Ghana: Obama’s call to Attah-Mills

An interesting debate is going on in Ghana about the phone call President Barack Obama, reportedly, made to Ghana’s president, John Evans Atta-Mills, on Friday, April 10, 2009The Ghanaian media and Prof. Atta-Mills’ National Democratic Congress (NDC) is making quite a lot of capital out of such a call. And, of course,

such capital might not altogether have been misplaced, although the spin put on it by the various Ghanaian media organizations prompted many a sober-minded observer to sit up and reckon the fact that it had taken the first African-American premier nearly four months, after the fact, to personally field his call.

More so when Mr. Obama have officially issued a congratulatory, and largely pro-forma, statement in the wake of Ghana’s most recent general election.

There is this Interesting article and definitely on the right tracks – I think Obama’s call to Atta-Mills was intended also to make clear the US Govt would find it extremely difficult to accommodate anything other than a strict adherence to the democratic principles that have been established over the last four elections in Ghana – just in case anyone in Ghana might be getting the idea that they are in fact dispensable. It should be borne in mind that this call will have been made with the advice of the US man on the ground in Ghana – the Ambassador, who will be more than up to speed with some of the more worrying developments on the Ghanaian political scene over the last few weeks.

Obama needs to be able to show that there is a real movement towards democratic ideals in Africa if he is to be able to get his agenda for the developing economies in Africa through the US Congress. A setback in Ghana would undoubtedly be a significant blow in this respect.

It also has to be borne in mind that there is a very strong emotional bond (and to some extent a growing economic and commercial bond) between a significant numbers of the middle class Black American population in the States and Ghana. They are increasingly seeing Ghana as their mythical root in Africa – a belief that successive Ghanaian Govts have fostered as a source of tourist and commercial income.

You have only to see the increasingly large numbers of African American tourists visiting the great slave castles in Ghana, and the significant emotional pain that they experience in so doing, to recognise this. Many of these Black Americans, who are increasingly see Ghana as their emotional home, are able to point to Ghana as an example of their belief that their homeland is not barbaric and undeveloped but is quite able to foster and maintain standards that are comparable with those in the so-called developed world.

I think these are factors that Ghana politicians should take this into account when considering the “proverbial” message that Obama may have been delivering given the rather febrile and menacing atmosphere that some “politicians” are currently trying to cultivate for what ever purpose. Ghana’s constitutional achievement over the last twenty years is an indicator that it has entered the global consciousness in a way that as yet it’s economic development has not allowed.

However, we should remember in this context, that in the so called developed world, economic development in terms of the raising of standards and incomes for ordinary people only happened once the principles of popular democracy were established and were entrenched in the popular imagination.

This I think that is the first great achievement of the new independent Ghana – and if the principles of what has been achieved in terms of structural democracy can be built on rather than destroyed at the whim of a few old style “politicians” then I think Ghana has a great opportunity of developing, in a reasonably short period of time, a worthwhile economic presence in which the majority of it’s citizens are stakeholders. History teaches us that this follows automatically were true functional democracies are established. Alternative systems always lead to disaster for ordinary people in the longer term. No matter how attractive they may appear to be in the short term.

The need for peculiarly African systems of democracy should not be used as an excuse to remove ordinary people from achieving and maintaining a direct voice in the government of their societies or their countries. Ordinary African men and women do not need self appointed strong men and self perpetuating oligarchs to speak for them – they are not children and they are not stupid. The majority may not have had the opportunity of a great education but that does not mean they have no common sense.

Ghanaian’s – you are learning to hold the powerful men and the would-be despots to account – it’s a long and hard road but stick at it, and do not allow yourselves don’t be persuaded otherwise for whatever spurious reason they or the media can dream up.

God bless Ghana!