Defining moments of Presidencies in the history of Ghana’s Fourth Republic

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Governments the world over are characterised with the sort of present and future legacies they will be leaving behind for their generations and those yet unborn.

In Ghana, government after government have had their fair share of the good, the bad, and ugly.

But even after they’ve long left power and their applause has gone down, there’s that one striking thing they’ll be remembered for.

President Akufo-Addo on Sunday, May 31, 2020, announced the easing of restrictions on social gathering, a move described by many as one which will either see him hailed for eternity on the back of his handling of the COVID-19 crisis or condemned for a long time to come as the President who did so well but in the end achieved very little for easing the restrictions so soon.

In all of this though, time will be the ultimate decider.

In this sneak peek into the Presidencies of Ghana’s fourth republic (1992 till date) ABC News chronicles some defining moments of each presidency and what many Ghanaians will continue to associate with each of the five Presidents of the fourth republic.

File photo: Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings addressing a gathering

Jerry John Rawlings – The People’s man

The man Jerimiah John Rawlings, popularly known as JJ Rawlings entered politics as the “Paul” of our time after leaving behind what many described as atrocities he committed while he served as a military ruler of two successful coups and one abortive one.

On January 7, 1993, Mr. Rawlings was sworn into office as the first President of the fourth Republic.

He kickstarted his Presidency with a desire to be a part of the action and was noted for his close association with the local people from cleanups to other communal activities.

His charisma has been described as the bedrock of his success as president.

His fiery speeches during the commemoration of his coups earned him the nickname “Dr. Boom.”

In a 2019 report by the Chronicle newspaper, President Akufo-Addo was reported to have said: “One of the greatest legacies former President J.J. Rawlings left the country is the district assembly concept, which must be protected and sustained.”

Clearly, the local man (People’s man) legacy of President Rawlings is conspicuously present for all to see.

John Agyekum Kufour – The Gentle Giant 

John Agyekum Kufuor is admired by many for an achievement that could be described as the smoothest transition from politician to statesman.

Arguably, one of the finest moments that can be attributed to him in this regard was when he defied the raw sentiment in the rank and file of his party to attend the inauguration of President John Mahama in January 2013, at a time when his party was challenging the 2012 election results.

A defining moment of the President Kufour administration was his decision to commit Ghana to a Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) status, with the benefits and restrictions.

Despite the opposition and numerous criticisms that came from within and without his government, he pursued the vision for a credible health insurance programme, the opening up of the banking sector to foreign competition (which actually led to more people saving with banks), free maternal care, capitation grant, a school feeding programme for basic schools which saw enrolment actually go up, the revival of the Bui Dam project and many others.

This development saw the gentle giant improving on his 2000 election vote tally winning him the 2004 presidential election with ease.

Late Professor John Evans Atta Mills, former President of Ghana

John Evans Atta Mills – Man of Peace (Asomdweehene)

John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills had a relatively short reign as the third President of the fourth republic before his death in 2012.

One of the great legacies President Atta Mills bequeathed to Ghana and the world is his outstanding example of “ethical leadership.” He will forever be remembered as the principled, godly, servant leader.

President Mills practised the politics of civility and was typically courteous to colleagues and rivals alike. He eschewed the intemperate jousting, discourtesy, and ad hominem attacks that so many politicians favour these days and preferred to dwell on issues rather than personalities.

His calm temperament, maturity, and emotional intelligence introduced a radically different dynamic into the presidency and won him the title “Asomdwehene.” And of course, no one forgets his “diwofie asem” mantra.

That disposition created for him enemies within his party as he fell out with the founder of the NDC and his wife over his failure to sanction arbitrary arrests and prosecute opposition elements.

Be that as it may, his style of corruption fight set him apart from his colleagues and became his “hall of fame.”

The investigative footage by Anas Aremeyaw Anas, titled “Enemies of the Nation,” revealed cases of collusion with auctioneers, bribery of customs officials, and a rift between the Ghana Customs Division and the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority over revenue collection.

There was also evidence of how some CEPS officials engaged in illicit sexual acts with some businesswomen with the promise of securing them goods and contracts to work within the Tema area.

This set the tone for his unannounced visits to state institutions to ascertain for himself the realities on the ground. This move was said to have made then opposition party, the NPP uncomfortable.

John Dramani Mahama – The Perfect Communicator

JM, as he is affectionately called is the man who has seen it all in his political career. He started as an Assemblyman and rose to become a member of parliament for the Bole constituency. He was later appointed a Deputy Minister, a Minister, and subsequently a Vice President of the Republic of Ghana.

John Dramani Mahama demonstrated a high level of competence in the area of communication and human relations.

He is arguably the most vilified President Ghana has ever had. He has been tagged with ‘incompetence’ and ‘corruption’, tags he has struggled to shrug off despite persistent attempts to do so.

Having the power and will as President, his indecision is said to have caused him the Presidency as failure to crack the whip on the wanton dissipation of the nation’s scarce resources allegedly by some of his appointees is said to have done him more harm than good.

He is also accused of supervising the shrinking of the country’s economy after failing to effectively deal with the country’s power crisis throughout his presidency.

His communication and oratory skills couldn’t save him from the most embarrassing defeat to have been suffered by a sitting President in Ghana’s history.

Regardless of his branding as corrupt, many admire him for how he handled all the criticisms that came his way with many describing him as a very tolerant leader.

President Mahama is widely celebrated for the numerous infrastructure projects he initiated while in office.

His government ensured the facelift of hospitals including the Greater Accra Regional Hospital which today is playing a key role in the fight against coronavirus.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo – The ‘Ku Me Preko’ man

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo became the first gentleman of the land riding on his “no-nonsense” persona. A character that gave hope to the people as a better replacement of the perceived corrupt and incompetent government led by then President, John Dramani Mahama.

His decision to pursue bold initiatives that many described as impossible such as the Free SHS policy, One district One factory, Planting for Food and Jobs and the banking sector clean-up, among others was a good start for him as president despite the numerous criticisms.

Upon his election, he successfully rolled out the Free SHS policy which has seen thousands of students get access to education.

Hitherto, most of these students would have had their education truncated at the basic level due to the exorbitant fees.

President Akufo-Addo has received plaudits from home and abroad over his handling of the  novel coronavirus outbreak with the World Health Organisation, UK government, US government, etc. hailing and adopting his initiatives for their use.

On the issue of probity and accountability, he has set up an Office of the Special Prosecutor, the first ever in the country’s history and made major investments into the fight against corruption. He has also referred all allegations of corruption against his appointees to various anti-graft agencies for investigations. Despite all of this though, a number of people still accuse him of shielding his appointees with the opposition National Democratic Congress even describing him as a “Clearing Agent”.

Nana Akufo-Addo has also successfully dealt with a banking crisis which many predicted to be the trigger for the collapse of the country’s entire economy. Though the clean up led to the total collapse of a number of banks, merging of some and loss of jobs for several thousands, a number of experts hail him for the move insisting the situation would have been much worse if he had done nothing.

Undoubtedly, Free SHS, the handling of the banking crisis, the handling of COVID-19 among others will remain on the lips of many for years as some of the defining moments of the Akufo-Addo administration.

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