Source: Sulemana Braimah
Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa, Sulemana Braimah
Dear Mr. President,
Happy New Year to you. I wish you the very best this year, which is your last year in power. It is my prayer that in this last year of your leadership, you will offer Ghana the kind of leadership that will let Ghanaians remember you positively and favourably when you leave power on January 6, 2025.
Mr President, in this last year of your leadership, I intend to be writing to you regularly on matters of concern to me and perhaps, to some Ghanaians too.
This will be my small way of helping you to hear some of the bitter truths you need to hear and know, but which your appointees and people around you will be afraid to tell you. I hope you will appreciate this voluntary, pro-bono service I am offering. I hope that you will also accept my critical opinions in good faith.
I wish to start my intended series of letters to you with some reflections on your leadership and Ghana’s democracy.
It is reported that on Saturday, January 6, 2024, you delivered a speech in which you urged Ghanaians to do everything possible to guarantee the longevity of our 30-year-old Fourth Republic. This is a legitimate and right call and I wish to commend you for that.
Indeed, despite all the known pitfalls of democracy, it remains the most preferred form of governance and we need to preserve, protect and sustain ours while supporting other nations to do the same.
Given Ghana’s political history that is tainted with military coup d’états and the recent resurgence of coup d’états in our West Africa region, I can understand why your thoughts about the longevity of our current democracy will always be centred on the prevention of a coup d’état.
But Mr. President, let me remind you that around the world, several democracies have died not through military takeovers but in the hands of elected leaders. So thoughts about the longevity of Ghana’s democracy should not be centred on just the absence of a military coup. Our democracy can die without a military coup. In order words, democracy is not simply the periodic conduct of elections and the absence of military coups.
Just as in many other countries around the world, Ghana’s democracy can be destroyed and truncated by the anti-democratic actions and policies of an elected leader. And I am sad to say, Mr President, that throughout your leadership of our country, some of your actions and inactions have significantly weakened and undermined our Fourth Republican democracy rather than strengthening, protecting and consolidating it.
You may be baffled by my claim. But that is normal. Quite often, when elected leaders are destroying democracies through their actions, they do so with the false belief that their actions are rather strengthening democracy. I, therefore, believe that it will be helpful to remind you of some of the things that you have presided over and actions that you have taken that have undermined, weakened and made our democracy more fragile.
First of all, Mr. President, our democracy is weakened, rather than strengthened, when you preside over a government that is characterised by high levels of unbridled corruption and looting of state resources with impunity. Such a government can only be a threat to the sustainability and longevity of our democracy.
Mr. President, the issue of high levels of corruption in your government is something you would have heard several times. But it is either you don’t care about it and wouldn’t fight the canker or that you have tried but lost the fight.
So far, Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perception Indices have shown that the worst record of your predecessor government remains your best performance. Remember that we all accused the previous government of being corrupt and you were at the forefront of that accusation.
Again, as you are aware or should be aware, in 2022, Afrobarometer’s Round 9 survey in Ghana revealed that more than half of Ghanaians surveyed said that your office (Office of the Presidency) is the second most corrupt institution in the country. The same report revealed that you have the worst record when it comes to fighting corruption. Almost nine out of every 10 Ghanaians (85%) surveyed for that report rated your effort in fighting corruption as fairly or very bad.
Mr. President, you weaken and make our Fourth Republican democracy fragile, when you continue to take actions to clear your appointees who are implicated in alleged acts of corruption, even before investigations are carried out. In the Afrobarometer report referenced above, it was revealed that 77% of Ghanaians believe that under your leadership, officials who commit crimes go unpunished. This is what has led to people describing you, quite unenviably, as “the clearing agent.”
When you preside over a corrupt government in which officials live lavishly while the masses continue to suffer, that is not how to protect and sustain our democracy. In fact, that is how to collapse a democracy.
Mr. President, you weakened and rendered our democracy fragile rather than strengthened it when you abused your power and used crude means to remove an independent Auditor-General, simply because he was asserting his independence to protect the public purse. As the Supreme Court later affirmed, your action was unconstitutional.
It is sad that the Supreme Court made its decision only after the victim of your unconstitutional action, the venerable Daniel Yaw Domelovo, had reached the retirement age and thus, could not return to occupy his position.
That unconstitutional act was certainly anti-democratic and the kind of action that pose a serious threat to the longevity of Ghana’s Fourth Republican democracy. How can you sin against the Constitution and say you are defending and protecting the longevity of our democracy? That unconstitutional act is a classic example of how an elected leader can subvert a democracy.
Mr. President, I believe you also know very well that your decision to appoint known activists of your party to leadership positions of some key independent institutions of state is not how to strengthen, protect and sustain our democracy. Many of such institutions are now going true credibility and trust crisis than ever before, as a result of your actions.
How can a democracy be protected and sustained when your actions continue to take away the critical assets that independent institutions of state that serve as abuffer for our democracy need the most – credibility and public trust? I have avoided naming such state institutions so that I don’t contribute to the challenge of public trust they are already facing. But I have no doubt that you know the institutions I am talking about and the questionable appointments you have made.
I am, therefore, not surprised that when the multi-million contract between the Ministry of Finance and Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) on one hand and a company called Strategic Mobiliation Limited (SML) on the other, was recently exposed as scandalous, you opted for a private firm, KPMG, to audit the deal instead of the many state agencies that are mandated to investigate such matters.
Perhaps, you have also lost trust and confidence in the state institutions. Otherwise, why would you bypass at least, the Auditor-General of Ghana, whom you appointed to replace the one you hounded and unconstitutionally removed from office. Don’t you trust him too? Why would you rather want to spend state resources to pay a private firm to conduct an audit into a shady state contract, when there is a state auditor who is already paid with public resources?
Well, numerous organisations and prominent individuals have said that given the existing relationship between GRA and KPMG, which you will certainly be aware of, they cannot trust that KPMG will do a diligent audit. I hope you will listen to those voices.
So Mr. President, while your call for Ghanaians to do all they can to ensure the longevity of the Fourth Republic is right, your actions must also be those that promote, protect and sustain democracy rather than those that undermine democratic values, norms and standards.
It is my hope that you will use the last year of your leadership to offer our nation an improved leadership rather than further undermining our democracy. Given your credentials and stature prior to becoming President and the high expectations people had of you, it will be sad for you to end up being the worst President of the Fourth Republic and the one who weakened our democracy. I hope you will act to avoid that unenviable record in Ghana’s history.
Once again, happy New Year!!