In an eerie form of coincident destiny, the electoral stories of Nigeria Vs Ghana have followed quite identical paths for the last series of transitions. Trying times are bringing “change” candidates not just in Nigeria and Ghana but across the world. But sometimes the more things change the more they remain the same and sometimes get worse.
Both nations had quite popular presidents who died in office.
Late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of Nigeria died in office in 2010 at age 58 years and was replaced by his Vice, Goodluck Jonathan. Umaru Yar’Adua had spent 3 years in office. Yar’Adua fought terrorists North and South and the corrupt cabal at the same time, overturning sales of state assets to the vultures by his predecessor and quelling Boko Haram in the north and MEND terror on the south within a few years. Nigerians across ethnic lines were quite happy with him and his performance. Late Yar’Adua remains the only Nigerian president to fully declare his assets.
Similarly, in Ghana, former President John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills died in July of 2012 about 3 and a half years after being elected to office in 2009. He died at 68. He was also replaced by his Vice, John Dramani Mahama. Atta Mills was well loved and respected by his people. He is remembered for being God-fearing and his legacy of ethical leadership. Nicknamed “Prince of Peace” or “Asomdwee Hen,” Prof. Atta Mills was also sound in economic policies, leading Ghana to unprecedented economic growth with single-digit inflation and a stable exchange rate.
The 2 Inheritors of the throne, John Dramani Mahama of Ghana and Goodluck Jonathan did not lead the best of regimes. Suffering and corruption were the hallmarks of both’s administrations. Right from his days as Vice president, scandals were Mahama’s brand. Outgoing President Mahama was bogged with numerous corruption allegations also involving his flamboyant, burning-hot rides brother. Gifts given and received by him including vehicles from foreign businessmen and allegedly buying homes for election officials overseas were part of his long list.
Goodluck Jonathan did not fare much better. His days as President began with a name brand as the most “clueless president in the world.” A title he embraced. But like Mahama, allegations of corruption were established ever before he became President and included his family members. As governor of Bayelsa, the corruption tales began with his wife investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Committee (EFCC), for several cases including the alleged laundering of $13 million. The Jonathan 5 years in office were filled with torrential series and hapless cries of massive corruption to the point of calamity to the nation. Obstinately declaring that “stealing is not corruption,” Goodluck Jonathan embraced his labels again and preached alternate scales that Nigerians should use to rate and appreciate his administration. Torrents of monetary seizures and blame have trailed the Jonathan family since being voted out of office.
Interestingly the people gave both men a chance, electing them into office as president for their go, even after both men had already been tainted.
And The Old
In 2015 Nigeria held elections with then President Goodluck Jonathan contesting for a 2nd term as president and 3rd term in the presidency. Former military leader Muhammadu Buhari under the APC party contested against him and won, defeating Goodluck Jonathan soundly with 2.5 million more votes. Buhari was 72 according to his official age when he became president in May of 2015. Buhari won with about 54.5% of the vote with Jonathan at 45%.
Mr. Akufo-Addo With a similar margin of 54% to 44% soundly defeated the incumbent, President John Mahama to become Ghana’s president-elect. A human rights lawyer, astonishingly President-elect Mr. Nana Akufo-Addo is also 72 years old.
Like Nigeria’s Buhari who had contested 3 times previously and lost, Nana was a veteran presidential race runner, he ran unsuccessfully for President of Ghana in the 2008 and 2012 before the people finally decided to give him the shot. Buhari ran unsuccessfully in 2003, 2007 and 2011. Sometimes really wanting something is not enough of a validation and does not translate to the capacity and suitableness for that role.
It would be wise for Ghana to learn from its partner in fate and “Big Brother”, Nigeria and its ongoing trials. Like Nigeria, the recent discovery of oil in Ghana has not quite helped as the country is battling with continuous inflation and increasing prices of utilities like power, which are no longer half as stable as they used to be. In Nigeria, old Buhari who came into power with a lot of support and goodwill is having a hard time. Nigeria quickly fell into a recession with loss of millions of jobs as the new elder-led Buhari administration slowly and clumsily looked for the steps. Dwindling currency power which has tanked the Cedis and Naira an identical 400% over the past few years discombobulated the new administration. Elders expect savings and a tidy house. Summarizing Nigeria under baba Buhari, the President appears stuck in an old pattern of doing things and challenged by an advanced technological and complex world, thereby becoming at the complete mercy of whoever he is related to and hopes knows what should be done. Many of whom do not share the pain, vision and desperation of the nation. The president is at the mercy of a list that includes family, the very same corrupt cabal, the same politicians who drained and damaged the nation, the World Bank, and IMF.
Similarly, the elections in Ghana and Nigeria were both quite polarizing with divisions along religious and ethnic lines. Akufo-Addo would do well uniting the country and not following Nigeria’s example where divisions appear to have become more plentiful, deeper and deadlier since Buhari’s swearing in.
Ghanaians must not wait. Victory does not end with the declaration of the winner but begins with it. Ghanaians must track every step their new president takes and makes sure he is smart, fast, strong and able to take them to the Promised Land.
God Bless Nigeria. God bless Ghana. God Bless Africa.