Africa and Western World / Development / Economics / Health and Disease / Protest and Activism / West Africa

“Mahama-OO!” President John Mahama’s Woes

The Ghanaian economy has taken a serious negative plunge this past year. The Ghanaian currency, the cedi, has lost approximately forty percent (40%) of its value against the United States’ dollar since January, 2014, making it, according to Financial Times’ August 3rd, 2014, article, “Ghana seeks IMF help after currency falls 40%,” the worst performing currency in the world in 2014. This feat takes some doing as it implies that the cedi has performed worse than the Somali shilling!

In Ghana, the prices of goods increases daily, and some segments of society have resorted to protesting and/or striking to voice their serious displeasures with the Ghanaian government as their salaries have frozen, or not been paid. With the outbreak of ebola in Sierre Leone and Liberia, although it has not been located within Ghana, or its surrounding neighbors, institutions in the West have cancelled programs to Ghana with fears that ebola might or has spread there. The systemic western cultural structures that deem that what happens in one part of Africa seemingly happens in other parts, which is intertwined with the belief that Africa is a country, has negatively impacted Ghana’s economy, as Ghana has been tied in with other West African countries. This is resulted in a decrease in foreign capital from tourism flowing into the country.

Furthermore, the continuous cabinet shuffles and re-shuffles, the eighty million dollars ($80m) worth of gold bars located in Turkey, from Ghana, has seemingly disappeared without the government revealing who sent the money, where it was going, and why it was sent through those channels, and the flying of $3million dollars to Brazil to push the Black Stars to play in the FIFA World Cup have not helped things. In addition, President Mahama’s flirtation with the IMF seems to have eroded the public confidence in his ability to fix the economy’s woes, and has made international investors worried about investing in Ghana. Due to these factors, and others, the Ghanaian economy and confidence in it, has continued to wilt.

Many within Ghana, and some outside Ghana, have directed their anger towards not only the Office of the President, but at the president’s being. Thus, President John Mahama has been subject to numerous personal insults about his handling of the overall economy. Two and four year olds play games amongst themselves called, “lights off-lights on.” “Lights off-lights on” is a local term used to describe the situation when the electrical power goes off and on. Accordingly, while the children play a game that requires electricity, one will suddenly shout, “lights off!” Immediately, all of them will simultaneously shout, “Mahama-oo!” After a few minutes of inactivity, obviously due to the lack of power, another shouts, “lights on,” and they all begin to laugh and continue where they left. Even when individuals cannot sleep well at night, they exclaim, “Mahama-oo!” Anti-Mahama sentiment has reached such a fervor that some have called for a coup d’etat to rid the country of the “corrupt president.” Everything ailment is followed by, “Mahama-oo!,” this is ominous for the president.

While some of the economic woes can certainly be traced to the president, I am not, however, certain whether he is the unfortunate person in a Ghanaian economic system that is structurally flawed and that is unraveling before our very eyes, or whether the system is sound and that under a different president, like John Kufuor, the nation would see continued prosperity as it did under Kufour’s stewardship. This economic crisis creates a space, a platform for Ghanaians to re-analyze the nation’s economic structure, and devise alternative systems of economic prowess that will ease the plight of many Ghanaians. While this economic downturn is certainly troubling in its own right, it is an opportunity to re-evaluate a system that must not be missed.

(while writing this paper, the lights were off – Mahama-oo!”

K.N. Osei-Opare is a PhD student in History at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He received his Bachelors and Masters degrees in History from Stanford University. He is interested in state capitalism, modernization, intellectual networks, Nkrumaism, and African philosophy. He is also an avid cricket, football, and Manchester United supporter.

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