With the party primaries of the NDC coming off on November 21, one cannot help but notice the several posters, banners and billboards bearing the faces and slogans of men and women hoping to get into or remain in parliament. There are several competitive match ups in the primaries that call for this level of campaigning however, the most visible campaign belongs to the contestant in the easiest primary race – President John Dramani Mahama.
George Boateng, the man who planned to contest the president for the right to be NDC’s presidential candidate was denied in unclear circumstances and the president now seeks the endorsement of the members of the party unopposed.
The president’s campaign is therefore not solely targeted at NDC members but at all citizens. He has seized the opportunity to get his message across early with the hope of gaining an advantage over his opponents in next year’s election.
And what has been this message? The message is that the track record of the NDC in government has been so impressive that they deserve another term in office. In a speech made infamous for his assertion that only past presidents could call him incompetent, he once again affirmed his belief that he had done well enough to merit a second term.
It strikes me as odd that out of all the possible ways John Mahama could make the case for re-election he, the party, or both of them decided to go for the classic I have done well so renew my mandate strategy. There are alternatives. For example, there is the vote for me and let me introduce this new thing strategy. There is also the the other guys are much worse strategy, especially because the NPP is preoccupied with violent in-fighting and promising violence if they don’t have things their way. Instead, the NDC has taken the path oft travelled by ruling parties and is asking to be rewarded for its remarkable performance in office.
If there is one word to describe this message, it’s ‘insensitive’. Divorced from reality, laughable, arrogant but above all insensitive. It makes me wonder if they consider what the workers who have been laid off due to power cuts will feel when they hear the message. What about the children who had to use candles to do their homework? Or the people who had to throw pot after pot of stew away after they went bad?
Ignoring the obvious will not make it go away. The last three years have been dark for the country. Literally. That should not be glossed over. Ghanaians deserve an apology for dumsor and all the times they have placed hope on promises that it would end. To say that it will end before the 2016 elections and to focus on other areas is sidestepping the central electoral issue.
The campaign of the president is tragically familiar. Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, a man who by several accounts was well-intentioned, made a fatal error by ignoring the enormity of the Boko Haram threat. Whether he was incompetent, calculating, or he actually believed that Boko Haram was a creation of his Northern opponents, his seemingly slow responses to the threat portrayed him as a man deeply insensitive to the slaughter of his own people. His last minute blitzkrieg against the group could not change the perception that had ossified over his term.
And let it not be said that Jonathan did no good in office. He introduced successful reforms in agriculture, developed infrastructure and strengthened press freedom and the electoral process. But in the end his less than urgent dealing with the central issue of the election was a major cause of his electoral defeat.
The president will do well to learn from the lessons Jonathan’s defeat offers. No matter your achievements (real or perceived) on other issues, failure to convince the electorate on the central issue is a ticket out of office.
John Mahama has already adopted Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation slogan. And if his campaign continues on this path he may very well adopt Jonathan’s fate.