By Bernard Asubonteng
Of course, this is not the first time this writer is highlighting on ex-President John Dramani Mahama’s manipulative politicking. When it comes to manipulations, or deliberately ignoring obvious facts in the public arena that often stand at odds with the general interests of Ghanaians, Mr John Mahama has an unmatched track record, as the then president and now as an opposition leader. Just pay close attention to the “calm and relax” manner with which he often speaks about some pressing national issues.
Former President Mahama has almost “perfected” a habit that guides him to focus on economic and sociopolitical developments in the country, playing down events unfavorable to him and his party while stressing positively on things that go in favour of his electoral ambitions.
“Serial” manipulators, such as ex-President Mahama, seem to have remarkable capability of replacing cognitive models that go against their preferences with beneficial ones. That is why almost every day Ghanaians hear the NDC flagbearer and his yes-people peddling information which usually turn out to be untrue. One recent example is when Mr J D Mahama is reported to have boldly claimed that free press was more guaranteed during his incompetent term of office as then president than is happening under Nana Akufo-Addo’s tenure today.
Concerning the media freedom claim, former President Mahama knows down deep in his soul that the state of the media under his government wasn’t anything enviable to write home about. Please, let the skeptics check out the news archives. In fact, the JDM-led NDC regime witnessed many cases of mistreatment of media personnel across the nation. Yet, the party’s acclaimed “communicator-in-chief” doesn’t really care peddling those make-believe stories to try to control the minds of the vulnerable electorate that he is the country’s free press icon.
What we need to keep in mind is that one of the unstated assumptions in the manipulators’ playbook is that the concept of truth is relative in the science of persuasive communication. The foregoing assumes that once a particular narrative is let out, even if it is not true, stone-cold manipulators insist on it, never retract, and keep hammering on the lies until the receivers or the people swallow it fully as the whole truth. In Mr Mahama’s case—among others—his vantage position as ex-president of this country has immensely helped him figure out the socio-cultural psyches of majority of Ghanaians.
For one thing, he is aware, even on subconscious level, that during his presidency, Ghana underwent mismanagement of the highest order, yet many Ghanaians strangely seem to have forgotten the administration’s iniquities, for reasons that appear to baffle Mr Mahama and his campaign crew, too. For another thing, as an unapologetic manipulator, the NDC presidential aspirant takes solace in the fact that 24/7 news media have more than ever made majority of Ghanaians prefer making fast guesses and embrace mental short-cuts to learning how to be media literates, by objectively assessing media news contents or communication before taking the baits.
Thus, when he is widely quoted as saying Ghanaians are “forgetful people,” the former president’s reason(s) for drawing that cynical conclusion, most likely, comes from the above latter point. Generally, people who don’t take the time to analyse messages or communications content fully tend to miss the salient points; and those people also are most likely to be forgetful. Because of this unfortunate Ghanaian reality of “forgetfulness”, Mr Mahama has found some renewed sense of self-confidence in public after years of running Ghana’s economic ship aground.
Unlike drawing awareness to the manipulative tactics through my previous write-ups, this marks the first time this columnist has been compelled to bring to the fore the seemingly regressive behaviour of the current National Democratic Congress’ presidential candidate. Honestly, Mr Mahama’s public pronouncements do not square well with the status of an ex-president. The facts are all over the place so one does not need to belabour this point.
It is clear ex-President Mahama is so “possessed” with political power that his manipulative behaviour has now degenerated into regression. Let no one take this writer’s word for it; rather, sit back and take a good look at Mr Mahama’s desperation and visible frustration expressed via his utterances over the past couple of years. Often when he tries to convey or share some perspectives on issues of public interest, it is as if it is not coming from a former president. Most of them are misleading, incoherent, and unstatesmanlike.
In psychology, regression is said to have occurred when a person (say a child) behaves in a way that isn’t appropriate to his/her age level, status, or personality. For the purpose of this discussion, let’s apply regression in the context as to when a former president behaves or talks as if he/she is a former district chief executive or among “yentie obiara” crowd. Psychologists identify several triggers of regressive behaviour, and notable among the causes include but not limited to fear, stress, frustration, shocking life events, and so on.
There is no doubt that the 2016 general elections put not only stress, frustrations but also it was one of the earth-shattering life events in ex-President Mahama’s entire existence. To that end, it has certainly left him so frustrated, stressed out, angry, and, possibly, caused him to harbour some internal insecurities/fears, borne out of needless premonitions that Nana Akufo-Addo is somehow “conspiring” with the Electoral Commissioner to rig the upcoming presidential election. The point is, former President John Dramani Mahama is displaying behaviours in the public arena that he is expected to have grown or matured out of it as a statesman!
Bernard Asubonteng is US-based writer and a political science lecturer