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December 2009

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The year 2009 has been an exciting one on this blog. It wouldn’t have been so without your patronage. You take time off whatever schedule you have to come visit. For that I am grateful.

I am especially grateful to those of you who take even more time to generously share your thoughts with me, offering varying perspectives on issues ranging from Muntaka’s ‘chinchinga’ to bowel evacuation habits.

Special thanks to Wascarat, Abena Obi, Hubert NY, Nana Essiful, ‘Somebody’, Adowa, Paa Kwesi, Banske and all those who offered ideas that contributed to making this ‘playground’ so interesting. I’ve not met most of you but I consider you all as friends.

I wish all the very best of 2010. I hope it’s certainly better than the year just gone by. I pray for increased wisdom for us all and greater love for our country.

Thanks, once again and Happy New Year.
 

When I last saw Dan Lartey, he gave me a very strong and firm handshake. He looked good. He looked healthy. He looked very young for a man in his eighties and if anyone had told me that he’d be dead in 12 months, I’d have told the person to go to hell.

It was a couple of weeks to the elections last year and Uncle Dan – dreaming of running for the presidency for the third time – had come to JOY FM in the early morning to defend his choice of running mate. Just before entering the studio, I went to him to say ‘hello’ and I asked him why he won’t just give up, pointing out to him that I know he would never be president. He went into a tirade. He was throwing his hands all over the place and saying things that made me laugh. It seemed to me that he was joking. But he was dead serious.

I can still hear him stammering as he tried to make his point and I can see his eyes puff out and open wide, the sides of his mouth frothing as he berated the Kufuor administration for running the country down and leading the country nowhere.

On that I agreed with him.

“Ghanaians have seen the mistake they made in voting for Kufuor,” he said. “This year, they will vote for me. They now know that domestication is the only way out.”

On that, I was certain he didn’t know what he was talking about.

But let’s give it to him. Dan Lartey was a man of deep convictions and he stubbornly stood by each of them. He had made up his mind that Ghana can’t develop if our leaders keep going around the world, cup in hand, looking for so-called investors and hand outs from the west. He told us to look within and think “domestication”.

Most of us didn’t take him seriously enough. We couldn’t have. The things he said and the manner he said them were funny. Whiles most of us saw him as a fair sprinkling of comic relief for the Ghanaian body politic, he didn’t see himself as such. He was certain he had something to offer.

And now that he’s gone, we can look back and ask – what did Dan Lartey offer Ghanaians?

For starters, he offered ‘domestication’. It must have sounded like a joke when he spoke the word in the run up to the presidential elections in 2004. But he was right. We cannot develop if we don’t start making good use of what we’ve been endowed with. No one can take “domestication” from Uncle Dan. The theory was not exactly his. But he found the right word for it and that word will ring in our heads for a long time.

All the candidates who contested the elections last year spoke about the need for us to look within. None of them dared to use the word because Uncle Dan would have been on their necks for stealing his idea. Now, as we celebrate his life, we should reflect deeply on the Lartey Doctrine of “domestication” – start doing things for ourselves, use our resources wisely and stop depending on handouts.

In his stubbornness, Dan Lartey also taught each of us to be passionate about what we believe in and press on with it. Even though he always stood out as the odd one, Uncle Dan never gave up. He knew people laughed at him and belittled his ambitions. But he was unfazed. He had made up his mind that ‘domestication’ is key for Ghana’s development and nothing could change it. For that, I’d say, Dan Lartey had a solid pair between his legs.

Only a man with balls of steel will press on the way Dan Lartey did.

In the end he achieved a lot for himself. It’s true that he didn’t attain the political success he desired. But he attained significance. Each time the word ‘domestication’ comes up, Dan Lartey’s name will spring up in the minds of millions of Ghanaians. That is significance. And that’s what life should be about. Dan Lartey lived his to the fullest and I am sure he had a lot of fun.

So long, Uncle Dan.

Christmas is a special time to remember those close to our hearts.

Those who visit this blog are as close to my heart as any friend could be. We share ideas, engage in arguments, pat each other on the back, chastise each other, encourage ourselves, poke fun at ourselves and do everything friends do.

I consider you all as friends – some I like very much, others I can’t stand. I know some of you can’t stand me as well.

But in the spirit of true democracy, we tolerate each other. This season is one of the best times for us to reach out, embrace each other and wish ourselves well. So as we go into the holidays, I wish you the very best of the season.

A friend sent me a text message which wished me “all the timeless treasures of Christmas, the warmth of home, the love of family and the company of good friends.” That exactly is my wish for you this season.

Have fun. Stay alive and be kind.
 

The mayor of Accra, Alfred Vanderpuije, claims he has not received any instruction from the president to halt his decongestion exercise. That’s strange and throws up all sorts of questions.

First, who should we believe – Vanderpuije or the two state-owned dailies – Ghanaian Times and Daily Graphic, which reported that the president had ordered the mayor to stop beating the hawkers off the pavements in Accra’s central business district.

Whiles claiming that he has not received any such directive, Mayor Vanderpuije, suggests that the Graphic and Times cooked up the story. And that’s where the second question comes in: how can both Graphic and Times get it so wrong on the same day with the same story? That hardly happens.

But the mayor claims that the president called him to apologise for the stories in the two newspapers. Why will the president do that? The editors of the two newspapers are in no hurry to apologise to the mayor and so why is the president saying sorry?

It’s all so confusing and annoying!

Something very fishy is going on. The only one who can give us the clearest picture is the president and his men. Yet they are all mum, shying away from interviews on the subject.

The only ‘big’ man who has spoken about the issue is lawyer and NDC apologist, David Annan, who is pretty close to some of the top guys at the Castle. He says Vanderpuije is a liar. In this case, Mr. Annan’s story seems quite plausible.

Having listened to different sides, I think I have an idea what has actually happened. What is playing up in my mind is not as clear as what we’d have if someone from the presidency spoke about the issue. But here is how it goes.

Vanderpuije did attend a meeting with the President, who ordered him to go easy with the decongestion exercise. Vanderpuije agreed to do as he’d been told. But the discussion was not supposed to be made public in order not to reverse whatever “gains” the mayor claims to have made. Someone in government, however, decided to leak the outcome of the meeting to the Daily Graphic and Ghanaian Times.

The mayor feels hard done by and that could explain why the president called him to salve his ego and to tell him to concentrate on other pressing problems in the city – and not to apologise because the president is not the Graphic and Times. But whether he likes it or not, the mayor knows that he wings have been clipped and he’s been forced to tamper his overzealousness with common sense and to rethink the whole decongestion exercise. That’s why he dares not go out there to chase the hawkers who are back on the pavements.

The mayor of Accra, Alfred Vanderpuije, has been going around churches praying for the success of his “decongestion” exercise. But God always knows better. So Vanderpuije didn’t get the answers he had hoped for.

Vanderpuije’s boss, the president, has ordered him to stop chasing and beating up hapless people whose only crime has been to get on the street to make a living for themselves. It’s a very sensible instruction the president has issued and it gladdens my heart so.

When Vanderpuije came in from wherever he’s been and started hounding the traders, I said he was on the wrong path.

I am not surprised that it has come to this. A few months I wrote that the decongestion exercise will come to nothing. So I knew it would come to this. At the time, I was criticised for being pessimistic and for encouraging people to break the law. But I was being pragmatic. And today, sad to say, I feel vindicated. I am disappointed that it took the president seven months to knock some sense into Vanderpuije’s head. But, as they say, better late than never.

Here is what I wrote in July >>>

Of all the problems in Accra, the city’s new mayor has made it a top priority to get rid of street hawkers in the central business district and a couple of other commercial centres. It’s been tried before. Alfred Vanderpuije knows it but he seems determined to succeed where those before him failed. But he won’t do any better than his predecessors. The so-called decongestion exercise will fail – again!

Mr. Vanderpuije’s advisors should tell him to focus on more pressing issues – like developing an efficient drainage system, sorting out the city’s garbage issues and ensuring that Accra is as well-planned as a capital city should be. If he goes on with this decongestion exercise, money would be wasted but the situation won’t change – the same scenario as four three years ago when about three hundred thousand Ghana cedis (or three billion cedis) went down the drain in a needless and futile attempt to get the hawkers off the pavements of Makola.

Let’s face it. The central business district of Accra is a commercial centre. The whole area is one big market and like every market we should expect the area to be a congested beehive of economic activity. Most African markets are like that. We’ve lived with it for decades and it’s hard to see why the mayor wants to change it.

These hawkers are on the streets because they need to survive. Government should be looking for ways to help their small businesses thrive instead of hounding them with batons, destroying their stalls and breaking their wares.

We live in a country where jobs are hard to come by. The only way for most unemployed men and women to earn a living is to sell on the streets. These people sell odds and ends just to be able to feed themselves (often with ‘gari’ and ‘moko yerawa’). I don’t think that the hawkers selling on the pavements in the central business district of Accra (and some other major cities in Ghana) enjoy standing in the scorching sun for the fun of it. If they had any other alternatives (like working in air-conditioned offices even as cleaners and messengers) they wouldn’t be standing on the streets. If these guys and gals had been offered the hope of a better future in their villages they wouldn’t have trekked all the way to Accra to hustle. They would have stayed in the hamlets, tilling the land to fend for themselves.

But they have been forced by circumstances to hustle on the streets and they should left alone. The pointless harassment of the hapless hawkers should stop and soon. Until government creates conditions that give them hope and alternative livelihoods, no one has any justification for hounding them off the streets. Government should be thankful that these young men and women have not taken to crime and have decided to make a living for themselves by hawking.

Under the circumstance, therefore, the central business district is where the hawkers should be. You chase them out of that area and they move to places we don’t want them to be. You destroy their small businesses and you force them into ventures that cause all sorts of problems for the society. They would go into armed robbery, prostitution and all other sorts of criminal activities that will create a greater nuisance for us all. The social cost of the so-called decongestion exercise is, therefore, worse than the minor inconvenience of the hawkers’ presence on the pavements.

Even if there was a compelling reason to get the hawkers off the streets, it would make no sense for Mr. Vanderpuije and the AMA to go chasing them away without making alternative arrangements for them to continue earning a livelihood. No such arrangements have been made. All the AMA and the supporters of the decongestion exercise can point to is the so-called ‘Pedestrian Shopping Mall’ – tucked away in the back alleys of the Kwame Nkrumah Circle. That “mall” (whoever decided to call it so needs to have his head re-examined) cannot contain a tenth of the vast number of traders in the central business district. To make matters worse shoppers don’t like to go there and so the few traders who were allocated stalls there have also decided to go where the shoppers go – the pavements.

The presence of the hawkers on the pavement is a problem. Granted. But this problem cannot just be chased away with batons. What is needed is a coherent plan to contain it. At this stage the best the AMA can do is containment.

Containing the hawkers means designating special areas in the city for them to earn the keep. The central business district should be the first of these areas. Add all the other big markets in the city and move all the hawkers there. Force them to remain there and tell the whole world that there are specified bustling market centres in the city where everyone can go and buy whatever they want. Those who go there will be well advised to park their cars in designated areas (like the car park on the high street) and walk.

After this has been done, it will be very easy to deal drastically with hawkers who have invaded places like the Oxford Street in Osu and the Circle-Avenor stretch, which has been taken over by motorbike sellers.
It’s hard to see the sense in the AMA chasing hapless hawkers from Makola and its environs (where they should be because it’s a market centre) whiles the streets of Osu and Avenor have been invaded by people who shouldn’t be there. Shouldn’t the AMA be rather forcing the people in places like Osu to move to the market centres?

This whole decongestion exercise has not been very well thought-through. And that’s why it will fail.
Decongestion – as is being done now – will also fail because the ruling party cannot live with the political consequences. The pigheaded gentleman who started it all – Nii Adjiri Blankson – started without thinking about how it will affect the political fortunes of his party. They paid dearly for it.

The NDC will not like to suffer the same fate and so I do not believe those in the party who say that they would rather take unpopular decisions and lose power. In fact, a lot of people support the exercise. It’s a popular exercise with the price tag of an unpopular one. They can pretend all they want but the NDC cannot afford to pay the price and very soon someone higher up in the pecking order will call up the mayor and tell him to either put the exercise on hold or give up completely. We’ve seen it before and it will happen again.

The decongestion will also fail because neither the city of Accra nor the central government has what it takes to keep the hawkers off the streets. Right now in the central business district, there are no hawkers on the pavements. They have been replaced by baton wielding officers drawn from the fire service, the police and the AMA’s own corps of city guards.

Very soon the fire service will want it personnel back to do what they are supposed to do – putting out fires. The police officers are also needed to check and investigate crimes. The AMA doesn’t have the money to train enough city guards to keep the hawkers off the pavements. Soon the ‘forces’ who have been chasing the hawkers will run out of steam and the pavements will be just like Adjiri Blankson left them.

So the whole point of the decongestion exercise is lost on me. Does the mayor want to sleep on the pavements of Makola? This exercise – like the ones before it – has failure written all over it. Mr. Vanderpuije will soon find out. And he’d be as disappointed as those before him.

President Mills’ director of communication, Koku Anyidoho is being dragged before the privileges committee of parliament – for all the wrong reasons. The minority in parliament complained bitterly to the speaker that Anyidoho had insulted them in a radio interview.

“President Mills will hear but will not pay attention to the bellicose, whimsical and capricious irresponsibility of Opare-Ansah [the MP for Suhum] and his lot,” Anyidoho said in response to minority suggestions that President Mills could be impeached if he failed to name those whose brown envelopes he had refused. “And we are telling Opare-Ansah and co. that they better get ready. This irresponsibility, their bellicosity is nonsense.”

Only a sissy would feel so hurt by words like these. When he went to parliament crying like a baby with claims that he has been dishonoured, the speaker should have told Opare-Ansah to shut the hell up and get on with it. He can’t always get people saying nice things about him and a man should be able to take a few verbal punches. It annoys me that the instead of telling the embittered MP to swallow his pride and find better things to complain about, the speaker decided to refer the matter to the privileges committee, which will from next year be wasting precious time deliberating over Opare-Ansah’s bruised ego.

Few will disagree that Koku is a foul-mouthed bully. Many do not understand why President Mills keeps a man like Anyidoho in his inner circle. I have had my own brush-offs with him and I know for sure that he hates my guts. The feeling is mutual. On this occasion, however, I want to stand with him. This is not to gain his amity. I don’t need it. I am standing by Anyidoho because free speech is under attack. His right to speak his mind – and to do so in the harshest terms possible – needs to be defended.

If a man describes another as “irresponsible” what is the insult in that? If a man tell his fellow that he’s spewing “nonsense”, what’s wrong with that? This is democracy. In the democratic sphere, there are no sacred cows. If Opare-Ansah feels he can’t be described as “irresponsible” he should check into a Buddhist monastery and stay there until his last breath.

Perhaps, Anyidoho was not politically-correct. But when did it become a crime to be tactless? This attitude of forcing ourselves to so carefully choose our words has bred a certain unwieldy complacency among our leaders. We don’t tell them how we feel and in the exact words they need to hear so they think they can get away with anything. It even stifles our vocabulary.

For example, have you noticed that a lot of people like to use the word “unfortunate” when they are expressing their disagreement with what others have said or done?

Question: “Mr. Minister, what do you think about the lack of toilet facilities in Chorkor?”
Answer: “It’s rather unfortunate, but we are going to deal with it.”

Question: “What do you think about President Mills failing to call Koku Anyidoho to order?”
Answer: “It’s very unfortunate.”

There is a very wide vocabulary that that can be used to express varied emotions and sentiments about events and pertinent issues. I am sick and tired of hearing “unfortunate”. And I am glad Koku Anyidoho dared to be different. I am sure if he had said that the minority’s demand for the impeachment of the president was “unfortunate”, Opare-Ansah wouldn’t have gone to the speaker whining.

I don’t see anything wrong with Anyidoho describing the minority as “irresponsible” and full of “nonsense”. What if he had described them as a bunch of “idiots”? That sounds more like an insult to me. Even so, it would have been perfectly within his right to say so.

Politics is not for people with fragile egos and so Opare-Ansah and his friends should develop a thicker skin and get on with it.

I’ve often had suspicions about the ‘by-heart’ way the police sometimes does its work. Imagine officers raiding a place like Avenor and arresting about 300 people, claiming that they are all criminals. These may include include passers-by, hustling shoeshine boys, anyone with a screwdriver in his hand, pan latrine carriers, the homeless, the sick, the ugly and the insane. And, of course, there are the real suspects.

The police do not have any statistics (of course, there is no need for them to keep records) but I will bet my last cedi that the totally-innocent would outnumber the real suspects by a ratio of about 1 to 10. None of those who have been arrested without cause has taken on the police and so they keep doing it. Today, they go and arrest people in a swoop in Tip-Toe Lane. Tomorrow, you’d hear they’ve done the same in Nima or Ashaiman. And because no one complains, they feel it’s alright.

It was with this same laissez-faire, brutish sort of policing without intelligence that police officers raided the warehouses of Kinapharma in search of suspected narcotic substances. When I heard the news that police had seized some “suspicious substances” at the company’s warehouse, I wasn’t exactly surprised. I was like “there we go again”. This is Ghana. People have been stashing cocaine in tubers of yam so it is entirely possible to try and conceal narcotics in a pharmaceutical warehouse.

What I didn’t get was what the ‘Daily Graphic’ reported the day after the raid. The paper reported that the substances had tested “partially” positive for cocaine. What does it mean for a substance to be “partially” cocaine? I didn’t get it. From the elementary chemistry I know, the substance is either present or absent. It can’t be partially present or partially absent.

That was when I felt that there was something wrong. That report in the ‘Daily Graphic’ clearly pointed to sloppy policing. It’s hard to fathom why anyone will seek to publicise this on the front pages of a major national daily. I suspect an officer seeking to be promoted earlier than he deserves was behind leakage of the information to the newspaper – information which turned out to be completely wrong. There was no cocaine.

Now, Kinapharma feels hurt. Very hurt. The impression has been created in the public mind that the company is a front for a narcotic dealership. In a country where all manner of persons – very big and too small – have been involved in the illicit drugs trade, it is not good for your name to be mentioned in the same breath as cocaine.

That’s why Kinapharma wants the police to clear up the mess they have created. The company is demanding an apology. The police insist that they acted on “reasonable suspicion” and so they won’t render an apology. They also deny knowledge of the report in the ‘Daily Graphic’, which first linked Kinapharma to cocaine. Clearly, the police are lying. Someone in the CID leaked the information to the newspaper.

On two fronts, the police erred. First, they went into the warehouse with nothing and they got nothing. They claim they went in there with “reasonable suspicion”. Now, we know there was absolutely nothing reasonable about their suspicions. Secondly, they leaked information (from a police source) has severely dented the image of Kinapharma. The company, therefore, has every right to demand an apology.

The police are playing hardball because an apology will make them look stupid. It would make it clear that they didn’t know what they were about. By apologising, the CID will be exposing one of its major deficiencies – the lack of intelligence and its penchant to act on hearsay, with little or no investigation.

This is one of the reasons why there are so many remand prisoners in this country. Police officers just arrest people with little or no evidence of their involvement in criminal activity and dump them in the prisons. That’s why there is good cause for scepticism when police claim to have shot and killed an armed robber. If they had the opportunity, some of the dead men will tell IGP and his men that they are innocent. But they are dead and they can’t speak for themselves.

An admission that something went wrong at Kinapharma will help us all come to the realisation that the police make (and have made) more mistakes than they care to admit. And the police top brass doesn’t want us to know.

But it will do the police and this nation a lot of good if the CID just conceded that they erred. They should tell us why what happened at Kinapharma happened. Their tough guy stance is not even helping the Mills administration. There are suggestions that what happened at Kinapharma was politically-motivated and it’s a sign of the anti-business stance of the NDC and its founder. The government will be happy to hear the police administration say a few words of appeasement to Kinapharma and its managers. So the IGP and his men should stop the grandstanding and apologise – not just to Kinapharma but to all those innocents who have been caught up in their net of haphazard swoops. We don’t need a ‘macho’, self-glorifying, police service that cloaks its incompetence in “reasonable suspicion.”

It’s taken too long but finally, it’s here.

For those of you who like your internet on the go, this blog is now available on your mobile device. Just type in m.atokd.com on your mobile phone and you can access a scaled-down version of the site.

On the mobile site, you can read the latest articles and add your comments. With the mobile site up and running, can read on the trotro on your way to (and from) town. When you can’t bear the wait any longer in the post office or the ‘trotro’ station, you can just whip out your phone and join the discussion. You can even read in the loo. The choice is yours.

Don’t get too hooked on mobile though. There are certain features, like the poll and audio files, which can only be accessed on the main site.

The mobile version should have come much earlier, I know. Sorry about that. But I am glad that it’s finally up and running. My appreciation to Michael Adom for putting it together. I am also thankful for all those who kept reminding me about the need to get a mobile site.

It’s almost impossible to take pride in much of what Africa has to offer. Until last Friday, I couldn’t readily point to anything that made me a proud son of Africa. But thanks to the stellar organisation of the World Cup Draw in South Africa, that has changed.

I am not going to go around the world thumping my chest quiet yet, but I just felt I should put it on record that the South Africans put up a world class show, comparable to similar events that have taken place in Tokyo, Paris and Berlin.

There wasn’t a glitch – the power stayed on, the microphones worked like they should and the event was well-co-ordinated. The artistic performances were great – they drummed and danced like Africans love to do but there was nothing corny about what they did. Watching the ‘Umoja’ was exhilarating. They also made very good use of the best technology to wow the global audience that had tuned in to see the ‘show’. That animated 3D mascot which suddenly sprung out of the large screen was a masterpiece. And the footage of animals playing football – some expressing agony, others delight – was excellent.

With a show like that the South Africans have silenced all those who said they couldn’t host the World Cup.

I compare what I saw last Friday to the draw for the CAN 2008 tournament in Accra I feel a little ashamed to be a Ghanaian. It was embarrassing. I could never watch a playback of the CAN 2008 draw. But I’ve watched the World Cup Draw for a second time. I will watch it whenever I get the opportunity because it was such a delightful ceremony. Watching it gladdens my heart and fills me with joy in the knowledge that there are human beings on this continent who are making very good use of their brain cells, thinking out of the box and literally telling the rest of the world that “we are Africans but we are different – we don’t settle for just about anything and demand applause.”

As an African, I felt great pride. If it were easy to do so, I would give up my Ghanaian passport for a South African one. Now, if I see a South African with a ‘vuvuzela’ I won’t tell him to stop the noise. I’d urge him on because he and his countrymen truly deserve to blow their horns.

A display like what the South Africans put up does mean, however, that the African has arrived. Far from that. South Africa’s pride cannot be Africa’s pride because Africa is not one country and the rest of the world knows that. You will hear people saying that Africa is ready to host the world but they know which side of Africa is hosting the world. It’s not in Nigeria and it’s not in Ghana. We can borrow some of the South African pride but it’s not enough to be spread around the continent. Much of it will go to South Africa and its citizens.

So in spite of what we saw in South Africa last Friday, we must acknowledge that we still have a very long way to go as Africans. The wars must end. Diseases must be conquered. And our leaders must stop thinking like they have empty coconut shells for heads. There is so much that needs to be done to bring the rest of the continent to the point where most of the countries on the continent can put up a show like the South Africans did. And we should get there quickly. If the rest of Africa starts to think like South Africa does, it will be an important first step.

President Mills is under siege. No doubt about that. He has become such an easy target that an increasing number of people are baying to take a hit at him. What is most intriguing is that the heaviest hitters are people within his own party. The opposition can take a vacation.

Just last week, it was the majority leader in parliament, Alban Bagbin. He said the president, who likes to portray himself as a humble sheep, has surrounded himself with aides and confidantes who behave like foxes, hyenas and lions. These people, according to Mr. Bagbin, tend to intimidate and harass anyone who tries to offer some useful counsel to the president.

Days before Mr. Bagbin’s comment, the man who transformed the then Prof. Mill from a taxman to a politician, Jerry John Rawlings, and a group of constituency chairmen of the ruling party were expressing indignation at how the president been conducting himself in office.

Mr. Rawlings believes strongly that his protégé has employed incompetent ‘bastards’ who have taken advantage of their proximity to power to satisfy their selfish interests.

The NDC constituency chairmen, on the other hand, are peeved that the president has surrounded himself with what they describe as a brick wall that has rendered him impervious to (wise) counsel from anywhere beyond his Castle.

Way before the constituency chairmen, Rawlings and Alban Bagbin, there was a certain Spio-Garbrah who was bold (some say silly) enough to tell the president that his governing team is made up mostly of a bunch of incompetent losers who do not even qualify to sit on the substitutes’ bench.

All this must be giving the president a variety of migraines. It must feel like he’s being boxed into a corner by his own people and he should be justifiably frustrated. But as if all that wasn’t enough, the president is getting more hits this week – this time from some key MPs, apparently following in the example of the majority leader. Moses Asaga (MP, Nabdam) doesn’t understand why he, a leading member of the ruling party, doesn’t get access to crucial information on oil exploration; Alfred Agbesi (Ashaiman) is peeved that the no attempt has been made to fulfil a promise to provide legislators with office accommodation and Michael Tei Nyaunu (MP, Lower Manya Krobo) thinks the economic policies drawn up for next year, cannot be met because the government hasn’t shown any extraordinary desire to achieve. They all blame the president.

With such heavy critics from within his own party, the president might need a little more than his regular dose of paracetamol or codeine. But it’s important for him to maintain his cool. The manner he deals with the discontent in his party will be a very good test of his worth as a leader.

It is important for the president to deal with the avalanche of criticisms decisively and intelligently without panicking. That directive for appointees to grant audience to NDC faithful was a panic measure. It’s very hard to believe that it came from the president. A politically savvy leader will not tell his press secretary to tell Ghanaians that those with ruling party membership cards will get easier access to his appointees. It is the absence of this political shrewdness that is causing all of these headaches for the president.

In his bid to show that he has his own solid pair of balls, the president has so alienated his political sponsor, Jerry Rawlings, that the former president’s allies are wont to see Mills as an enemy. It’s good for the president to assert himself. But alienating people is not the best way to express assertiveness. The majority leader, for example, feels alienated. And he’s the guy who is supposed to be pursuing the president’s legislative agenda in parliament. The president should find a way to work with him without the trappings of political patronage.

On the flipside, however, the president ought to make it clear to his party faithful that he is not a president for only NDC supporters. He is the president of Ghana and he should snub those who encourage him to act and think like a partisan. If there are jobs to be created, they will be created for Ghanaians – not just NDC supporters. If there are development projects to undertake, they will be for Ghanaians – not only supporters of the NDC. The president should think Ghana and those who tell him to think about the party and its so-called foot soldiers (what do they do anyway?) should be told in the crudest language to go to hell. Therefore, the presidential directive – if the Castle press secretary wasn’t passing off his opinion as executive fiat – for NDC faithful to be granted access should be immediately withdrawn. It was a mistake.

The president also needs to listen and work with the advice of those who criticise him for being too slow. Indecision is not the mark of a good leader. His own remarks that he has a four-year mandate and so Ghanaians should wait and judge him at the end of that period portray him as a leader without a sense of urgency. His close aides can live with the fact that he is “like that” and he “takes his time” to do things. Ghanaians cannot accept that. So if people from within his party are complaining that things are moving too slowly, the president must take heed and start running – as he promised in his sessional address. Any limbs he broke when he hit the ground should have healed well enough for him to start trotting – at the very least. As things stand now, it doesn’t seem like he’s the mood for a sprint – for that’s what a presidential term is. And that is a problem.

Finally, president should realise that a lot of the punches that are being thrown at him are actually meant for some of the people he’s working with. He knows as well as a lot of Ghanaians do that some of his appointees are simply not up to the task and he needs to get rid of them. But out of sheer stubbornness and a misguided attempt to prove that he knows what he’s doing, President Mills is sticking to his guns. If he wants to get things done and fast – so that he wins a second term in office – he will need to quickly drop some of his squad members and bring in some fresh limbs and brains.

If he gets rid of the hyenas who intimidate the likes of Alban Bagbin, a lot within the party will be more than happy to have their voices heard, offering constructive criticism that will help maintain party cohesion and help him pursue his agenda of building “a better Ghana”. If he gets rid of the square pegs in round holes and bring in those who are not coming in to learn on the job with steep learning curves, manifesto promises will be fulfilled within the shortest possible time and the Ghanaian electorate will be more than happy to consider him for a second term.

If the president, however, insists on doing this his own (slow) way – moving ‘nyaaa’ like he’s been doing since January – then he should continue dismissing his critics as annoying spoilers. He will end up being the first one-term president under the fourth republic. If that happens the NDC will end up where it was about a year ago – in opposition. And that is a terrible place to be. If Mills sends the NDC there once again, even his closest aides who are throwing their weight about today, will never forgive him.