On the heels of a hotly contested presidential campaign, Ghana‘s electoral commission announced the winner of the December 2012 elections. His name is John Dramani Mahama but I call him ‘Teflon John’ because like high quality frying pan, nothing sticks on him. No allegation or scandal, regardless of how close it is to his office can be pinned to him.
To grasp the significance of this pseudonym, a bit of history is required. John Mahama was the former Vice-President in President Atta Mill’s administration. When Atta Mills died unexpectedly from an undisclosed illness, Mahama was sworn in as president. By default he also became the flag bearer for the ruling NDC* party which meant he had to lead a campaign against the main opposition, the NPP**, and 5 other political parties. According to the electoral commission, 5,574,761 votes were cast for NDC and 5,248,898 votes were for the NPP.
Although Mahama was declared the winner, his victory was tainted with allegations of fraud. The NPP petitioned Ghana’s Supreme Court, that 1,340,000 votes were illegally recorded. The objective of their case is to remove John Mahama from office and replace him with opposition leader Nana Akufo Addo. An ordinary politician would have called a press conference to address this serious allegation. Not Teflon John, he boarded a plane to South Africa to attend to ‘private matters’.
The press was rife with speculation. Why would Mahama surreptitiously leave the country days after an election whose results were still being disputed? What was the ‘private matter?’ Was Mahama hiding something from Ghanaians the same way his predecessor Atta Mills had? In Ghana, when a government official ‘goes to South Africa’ on a ‘private visit’ it is usually code for seeking medical treatment that Accra’s crumbling healthcare system cannot support. The rumor gathered steam and certain newspapers publicly declared that Mahama was suffering from kidney disease. Privately, Ghanaians wondered if he was suffering from the effects of an NPP juju curse… Amidst allegations, rumors and political tension, Teflon John returned to Ghana, donned a sparkling white Batakari and was sworn in as President of the 4th republic of Ghana.
Allow me to go and record and state that there is no political leader (present or past) as
slick skilled as John Mahama. Except for his cool temperament, facts about his personal life are blurry. Nobody can say for sure the number of children he has or if they were all born by one woman. He is from the Northern region which is predominantly Muslim, but he is a practicing catholic and a rumored polygamist. We see a charming woman by his side, her name is Lordina and she is an enthusiastic supporter of her husband. She is mighty convincing when she says her husband is going to do a great job for Ghana. The jury is still out on that verdict, but so far, Mahama’s government appointments hint at an extremely bloated government with an excessive number of ministers and fancy titles awarded to a wide variety of people.
If Ghanaians turned a blind eye to Mahama’s obese cabinet, they showed unreserved anger at his nomination of Nana Oye Lithur, as Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection. Their ire was not directed at the fact that she is a woman, but because she publicly stated that ‘she would protect the rights of gays and lesbians in Ghana’. Leaders of prominent religious and secular organizations lashed out at Mahama and warned him of dire political consequences if he did not withdraw his nomination. In a country that is irrationally homophobic and defiantly against same-sex relations, Nana Oye Lithur was appointed Minister of Youth and Social. Kudos on this one Teflon John!
However, barely a month into his presidency, yet another scandal threatened the Mahama administration. 80 million dollars worth of gold being transported from Ghana to Iran was intercepted by Turkey. Who authorized this transaction between Ghana and the principal member of the Axis of Evil? What was oil-producing Ghana going to get in return for the 1.5 tons of gold? The opposition party’s demand for answers was met with silence. Just as quietly, Turkey released the gilded cargo with a fine of $1019 for lack of proper documentation.
John Mahama has stepped into the political limelight at a time when Ghana is experiencing unprecedented growth. Ghana’s economy continues to be on a steady climb, the middle class is expanding, real estate is booming and its coast is bubbling with oil. Mahama has managed to cement fissures within his party and seemingly mended the tattered relationship between his caucus and the founder of the NDC, JJ Rawlings. However, questions still remain on whether Teflon John will secure a Supreme Court victory and sustain real growth in the country. Your guess is as good as mine.
NDC* New Democratic Congress
NPP** New Patriotic Party