How Mahama broke Ghana’s Heart

As she prepares to celebrate her 58th birthday, rumor has it that Ghana, the dark skinned African beauty, is secretly planning to divorce her 8th husband – John Dramani Mahama. Before I get into the salacious details of this conscious uncoupling, lets slide into December 2012, when 2 very virile men, John Dramani Mahama and Nana Akufo Addo, were vying for the 55-year-old widow’s hand in marriage. To appreciate the enormity of her dilemma, you must first get to know Ghana.

Touted as the darling of Africa, Ghana shot into the limelight in 1960 when she married her first husband Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, a political activist renowned for his sharp intellect and penchant for thumbing his nose at the West. About 6 years later, their union caved under the pressure of his pan African ideals. After Nkrumah, she had dalliances with lawyers and soldiers alike. But after a tumultuous relationship with JJ Rawlings, Ghana swore off young men and developed a flavour for older men with even temperaments like J. A. Kufuor and J. E. Mills. By all accounts, her marriage to Kufuor was not perfect but, it was good – it ended amicably. Mills on the other hand, was an unassuming sort who sought to appease all and pleased none. In July 2012, he succumbed to cancer which is why his widow once again, had to find a new husband.

On his feet, Mahama is about 6 foot 2. Tall and dark, he approached Ghana with a disarming smile, a gentle voice and an unremarkable career in politics. He courted her with what he romantically called “The better Ghana agenda”. She was enthralled by his Lacoste T-Shirts, his Samsung galaxy phone and the fact that his friends were regular folks who spoke Pidgin English. When he whispered sweet nothings like “E dey be k3ke” into her ears, she all but melted. Nana Addo was the older of the two. Stockily built, he carried an aura of sagesse amassed from an established career in law and politics. Fluent in French and the art of subtle affection, he was always seen with his Ghandi-like spectacles and his sophisticated group of friends who spoke Ivy League English. He courted Ghana with the dry promises of free education and financial stability. She chose Mahama.

The honeymoon was blissful. Mahama was warm, charming, and seduced Ghana with honey-coated promises about a home flowing with sparkling water, high voltage electricity, top-notch security, reliable health insurance and a life that would make her the envy of all her friends. Unfortunately, barely 3 years into the marriage, Ghana has lawyered up. Her grievances are many:

1. Mahama does not spend enough time with Ghana.

2. Their bank account is always in overdraft.

3. Their debt level has skyrocketed to unprecedented levels and creditors are calling.

4. She does not have a steady job.

5. Their children are always hungry.

6. Water has been shutdown.

7. There is no electricity.

8. Morale in her house is so low that her staff is selling her gold pieces to Chinese tourists.

9. Last summer, as their financial condition deteriorated, Mahama had the audacity to airlift $3 million to Brazil to pacify his favourite football team.

10. Last but certainly not the least, there are endless allegations that Mahama and his pidgin-speaking cronies are embezzling money from his work. GYEEDAA, SADA, MASLOC… are just a few of the corrupt schemes that her husband is implicated in.
To stave off the disgrace of bankruptcy, Mahama has now decided to borrow from the International Monetary Fund. Unfortunately, it will take more than a loan to restore his relationship. Ghana’s glistening reputation is in tatters and she is the laughing stock of old friends like Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast. In 3 short years, her youthful glow has been replaced with deep frown lines.

There is an old African saying that no woman worth her salt pursues a man. But according to reliable sources, Ghana is panting after Nana Akufo-Addo. Suddenly, she is drawn to his sagesse, his educated friends and the stability that his Ghandi-like glasses promise. Happy birthday Ghana! You may no longer be the darling of Africa but you are a shining example of how marrying the wrong man can reverse one’s fortune.

 

 

 

 

Out of the political closet

There is no better way to find out how someone feels about you than to give them the opportunity to vote for you or your arch rival. That is what  typically happens in political elections. Two main parties vie for votes and wait for the surprise. In the case of Ghana’s December 2012 presidential elections, the surprises that popped out were stranger than costumes at a gay pride parade.

Since its conversion to democracy in 1992, every four years, Ghana’s main political parties the New Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) campaign bitterly for the Ghanaian vote. They give out darling favours like pens, T-shirts, flip-flops and of course perishable essentials like rice, cooking oil and of course, hard cash.  Both parties engage in this art of persuasion but because of the NDC’s checkered past, it is often assumed that kicking them out of office is a no-brainer. Afterall, between 1979-1981 and 1981-1992, the PNDC ruled Ghana under the military dictatorship of JJ Rawlings. The earlier years of this rule was dominated by bloodshed, curfews, public flogging of women and confiscation of assets. Facing enormous pressure from various international bodies, in 1992, Rawlings opened the country to multi-party elections. PNDC became NDC, but the reign of terror that Ghanaians had experienced became the single motivating factor to vote against NDC.

Anyone who declared their support for the NDC stood the risk of being chastised as an apologist for murderers and oppressors. As far as some Ghanaians are concerned, any good that Rawlings did is nullified by the role he played in Ghana’s version of the Bolshevik revolution.

It has been sixteen years since the military beret toting Rawlings peacefully exited political office, yet he remains an enigmatic power house. The lean virility of his youth has given way to a rounder but still domineering physique. His sharp jawline which when clenched used to send ministers crawling under tables is now softened with a healthy roll of grey beard. He continues to be undeniably charismatic. He entertains crowds, eviscerates his opponents and still has the ability to make the average Ghanaian believe he is their humble ally.

With these mega watts traits in tow, Rawlings’ endorsement helped his predecessor, a demur civil servant called Atta Mills, win the elections in 2008.  But once he was sworn in as President, Atta Mills needed to show that he was his own man so he went to great lengths to distance himself from Rawlings. Ministers in the previous (P)NDC administration who used to lick Rawlings’ boots now mounted podiums and derided him. Rawlings was alienated from the party he had founded and the post-Rawlings NDC makeover was in full swing.  Yet the political climate still frowned upon private citizens who supported the NDC administration.

By 2012, when NPP was preparing for a political comeback, the NDC’s makeover went into overdrive. Four months prior to the elections, their leader, President Atta Mills died and a relatively new face, John Mahama, sought to lead the NDC to another victory. Oozing charisma and promises of a better Ghana, a new NDC was born under Mahama. Gradually, people started coming out of the woodworks to publicly say the forbidden: I am voting for the NDC. Even individuals whose families have been diehard NPP supporters, side stepped family loyalty and rooted for the NDC. They were out of the political closet.

My own cousin came out. A real Ashanti man whose family has long supported NPP changed his Facebook profile picture to that of NDC emblem. The family was up in arms, but he stuck to his guns and voted NDC. What is behind this coming out parade for the NDC? At an engagement party last December, I turned to a friend whose family has financed several NPP campaigns and asked:

“Who did you vote for?”  Without flinching she replied “I voted skirt and blouse. CPP for my constituency and Mahama for president.  I rotated to another girl whose family was scathed by the excesses of the Rawlings era.

“Who did you vote for?”

“NDC all the way.”

“What? But your family is NPP, I thought you were NPP. Why are all you traditional NPP supporters voting NDC?”

“Maybe we are rebelling against our parents who have always supported NPP simply because of what Rawlings did. But we, we have moved on.”

I smiled inwardly, maybe Ghana has finally reached a stage where votes are not driven by ‘who did what to my family 30 years ago’… Then her voice jarred into my thoughts again.

“Plus, the NDC is more open. They will give me some of the government contracts. E dye be k3k3.” My smile is widened sardonically. In Africa’s popularity contest, votes are influenced by politics of the stomach and rarely by policy.  With the NDC makeover complete, their supporters can now chop without guilt.

Photo credit: gulfnews.com

John Mahama; Ghana’s saviour?

 

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