are also looking for jobs.”
Expectedly, NADAA’s recent faux pas to the effect that he is not frightened by threats to vote against the NPP has angered as many as 80 NPP parliamentarians.
The reason is not farfetched. They are the representatives of the people. So, if their constituents are crying to them over the poor state of the economy, which has been attributed to the poor performance of the ministers NADAA appointed, yet he has declined to reshuffle them, then they have cause to be worried.
Again, they are not done with politics yet. They will soon be knocking on the doors of the electorates to ask them for votes. As such, if NADAA says he does not care about threats to vote against NPP, then their jobs may be on the line.
They therefore decided to force NADAA to do the needful, starting from the dismissal of the Finance Minister, Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta and Mr. Adu Boahen, Minister of state at the Finance Ministry for their inability to get a hold on the economy. They did not end there, they threatened to boycott the presentation of the 2023 budget to Parliament and any subsequent government business that may be brought before the House.
This action by the NPP law makers is unprecedented, at least not in the 30-year history of the 4th Republic. That a President’s own party MPs will challenge him in this manner? Hm!
Another phenomenon that is unprecedented since 1992 is that a sitting president would be booed publicly. When the youth did it at the Global Citizens Festival, I prophesied that once this has started, it would continue. Lo and behold, when NADAA visited Kumasi, traders decided to take a cue from the youth. In Koforidua, the booing continued. Not even ‘J.J’, who caused all of us to have extremely exposed collar blades- ‘Rawlings Chain, due to hunger, was booed.
Indeed, NADAA seems to have become a laughing stock. Especially, when after meeting the disgruntled MPs, he pleaded with them to allow Mr. Ofori Atta to complete discussions with the IMF before their request for his dismissal may be acted upon. This is the same Mr. Ofori-Atta who declared publicly that Ghana will not seek support from the IMF.
A former Deputy Minister of Finance, Mrs. Mona Quartey captured my thoughts succinctly when she spoke to the issue on the Super Morning Show on Joy FM on Wednesday, October 26, 2022. She said, “the Minister of Finance is a miracle-seeking minister, not one who wants to do the work. Number two, he’s a wounded soldier, whether we like it or not and we want to send him into battle? I think that is unfair to him. The President must send a soldier who is looking for solutions, who is strong, who is capable to go out there and get us a good IMF programme and who will also start to do the work of cleaning up in-house, so that we send the right signals to both the international finance markets and to our domestic market.”
It’s time to go
The refrain in town these days is that NADAA’s poor showing as President has made ‘JM’ look like an angel. And it seems to me that ‘JM’ is cashing in on this reverie to lace his boots and warm up in anticipation for an opportunity to return to complete his constitutionally allowed second term.
If my supposition is right, would someone please remind ‘JM’ of the saying that, “it is always best to bow out when the applause is laud.” Well, let me not get ahead of myself, when the time is ripe, we shall dissect any such move.
Currently, some people are even saying that NADAA’s presidency is not of God after all. They argue that God will usually help people to accomplish promises they make to Him. But NADAA’s promised cathedral has stalled due to lack of funds. Some renowned men of God have even renounced their association with the cathedral.
NADAA’s refusal to sack Mr. Ofori-Atta has led to all manner of people impugning his reputation. On the Super Morning Show on Thursday, October 27, a caller asked a question that I know is on many minds. “What at all is Akufo-addo hiding, and what at all is Ofori-Atta hiding for Akufo-Addo? he asked.
Unfortunately, I can only hazard a guess which I cannot voice out. What I have an answer for, is why NADAA’s tone of voice and inflexion has changed towards us- not concerned or worried about us.
PS: We pressured NADAA for a national address, he did on Sunday and left. The questions on many minds is “what new thing did he say?” A lecturer in Economics at the University of Ghana, Dr. Priscilla Twumasi-Baffuor summed it up, “these are things that we have known all along.”
Ei!! Nana Addo? This one too shall pass.
Hamba kahle – That’s goodbye in Zulu.
Let God Lead, follow Him directly, not through any human.
By: Eric Mensah-Ayettey