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A Nation Gripped With Political Insanity

Fri, 15 Oct 2004 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong examines the on-going deadly negative political campaigns , two months into the general elections, of Ghanaian politicians and concluded that they may be suffering from a West African Oedipus complex

There is a creeping sense of disbelief among Ghanaians at home and abroad about the turn of events almost two months into the impending general elections that appears to make Ghana weaker. In campaigns that mark how values are falling, immaturity ascending, and insanity is gripping Ghana a la Liberia under President Samuel Doe and Cote d?Ivoire under Gen. Emmanuel Guei, the campaign utterances of politicians and a good section of Ghanaians are marked by insults, threats, war mongering, inflammatory talks, tribal hatred, smear campaigns, wildly unsubstantiated allegations of extreme corruption, and other diatribes. This is creating fear and sense of uncertainty, and some thoughtful politicians of all stripes, traditional rulers, and opinion leaders are sounding the alarm bell. Some commentators have termed this unreasonable climate ?democrazy.? Kosi Kedem, a Member of Parliament from the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), apparently with Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Cote d?Ivoire in mind, has said that, "Those who want to use the political platform to create unnecessary tension and plunge Ghana into darkness should re-think their strategy, because even if they succeed in winning the elections, their victories could turn out to be a hollow...victory."

In his three-and-half years as president of Ghana, John A. Kuffor, a quiet, patient and thoughtful man, is not known to talk strongly and threateningly, like ex-president Jerry Rawlings, who appears not to have sense of peace and whose ?boom? speeches, spiced with wild allegations, threats and generally near seditious, are disturbing to a nation with infant democracy and dangerous in a region which security is still very fragile (the army chief of Guinea Bissau, General Verissimo Correia Seabre, beaten to death by military officers protesting for payment of salary arrears and security troubles Nigeria is going through in dealing with rebels from the oil-rich Niger Delta region). The security situation in West Africa and Ghanaian politicians inability to draw heavily from their country?s tortuous history (of coups, invasions, tribalism, violence, chronic lies, economic hardship, disunity, poor sanitation, diseases and poverty) to guide them in their electioneering campaigns reveal politicians out of touch with their core elements, gone wild and directionless, mindless and increasingly weak in driving home the development process and entrenching democratic roots.

Since the dawn of multipartyism in Ghana 12 years ago, acrimonious and atrocious statements have been the order, unfortunately, more so with a country that has been under military rules for a good part of its almost 50 years existence. The only exception where there were civilian administrations is the years 1957-1966, 1969-72, 1979-81, and 1993 to present. Spanning the Gen. Joseph Ankrah military regime (that overthrew the President Nkrumah administration in1966) to Gen. Akwesi Afrifa military junta (that toppled the Ankrah regime in 1969) to Gen. Kutu Acheampong military regime (which overthrew the Prime Minister Dr. Kofi Busia/President Edward Akuffo-Addo administration in 1972) to Gen. F.W.K Akuffo military junta (that overthrew the Acheampong regime 1978) to the long-running Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings military regimes (that overthrew the Akuffo and Dr. Hilla Liman regimes in 1979 and 1981 respectively), the on-going do-and-die politics may be Ghanaians way of releasing intense stress and anger after decades of brutal military rules that suppressed their freedom and choices, violated their human rights, and put their economies in disarray, despite sometimes its dangerous streaks.

In extreme fear mongering, the allegation, published in the Monrovia, Liberia-based ?The Analyst,? one-and-half months ago, that the main opposition NDC was recruiting mercenaries from the West African states of Liberia, Cote d?Ivoire, Guinea and Sierra Leone to invade and overthrow the ruling National Patriotic Party was an event of modern black arts in extreme spin that created uncalled for tension with its security implications. On other hand, the NDC?s wild allegations of extreme corruption of the NPP without evidence are totally gross and threaten the security of the state. While the potentially devastating multi-media assaults are largely untrue, in both directions the worst allegations have been refuted.

All these extremely negative campaigns demonstrate that Ghanaian politicians are not connecting with Ghanaians healthily for the fuller development of the nation and what some experts have observed that the extremely negative campaign in a country which democratic roots are shallow undermines the ability of politicians and the state to connect to the average Ghanaian for healthy stability and progress. In Dag Olav Hogvold?s ?Government by the People?? (1999), which looks at the patterns of Ghanaian politicians connection with Ghanaians for stability and development, he cites Crook (1991) ?that one of the main reasons for the political instability during these years is the way in which the government interacted with the civil society. It was not able to create a strong basis of power, which could secure legitimacy and capacity for its rule. The variety of tribes did not give the basis for a strong government, but for strong local communities. Hence, the relationship between state and society was not in balance, and the state was unable to legitimise its rule within the local communities. The result was inefficiency and lack of legitimacy at all levels of the Ghanaian society.?

While some section of the Ghanaian politicians have been talking about strong issues to drive home the development process and entrench democracy, a good number of them have not, rather entrapped in the West African Oedipus Complex of civil wars, ?dark? spiritual practices (newspapers leaning toward both NPP and NDC accuse each of the parties of importing powerful juju-marabou and other spiritual mediums from other parts of West Africa to help them in the elections), inflammatory statements, unsubstantiated allegations, smear campaigns, twisted facts, chronic lies, hate mongering, tribalism, and general stupidity. If anything, the impact of the various recent party conventions in Cape Coast, Accra and Kumasi, aimed at sending home values, issues, and programmes, are been undermined by the deadly negative politics, with some personalities from mainly the ruling NPP and the main opposition NDC threatening hell, fires and death. Like elsewhere in the world, this may be the nasty truth that going negative is more effective than going positive, but while going negative, as we are witnessing in the American presidential elections between mainly President George Bush of the Republican Party and Senator John Kerry, the Democratic Party presidential candidate, may come in the form such as smear campaign, ?Big Lie,? exaggerations, and twisting facts, to threaten life and property and war mongering not only smack of a West African Oedipus complex and modern black arts but moves beyond partisan party politics and into insanity, immaturity, juvenility, madness, and stupidity.

How do you measure the barometre of unnecessarily inflammatory remarks, and other awfully negative politics in the hot Ghanaian political climate today? One is from President Kuffour himself and the other from spokesperson of the NDC youth wing. Said an angry Kuffour in an address at the Osu Castle to chiefs and top personalities from Volta Region, viewed as NDC?s turf, which section of citizens bowed and insulted him in last week?s electioneering campaigns there, ?Chiefs and opinion leaders continued to appeal to the government to restrain itself and ensure a peaceful, free and fair elections but failed to appeal to those in opposition to also restrain themselves. Tell those subverting peaceful, free and fair elections to stop their activities?The government had been self-restraining, otherwise some of the abuses and insults going-on would have been tackled with all the force at its disposal but the Government had not reacted."

President Kuffour?s statement came on the heels of Fifi Kwetey, spokesperson for NDC Youth Forum, in an equally vitriol press conference that cited instances of some NPP personalities threatening instability and death, said, "We of the NDC Youth Forum have called this press conference to bring to your attention what we consider to be very serious developments that do not augur well for the peace, security and stability of our dear nation. The Forum has taken serious note of recent declarations made by the former President to the effect that dire attempts are being made by elements of the ruling NPP regime to assassinate him. The Forum wishes to remind members of the general public that it was in this same manner that the former President declared, weeks ahead, that serious plans were being hatched by elements of this government to assassinate the overlord of Dagbon, the late Ya Na Yakubu Andani II.?

As the Ghanaian general elections close up no one expected it to be clean campaign for tactical and historical reasons in the long-running dirty war that rages just beneath the surface of Ghanaian politics. The two main parties, NPP and NDC, are fighting not only across wide ideological divide (the NPP?s foundation is rooted in capitalism and the NDC?s social democracy; and both have violent past) but as voters feelers indicate the margin in the polls is not widening, as the NDC increasingly closes in, extreme negative campaign is at the center of the action. So come to think of the hot acrimonious climate leading into the December 7 general elections, Ghanaians can draw from the practical wisdom that, ?politics is not war. It is about choosing the best person to serve your needs, to work with you to improve your welfare and develop your community. So you must listen to all the competitors and question them on their track record and ability to be able to choose well," as Ghana?s vice president, the affable Aliu Mahama, told some villagers in the Central Region.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi