President Mills misses an ‘Invictus moment

I didn’t particularly like then candidate John Evans Atta Mills, he was all the things my father who supports him now had taught me to hate in a man. He was meek, quiet, overly humble bothering on timidity.  It was during the times when he was making his I-am-the-humble-lamb -“asomdoew” speeches.  Plus he was invisible during his days as Vice President I don’t remember him doing anything striking. Why he wanted to be President was beyond me. Nothing wrong with humility, but it was his apparent lack of confidence that annoyed me. Thankfully he lost that election, oh how happy I was not to be saddled with him.

However after eight years of the complacent incompetents’ being in-charge, the good Professor came back with a new attitude. One that I liked, gone was the lamb and in his place a little simba (you know him, the baby lion in the lion king cartoon) with a small roar. He seemed a slightly confident, with is door-door approach. He spoke about problems affecting Ghanaians with passion and challenged the government on many levels.  Prof. John Atta Mills seemed ready to win an election, and win he did.

After the messy inauguration, there was talk that the new President and his men had no idea which direction to take their better Ghana agenda.  I disagreed like many, impressed with his refusal to yield to pressure from party members to sack DCEs and regional Ministers appointed by the previous government soon after coming into office, the embargo on exorbitant ex-gratia for retiring officials and inclusion of young people in his government, in a country where old age is the key to positions of responsibility.

I was filled with great hope that a man with vision was finally at the helm of affairs and soon, he was going to inspire the best in all of us for the land of our birth. Who could resist the promise of a better Ghana from an honest man who was going to be ‘father for all?’  In the first few weeks, he gave some of the best speeches and acted decisively on issues of concern moving the most cynical of my friends to believe he had a plan and was in control.

Alas, it was a glued façade. Professor Mills hadn’t changed neither did he intend to keep any of those promises he made to get elected.  Months after he won came the transition committee “tea spending sum” which outraged all Ghanaians and yet the man who had told all of us he was averse to profligacy didn’t wince. The President had to be prodded, begged and forced to demand resignation from one of his men who spent millions on khebabs and pampers.  Something he later described as indiscretion and not corruption.

It has been a years and half now and I’m beginning to dread the next two years under Prof. Mills. Buried under an avalanche of problems, from unemployment, erratic water and power supply to extreme poverty, the President has resorted cheap populist tactics. Dropping in unannounced at public agencies, where his ill-advised spokespersons say he goes to listen to the troubles of workers and assure them of his support.  Really, why did he bother with appointing sector Ministers then? The most ridiculous was the bus ride he took with his Ministers which was touted as a proof of his humility, as if humility will clear hawking children off the streets or restore law and order.

Youth from the ruling party have been on rampage since he came into office seizing public toilets, toll booths, threatening to kill MCEs, demanding the sack of certain officials whom they disagree with and chasing public officers out of work.  And the father of the nation is yet to make the statement  most Ghanaians are yearning to hear. Call these idiots to order. Tell them he meant it when he called himself our father.

The only statement the president has made since the madness of these boys set in, is to agree to their demands. Ministers, DCEs and public servants have been sacked on their say-so, making some of us wonder what else they will get handed them by been unruly. A week ago, the Upper West Regional Minister Mahmoud Khalid was fired because the boys called for his head. They ransacked his office and he got the sack. None of the so-called indisciplined foot-soldiers have been arrested since the attack.

Much as the “us against them mentality” of the foot soldiers is a threat to our unity as a nation, it is the refusal of the President to make any attempt to rein in these boys and to assure the rest of us-law abiding citizens of  commitment to building a safe and unified Ghana that amazes me. No leader should miss an opportunity to be great.

There is a scene from Clint Eastwood’s Invictus where Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela makes a trip to a town hall meeting to stop members of his party from destroying the fragile unity of the country with a stupid decision on color of members of the baseball team.  In this scene, when Mandela is berated by his aides for meddling, he replies “in this case the people do not have all the information and as their leader I should make good decisions for them.”

And he successfully not with most votes though, quelled the tension and moved the people along in his vision for the rainbow nation.  What Madiba did in that scene is what I expected from President Mills. At least do something to prove he is not pleasing these boys who do have all the information.

When President Mills made his “slow but sure speech,” he asked to be judged at the end of his four-year term and not halfway into it.  And I do agree with him, with his unruly youth on the prowl, we should wait and give him a resounding F on his report card in 2012.

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