Ghana: A country ruled by Johns

ulaimon Olanrewaju writes that since Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings took over power in Ghana in a coup d’état on December 31, 1981, the country has been governed by one John after another.

IT is said that different folks have different strokes and probably bear different yokes. Similarly, different towns and countries have different popular names. In the United Kingdom, the commonest first name for male is Oliver, while it is Olivia for female. Interestingly, in the United States, there is no universally acceptable commonest name for either the male or the female; popularity of names is based on region and colour. The commonest male name among Whites in New York City is Joseph; it is Jayden, among Blacks and Hispanics, while it is Deven among Indians. In other regions, it is either Jacob or James. For White girls in New York, it is Esther; for Blacks, it is Madison, Isabella for Hispanics and Anya for Indians. In other regions, the most popular girl names are Mary and Patricia.

In the Arab world, from Libya to Morocco to Iran or Saudi Arabia, the most popular male name is Mohammed, while the pendulum swings between Lamar and Fatemeh for girls. In Nigeria, choice of name is determined by religious orientation and ethnic consideration. Unarguably the commonest names among males in Ilorin are Abubakar and Bello. It is said that there is no single family without the two names. Among the girls, the commonest name is Fatimah.

For the Yoruba stock, the commonest names for the boys are Olu, Ade, Ola and Akin, while there are more girls whose first names are Olu or Ola than any other.

Among the Northerners, the commonest name for the boys is Mohammed or Ibrahim. For the girls it is either Aisha or Zainab. For the South-Easterners, the commonest name among the boys is Chukwu or Chuks, while it is Ngozi for the girls.

Unlike their Nigerian neighbours, many factors are put into consideration in naming a child in Ghana. Ghanaians name their children after the days of the week. A girl born on Sunday is called Esi, while a boy born on the same day is named Kwesi. There is a fixed name for the first born, the second born or even the third born. There is a name for a child born in the morning or in the afternoon. Names are also given to children based on their parents’ religious affiliations.

Given this background, there are very many common names in Ghana. Some of these names include Kofi, Kwame, Adio and Agymah, among many others but John is not one of them. However, despite John not being among the most popular names in the country, Ghanaians have been under the rule of one John or the other since 1981.

The rule of Ghana by Johns started with the coup d’état led by Ft Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings on December 31, 1981. Rawlings, whose mother was a Ghanaian, was sired by a Scottish father. Irked by the widespread corruption in the country, Rawlings had, before the 1981 putsch, led a group of young military officers to overthrow the military government of General Fredrick Akufo in 1979. Rawlings and his colleagues embarked on a housecleaning exercise during which Generals Ignatius Acheampong and Akufo were tried and later executed. Rawlings’ Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) was in power for 112 days during which it organised an election and handed over power to Hilla Limann, winner of the presidential election.

Rawlings had to watch events in his motherland unfold from the sideline as he was retired from the military after the inauguration of President Limann. He was, however, ‘forced’ to re-enact his earlier deed of staging a coup d’état on December 31, 1981 because the Limann administration had “led Ghana down to total economic ruin.” He established a Provisional National Defence Council in January 1982 as the highest body in the country and embarked on some populist programmes. Although the populist programmes endeared the government to the people, it did not result in an improved economy. Realising that it would also likely be accused of “leading the country to total economic ruin”, the government decided to abandon its populist programmes and adopted some conservative economic policies. It chose to withdraw subsidies and jettisoned the price control regime. These resulted in the reduction of inflation, even as many state-owned enterprises were privatised. The government also devalued the currency which buoyed exports. With the measures taken, the economy experienced a rebound and has since then been on the upswing.

Given the way in which he rebuilt the economy, winning the presidential election for Jerry John Rawlings was as easy as a hot knife slicing through butter. He won the election in 1992 and was re-elected in 1996. His party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), however, lost the presidential election in 2000 to the New Patriotic Party (NPP), thus paving the way for John Agyekum Kufuor to become the president.

Kufuor’s focus was stabilising the economy. He was also able to bring out the creative ingenuity of the average Ghanaian. This resulted in the birth of many small and medium companies, a development that boosted the economy a great deal. His socio-economic vision was summarised in the five priority areas programme; the pursuit of good governance, modernisation of agriculture for rural development, private sector participation, enhanced social services and vigorous infrastructure development. He was so successful in executing the programmes that he won another term of four years.

But as it happened with Rawlings when he finished his second term, Kufuor could not ensure the victory of his party at the presidential poll. As a result, the NDC’s candidate, John Atta Mills succeeded John Kufuor.

Atta Mills won the presidency with a margin of less than one per cent. The presidential election was first held on December 7, 2008. Since there was no candidate with 50 per cent of the votes, a run-off election was organised for the two leading candidates on December 28, 2008. At the end of the run-off, Atta Mills had 50.23 per cent of the votes cast, while Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP had 49.77.

Atta Mills, who was Rawlings’ vice-president between 1997 and 2001, had made attempts at the presidency twice before eventually winning in 2008. Atta Mills, the first Ghanaian president to die in office, had the opportunity of being the one during whose tenure oil was discovered in commercial quantity. He also contributed immensely to the economic development of the country such that President Barak Obama of the United States commended him for giving the world a good story out of Ghana.

At his death on July 24, 2012, he was succeeded by his deputy, John Dramani Mahama, a former Member of Parliament and Minister of Communications. The next presidential election in Ghana holds later this year. It is not clear yet whether Mahama will run or not. If he is presented by his party and wins the election, it will mean that the reign of Johns over Ghana would continue for four more years.Tribune

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