As an elected President with the mandate of the people, John Mahama and for that matter anyone occupying that office is under obligation to account to the people primarily through parliament. The 1992 constitution requires the President to deliver a message on the state of the nation to Parliament regularly. It will be a further deepening of political accountability if a President genuinely decides to directly account to the people through tours and visits to the hinterlands. There is no denying the fact however that such accounting to the people tours amount to indirect political campaign tours. Given the use of state vehicles, security and other apparatus that move with the president, one may not be too wrong in arguing that there is abuse of incumbency. It is true that a president who is seeking re-election still remains a president throughout the period and must be accorded all the courtesy and privileges that go with his office, including state security protection and logistics, irrespective of the fact that he is also a candidate in an election. This makes the line of demarcation between incumbency advantage and abuse by a sitting president a bit hazy.
The Institute of Economic Affairs sponsored-Ghana Political Parties Programme Code of Conduct of 2012 has provisions that extensively deal with abuse of incumbency. It will be important to be guided by such provisions in passing a value judgement on President Mahama's accounting to the people tours. The fact is, in the absence of a clear cut legal demarcation between incumbency abuse and advantage, the decision not to abuse incumbency is at the discretion of the president. That is when the President who is also a Candidate in the election could master the moral courage to want to create a level playing field for all. The late President, Prof John Evans Atta Mills will go down in history as one such person who attempted not to use his office to enjoy undue advantage over his competitors in the 2012 elections. Prof Mills shocked many observers when in 2012, he was going to pick his nomination forms to contest his party's primaries to seek re-election, he parked his official vehicles, and used his private car. That was a move in the right direction and one will have expected subsequent Presidents to follow his precedent. Abusing incumbency is a challenge that has plagued all regimes in Ghana since 1992. Former Presidents Rawlings and Kufuor also faced similar challenges and accusations. As the saying goes, power sweet. Those in power enjoy abusing incumbency and those in opposition cry foul over it. When the tables turn, those in opposition who get elected also enjoy it and disregard the complaints of those who may have been pushed into opposition.
As a country, there is the need to learn from the best practices. Let those in power today not do anything they wouldn't want to be done to them when they are also in opposition. Let the opposition learn from the plagues of opposition life and let them take steps to correct instead of repeating should they be voted into power. Let everyone remember that what is wrong is wrong.
BY: DR RANSFORD GYAMPO, SENIOR LECTURER, DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF GHANA, LEGON.