By Eric Mensah-Ayettey
“Whatever you do JM will come!!!” is a chant in Twi I heard on Friday morning by some supporters of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), upon the withdrawal of the injunction placed on the party’s May 13, 2023 primaries, by Dr. Kwabena Duffour.
In keeping with this slogan, it is all over. Done according to the script. His Excellency ex-President John Dramani Mahama (JDM) is the flagbearer of the NDC for the 2024 election. Hurray!! He won a landslide with 98.9% of the votes cast.
This is obviously the heartfelt desire of the members of the national executive of the NDC. Mission accomplished is what they would be saying among themselves when they hold the post-event evaluation meeting later this week. I say so because everything seemed to have been planned to end this way.
To the extent of having JDM’s portraits displayed conspicuously at the national headquarters in a manner that TV cameras could not avoid during press conferences. Even on their website, JDM’s photo is the first thing you see when you land on the homepage. All these, when there were three contestants in the race? This is definitely not a semblance of fairness. No wonder Dr. Duffour pulled out of the race eventually.
Well, there is no point in crying over spilt milk as Dr. Duffour and the delegates ‘conspired’ to deny my wish for an upset in the outcome of the primaries. As it is, come December 7, 2024, we will see a return of JDM’s face on the presidential ballot paper. His main contender as has become the norm, is whoever the New Patriotic Party will decide on in November this year.
I have already indicated my preference for Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia to bide his time. In the same article, I expressed my wish for JDM to tarry a while. Just for the breath of fresh air it would bring. But as they say, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. The over 300,000 delegates of the NDC have spoken and we the worried observers can only speak our minds and hope that it will make sense to the non-partisan voter.
Why the NDC may have opted for JDM
Ex-President John Dramani Mahama (JDM) is a great communicator. Even his opponents credit him with that. As a communication practitioner too, I monitor his public speeches with keen interest.
And when he puts out a key campaign message, I am unable to hide my admiration for it- “The Ghana we want” and “We want experience, not experiment” are recent examples. One could say he is justified because, ‘experience is the best teacher’, is an established fact. And when it comes to experience in relation to political governance, JDM has no co-equal in Ghana.
This is how en.wikepedia.org summed up his profile, “John Dramani Mahama, born 29 November, 1958 is a Ghanaian politician who served as President of Ghana from 24 July 2012 to 7 January 2017. He previously served as Vice President of Ghana from January 2009 and took office as president on 24 July 2012 following the death of his predecessor John Evans Fiifi Attah Mills. Mahama is a communication expert, historian, and writer.
“A member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), he was Member of Parliament for Bole-Bamboi from 1997 to 2009 and served as Deputy Minister for Communication between 1997 and 1998 before becoming the substantive Minister for Communications from 1998.”
Tell me who in Ghana can beat this wealth of experience- Member of Parliament, Deputy Minister, Minister, Vice President and President? No one. The only prominent political position he has not occupied yet is number 3- Hon. Alban Bagbin’s post. It is on the basis of this rich profile that JDM believes he is best suited for the flagbearship of the NDC in relation to election 2024.
However, if the recent happening regarding the failure of Milovan Rajevac to use his rich experience to help the senior national team, the Black Stars, despite being touted as tried and tested- “This is not ma try makw3,” to quote Ghana Football Association’s (GFA) President, Kurt Okraku, is anything to go by, then it goes without saying that sometimes, relevant skills become more important than experience.
That is to say that, JDM may be very experienced, but does he have the requisite skills to take us out of the current doldrums in which we find ourselves?
To be fair, JDM’s legacy as the most tried and tested politician may have been marred by the alleged corrupt practices by himself such as Government official 1, Ford Explorer and those associated with his reign. Not to mention the ‘dead goat’ attitude he adopted during the dying embers of his presidency. Nonetheless, there are infrastructural evidences to show that he contributed his bit to Ghana’s development- Refurbished Ridge Hospital, University of Ghana Medical Centre, Kwame Nkrumah Interchange, Terminal 3 at the Kotoka International Airport to mention a few.
The drink deep or taste not scenario
In my previous article, I referred to the tendency for politicians to drink deep from the cup of political power once they taste it. I alluded to the possibility of this phenomenon being at play with regard to JDM’s quest to return to power come what may, and wondered why he would not bow out now that the applause seems so loud, thanks to President Akufo-Addo.
Then I remembered that in my previous life as a Public Relations Consultant, a very renowned politician who is currently in Parliament sought our services to help him rebrand into a non-partisan philanthropist. According to him, tried as he did, his philanthropic gestures were perceived with political lenses.
In proffering advice, we went in for the low hanging fruit- resign from politics. It was at this point that he let us in on why it is virtually impossible to resign from politics. The key message I took away from that conversation was that once you enter politics and the party invests in you, in any form, you dare not say no when you are needed to serve its interest. After this interaction, that account became cold and never got warmed.
It would thus not be far from reality to assume that JDM is yielding to the dictates of this political code of conduct. Otherwise, I still don’t get it. That he wants to be president again, for just four years and turn Ghana’s fortunes around? What happens after four years when he cannot stand as president again? In that case, a new person can take over the NDC flagbearership? If so, why did we deny that person and the party an opportunity to have an 8-year term as has become the norm?
Why JDM should have tarried a while
The phrase ‘tarry a while’ means to delay in acting, doing something or simply, wait. I shall therefore proceed to adduce reasons why I feel that JDM should have waited till another election period, if need be, to pursue his desire to be president again.
My points are based on my understanding that the outcomes of elections are determined by those who have become known as ‘floating voters’. Not the party faithful. And for floating voters like me, it is the little things that count. Here are a few:
“Image is everything”
The Institute of Public Relations (IPR) Ghana to which JDM and I belong, has as its motto, ‘image is everything.’ Very akin to the statement by American political strategist, Lee Atwater that, “perception is reality”. The meaning of this statement is that when one forms a mental impression of something, it defines how one sees that something, regardless of the truth.
Like me, many people in my close circle see JDM’s return as a mere formality- to exhaust the remaining four years guaranteed him by the 1992 Constitution and nothing else. Indeed, the perception out there is that it is an opportunity to finish an unfinished personal business. That’s all.
“Ghanaians have short memory”
Sometimes I get the feeling that when Lord Acton, a British historian said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” he had Ghanaian, nay, African politicians in mind.
If that were not the case, why would someone who travelled across the length and breadth of the country as he did recently, to virtually beg for our votes, turn round after we have given it to him, paid him monthly salary and allowances in addition to a guaranteed retirement package, tell us when we complain of hardship resulting from his leadership skills that “…very often in Ghana we have a very short memory.”
Granted that this may not be an insult, it is a figure of speech as JDM is likely to say. Nonetheless, he as the communicator that he is, knows that there are certain things you do not say to people you respect. But when you drink so deeply of the cup of political power and become intoxicated to the extent of losing sight of the fact that the people who elected you can de-elect you at the polls, then who has a short memory?
“I have a dead goat syndrome”
I hold the view that JDM’s status as a trained communicator, places on him a key responsibility to use words and idiomatic expressions carefully. He should know that context, intonation and tone of the message is key in transmitting the intended message in a manner that guarantees the sender that the receiver will receive it just as it was intended.
Therefore, in my opinion, it is only non-communication professionals who can seek refuge in the oft made statement, “I was quoted out of context”.
In March 2015, he said this to a Ghanaian population in Botswana where he was on a three-day official state visit; “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.”
Apparently, he said this out of frustration, “I was one of the most harassed Presidents by Organised Labour. That is what led to the dead goat syndrome… because when you kill a goat, you cannot frighten it with the knife again. I don’t know why I said that, but of course our opponents took it out of context. They said I have said that I won’t listen to anybody,” he explained during a lecture at Academic City University College in December, 2022.
“I don’t know why I said that?” Well, I have a guess- “… absolute power corrupts absolutely,”
”I am the only one the NPP is afraid of”
As noted earlier, as a flagbearer aspirant, JDM’s campaign messages are the most impactful. They are easy to recall. Frankly, I am unable to remember Dr. Duffour’s key message. As for Mr. Kojo Bonsu, I wonder if he even had one.
This has given vim to JDM. So much so that as stated supra, he considers the yet to be determined NPP flagbearer as his sole contender. This is borne out of another of his key messages, “I am the only one the NPP is afraid of.”
Consequently, churned out statements that I believe have the potential of hurting his campaign come next year. “2024 election is a do or die affair”, “We will campaign like Jehovah witnesses…”, “We have to go into the ring with our own referee” and “We will go to the EC strong room with our own biscuits and tea” are a few.
Others are; “a democratic country requires a sufficiently independent electoral commission, but Ghana does not have one.” He said in an interview with Voice of America (VOA) and “Our people, our branch executives’ children, you just stand by. If we’re distributing any jobs, if we’re recruiting people into the Police, the Army, the Prisons Service, the Fire Service and the Immigration, we will recruit all our young people too to go and work.”
It’s time to go
I took a liking for research as a student because the first lecturer who taught me the subject used a very relatable analogy in relation to sampling that got stuck in my brain. Mr. Wellington of the then Ghana Institute of Journalism, said when you put sugar in your beverage, stir and taste a half teaspoon full, what you are doing is sampling. That is using a small portion to determine how the whole tastes.
Thus, research based on an appropriate sample is as good as fact. And one institution whose research outcomes have almost always turned out to be true, is the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). This is the research and analysis division of the Economist Group. They provide forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis.
On April 13, 2022, EIU released a report titled “Five Year Forecast: Ghana”. The report forecast on some issues and sectors of development in Ghana such as the economy, political stability, elections, and international relations. One statement on page 6 of the report which generated much discussion in the media is this, “The former president, John Mahama, is reportedly considering running again, but we expect the opposition NDC to try to revitalise its prospects with a fresh candidate.”
The above statement was preceded by this, “We expect a transfer of power to the NDC in the 2024 elections, driven by anti-incumbency factors and public dissatisfaction with the current government.”
An analysis of the above statements produces three main elements:
- We expect a transfer of power to the NDC in 2024.
- This will be driven by anti-incumbency factors and public disaffection with the current government.
- …but we expect the opposition to try to revitalize its prospects with a fresh candidate.
I have taken the trouble to break the statements down because, it sums up my conviction that JDM may have all the experience, very popular and most marketed candidate in the NDC etc, but he is not best placed to win NDC the election. Why the national executive and rank and file of the party cannot appreciate this position is what beats my imagination. I say so because as a member of the floating voters association, I do not think he is the one who can revitalize the prospects of NDC winning the 2024 elections due to the reasons aforementioned.
Well, mine is just a vote and I may not be privy to everything they know. So, you can ignore me. But if JDM fails to win the 2024 presidential election, I will be here waiting for my stone. If this happens, I hope someone from the umbrella family will be kind enough to sing me Adane Best’s song, “Ao George ee, Noni ok33 mi l3 ebamli ee”- Eric, you have been vindicated.
If it does not happen, then we will be in it together. Whence, we shall continue to brighten the corner where we each are, with each of us being for him/herself and God for us all.
Yasou – that’s Goodbye in Greek.
Let God lead! Follow Him directly, not through any human.
The writer is the author of two books whose contents share knowledge on how anyone desirous of writing like him can do so. Eric can be reached via email [email protected]
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