Should the President keep quiet for a while?

Mahama2The international media is in a frenzy about the silence and disappearance of the leader of North Korea,Kim Jon Un.

Apparently, he hasn’t been seen or heard in public for the past 40 days. Various North Korean experts have been brought out to tell us what they think is happening or not happening to him.

The North Korean state television is supposed to have said about a fortnight ago that the great leader was in some discomfort and we have been shown a footage of him walking with a limp.

The speculation has ranged from his having gout, which has flared, high blood pressure, all the way to him having been ousted from power in a palace coup.

I don’t know what the acceptable period is for a leader of a country not being seen or heard. When that leader is of a country like North Korea that makes no pretension to being a democracy, one can see how a period of unexplained silence and/or disappearance can pose difficulties.

Period of silence

I bring up the subject of the North Korean leader’s current situation because I have a suggestion to make, which might be deemed by some to be preposterous.

I think our President John Dramani Mahama should subject himself to a period of silence, at least in public. I wouldn’t dare suggest he shouldn’t speak with Lordina or with his friends. Indeed, I would expect Mr President to conduct his business at ­­ Flagstaff House and conduct cabinet meetings and all of that.

But when it comes to making public statements or saying anything that could be picked up by a microphone, he should refrain completely. One of the Catholic Orders have monks and nuns who undertake oaths of silence and I am recommending that our President imposes an oath of silence on himself for about two weeks. I am making this suggestion in all seriousness because I believe it would be in his interest to give all of us and himself a break.

Dumsor example

Take the business of the power supply or non-supply as the case may be. The President, without any provocation from anybody, announced some time last year that he would solve the “Dumsor” problem in a matter of a few months.

A period came when the posh parts of Accra appeared to have regular supply for about a month; the President complained loudly that he had solved the Dumsor problem and nobody had acknowledged it or given him credit.

Then we lapsed back into severe load shedding. The President offered a­­ number of reasons for the problem and told us the problem would be over within a short period. We waited and waited.

Then he went to the Atuabo Gas works and announced it was almost complete and to borrow his words, it was going to be “a game changer”.

We have been waiting with bated breath only for a senior member of his party to say what most people have always known: the gas supply does not increase power supply, it might make it cheaper to produce but even if Atuabo came fully on stream, it wouldn’t be a game changer in our circumstances.

We heard the President last week tell us that he was dispatching his team to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund. Before we came to this point, we heard him say we did not need to go to the IMF, he had spent months going on about our home grown policies that would solve our economic problems. We heard him say we did not need a bailout.

Then he told us this was the last time ever that Ghana would be going to the IMF because this deal he was going to negotiate would be the one to end the need for us to ever go to the Fund again.

Negotiations by megaphone

Mr President, methinks thou doth protest far too much. If we ever get a President again who spends with such abandon and runs the kind of budget deficit you have done, yes, we shall be going to the IMF again. And by the way, Mr President, negotiations by megaphone that you seem to be doing will not help our case with the IMF.

I am a great believer in transparency but can you let those you have sent do the job, please? The last time your government went to the IMF in 2009, we only got to hear about the details when the Letter of Intent was published.

I don’t know if somebody has made a prophecy to the President about the end of this year; but he has kept on saying the difficulties we are experiencing will be over by the end of the year.

As far as I can see, there is nobody holding a gun to the head of the President and insisting he tells us when our sufferings will be over. So, why oh why does the President keep on saying things will be well by the end of the year?

If the President should keep silent in public and resist any temptation to say anything about the state of affairs in the country for about two weeks, he will be surprised how much his fortunes will change.

It seems every time he opens his mouth,he is tempted to make a fresh promise which he cannot possibly keep; if he keeps quiet, he wouldn’t make any promise that we would hold him to.

It might also not be a bad idea if the President made us start missing the sound of his voice a bit.

There will be no danger of anybody speculating that our President is sick, has gout or has been ousted from power.

This is a democracy, President Mahama has a four- year term, guaranteed, and so being silent in public for two weeks cannot hurt him.

I know our President is supposed to be a great communicator. Maybe he should try not being heard for a change.

The writer is a former Editor of the Daily Graphic, a correspondent of BBC and a Minister of state.

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