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Friday, August 14, 2009

Is President Mills Sleeping Behind the Wheel?

President Mills campaigned during the 2008 Presidential election that when voted into power he would drastically reduce fuel prices, create jobs for the unemployed; bring electricity to the rural areas; provide irrigation facilities and tractors to our farmers; provide books and computers to our schools and colleges; provide premix fuel to our fishermen; fix the rot in our education system and the collapsed railway sector. He further promised to fight corruption, cocaine trafficking, armed robbery and once and for all fix our wretched economy. Ghanaians responded positively and voted for his election as President.

However, seven months into his administration the good people of Ghana cannot tell which direction the nation is going. Even though it will be totally insane to expect the President to deliver all his campaign promises in just seven months, it is also equally unpardonable and unacceptable for the President to fail to let Ghanaians know what his policies are. Seven months is enough for us to know in tangible terms the policies that the president intends to pursue. To be honest with the President, the people cannot identify any clear cut policy from his government regarding unemployment, infrastructure investment, inflation reduction, education, export diversification, positive interest rate regime and energy supply and sustainability.

There are two very important things that every government needs to do after taking office. First it needs to tap the best available talent in its party and in the country and work together to build a strong team. And second it needs to tackle the toughest and hot button issues right away because then it will have time to take on popular decisions and win the confidence of the public back when the decisions turned out to be the correct one.

But so far as the current administration is concerned it has failed on both issues. With regards to the first issue it is clear looking at the president's ministers not enough effort was made to tap the best talent from the NDC or from the country. Most of the ministers were picked not because of what they can do but to satisfy the many factions and power blocks in the party to the extent that people tainted with corruption allegations and people described as mediocrity were vetted and made ministers. There has been denial of conflict between Kweku Anyidoho and Mahama Ayariga with both men sometimes feeding the public with contracdictory information. Then we have the ex-President Rawlings sometimes making unhelpful pronouncements against the government some forcing some of his supporters to act in a very bizzare manner. Again we have the national security coordinator and his outfit acting as if they are not part of the whole government machinery, with some of their actions generating bad publicity for government both within and and outside the country.

With regards to the second issue there is no doubt that the major challenge facing the governemnt has to do with the economy: job creation, energy supply,inflation, interest rate, poverty eradication, infrastructure and not Ghana@50 anniversary. It is a fact that this government does not face any major security threat from within or without the country and therefore got her priority wrong by focussing too much on the activities of the previous regime, and some times using the BNI to create the impression that the country is on the brink of some war. Too much attention has been placed on the activities of the previous government to the effect that the economy which is the major issue has been left to deteriorate faster than it could ever has happened.

In fact the situation in the country seems to have moved from worse to the unthinkable and there are many indicators which point to the fact that the economy has been left to sink. Since taking office, inflation has been soaring hitting more than 20% in June. Fuel prices are higher today than they used to be 6 months ago. Unemployment is more than 20% and is still rising steadily with companies like Vodafone threatening to slash over 950 jobs. The currency the Cedi has lost more than 30% of its value putting prices of commodities beyond the reach of the ordinary Ghanaian.

We have also seen fuel shortages in Greater Accra, Volta, Brong Ahafo and Northern Regions with drivers being forced to queue for long hours for fuel to the detriment of their business. Fishermen in the country have complained bitterly that they cannot get premix fuel to go to sea despite the fact that they are in their peak season, a situation that has forced them to issue threats to government that they would hit the streets if nothing is done to salvage the situation. In a message that echoes the displeasure of Ghanaians with the performance of the government someone texted to Joy News at 6pm that "Mills promised us free fuel now we cannot get it to buy. Better Ghana indeed". Source: Joy News Wednesday, 12 August 2009.

Since January 2009 Ghanaians have witnessed unemployed youth, apparently from the President own NDC party threatening and forcefully seizing toilets in Accra, Cape Coast, Kumasi and Tamale. These NDC lawless thugs have used force, threats and intimidation against employees of National Youth Employment Programme and National Health Insurance Authority at Juaso, Bibiani and some other places and demanding their sack. Armed robbery, high profile murders and other economic crimes are on the rise nation wide.

The above issues aside, President Mills and his ministers have come under serious criticisms from all quarters of the Ghanaian society including even members of his own party.Ex-President Rawlings, Gabriel Aggah, Kwesi Pratt, Mohammed Aboagye and Kofi Adams have all registered their displeasure with the performance of the government. In fact Mills' governement has taken hit after hit from Ex-President Rawlings for failling to deliver the change he so vehemently campaigned for. The attacks became incessant sometimes knocking the government off target so much so that the NDC founder has promised not to attack the goverment again.

Depicting a government that is in disarray, sick and falling apart, the Spokesperson for Jerry Rawlings, Mr. Kofi Adams has even called on the President to stop sleeping behind the wheel and sack people in his government that he Adams considers to be saboteurs. “In as much as their actions are condemnable, I think that the best thing for the President to do is to quickly clear out those who are perceived to be sabotaging his administration, to satisfy party members,” he said, adding “We have four years mandate from Ghanaians and they expect us to deliver. If there are some people who are sabotaging the government, they must be removed". “We want to deliver to the people of Ghana and if one's actions are clearly undermining the activities of the government, then that person must be sacked for another person to take over". Source:The Chronicle, Thursday, 06 Aug 2009.

There are reports that NDC Propagandists in the Northern and other Regions have turned against the goverment and is bashing it for failling the nation. One such Propagandist is Mahama Sayibu, "a regular radio panelist who until now was seen as a supporter of the party and spoke in its favour on local radio stations, seems to be moving to a different direction. He has in recent times taken an entrenched position, made a u-turn and lashing at the Mills administration, to the shock of the NDC party kingpins in the region. Source:Daily Guide, Monday, 10 August 2009.

To make matters worse the government has suffered even in the areas where it has placed much effort.Over the last couple of weeks the government has suffered defeat after defeat in Court. On Friday 24 July 2009 the Appeal Court in Accra ruled that the two convicted drug barons that is Kwabena Amaning, aka Tagor, and Alhaji Issah Abass be set free for lack of evidence.

Then came the ruling by an Accra Circuit Court on Wednesday 29 July that the Bureau of National Investigations has no power to confiscate the passport of Mrs. Zuleika Asamoah Boateng and was ordered to release the passport to her.

And as if that was not enough, on Tuesday 11 August 2009, the Fast Track High Court ruled against the Attorney General and the BNI and ordered them to return the passport of former Foreign Minister Akwasi Osei Adjei to him. And in another sign of weakness and cracks in the Mills government, the Deputy Attorney General has thrown in the towel and decided not to contest a case in which the Attorney General was contesting that Mr. Sammy Crabbe's Lawyer was present when he Crabbe was questioned by the BNI. Such defeats and actions are sending the wrong message to the the public that the government is failling on all fronts.

The defeats and the refusal to contest Mr. Crabbe's case have further sent a shockwave to the centre of the administration demoralising the already dysfucntional government machinery and sucking the remaining energy of ministers and staff alike. The Attoney General and her deputy who were caught pants down, have issued pronouncements to the effect that government is not pleased with the three judgements. The pronouncements have further exposed the government uneaseness and unhappiness with the way things are going in the country.However, like their boss there is nothing that they can do except to bark. Law experts have questioned the preparation the goverment made in presenting its cases but the defeats are nothing but an indication that the government has lost control in managing the country.

The heart and brain of the government were further shattered by the wind of deep seated corruption that has been blowing in the government and in the party. First came the confirmation by the Auditor General that its report has implicated Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni (current Foreign Minister) in financial malfeasance and wrong-doing. Then came the corrupt Muntaka khebab and pampas saga and allegation that he travelled to Germany with Ms Edith Zenayela who is believed to be his girl friend all at the expense of the nation forcing him to resign as sports minister.

The Muntaka saga was quickly followed by the allegations that Mr. Mahama Ayariga, Spokesperson of the President purchased five tractors meant for poor Ghanaian farmers and paid for only one.

A black hole was created in government when it was revealed that the Finance Minister Dr. Kwabena Duffour suggested that, "donor inflows to the country must be channelled through his bank, Unibank" forcing Dr. Duffour to vehemently deny it.

But his denials did not settle the matter for the government when news surfaced in Nigeria and Ghana that the NDC's 2008 election victories were made possible through a $3.5m illegal cash donation made to Jerry Rawlings by the Governor of Rivers State in Nigeria. While panting for breadth the government and the party were given knockout blow when the Serious Fraud Office in the United Kingdom begun court proceedings against Mabey & Johnson for paying millions of pounds as bribe to 5 top officials of the NDC governemnt that ruled between 1994 and 1999. The trial is still ongoing and it is feared that further revealations as the trial proceeds will force the government to breadth its last. All these allegations of corruption and fraud have sucked the juice from the administration, putting it on defensive and making it less and less effective and efficient to deal with the more pressing issues that it has so far ignored.

The 50.23% of Ghanaians who voted for change in the 2008 Presidential election had expected real political action and serious effort to provide solutions to the problems are now cursing their stars for making a wrong change. The general feeling and perception is that the President is simply a failure or let me be charitable and say he is not delivering on his campaign promises. In admitting the failure of his governemt Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Communication speaking on Joy FM's News File programme on August 8, 2009 said that "the recent premix saga was embarrassing for the government and promised it will never recur".

Also speaking to Joy News’ Elvis Adjetey, a youth activist of NDC Mr. Mohammed Aboagye said the leadership has not shown interest in the welfare of those at the grassroots since the party assumed office. He said “the way and manner our leadership are behaving now” leaves the grassroots supporters with little hope“. Source: myjoyonline.com, Tuesday, 11 August 2009. And he is not alone with that assessment. Mr. Gabriel Aggah founder of Atta Mills Foundation in an interview with the Chronicle descended heavily on the government and its operatives accusing them of growing horns while doing nothing to help the ordinary Ghanaian. The question is how do you expect the governemt to show interest in the welfare of its citizens when it does not a welfare policy to implement? Asking a government that is occupied with less important matters to deliver is like pointing a black thread to a blindman in darkness.

In what it saw as government blatant abuse of the rights of its citizens The Statesman in an editorial critically condemned the government for failing to protect the rights of its own citizens. Part of the editorial reads, "What we find most worrying is the posture of the government, specifically the President and his Attorney General, both of whom are lawyers. They are exhibiting a very worrying contempt for the rule of law and civil rights. The editorial quoted two prominent civil society actors calling on the government to protect the rights of its citizens rather than abusing them. "The head of Legal Resources, Edward Amuzu, is calling on Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu to rather focus on defending the fundamental rights and liberties of the citizen than to fighting against it", it says. Source: myjoyonline.com, Friday, 14 August 2009.

The point is that while failing to provide for their economic well being, the government is also using the state security apparatus to abuse the rights of its own citizens a trend which is familiar with all regimes that perform poorly both socially and economically.

Where is President Mills leadership in driving our economy forward? Well he has chosen not to do anything or at least he is powerless to do anything it, preferring instead to blame his predecessor's administration for making it impossible for him to deliver on his campaign promises. An excuse that Ghanaians seem not to buy. President Mills and his Ministers have so far not shown any sign that they are in full control of the economy or the affairs of the country. Simply put Ghanaians cannot associate President Mills' administration with any new project, programme or even a sign that his administration is maintainaning the condition that existed before they took over power.

In an act that mimics the failures at Anyinam Kotoku Local Authority Methodist Junior High School (JHS), near Akyem Oda in the Eastern Region, where after 8 years of 0% passes in the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), teachers, students and parents have decided to seek the intervention of a spiritualist, the President John Atta Mills has also turned to Pastors in desperation tasking them to seek the face of God for him and admitting that he is finding it very difficult to deliver on his campaign promises. In a thanksgiving service to climax the 68th synod of the Global Evangelical Church in Ho, last Sunday 9 August 2009, the President confessed "that the current economic conditions in the country is not as smooth as was expected by his government, and called on religious bodies to pray constantly for government to come up with solutions to the problems confronting the nation". Source: The Chronicle Tuesday, August 11, 2009.

But the problems at hand are not spiritual they have come about as a result of incompetence, weak leadership, lack of government agenda, factionism in the ruling NDC, corruption, too many square pegs in round holes, government hostile confrontation and attitude towards members of the opposition whose partnership and cooperation the government needs to be able to deliver the change it promised the people. These are the problems the government must dealt with as matter of necessity if it intends to make headway.

The President's confessions and blame games had long been expected by those who have been monitoring every move and action of the goverment and I can say with surity that more confessions and blame games will be made unless goverment heed the advice and take necessary steps to put confidence in his government.

Therefore the President must move beyond the rhetorics, promises and assurances and demonstrate both in tone and in substance that he and his ministers and advisors have what it takes to move the nation forward beyond fuel shortages; NHIS clossures; toilets, cars and passport seizures; arrests and detentions, human rights.

President must show strong and visionary leadership and commit himself to delivering the people from poverty, misery and hopelessness. He must have a clear cut agenda and put sound economic policies and management measures in place and direct his energy to rebuild the social and economic infrastructures namely the rail lines, roads, telecommunication, energy, silos, irrigation, health and education. This has the potential of creating thousands of jobs in the country for the unemployed youth. Therefore, every effort of government must be geared towards creating jobs.

There is no doubt that some members in the current administration are not performing and are liability to the government therefore the earlier the president reshuffles his cabinet the better.

The President and his government must seek partnership and cooperation from the members of the otherside of the political divide rather than confrontation which has the potential to derail the president's agenda and even weaken the modest economic and political success gained so far. Bipartisanship may work in our current hung parliament than the NDC going solo.

With the world pushing deeper and deeper into scientific and technological age it will be appropriate for the President to assemble a team of experts to look into how to overhaul the nation's entire educational curricula from nursery to university so as to prepare the country for this very challenging age. Therefore it is crucial that we do not play politics with Senior High School education that has been moving forward and backward (three years or four years) depending on which governement is in power. Such a parctice is very dangerous and has the potential to destroy the very foundation and long term survival of our country. Whatever decision the President arrives at regarding the SHS, he must resolve to put the interest of Ghana and its future first.

Additionally, more efforts must be made to train, retrain and retain our teachers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, architects, planners, engineers, technicians and bankers if we are to meet the demands and challenges of this 21st Century and beyond.

Since the President has over the last couple of weeks been telling Ghanaians how much debt we owe, it will be appropriate for the nation to ditch our dependence on foreign aid and loans and replace it with trade and investment promotion which can be achieved by vigorously and aggressively marketing the nation as a safe destination for investments and by selling bonds to raise the needed funds to finance the development needs of the country.

And lastly the President must make every effort to fight greediness, leadership incompetence, corruption, nepotism, selfishness, scant accountability, dishonesty and lack of transparency that has disfigured our political and economic landscape for decades. President Mills must make every effort to end the politicisation of every national issue and the injection of tribalism into our body politics. It is time to act and move the country forward and the president must stop sleeping behind the wheels.

By Lord Aikins Adusei
The Author is an activist and anti-corruption campaigner. He blogs at www.ghanapundit.blogspot.com

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