It wasn’t Ghana’s team that just lost. It was the president

Troubled touch.
Troubled touch.
Image: Reuters/Luc Gnago
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ACCRA, Ghana—Poor Dramani.

The year is barely halfway through and it is turning out to be an annus horribilis for Ghana’s president, John Dramani Mahama.  It seems everything he touches turns to cow dung.

Ghanaians are experiencing untold financial hardships at a time when a president a year from the next election should be rolling out new initiatives to soothe the masses.  At least that’s how it often works in many places in West Africa.

But Mahama’s government is accused by many here of living beyond its means and plunging the government into more and more borrowing to stay afloat.

To stop the dollarization of the economy brought about by little confidence in the local currency, the Ghana cedi, his team put in place reforms that include not allowing pricing in dollars and permitting holders of dollar accounts to only withdraw their funds in cedis.

The reaction to that has been a drastic 25% drop in the value of the cedi to the dollar.  The falling cedi, currently at about 3 cedis to $1, has resulted in price increases for all and sundry. Increases in the cost of living and a currency losing value are enough to stoke discontent among a populace who loved Mahama when he was vice president under the late John Atta Mills.

But then Mills died in 2012 and Mahama was elevated to the top job. And as president he has brought in his own team. And he and his team have to govern.

With his well-written memoir (My First Coup D’état) many people expected more from him. But his policies and cabinet reshuffling elicit yawns.  The problems seem to be worsening.

The genial but “accidental” president, also the chairman of the regional bloc, summoned his counterparts to Accra to tackle the issue of Islamic militancy in Mali and Nigeria earlier this month.

They came. They tied up traffic—forcing Accra residents to be trapped in roads for hours—and then they left with nothing to show but a communiqué.

No troops, no drones, no nothing.

All this and an increase in power cuts like Accra hasn’t seen in years.

The “Light on light off” phrase so pervades the vernacular because not a day has gone by in months without electricity being cut.

But for the FIFA world cup in Brazil, particularly during Ghana’s matches, Mahama and his team decided to give the roughly 25 million citizens uninterrupted power supply. Ghana can’t produce enough power so Cote d’Ivoire, its neighbor, agreed to pump in 50 megawatts, since their games don’t overlap.

“These plans are put in place for consumers to watch uninterruptible football matches during the World Cup,” the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission said in a statement to Bloomberg News.  “Within these arrangements the load-shedding schedule, though varied, still exists.”

Before the first match Ghana played, which was against the United States, Mahama was on the airwaves encouraging his soccer-fanatic nation to wave flags and show love for the Black Stars who had beaten the US in the past two World cups.

Ghana’s team was about “skill and talent,” the president said, joining the national frenzy here.

Well, the lights didn’t go out and the carnival atmosphere on the streets lasted for hours.

Until the Black Stars lost to the US 2-1.

Mahama has now failed to deliver a sure-thing soccer victory against America like his predecessors. His political rivals are smelling blood.  At least the power was on for the night.

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