Mahamaphobia!

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John Mahama
John Mahama

The lots were drawn on Wednesday January 23, 2019 for the polls to be held exactly a month after that on Saturday February 23 2019. Former President Mahama landed No. 3 on the ballot paper… By close of day, this Saturday, the country would learn whether the NDC has decided to continue into opposition after 2020 or taken the decision that would give it a winning crack at the 2020 national polls…

All eyes are on the No.3 position of the ballot paper: John Dramani Mahama, Communicator, Parliamentarian, Vice President, President and soon to be Presidential Candidate – again. All things being well, and as expected, he would win with a considerable margin against his opponents.

From the first day the NPP was sworn into office in 2017, the government has been consumed by a pathological and obsessive Mahamaphobia that is at once intriguing and at the same time ludicrous. If it is not Mahama this, it is Mahama that! Instead of providing solutions, it’s always been, blame it on Mahama! As if haunted or perhaps truly haunted by the former President’s stature, the NPP, from top to bottom would breath a collective sigh of relief should he fail to get the nomination this weekend.

Mahama’s is a remarkable career and unique in Ghana’s political history: having lost an election as a sitting president, he is staging a comeback not through acclamation as many would have wished but through his party’s primaries process. They have argued that he should not have been put through the primaries process but should have been acclaimed, having been president and vice president before – offices he held with distinction. This is a precedent setting development and for better for worse also a shot in the arm of our overall practice of democracy.

As President, he achieved an impressive collection of legacies within a very short space of time – three years, out of four, if the time-wasting year of pink sheets is discounted. Indeed, the NDC will campaign on those legacies, with the promise of new ones in the 2020 general elections.

The conventional wisdom is that the NPP would love for any of the other five contestants to come out tops this weekend. The reason is simple: Any of them or all of them combined would be made mincemeat of in the 2020 general elections! They have neither the stature, charisma nor legacy to show up Akufo-Addo’s emptiness and the NPP’s 2016 campaign of lies. There are all sorts of rumours flying around – and as it’s often been said, no smoke without fire – that the NPP is directly or indirectly funding some of the aspirants arrayed against him.

In his third year out of office, President John Dramani Mahama has honed those instincts he should have deployed in 2016 which would have kept him in office for a second term without a break. Still a Mr. Good Guy, he has however become very incisive in his approach to the NPP, which has left them often stuttering or downright inelegant in finding responses to him. For example, though “Boot for Boot” is not a new expression in Ghanaian politics, his articulation of it in connection with the AWW by-election got them on the ropes leading the likes of Rev. Asante of the Peace Council to goof in response.

With so much that he had achieved in only three years of his four-year term, Election 2016 was supposed to have been a walkover for him. The barrage of negativity, trumpeted by a generally gullible press did the damage. It was almost as if he had done no good and Ghana was the worse off with him in charge -0 the very opposite. The words “incompetence” and “corruption” were hammered ad nauseam, ad infinitum by the NPP and the electorate must have bought into it, because he lost the election based on such themes and his party lost its majority in parliament. That is what history has recorded and he bowed out with humility and grace. In the period since, he has been much in demand on the international scene, providing his experience and knowledge to the international community, bringing pride to Ghana.

The words incompetence and corruption now have more resonance and relevance than how they were bandied about in 2016. In fact, they showed up on the very first day of the new government with an inaugural speech papered all over with plagiarized material! Ghana became the laughing stock of the international community.

Subsequently, President Mahama in his own inimitable way came up with “Super Incompetence” to describe the current dispensation and to date, no coherent antidote has been found to that, other than more strident Mahamaphobia outbursts.

In these last remaining days to the NDC primaries, all sorts of Mahamaphobia impediments are being thrown at him, including a nugatory law suit to try to distract him. Not forgetting the mass hysteria led by Yaw Osafo Marfo (Senior Minister) and Kyei Mensah Bonsu (Majority Leader) as to why the former President should talk to diplomats about the AWW by-election violence, having so soon forgotten how they made use of some western diplomats who were intent on regime change in 2016.

Many objective observers of the Ghanaian political scene (including some NPP voters) are using the compass of hindsight to declare that Mahama was not bad after all, and true, three years on, the NPP has not done a better job of the economy: utility costs have gone higher; petrol has come no lower; the cedi has seen more devaluation without any corresponding advantages; prices across board keep rising and all that the citizens get are litanies of arcane economic indices which mean nothing to the average or even the above average person. The much-heralded flagship of the government, free SHS, is in shambles and the World Bank has felt compelled to sound a warning about the parlous state of Ghana’s educational system.

The economy aside, much of the Mahamaphobia stems from the hyped-up image of Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo which has all these three years failed to tarnish the burnish of the JDM persona.

Crucially, the failure to meld the country together due to the “Onka ye ho” virus has meant that those citizens with innovative, creative and productive talents but do not belong are excluded!

A Sessional Address would soon be delivered and would no doubt be a compendium of Mahamaphobia sidelong glancing but before that, the country has unfinished business to attend to this weekend: The election of the man who would articulate the concerns and offer the solutions and whose version of a Sessional Address would not dwell on any phobias, real or imagined, but set the positive tone from then on, to December 7 2020 and beyond.

Commentary by Oli A. Rahman, Tesano, Accra

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