The [Unwritten] Letter: From Kuffuor to Mills

To: John Mills

From: John Kuffuor

Subject: “Run. Don’t Run”.

Many thanks for the congratulatory message. You were on my mind as Lula da Silva and I were being given that Award. I sincerely pray you’ll build upon the work I’ve tried to do in that area. (I really wasn’t bothered by the confusion your message birthed between your party and the government. In fact, I understand some of these things better now).

Ideally, this letter should have come to you right after you took office. However, the uncertainty over where you were going to work from as President of the Republic, gave pause to my intentions. I hope this letter finds you somewhere between the Castle in Osu and the Jubilee House. (Does the name Jubilee still hold for that building? I’m fully aware there’s an expiry date to naming buildings while in government, you know.)

I am writing to you at this moment because I can see a foul wind of opposition blowing against you from your own party. I used to wonder if political ordination by an individual can stand the test of time. What do you think? I hope you pick the key in the current storm. There’s a blessing in there for you. Find it. I have a sense you’ll need a few words from me at this stage, which is why I want to share my thoughts on three vital areas concerning your current job.

Let’s talk about the Presidency. I used to think the Presidency was the best office in the land to occupy in order to make a meaningful contribution in the world. It took my first 100 days in office to realize how wrong I was. You see, this was something my predecessors never told me. It’s absent from the playbooks. It took me to a point nearing the end of my second term to figure them on my own. It sure must come in handy to you at this stage. For one, the seat of government haunts and inspires in seismic proportions. Though you get the citizens to change their views about your humanity as you go on the campaign trail giving promises (like god), the Presidency changes you in ways that the electorate can scarcely imagine. The human-God dynamic usually creates confusion.

As you get overwhelmed with the expectations of your people, the reality begins to sink in: the term of office is an injustice when used to measure a President’s competence. I have no doubt you’re at that stage now. You need to realize that the Presidency is largely defined by hard work, risk, luck and uncertainty. Seek to build consensus for your ideas, but never substitute true wisdom with groupthink. Every single decision you take would meet opposition, so choose those decisions that serve the national agenda and make the right kind of enemies. There are decisions you’d never regret being hated for. There are times when you’ll feel very lonely. Here, let me share a personal story with you. On my Presidential desk in the Castle, I had a wooden engraving of a quote from Lyndon B. Johnson. It read: “Being the President is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There’s nothing to do but stand there and take it”. Harsh words, if you may, but I referred to them in my low moments and slow hours. It helped on those days when my cabinet felt like an alien troop and I needed an escape. Honor the citizenry and the key branches of government; your work depends largely on that.

This brings us to my second point: Honor the Press. By default, your government under Rawlings’ rule made a saint out of my government based how we each treated the Press. Whoever told you the media can be ignored in a democratic dispensation did you a great disservice. You were working against history then, something you paid for with your failed attempts to clinch the presidency earlier. You see, you entertain the media not because they would love you. Embrace them with the acceptance of a betrothal you never favored, but must accept to avoid trouble with your landlord. They may taunt you, not because they love to. It’s because their job carries the same uncertainty as yours does. In a bid to secure a place in the history books, they try to finish the proverbial drafts of history with information that is usually indifferent to your efforts. Remember my case with Gizzelle Yajzi? (Don’t forget I repealed the Criminal libel Law). So embrace them. It may take only four [or eight] years.

My final point is whipsawed between your party and winning in life. You know, your founder’s wife reminds me of Hillary Clinton. (Ever slept to dream she’ll give you a hard time like she’s doing now?) She appears to be the thick in your foul wind, but I urge you to look at Obama in 2008 for inspiration. My only advice here is that you stand up and run. Don’t run from the current opposition. It somehow frees you from what critics of the Swedru Declaration have always fed on. Always make sure you win because you are right; not because you have the power.

My doors would always be open to you, Atta. I wish you well in these seasons.
Warmly,
JAK.

To The Ghanaian Journalist: Yes We Can!
Of Semantics and Life