Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Way The Cookie Crumbles



Professor Mills' presidency is already a year old. He has already given rave assessment of the performance of his government during the period. Rather uncharacteristic of lecturers from Legon, he was also very charitable with grades when he assessed the first one hundred days of his stewardship. He might have taken a cue from the proverbial lizard that jumped from a tall tree and decided to praise himself if no one will, but the President and his advisors are very much aware that a good self assessment counts for little, come judgment day. Under the young fourth republic, Ghanaian voters have twice dragged out sitting governments from the castle with the latter screaming and touting what they consider as great achievements of their stewardship. Sitting governments have the tendency of falling in love with beautiful macro-economic statistics until they become opposition parties, then they become street champions and start measuring economic gains in the micro sense- the effect on the man in the street. For some reasons, many citizens have argued that the expected "trickle-down" from macro to micro never happens, and it is this perception that eventually makes governments and unmakes others. This fact is underscored by the hammering the one year old administration has received from the most unlikely of sources- the ruling party. Before the President's rave assessment, his former mentor, party founder and former President Rawlings had scored the administration poorly for its performance over the past twelve months. He believes the Party's goodwill has depleted under Mill's leadership.

It should have dawned on Uncle Atta by now that with the kind of friends he has in the ruling National Democratic Congress, he has no use for enemies. Several times in the past fifty-two weeks, he has been hit by a barrage of criticisms from NDC party-people who claim that instead of hitting the ground running as he promised, his government has been too slow to take off. It started with the so called foot soldiers grabbing toilets and demanding jobs that were promised during pre-election campaign. In no time, they were joined by the founder of the party, and then the former presidential aspirant, Spio Gabrah, pissed in. At that point some Mills loyalists thought "wait a minute, Rawlings we know, but Spio, who are you?" So they broke their silence and pissed back at Spio reminding him that his "cheap doctorate" cannot be compared with what the professor has earned. But that did not stop other party heavy weights like the majority leader Alban Bagbin and MP for Ashiaman Alfred Agbesi from having a go at their own government.

In reality all this talk from the NDC about slow government, neglect of foot soldiers, access (or lack of it) to ministers and other presidential appointees is nothing short of demanding that the President should fire everybody appointed by the previous administration and replace them with NDC supporters. It is not enough that almost all boards and state affiliated organizations have been filled with NDC sympathizers and caterers of the school feeding program have been replaced; they have to rid all public offices of people employed during the Kufuor days and overhaul the personnel working with National Youth Employment Program (NYEP). Somebody should tell these so called foot soldiers that the president is managing taxes contributed by all Ghanaians including those who didn't vote for their party. Sometimes I get the impression that they think the country belongs to them and them alone. They tend to forget that we are all partakers of the pie that the president has been busy with in the kitchen. But are they to blame?

The seed for the President's woes with his foot soldiers was sown a few years earlier when the Party was in opposition. The strategy of opposition parties seeking to wrestle power is to criticize anything the incumbent does and promise the moon when they are clueless on how to get off the ground. When they grab power, reality sinks in, but to the masses whose expectations have been hyped, they want their pound of flesh, no matter the difficulties. Add a scent of corruption to the dashed expectation, throw in arrogance responses from a couple of ministers and the die is cast. The news will be everywhere, the government does not listen, the party has been hijacked by a few, let's teach them a lesson at the ballot box. These perceptions matter more than any high scoring self assessment exercise. At this point, you can forget about all the macro-economic theories. The writing is on the wall, "MENE MENE TEKEL URPHASIN", you have been weighed and found wanting; the days of your government are numbered. That is the way the cookie crumbles.

In a moment of mediocre brilliance, the NPP created the NYEP to answer the cry of their foot soldiers. They were sent to institutions like hospitals and the police MTTU after being enrolled into the NYEP. If the police needed them and had money to recruit them, why didn't they do so? If the chaps were qualified, what stopped the nursing training schools from training them for direct employment into the hospitals using the usual channels? Why didn't the GES directly recruit them as pupil teachers? What is the use of the intermediary organization called NYEP? It is simply a political answer to an economic question. When you promise to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, you must create them. I'm not surprised they are always crying for their salaries. NYEP is a creature of politics not economics. After all this, the NPP still lost the election. The lesson is simple, mediocre solutions won't solve complex problems.

One excuse I hate to hear is that "when we made all those campaign promises, we didn't know the other Party had ran down the economy this much". I don't buy that excuse. You didn't care to look. Your only interest was to find the right words for a gullible populace to change governments, the solutions could wait till then. It is called playing politics, but I think it is mediocrity. The careless promises, including those not written in the manifesto, which take parties to power will also bring them down.

Professor Mills won't admit it openly, but his wahala is exacerbated by the fact that Rawlings is not on his side. Only time will tell if the strategy of ignoring Rawlings is a master stroke. The Prof said Rawlings is not a pain in the neck but didn't exclude other parts of his body. He also said he knows what Rawlings is capable of. Yeah right, Prof! This is his CV. He has criticized every government since 1979 (apart from his) for under-performance. Every government he criticized, he helped to bring down. The Professor's job is cut-out for him. He has two broad options- do what he promised after the Swedru Declaration -consult Rawlings day and night; or force a leadership contest in the NDC between him and his mentor. The latter option is suicidal and with the Prof's personality looks unlikely. But does he want to lead a party without being in charge? Faced with a headache similar to the Prof's, the president of Malawi, Bingu Wa Mutharika, broke away from the ruling party and formed another party even before he ended his term. But his predecessor who anointed him heir, Bakili Muluzi, is not Rawlings. Prof, wish you luck. If you choose that path of legends remember to consult with the Seer T.B. Joshua. The coming congress is perfect opportunity for a proxy war.

Sour grapes might have motivated Spio Gabrah to piss-in into team selection, but the Prof must admit that some of his ministers are not fit even for the reserve bench. A useless suggestion Prof, take a critical look at your team sheet, whoever you won't hire to manage your own company, throw them out. I think you can start with Mark Wayongo, the Upper East Regional Minister and Kofi Opoku Manu, the Ashanti regional Minister. The former's justification of human rights abuses by soldiers in his region and the latter's call to supporters to slap political opponents are a throwback to the dark days of our history. Opoku Manu's misguided call, reminiscent of a call by a certain force Sergeant Major in the Rawlings days for the freedom to slap to counter balance the freedom of speech, cannot be ignored because he said it at a part rally. Such talks have led to civil wars in other countries in Africa. Politicians must learn the art of speaking responsibly even at party meetings to preserve the unity and sanctity of this country.

One can't overstate the fact that the government's success is hinged on the quality of human resources deployed. Where political considerations weigh heavily, not only in ministerial appointments, but every other job with direct or indirect government oversight, Ghana can be the only loser in the long run. Will the NDC tread this path after accusing the NPP of nepotism in job distribution?

If the events of the past twelve months are anything to go by, Professor Mills may set an unenviable record- The first government under the first republic that didn't make a second term. That is if the NPP can overcome its own mess created by the quest for personal aggrandizement. But that doesn't rule out the possibility of losing his party's nomination if things don't change quickly.

With all the criticisms coming from within his own party, and what is yet to come from the slumbering opposition, the President is under pressure to produce quick fixes. That is when politics takes precedence over any other science. Such mediocre solutions only make the Pie crumble even faster. Mr. President the unborn generations of Ghana are crying out to you, Make a difference! Raise the bar! Eschew the temptation to use benchmarks set by Rawlings and Kufuor. They are too low. Posterity yearns to celebrate a real hero, fill that gap. Look beyond satisfying foot soldiers and ensure that Ghana produces employable and confident youths who will be assimilated into a well structured economy. If most of our youths are employed, they will be so busy that they will not be enlisted into the foot army of any party. With few foot soldiers, you can concentrate on baking our pie, Ghana's Pie not NDC's Pie. If NPP couldn't hold on to power by giving state jobs to party-people you won't. If NDC couldn't retain power in 2000 by showing off the supposed achievements of institutions like 31st December movement, it won't work now.

Happy One Year Anniversary, Mr. President.

  

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