The Mills Gambit

Posted by By at 20 May, at 07 : 00 AM Print

The Mills Gambit

 

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” – Nicole Rae Lewis

“If you bite the hands that feed you, you will go hungry.” – African proverb.

The supreme military strategist, Tsun tzu, gave this advice: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?”

It is not an advice the president, Professor John Atta Mills, seems to have ever heard. Whatever his other attributes, no one can accuse the president of being a consummate politico, a decisive leader, a brilliant political Strategist or even a Tactician.

It is said that if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for everything. It is pretty difficult to know what president Mills stands for. Two and half years into his presidency, the professor has not come out to boldly articulate his vision for his nation or his party.

The president looks increasingly like a man who is just swimming with the current.
Not being able to able to rise above the common hoipoloi is not the hallmark of a true leader.

Whatever one says about presidents President John Jerry Rawlings and President John Kufuor, they are decisive leaders. It is difficult to imagine either man crying himself hoarse to collect his party’s nomination paper. It is equally difficult to imagine someone having the temerity to challenge them for supremacy in the party they led. The image of an Executive President hectoring Customs and Excise officials is also not very re-assuring.

If our good-natured, humble, god-fearing president commands no respect within his own political party, how does he hope to be respected in the country at large?

The honest truth is that the president is being badly served by those close to him and has his ears. Increasingly president Mills behave and look more like the former Nigerian President, Shehu Shagari.

Like Professor Mills, Shagari was touted as a humble, god-fearing and deeply religious man. Whilst all these could be useful attributes in someone aspiring to a position in the priesthood, they are hardly sufficient in the rough and tumble, shark-infested world of modern politics where it is all about barracuda eating the small fishes.

It is not the ideal; it just happens to be that way.

The problem with Shehu Shagari, and also increasingly with president Mills, is that both are men of very little vision or competence in public administration, and very sadly they surrounded themselves with sycophantic advisers, who refused to tell them unalloyed truth. Both are not leaders who could galvanise men into greater heights.
In countries like the US with very strong national institutions, bumblers like Bush jr. can ramble their ways through their eight years term, but a country like Ghana needs a confident, decisive, inspired and inspiring leader. It needs a leader with both passion and vision.

President Mills ill-articulated Better Ghana Agenda contains no vision to move the country forward and not even his most partisan supporter can accuse the president of being a passionate man.

Like President Mills, Shagari advisers also confused meaningless perambulations for great momentum. While the lots of Nigerians sank into the abyss, Shagari traveled around the world and embarked of sod-cutting and other exercises that should not at all engage presidential attentions.

To cap it, Shagari officials were insanely corrupt. Whilst Shagari pontificated about good governance and a fight against corruption, his officials looted the treasury to extent that left Nigerians stupefied. Many Nigerians danced on the streets when General Buhari and co terminated the kleptomaniac rule of Shagari on 31, December 1993.

President Mills cannot claim to be unaware of the monumental rot that is taking place under his watch. He shouldn’t just glibly dismiss the allegations, some of them well-documented, of corruptions against his officials.

President Mills, luckily, is not likely to meet Shagari’s fate; he nevertheless faces challenges of almost cosmic proportions.

On July 8, his ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) will organize a congress to its elect officials and presidential candidate for the 2011 elections.

This is serious business which also represents a gross slap in the face for Professor Mills. His is the ruling party and to have someone within the party challenging his candidacy is serious indictment on his type of leadership.

Whatever the outcome on 8 July, 2011 NDC elections, president Mills is not going to come out smelling like roses. It is for the president a situation of head he loses, tail he cannot win?

Although national elections are still more than a year away and that a day is eternity in politics, but by allowing the situation within his party to deteriorate to the extent that he was openly challenged leaves open several questions about competence, judgments and a serious question mark on the president’s political astuteness.

An astute politician is one with good radar to detect potential troubles and nip them in the bud before they turn to calamity. This was not the case with President John Atta Mills.

Everyone knew that all is not well within the NDC, and for the president to have left it unattended leaves serious question mark on his political judgment.

Surrounding himself with sycophantic ‘yes-men’ also reveals the president as a man with deep character flaw. Men with self-confidence hardly have time for feeble-minded palace jesters.

Whatever we think of him, President John Jerry Rawlings is a titan of both the Ghanaian and NDC political landscape. To have conspired to marginalized and antagonized such a man rather than seek ways to accommodate and massage his ego leaves the president’s political judgment open to serious questions.

There is no way that President Mills will come out of the congress looking good. And should he emerge victorious, it will be a pyrrhic victory as the Friend of Nana Konadu agyemang-Rawling (FONKAR) faction in his party is sufficiently aggrieved to sabotage his re-election efforts.

All these are sweet music to the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).

For the FONKAR group, the president has committed the gravest sins in politics: betrayal and ingratitude. Their belief that the president was ‘Rawlings –made,’ was valid as far as they are concerned. And to have him treat their hero with such huge disdain and ridicule is a sacrilege the President John Jerry Rawlings partisans are not likely to forget in a hurry.

The spectacle of the president deploying the likes of Ablakwa to flay President John Jerry Rawlings is enough to send the FONKAR group ballistic and rumours are already rife that the group would leave the NDC should the president wins.

Not to be discounted is the perceived marginalisation of the ‘foot soldiers’ that helped the NDC prosecute the electioneering war.

The foot soldiers consider the president and his team a bunch of ingrates. The insults rained upon them by member of the government and threats to ‘deal’ with them are sufficient to move the foot soldiers to thwart the president’s ambitions.

There are also those within the NDC that believe that the monumental corruption in the Mills administration has betrayed the core principles of their party. They are not likely to be moved by from their position that their party needs a change in its leadership.

For all these factions within the NDC, nothing but a massive purge of their party will do after the congress. We might see enough blood-letting on 8 July 2011 to make Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives look like a child’s play.

Then there is the big question of why? Why did president Atta Mills allowed the situation in his party descend to this gutter level? Why didn’t the elders of the party use internal party structures to help stabilized the situation before it got out of hand?

It would have helped if the president has come out openly to fight the Rawlingses and state his case against them robustly and clearly.

This would have endeared him greatly to a large section of the populace who are fed up with the Rawlingses and would love to see a courageous president that is proving to be his own man.

But, alas, the President refused to show his face. He allowed political charlatans and opportunists like Ablakwa, Haruna Iddrisu, Boateng and his other minions to do his dirty works for him.

The question is: which of these stomach politicians count for anything in Ghana politics? Who born dog, indeed!

When it matters the most, President Mills refused to come out swinging and this leaves him open to ridicule as a coward. Little wonder the cartoonist had field day caricaturing him as a mindless child.

With the authority of his office as the Executive President, the president is invested with awesome power and authority to firmly stamp his authority on the nation and, especially, on his party. He’s the leader of the party, for crying out loud!

President Mills failed to do so and his advisors thought the best way to sell him is to have him travel across the land cutting sods here and there like a common mason!
The presidential time should be more productively deployed than having him cutting sod for bore-holes, toilets and eateries at universities.

A president can be excused if he’s shown cutting sods for large-scale agricultural project, big industries but lavatories, ah – that’s not something that should engage the attention of even a minister!

In July last year, I wrote a piece entitled, ‘President John Jerry Rawlings is getting his comeuppance,” http://ekitiparapo.blogspot.com/2010/07/rawlings-is-getting-his-comeuppance.html.

Here is an excerpt: “Post mortem: Every patriotic of Ghana should be concerned about the inner wrangling in the ruling party. No, it has nothing to do with whether or not we support one faction or the other. Self-interest makes it imperative for us to show our concerns. As the party entrusted with running the affairs of our nation, it is our concern to know what is going on.

President Mills is a human being and according to biologists the first concern of any organism is self-preservation. Whatever he professes Professor Mills is a politician, period. He cannot pretend not to be concerned about his re-election. This concern will, of course, translate into ensuring that he uses some of his time on tackling the problems besetting his party. He knows that he cannot launch a new party and hope to win the next election. It is also inconceivable that he will join the NPP or any other party. So, he‘s stuck with his NDC party. Given the formidable opposition of the Rawlingses (they won quite a sizable chunk of the party executive posts contested at Tamale), they cannot be discounted.

All these mean that our president will be a very worried man, indeed. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that any time our president spends on intra-party squabbling is time that could have been put into productive use in solving some of the problems facing our nation.

This precisely is the President Mills Dilemma.

How did President Mills get himself into this fine mess? It’s difficult to imagine President Rawlings or even President Kufuor facing the same problem in their parties.
Unlike President Mills, both men do not come across as one whose authority is open to questioning. Methinks that is the hallmark of a true leader.

Leaving the Young Turks (Rawlings ‘greedy bastards’) in his party to fight his battle for him also portrays the president as a coward.

So what are the options open to him? Methinks that he should come out boldly and confront the problem head-on. He should let one and all know where he stood on any of the issues confronting his leadership style and the way forward for the party. He has the whole authority of his office to back him up; it is time he uses it. These are not the times to be meek; these are occasions for decisiveness.

It is said that if you do not stand for something, you will fall for everything. As things stood, no one knows where our president stood. He needs to come out candidly and forcefully to declare his stand. Anything less would not jell.

Alas, I am not his advisor!

 

About the Author

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and Correspondent for the New African magazine. Femi lives in both Europe and Africa, and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the CEO of Alaye Dot Biz Limited Dot Biz, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organisation that specialises in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

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