Last week President Nana Akufo-Addo addressed the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations, with many of the world’s most important political leaders as his immediate audience and billions of people worldwide as his remote, secondary audience, including the international trade, investment, financial and development assistance communities.
Most instructively, the tone and content of the President’s address marked a distinct departure from those of earlier addresses made to international stakeholders in Ghana’s fortunes, by both himself and the Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumiah, in that references made to the tenor and performance of the immediate past Mahama administration although brief, were positive rather than highly critical. Indeed, the President declared his commitment to continuing the efforts of his predecessor, rather than complaining about the poor governance that marked his tenor in office and the resultant dire situation he left the economy in.
We applaud President Akufo-Addo for this change of tact. Not because we completely disagree with his earlier criticisms, but because we have always maintained that international fora attended by Ghana’s foreign development and trading partners, investors and financiers are not the place for such criticism, even where they are true – which has not always been the case anyway.
Indeed, we have had cause on several occasions to recommend the change of tack exhibited by the president last week for the simple but crucial reason that denigrating the tenure of the previous administration, even where fully justified, only serves to lower confidence among the international community in Ghana’s potentials for the future, since a return to power by the opposition party being criticized is a matter of when, rather than if. Thus, the incumbent administration’s criticisms actually serve as a warning to foreign stakeholders that whatever gains Ghana is supposedly about to enjoy under the current administration are in danger of unraveling again when the next, inevitable change of power eventually occurs. Which means those foreign stakeholders would be unwise to take a long term positive view of Ghana’s prospects.
However, by making positive, rather than negative references abroad, about the performance of the Mahama administration, the incumbent government is assuring those foreign partners and stakeholders that Ghana will continue to enjoy good governance, to their own benefit as well in their dealings with this country.
To be sure, in reality, there is plenty to criticize the Mahama administration for, but there are two reasons why it is no longer necessary, not just at international fora but, albeit to a lesser extent, locally as well.
Firstly, Ghanaians themselves are already well aware of the previous administration’s many shortcomings and indeed that is partly why the electorate so resoundingly voted that government out of office in the first place.
The other reason for those election results – and the second reason why repeated criticisms are now redundant – is that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) promised to repair the damage it claims the National Democratic Congress (NDC) inflicted on the country and that is what it should now devote all its attention to doing. Indeed, if it does not, it will open itself up to criticism from the electorate that it is resorting to diversionary tactics to cover its own performance shortcomings.
To be sure, we are not asking the incumbent government to stop all forms of criticism of its predecessor administration, if only because its shortcomings – like every other administration before it albeit to a lesser degree – deserve criticism. Again, criticism is inevitable in the current government’s efforts to bring the corrupt acts of some public officials in the previous government to book. Besides we acknowledge that it would be asking too much of the political class in Ghana to desist completely from using criticism, both justified and unjustified, to score political points with the electorate ahead of the next general elections.
What we are asking however is that the President and his officials in government, desist from doing this at international fora where attendees with an interest in Ghana assess the country as one continuing entity, rather than with reference to which political party is in power and therefore behind the good or bad performance of the country at any given time.
Last week the President got it right after getting it wrong on several occasions in the past. As we commend him for this we hope that he will continue to get it right going forward.