Dele Momodu: As Ghana heads to general elections

by Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, this seems to be the season of elections in different parts of the world. We can start from Nigeria, our dear beloved country. Two critical elections have come and gone in recent months. The first was in my home State of Edo where the APC candidate, Godwin Obaseki, trounced his arch-rival, Pastor Ize-Iyamu of PDP. Godwin Obaseki has since been sworn in as the Governor while the PDP stalwarts and teir gubernatorial candidate continue to lament like the Biblical Jeremiah. It is not clear if their lamentations and grumblings would be limited to their homes and party offices or if they would pursue the matter to the Supreme Court, starting with a Petition to the Election Tribunal.

Elections are seemingly forever contentious everywhere including, even now, America where some Hillary Clinton supporters are already seeking a recount of some swing States. It is apparently in the nature of human beings to reject defeat even where there has previously been concession. We all love to win. But the truth is that only one contestant can win in an election that requires just one victor.

In Ondo State, another APC candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu has just overwhelmed the PDP candidate Eyitayo Jegede and the AD candidate, Olusola Oke. It was bound to happen as a result of the war of attrition rocking PDP, a party that once boasted to be Africa’s largest political congregation. Theirs was a classic case of a house divided against itself cannot stand. The division within PDP has been so deep that it would seem someone somewhere has hypnotised them so much that they can no longer see that they are miserably on the road to eternal perdition. Again, whilst all the other candidates and even the outgoing Governor, Dr Rahman Mimiko, have congratulated the victorious Aketi, the PDP candidate by Supreme Court fiat, Mr Eyitayo Jegede still seems to be in a state of shock and stupor and has been ominously silent.

What looks obvious to all discerning minds is that APC is determined to stamp its full authority on Nigeria. The party is working, some people are saying by hook and crook, while others believe that the change mantra is working even if many Nigerians are grunting aloud. Those opposed to the Buhari government are convinced in their opinion that the ruling administration is merely manipulating the system in its own favour to create the impression that it is loved by the generality of Nigerians. On the other hand the pro-Buhari supporters are boasting that these elections have demonstrated clearly how much Nigerians love and adore our no-nonsense President and that this is clear manifestation of their endorsement of Buhari’s policies, no matter how draconian it may appear to the so-called wailing-wailers. So far, so good, the winning streak of APC is confirming the latter view.

From Nigeria, let’s make a brief stop-over in Banjul, The Gambia, one of my favourite tourist destinations, where reports oozed out yesterday that the strongman, President Yayah Jameh, has finally lost his grip on power, after over two decades of iron-fisted rule. He lost resoundingly to a political tyro, Adama Barrow, after most of the opposition parties formed themselves into a strong coalition to focre what observers are calling a real political paradigm shift in Africa because nobody believed it was a possible feat. Even international observers stayed away after the country was plunged into international information darkness by the banning of international calls and internet activity. The outcome of the elections in The Gambia should however not be surprising to any student of history because whatever has a beginning must have an end. A good actor should always know when to quit the stage. I strongly believe that no President or Prime Minister should ever spend more than a total of two terms spanning a maximum of eight to ten years in power. After that, the law of diminishing returns would naturally set in. Whatever a leader can’t achieve in those eight to ten years may never be actualised in an entire lifetime. A serious leader must set a powerful template in his first tenure and consolidate decisively if lucky to get a second term. The tendency to become an autocrat or dictator after eight or ten years is simply too strong and can only be managed by constitutional means which limits terms to two and no more.

This is what has happened before our very eyes in Ghana, where President John Dramani Mahama would face the battle of his life next Wednesday, December 7, 2016, when he seeks a re-election. It promises to be a battle royale between President Mahama and his strongest challenger Nana Akufo-Addo. Ghana is currently on edge as both the President’s NDC party and the opposition NPP are taking this election like the Mohammed Ali/Joe Fraizer rumble in the jungle fight. Neither of them is willing to yield any ground or quarter.

President Mahama comes with very powerful commendations from party faithfuls and non-partisans. He is largely believed to have changed and transformed Ghana like no other leader since the time of the great Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah. In fact, his aggressive investments in infrastructure development has earned him the sobriquet of Kwame Nkrumah II. The manner he has been commissioning new projects daily has also attracted his latest nickname of The Commissioner-in-Chief, a positive change from the Commander-in-Chief that is the favoured moniker of most African leaders. It is doubtful if any President has surpassed Mahama currently in the area of infrastructure within the past four years in Africa. If infrastructure alone could win an election, this election would have been a no-contest and President Mahama would have won with automatic alacrity.

His most vociferous critics are saying people need jobs and food in their stomachs and not infrastructure. His humble response is that he appreciates the hardship Ghanaians are facing and pleads that they should endure a little as he is not engaging in quick fixes but enduring legacies. President Mahama insists that the best way to solve the excruciating problems of unemployment is through deliberate and total commitment to investing heavily in infrastructure development. The schools he is building will afford more students the opportunity to get enrolled, educated and finish with skills hitherto denied them. The schools would employ many more teachers. He is skilfully shifting attention away from humanities to technical studies. He says this would make it easier for Ghanaian youths to be more readily employable. He wants Ghana to train her young ones to become the best artisans in West Africa. As a matter of fact, he has converted and upgraded Polytechnics and Technical Colleges to universities. This has generated a lot of excitement.

President Mahama has built some incredible hospitals of international standards. The aesthetic and clean hospitals have even been likened to hotels. He says these hospitals would employ more Doctors and nurses and other medical personnel.

He has virtually contained the erratic power outage that ravaged Ghana not too long ago and this is probably his greatest achievement, even if many of his fellow citizens may not appreciate such miracle. As a Nigerian, I know what we have suffered because of electricity failure. Any leader who is able to tackle and bring an end to the intractable issue of power in Nigeria would be worshipped forever. The gains are only too evident because no nation can seek to be an industrial power with electricity and other alternate forms of power supply in which President Mahama is also investing..

On his part, the main opposition leader, Nana Akufo-Addo is an accomplished lawyer and was a Minister of Foreign Affairs under President John Agyekum Kufuor. He is widely respected at home and abroad. This would be his third attempt after losing to the late John Evans Atta-Mills in 2008 and to John Dramani Mahama in 2012. It remains to be seen if he would be third time lucky now that he is facing an extremely popular leader and incumbent President whose slogan TOASO (a Twi word for Continue) has resonated massively across the nation.

Nana Akufo-Addo prides himself as an anti-corruption agent and has promised to sweep corruption out of the Ghanaian system. The present Government asks for evidence of such corruption but Nana and the opposition have not been able to point to any corruption or scandal to substantiate the label of an anti-corruption crusader like President Buhari was able to do in Nigeria. His slogan of Change is however popular among his dedicated followers who love him to bits. The issue is what kind of change? His cerebral composure has been taken for ivory tower arrogance by his critics. His supporters have been labelled as being too volatile and querulous and ready to pick a fight at the slightest provocation. They are generally disparaged as intolerant of any other view or candidates but theirs. Nana has come a long way since his first attempt. This looks like his last chance at 72 years old. If he fails this time, it may be difficult for him to come back at 76 to run another race. President Mahama on the other hand was born in 1958 and turned 58 only a few days ago.

There is therefore so much at stake in this election. Will Ghanaians abandon a youthful President who has laid a good foundation on which to build a superstructure next term or reject a much older but very idealistic candidate who has promised them a radical change very similar to what we promised Nigerians last year? It is a big dilemma for many Ghanaians. Change has become a very complex slogan in Ghana. Mahama says he has already brought change to Ghana by transforming the country from an analogue infrastructure era to a digital age level. Nana dismisses Mahama as incompetent and mediocre. He and his party have not seen much to trumpet about Mahama’s much-advertised achievements. The most astonishing aspect of this electioneering campaign has been the way the opposition has pooh poohed and dismissed Mahama’s monumental achievement, the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange, easily the longest flyover in West Africa, as a non-event, and ordered its bigwigs to avoid driving on it so as not to validate its importance of what Ghanaians now call their own Dubai.

As always with Ghanaian elections, it will be a very close race, and whosoever wins can only do so by the whiskers. Most recent polls have predicted a win for President Mahama by a slim margin but no one can be absolutely certain until the results are finally announced hopefully on December 8. The tension in Ghana is so thick and palpable right now that you can literarily cut it with a blade. My prayer is for peace to reign in Ghana and for the victor to be magnanimous and the loser to be graceful in defeat.

May almighty God help the Republic of Ghana.

This article was first published in ThisDay Newspapers

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