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Feature Article of Monday, 10 December 2012

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

The Johns Have It: Fourth John of the Fourth Republic

This is not a post-mortem of the just ended Presidential Elections but a brief attempt to analyse the direction of democracy in Ghana under the Fourth Republic. I am sure in the coming days, weeks and months there would be tens if not hundreds of articles to analyse the elections, key players and even stakeholders. But before I go any further, may I crave your indulgence in congratulating Ghanaians for their patience and good behaviour during two days of frustration at some polling stations across the country to exercise their democratic rights.

I had the opportunity to watch live some of the events on Friday evening and most of Saturday on my laptop by courtesy of Joy FM’s online live telecast. I have never queued to vote and would not have known how I would have responded such breakdown of electoral processes due to sheer complacency on the part of Ghana’s Electoral Commission.

Second, let me congratulate the President Elect, His Excellency, John Dramani Mahama on his victory and commiserate with Nana Akufo Addo for putting up another strong fight. Better luck next time, if there would be a third time for him. I am not sure if Ghanaians are gradually setting what in law is known as Customary Practice under the Fourth Republic through the decisions they make every four years at the ballot box. What is abundantly clear to me is that, there is an unequivocal practice or custom consciously or unconsciously being fashioned by the Ghanaian electorate and that is the subject that I want to draw readers’ attention to and to open up a discussion.

The first and most obvious one is the first or Christian names of all the elected Presidents under the Fourth Republican Constitution. They all bear the name JOHN. That may be mere coincidence but why is the presidency in the Fourth Republic becoming the Johns’ purview? Jerry JOHN Rawlings, JOHN Kofi Agyekum Kufuor, then the late JOHN Fifi Attah Mills and now Ghana has elected JOHN Dramani Mahama.

I thought the Johns were not born to be leaders but rather to serve the leader or baptise the leader according to Christian scriptures (John the Baptist). So how come in Ghana, the Johns have become the Messiahs instead of the one who cuts the path for the real Messiah? I have no answer to this question but leave readers to ponder over it.

The second question is the issue of incumbency never losing. Rawlings won re-election, Kufuor did and now Mahama has won re-election, though this is his first election but a second term for the party he represents. Is the Ghanaian electorate legitimising automatic second term for Presidents or political parties once elected for a first term? Indeed, caretaker President asked for a second term for NDC because both Rawlings and Kufuor were given second terms. Has the 2012 Presidential Election outcome formalised a second term in Ghana’s democratic dispensation?

The other common theme is “One Touch Victory” at re-election or second term. Both Presidents Rawlings (NDC) and Kufuor (NPP) won their second terms by avoiding a second round. Now NDC has won a second term with one touch victory. The question is, would this be repeated and become the practice or the norm and should all elected Presidents and parties expect an automatic first round win at re-election?

Does the above practice, norm or pattern offer strong enough evidence for us to draw any valid conclusion? Do the democratic decisions of the Ghanaian electorate under the Fourth Republic over the past twenty years weaken the 1992 Constitution? Is twenty years’ practice long enough for anything to be taken for granted as the caretaker President and now President Elect argued for a second term in his campaign? And if so, could the Constitution be amended to reflect the current practice, norm or custom? My simple answer is no, even if the practice continues after a century of democratic practice, nothing should be taken for granted and the Constitution should not be tampered with to reflect the practice, norm of custom.

On the other hand, this Presidential Election has been different in some ways. For example, the President Elect is the first presidential candidate to win the Presidency at the first attempt after Rawlings. In fact, Ato Kwamena Dadzie in an article (“Indecision 2012: My Prediction” Ghanaweb, December 7, 2012), concluded that Mahama will lose because all first time presidential candidates have lost. He gave the examples of the late Prof Adu Boahene, Ex-President Kufuor and the late President John Atta Mills who all failed on the first attempts. This also reminds me of one of my earlier articles on whether President Mahama would go for a second term (see “Will President Mahama Seek a Second Term?” Ghanaweb August 4,2012). In that article, I postulated that President Mahama may set a number of records, including the potential to be the longest ever President under the Fourth Republic if he serves a second term.

In view of the above, should the NPP be considering the first and Christian name of their next presidential candidate? Should he be a JOHN? Would that not automatically exclude women from the highest office of the land? Fortunately or unfortunately, the most obvious and potential NPP presidential candidate for 2016 is not a John but an Alan. Should Alan Keyremanteng adopt John as part of his name to improve his chances in 2016, if he wants to contest the NPP primaries and become the Presidential Candidate? Would he abandon his position at the AU or the World Trade Organization if he becomes the head of the WTO to become the NPP presidential candidate in 2016? Would the Ghanaian electorate not be fed up with Johns by 2016 and would Alan break the custom in 2016 by becoming the first non John to be elected President under the Fourth Republic as the Fourth John has become the first elected President at the first attempt with the except of Jerry John? You guess to these questions could be as good as mine but I am yet to find the answers.

Time will tell but it appears to me that, perhaps, and as Professor Kwame Akoampa-Ahoofe’s title of an article accidentally predicted (see “Can Ghanaians Endure a 12-Year Visionless Mahama Presidency?”, Ghanaweb November 29, 2012), President Elect, Mahama may go for and win a second term and NDC may be in office for twelve years. Who knows?

As I indicated at the beginning, the December 7 2012 General Elections in Ghana have been the most interesting for a number of reasons, including wrong and unfortunate ones that would be the subject of interpretation and misinterpretation and would be fodder for intellectual, political and social debates and analysis for years to come. In the next days and weeks, I will be part of that debate by posting a number of articles on the elections. I look forward to readers’ comments as well as reading other articles, not least the NPP post-mortem of Nana Akufo Addo second attempt, ups and downs.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

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