12 January 2013

Ghana: As Ghana's Mahama Settles Down

Accra — On Monday January 7, 2013 Mr. John Dramani Mahama was sworn-in as the President of Ghana, amidst boycott by the opposition, even after challenging his victory at the Supreme Court.

Main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) has vowed to stay away from the event and requested all its members to have nothing to do with the installation of President Mahama.

Scores of party youths had besieged the Airport Residential Area residence of elder statesman and party leader, former President John Kufuor and sought to restrain him from leaving his place of domicile for the inauguration ceremony.

The aggrieved youths' posture was that attending the ceremony would amount to a betrayal and tacit endorsement of Mahama's disputed victory at the December 7, 2012 presidential election.

Aside from being a respected statesman, Kufuor was an international figure, whose actions ordinarily should transcend partisan politics for the general well being of all Ghanaians.

Understandably, the two-term former president should be at the inauguration and eschew his political disagreement with the President.

Mahama's ascendance to power has been meteoric and could be aptly described as divinely inspired. The sudden demise of late President John Evans Atta-Mills on July 24, 2012 saw the transfer of the reins of power to Mahama, who was his deputy then.

This was in consonance with section 60 of the Ghana's1992 Constitution, which provided that at the demise of the president, the vice-president should be sworn-in. Thus, hours later, after the passage of Mills, Mahama was sworn-in by the then Speaker of Parliament, Mrs. Joyce Addo-Bamford.

Former President of the Bank of Ghana, Mr. Paa Kwesi Amissah- Arthur was later appointed Vice President by the National Executive Committee of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC).

The same NEC sometime in September unanimously endorsed Mahama as the presidential flag- bearer of the party. The adoption of Amissah-Arthur as his running mate came much later.

The December 7 parliamentary and presidential elections witnessed an impressive turn-out of voters. It was perceived to be orderly, as there was no violence. Both national and international observer groups adjudged it to be transparent, free and fair.

Except for the late start of voting in several parts of the country and the break-down of the biometric voters' verification machines in some polling units, there was no incident of fundamental scale capable of marring the election.

Voting had to be extended to the next day Saturday, because some voters could not exercise their franchise on the first day. About 4,000 out of 26,000 polling stations nationwide adjourned voting till the next day.

Electoral Commission began the announcement of results after the conclusion of voting that day. At first, the NPP presidential candidate, Nana Danquah Akufo-Addo shot into the lead as results trickled in from polling units across the country.

But by Sunday morning, it became obvious that Mahama was leading comfortably. The NDC supporters were already in celebration mood and waiting for official confirmation by the electoral commission.

In an unexpected twist, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr. Kwadjo Afari-Gyan decided to announce the election results late Sunday night, declaring the incumbent as President -elect.

Mahama has secured 50.70 per cent of the total valid votes cast to emerge winner. His closest rival of the NPP pulled 47.74 per cent of the votes, while the rest five presidential candidates obtained cumulatively a little over one per cent of the votes.

Triumphant NDC supporters thronged to the streets of Accra, celebrating their success at the polls. The NPP supporters outrightly rejected the results, alleging that it was their candidate who won the election.

At a press conference in Accra, the following Tuesday, after a meeting of the leadership of the party, the NPP national Chairman, Mr. Jake Obetsebi -Lamptey told journalists that they were not only rejecting the results, they intended going to court to contest it.

Subsequently there were pockets of protests staged by the NPP's supporters in Kumasi and Accra. There was no mayhem though, as the defeated candidate, Akufo-Addo urged party members to adhere to the rule of law.

Three other political parties namely, the Progressive Peoples' Party (PPP), the Convention Peoples' Party and the National Democratic Party also rejected the outcome of the parliamentary and presidential elections.

Outspoken former first lady, Mrs. Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings said the electoral commission and the NDC had foisted on the people of Ghana a monumental fraud, describing it as '419'.

Dr. Papa Kwesi Ndoum presidential candidate of the PPP alleged that his votes were stolen and given to the incumbent, while the national chairperson of the CPP, Ms Samia Nkrumah, who lost her parliamentary seat, attributed her party's dismal performance to the schemes of the NDC and NPP.

On December 28, the NPP finally challenged the election of Mahama as President at the Supreme Court. Vice Presidential candidate, Dr. Mohammed Bawumia contended at a press conference that the party has put together a solid documentary evidence that would sway judgment in their favour. The matter is still pending at the highest court.

Unperturbed by the opposition, Mahama went ahead to constitute a transitional implementation committee chaired by the vice president to work out modalities for the transfer of power. It also was to receive hand-over notes from ministers, their deputies and heads of departments.

Prior to the inauguration of the president and the vice president, at about 12 midnight on Sunday January 6, the old Parliament was dissolved. And the 275 member-new Parliament was inaugurated. It is the sixth parliament of the fourth republic since 1992. The new members of Parliament conducted their first sitting before adjourning to a later date.

To forestall a vacuum in the reins of governance, the new Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Edward Joe Adjarho held forth from that hour to about 10 A.M, when the president -elect took his oath of office and oath of allegiance.

Conservatively about 50,000 Ghanaians, including foreign dignitaries, among them colleagues attended the event. It was held at the Independence Square in Accra.

Heads of States included Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan, Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, current African Union Chairman and President of Benin Republic, Mr. Yahi Boni, the President of Cote d' Ivoire, Allasane Qattara and Mrs. Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia.

Others were President Mackey Sall of Senegal, President Faure Eyadema of Togo, and Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso and high government delegations from all over the world.

Ghanaian dignitaries like former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, two former presidents, John Kufuor and Jerry John Rawlings, members of the traditional council attended the inauguration.

Mahama was attired in a white flowing agbada unlike his predecessors were attired in their traditional 'kente'. Rawlings, Kufuor and Mills all wore the 'kente'.

The ascendance to power by Mahama does not only represent geographical shift in the power base from the elite southern part to the northern part of Ghana. Hitherto, the northerners have played the role of second fiddle. Mahama himself was vice president until fate took him to the number one position. During the eight-year rule of Kufuor, a northern in the person of late Aliu Mahama was vice president.

The president also symbolizes generational shift in government. He is only 54. His predecessors' were in their 60s when they came to power.

The president is coming to power at a very significant period in Ghana's history. He has inherited a very buoyant economy that is rated as one of the fastest growing on the continent. The burgeoning oil and gas sector is expected to be the major driver of economic growth in the next few years.

Ghana has maintained a successive transfer of power from one regime to the other. This is refreshing in a continent where bloodletting and putsch often succeeded every electoral process. This has earned the country the position of the bastion of democracy.

Nonetheless, issues that are critical to the development of the country need to be addressed. Ghana is very polarized politically. There is so much distrust and discontentment among the opposition. The dispute over the result attests to the bad blood that exists between the ruling NDC and NPP.

Meanwhile, the NPP is not letting sleeping dogs lie and has gone ahead to court to challenge the election of Mahama. Some members of the NPP on several occasions had vowed to make the country ungovernable for the president.

Allegations of widespread corruption have continued to trail Mahama's government. There is massive unemployment among the youths. The cost of living largely outpace income, there is poverty and mass illiteracy in the country.

Aware of the herculean task ahead, the president has affirmed that his administration would build more roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and generally affect positively the lives of the vulnerable in the society.

The president is optimistic that with the new found oil wealth, Ghana was on the verge of attaining economic independence, after 55 years of gaining political autonomy as a nation.

Before 50,000 Ghanaians and his colleagues, he has sworn to lead Ghana to economic and political Eldorado.

Beyond the rhetoric of a beautifully scripted speech, can Mahama deliver? Time will tell and the opposition is watching.

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