Last Tuesday in Ghana, the Presidential/Parliamentary elections were held with the incumbent President John Kufuor slugging it out against three other contenders even though the fiercest battle for him was with a man whose name was not on the ballot: his predecessor, former President J.J. Rawlings who alleged that Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo was interfering in the process. Olusegun Adeniyi, who was in Accra to observe the process for This Day, reports on how the elections went and his encounter with the President who has now been re-elected for a second term in office
The radio announcer while dishing out the results said rather cynically: "If there is any Presidential candidate called 'invalid ballots'", he would have scored more votes than some of these Presidential candidates.â??
That might have been an exaggeration but the results of the Parliamentary/Presidential elections in Ghana revealed that even while four political parties might have fielded candidates for the polls, only two made any appreciable showing. Incidentally, the contest itself became a sling match between the incumbent President John Kufuor and the man he succeeded, Mr. J.J. Rawlings whose former VP, Professor Attah Mills, happens to be his party's candidate.
While the elections have come and gone with Kufuor winning an easy victory, the controversy it threw up lingers and one of them was the allegation by Rawlings that Nigeria not only interfered in the process but that his life was threatened by security operatives allegedly sent in by President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Speaking at a National Democratic Congress (NDC) rally in Tamale, a week before the elections, Rawlings said the spies were camped behind his residence. Confirming the statement, his aide, Emmanuel Victor Smith, told a Ghanaian newspaper, the National Democrat, that Obasanjo actually wanted Rawlings dead. He said the Nigerian government would stop at nothing to ensure the re-election of President Kufuor even without giving any evidence. But the Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, Dr. Olatunji Kolapo, who last week held a reception for Nigerian journalists who covered the elections said the allegation was most unfortunate because â??it is falseâ??. He had earlier sent in a rebuttal to the allegation through the Ghanaian media.
His statement read: â??The attention of the Nigeria High Commission has been drawn to comments made by former President J.J. Rawlings and his special aide, Emmanuel Victor Smith in the Daily Guide edition of Tuesday 30th November, 2004 to the effect that President Olusegun Obasanjo is setting spies or mercenaries against the former President.
â??The High Commission noted this comment with utter dismay, given the untiring efforts, commitment and resources deployed by His Excellency, President Obasanjoâ??s government towards ensuring peace, security and stability not only in the sub-region and Africa but the entire world at large. It is a well known fact to all who want to acknowledge truth and good work that Nigeria (one of the major contributors to international peace keeping operations) has been paying more than its fair share towards ensuring peace and stability in the world.
â??Moreover, relations between Nigeria and Ghana both of which share common historical heritage have always been cordial. Against this background, it is unimaginable that anyone will allege that President Obasanjo who is also the current Chairman of the African Union want to meddle in the internal affairs of any sister African country. President Obasanjo is above partisan politics and his good name therefore should not be dragged into the internal affairs of any country.
â??For the avoidance of doubt and records, the High Commission wishes to categorically state that President Obasanjo had never sent nor contemplated to send any person or group against any individual, group or government anywhere. The accusations contained in the said publication is to say the least mischievous and can only be the figment of the imagination of the former president and his special aide and therefore has no connection whatsoever with the peace loving president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is the wish of the High Commission that the forthcoming elections in Ghana will be conducted in free, transparent and peaceful atmosphere.â??
The High Commisioner told THISDAY last week that it was rather unfortunate that Rawlings would want to drag the name of President Obasanjo into the matter but Ghanaian sources confirmed last week that the former President made the allegation because he felt piqued that neither Obasanjo nor South African President Thabo Mbeki replied his letter where he complained about the irregularities that could mar the elections. Although Rawlings was not a contestant in the election, having served the mandatory two-term, his former Vice, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, is the candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the same man who was defeated by Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) after the second round of voting in 2000.
Two weeks before last week elections, Rawlings, according to sources, had complained that President Kufuor was manipulating the electoral process with a view to rigging the elections and in the spirit of African Union, he pleaded with the two leaders to call Kufuor to order. But neither of the duo replied his mail. He had also copied the same letter to United States President George Bush and his father, former American President George Bush (Snr).
While campaigning for his party weekend before the elections, Rawlings had also said the only way Kufuor could win re-election was by rigging the polls through stuffing ballot boxes with already thumb printed papers, warning his party's supporters to be vigilant. "For the first time in the history of this country, a very corrupt, dictatorial, brutal and primitive government is going to be removed, not by a coup d'etat, but by the electoral box. Let us protect it, and make sure that it happens," he said.
Notwithstanding Rawlings misgivings, however, the elections held last week and he indeed created a spectacle at the Castle Public Works Department polling station, where he had come to cast his ballot.
Within minutes of his arrival, news had transpired to the neighbourhood and hundreds of men and women, but mostly the latter, began to troop in. And then something happened: the women were untying their wrappers and headscarves which they now spread on the bare ground for Rawlings to walk on. For more than 15 minutes, he held up voting as the queue was disrupted by voters who hailed him. Speaking briefly, Rawlings wondered why the western media had been silent about happenings in Ghana: â??why are they not covering the elections? Is it because they donâ??t want to provide evidence of the fact that President John Kufuor is losing?â??
But the Ghanaian President, in an exclusive interview with THISDAY at his personal residence in Accra, shortly after voting last Tuesday, dismissed Rawlings' claim as the mere ranting of a politician who cannot accept defeat graciously.â??
In dismissing the claims of Rawlings, however, Kufuor said the allegation that Obasanjo sent in soldiers, unfounded. "You have moved round and if Ghana has been militarised as he claimed, you would have seen the evidence, have you seen any soldier in town? You cannot even notice any police presence at the polling stations."
President Kufuor said the problem with Rawlings is that he cannot see anything good in his administration because Ghanaians rejected his party and candidate at the polls four years ago and he cannot live with that. "I think the former president is taking too long to adjust to the reality that his party lost power. He could not just take the fact that the people rejected them at the polls, through the ballot box. They are just bad losers, disgruntled elements", he added.
On whether he is being supported by Obasanjo, Kufuor told THISDAY that Nigeria and Ghana are like brothers and he (Kufuor) enjoys a special personal relationship with President Obasanjo that goes beyond their respective offices. "President Obasanjo and I are more like brothers than fellow African leaders, we have an excellent relationship and some people would want to put a negative slant to that," he added.
In his final campaign three days before the elections, Kufuor had taken a swipe at Rawlings who he said wants to impose a puppet on the electorate. "We would not sit down for anybody to impose any koliko (puppet) man on us, only for the person to state - I will consult Rawlings 24 hours - when his boss, Rawlings talks, he thinks that is final, and expects that nobody should talk back. He thought the land of Ghana is for his father, and so, he will rule forever. No way; gone are the days when Ghanaians feared to talk; they are discerning, and I know they will not allow such people to sit on their happiness."
Rawlings, however, led the campaigns for his party and this was used by the opposition to mean that Professor Mills would be a mere puppet such that in Ghana, one of the campaign slogans of the incumbent government was: "Vote for Mills, get Rawlings for free."
With a voters turnout of about 80 percent, Kufuor was at the weekend declared the winner in the election generally adjudged free and fair even by international observers.
In a very tensed and packed press conference, Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr. Kojo Afari-Djan declared that candidate J.A. Kufuor of he ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) with a total vote cast of 4, 463, 73 (four million four hundred sixty three thousand, seven hundred and thirty one vote) which is 52.65% of the total vote cast won the December 7, polls.
Dr. Djan said that the NPPâ??s closest rival, the National Democratic Congress (NDC)â??s candidate, John Attah Mills got 3,750,830 representing 44.32%, while the other contestants, Dr. Edward Mahama of Peoples â??National Convention (PNC) and George Aggudey of Convention Peoplesâ?? Party (CPP) got less than 2% of the votes.
Dr. Djanâ??s announcement completely dashed the hopes of NDC supporters who had filed a last minute request for recount of the total ballots. The NDCâ??s letter signed by its Secretary General, Dr. Josiah Aryeh, alleged wide spread discrepancies in many of the ruling NPP strong holds.
According to them, there were cases of votes declared being more than the number of votes registered. However, Dr. Djan who said his declaration was provisional because only 225 of the 230 had been certified said the letter lacked merit.
He said that he had to go ahead to declare President Kufuor the winner because if Prof Mills of the NDC got 100% of votes from the remaining constituencies, Kufuor will still be able to retain over 50% votes as required by the constitution.
As soon as Dr. Djan made his pronouncement, there was wild jubilation in many parts of Accra, the Capital of Ghana. President Kufuorâ??s private residence in Airport Residential Area was besieged by supporters. Cars with horns blaring, hundreds with NPP banners poured on the streets. For many of them, the announcement was a welcome relief after the agonizing 72 hour wait for the official results.
Interestingly, observers believed that though they lost, the NDC still performed creditably well. They stated that unlike President Kufuor who scored less than 40% in four regions (Upper West, Volta, Northern and Upper East), Prof. Mills scored less than 40% in only three regions (Central, Ashanti and Eastern).
In a Press Conference held in his residence, President Kufuor thanked Ghanaians for giving him a second chance and promised to run an all inclusive government that will bring bliss and development to Ghana. â??As we begin positive change part two, we make bold to say that every part of Ghana will feel this government in terms of life-changing development.'
The re-elected President who fielded questions from THISDAY last Tuesday was born on December 8, 1938, at Damang in the Ashanti Region. He entered the Lincoln Inn, London, where he obtained a degree in Law in 1959 and Oxford University in United Kingdom from 1961 to 1964, where he obtained his second degree.
President Kufuor started his working career as a Kumasi-based private Legal practitioner from 1965 to 1969. He was City Manager and chief legal officer of the Kumasi City Council from 1967 to 1969. He was a member of the Constituent Assembly that wrote the 1969 Second Republican Constitution and the Progress Partyâ??s MP for Atwima Nwabiaga constituency from 1969-72. He was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in the government of the late Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia, who governed from 1969 â?? â??72.
President Kufuor also served on a number of Boards, including the chairman of the Board of Directors of Ashanti Brick and Construction Company, as well as Cojak Company Limited between 1973 and 1978. He was again a member of the Constituent Assembly that wrote the 1979 Third Republican Constitution and he entered parliament for the Atwima Nwabiaga constituency on the ticket of the Popular Front Party (PFP), a successor to the Progress Party.
He was the Deputy Leader and spokesman for the PFP on Foreign Affairs. In 1982 he was appointed the PNDC Secretary for Local Government but he resigned after a few months.
President Kufuor was the chairman of Asante Kotoko Football Club from 1988 to 1991. In 1992, he contested the NPPâ??s presidential slot, which he lost to Professor Albert Adu Boahen.
He again contested the partyâ??s presidential slot in 1996, which he won and led the Great Alliance, which comprised the Peopleâ??s Convention Party (PCP) and NPP. He lost to former President Jerry Rawlings.
President Kufuor was chosen for the second time by his party as the presidential candidate to contest the vote in 2000, which he won. He was given the nod for the third time to contest the 2004 vote. He is married to Theresa, a nurse/midwife, who was born on October 25, 1935.
President Obasanjo is My Brother----Kufour
How would you describe the conduct of the elections so far?
This election is very important. It is the first after 2001 which was historical in the sense that it was the first time an incumbent government had been changed through the ballot box. When we won that election in 2001, not many people had the belief that we could last the whole term. But things have turned out that we have lasted the term. So this is an election to confirm the establishment of democracy, of normal governance in this country. The way it has been since morning, the orderliness of it, the general happy atmosphere, all of these suggest to me that when we complete the process, it will consolidate democracy and set the nation on a track, a course that will last. So I think the day augurs very well.
But the opposition is making the allegation that you are being backed by Nigerian and that soldiers are being drafted in...?
You can confirm these allegations for yourself if truly Ghana is militarised you would have seen it since you came in. That is not true. You have been to the polling station in many places and you must have noticed that there is not enough police presence for anybody to feel intimidated or cowed. People are just going about this very normally. Have you seen soldiers anywhere as being claimed?
Why then are they making those allegations?
The answer is simple and many Ghanaians know it, the reason why they refused to be bothered about all these ridiculous allegations. The former President is taking too long to adjust to the reality of having lost power in 2000. The loss was through the democratic process, the people dictated through the ballot box. He continues to complain making unfocused allegations. They are just bad losers, they are disgruntled. That is what I see.
After the elections will you find a way of accommodating some of these opposition leaders?
I believe in good governance and good governance entails embracing all sections of the community. Yes I am a leader of a party in government but we do not believe in the winner-takes-all tendency that has bedeviled much of Africa so far, we do not believe in that. We believe government should be there to service the entire nation, including the opposition. So, for as long as people live within the rule of law and behave responsibly as citizens so long they would be entitled to their fair share of the national cake.
Ok, letâ??s leave the opposition, what has been the high point of your administration in the last four years?
There have been many high points. If you are looking at the way we turned the economy around, if you look at the law and order situation. Before we came in, there was so much high-hardness, the people could not express themselves and all these things are all very important to the democratic development of the nation. So this is why I say many high points. The infrastructure for instance, roads repaired: within the short time, we have done so much in this area. Again, you have been around and you must have seen the infrastructural development. In the telecommunications sector, we have advanced a lot. Things are moving by leaps and bounds so I think there are many high points.
What are the problems you must have encountered in trying to do the things you claimed to have done?
The main problem was that we had to increase the petroleum productsâ?? prices dramatically?
How many times?
It is not the number of times it is increased that matters but the degree of the increment
Because in Nigeria we have increased up to five times...
We have not really done that but a few times we have had to increase the prices substantially. When we assumed office a gallon of premium...sold for 6,500 cedes. We had to increase from 6,500 to 10,000 and then later to 20,000. So its about three-fold increase which makes it dramatic but somehow the people understood us because Ghana was selling the cheapest in the whole of the sub region. We are not a petrol producing country, we depend on import from Nigeria. Within the neighbourhood they were selling for about 30,000 cedes, in Burkina (Faso) its well over 20,000 cedes and Ghana we were selling under 10,000 cedes. So that really caused a lot of smuggling of petroleum products.
It is recalled the popular stand you took not to increase the prices of petroleum products when other countries were hiking due to rise in crude oil prices. How did you manage to do that?
When we said we wouldn't increase, we meant we wouldn't increase this year. Because this was a year of great fear: we had elections scheduled, we felt the priority now was development of democracy. We didn't want to go on increasing in response to the price in the international oil market without regard to the impact these increases would make on the democratic evolution of the country. What we did was that as a temporary measure, we knew government had to manage to hold down the prices. This was to ensure the nation could move to the democratic milestone of election this year; so the people would not be thrown out of balance and affect the success of the electoral process. But we were candid enough to tell the people that next year, everything would go on fine, we have to allow the pricing mechanism that would depend on the market. But everybody knows in Ghana that by February the petroleum products market would be governed by market forces...that we didn't increase the prices is either for strategic or tactical reason so that democracy will be strengthened. It is at great cost but the cost would have been greater if we increased the prices and we derailed our democracy. That was why we had to find other ways to make up.
When you win this election, what will be the challenges in the next four years, what are the priority areas?
The priority areas are outlined as managerial development, that is the critical factor in development and then the private sector development. We do not believe in doing business but that the private sector should be encouraged. We are going to focus on the development of the private sector, so we can accelerate the economic development of the country. And of course we pursue these two policies not just because they engender good governance but also because we believe a free human being tends to exert confidence on the factors of economic production and so good governance, accountable governance, transparency in government and of course respect for the citizens because they are the owners of the system.
These are plans we are putting in place to move the economy.
How do you feel about Africa being the centre of conflict?
Africa for a long time, perhaps since independence, has been an area of crisis. But if you are judging critically, you might even see some development, we have made some headway even though its not too impressive. There are so many flash points on the continent and if you look there is a lot of coordination to try to resolve them by the leaders. Like in West Africa now, Liberia is not totally out of the woods but you can see they are heading towards democratic elections, Sierra Leone is out of the woods now and things are normalising. In Cote D'voire, violence is going down even though the crisis is still there. Of course you know President Mbeki (of South Africa) is still there trying to get all the factions to reconcile so they can move the nation forward, you know its a very huge country. Sudan again, it has become an international joint effort to try and bring down the Darfur crisis which is marked by a lot of waste and ravaging which are not acceptable at all on the continent of Africa. If racism succeeds it will be a major setback, similarly religious tolerance should be supported and encouraged. You know the African Union has sent forces which is getting backing from the United States, from Europe and everywhere. Unfortunately, the Sudanese government has failed to accept the move of the Africa Union in searching for solution.
UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan who is your country man is now in the eyes of the storm. What is the feeling with regards to calls for his resignation in some quarters?
Well, the United Nation's Secretary-Generalship is a very important position and that there are some elements that went to see Kofi removed should not surprise anybody. But I believe by far the majority of the nations of the world and a lot of people are supporting Kofi. We know the media pressurised Kofi to express himself on the middle-east crisis, especially the war in Iraq and I believe he expressed his conviction with every sense of responsibility. Perhaps what he said was not popular with some people especially in America but I believe we should work by the rules governing the United Nations. The Secretary-General is elected for a term, people should be tolerant enough to allow Kofi to run his term.
What is the position of things between Ghana and Nigeria I know we used to be brothers..?
We are still brothers except that some people will want to create an unacceptable crack in the very special relationship existing between President Obasanjo and myself. We are more like brothers than even Presidents on the African continent. There are some element, who do not like the relationship, but I tell you there is a lot of goodwill between our peoples. There is a consciousness among the people that these two nations must pull together to help realise the dream of the Economic community of West Africa. Fortunately, we are supportive of each other. I don't see any fierce draw back or handicap in the relationship. Whatever problems there may be the nations are moving towards unification and its Economic community of West Africa may become the United States of West Africa, moving from nation-states into that sort of arrangement.
Well, lastly, hat is happening to Ghanaian soccer which used to be very strong, they have not been to the world cup for instance?
Ghana may not have gone to the world cup but I tell you the talents are in place and we keep winning, we are still a force to reckon with. Yes, I am aware there are problems. But I think we will recover. Because of the naughty politics at a time sports took a bit of a back seat and I think that is what has affected our soccer fortunes. But as I said, we will recover.