Opinions Sun, 27 Feb 2011

A Visionary NDC against a Visionless NPP: Is this the picture today?

Recent political debate and predictions about the 2012 elections seem to be solidifying a clear image of a visionary NDC versus a visionless NPP. To this picture we add two self-mutilating Nkrumaists parties (CPP and PNC) who fail to realise that their fortunes lie in a united front. And that the NDC as an Nkrumaist “faction” has taken the wind out of their sail with vision and honest leadership that echoes the legacy of Dr. Nkrumah.

In my opinion, this is the picture that seems to be emerging and my interpretation is couched on the NPP’s failure to lead proper debates on vital national issues. The question is whether this failure stems from a lack of will or from the absence of coherent party policy on national development. I am not certain, but it may be the latter. In my view, the party lacks of a comprehensive vision for Ghana. The NDC has a vision and an agenda for development while the NPP and other parties are only talking about acquiring power.

Three weeks ago, Akuffo Addo’s utterances about the Akans’ passivity in the face of an imagined threat from all other ‘enemy” peoples in Ghana, drew fire from opponents of the NPP party and even within his own party. Akuffo-Addo has been accused of inciting ethnic violence and some have called him mad, nation-wrecker, etc. Only his beloved “son” who writes from the Diaspora was ready to support him to the extent of attacking the character of Hon Inusah Fusheini (Deputy Minister for Energy). It is worthwhile telling the author that the Deputy Minister is a sane man, brought up with character and that his comments on Akuffo Addos’ behaviour and not Akuffo-Addo’s person was appropriate.

I too felt alarmed at Akuffo Addo’s utterances and I was sure that the NPP Flag-bearer would make it a one-off event. However, given that Akuffo-Addo and many top people in the NPP are still harping on the “All die be die “ slogan, I am beginning to agree with my inner voice, which was initially leaning towards sympathy for Akuffo-Addo. I think people should be sorry rather than angry.

I feel sorry for Akuffo Addo because his utterances reflect the true state of the NPP party. It is a party with no vision in terms of policy and leadership. And when you have nothing to say, you have come up with something. Unfortunately, in such a dark and confused policy vacuum, you are more likely to hallucinate and see danger where there is, in fact, none. The NDC’s Better Ghana Policy has targets and deliverables. However, if you ask the NPP what its vision is, you will be lucky to get a clear answer, other than “we want to win the election”. But….for what? There is total blindness in the party and let me tell you why NPP lacks vision before you pour insults on me.

The Nkrumaists parties, including the NDC come from a more social democratic political tradition, while the NPP comes from a liberalist-Monarchists tradition. The Nkrumaists as social democrats value substantial government commitment to universal services and minimum standards of support for all Ghanaians through a pronounced intervention in the economy to alleviate market-based inequality. This is the basic belief that started with the CPP government (1957-1966) to Attah-Mills Government (2009-present). That is why you will notice that the years of the Nkrumah, Limann and NDC stewardship have often witnessed massive infrastructure development and social welfare service provision. For example Mills is trying to build a railway line to the north. This tradition and developmental path of the Nkrumaists often stands in complete contradiction to the NPP’s more liberalist and monarchist tradition.

Historically the NPP came out of the UGCC, National Liberation Movement (NLM) and Northern People Party (NPP), which advocated for a federal political structure at independence and supported a stronger role of traditional rulers. These ideas/ideals align more with Liberal and Neo-liberal party ideologies in Europe and America. The liberal traditions focus on maintaining exiting class structures and inequalities in society and support strong private enterprise/competitive markets with little government intervention to ameliorate the negative impact on the poor. The problem is that the NPP is unable to live by some of liberal principles.

The NPP lost the federalism argument earlier on, when Nkrumah refused to roll out the federalism agenda immediately after independence. It also failed to properly embrace the neo-liberalist tradition in a full, positive and meaningful way. The party was therefore left with a monarchist vision, which has remained a strong undercurrent driving the NPP’s thinking. My use of the term “Monarchist” derives from the fact that the notion of supremacy of the kings/chiefs feeds into the notion of superiority of ethnic groups. It this is thinking in the NPP, which alienated many Ghanaian groups because it sought to accentuate the ethnic hegemony of the more powerful tribes.

This still applies today and has led to the exclusion of groups of people not belonging to the powerful tribes. Within the party, the historical mentality of superiority by the powerful tribes meant that a hierarchy – akin to the caste system in Indian tradition – was created. If you came from Ashanti, you were more likely to be on top and then all other tribes followed. And within the other tribes, some Akan groups were also thought to be more up the scale than other Akans and then came all others – the northerners, Ewes etc. After nearly 60 years, the same principle (unwritten) has been maintained. This is evidenced in that fact that at no time in the party’s history has a presidential candidate been selected from the North or Ga for example. This completely departs from the Nkrumaist tradition where presidential candidates have come from Volta (Gbedema in 1969 election) and North (Limann, 1979 election). You can also talk about people like General Erskine, Dr. Edward Mahama, Professor Attah- Mills and Mr. Aguddey (CPP) who became leaders of various Nkrumaists parties. This kind of diversity is healthy for creating both cognitive and emotional beliefs among Ghanaians that the Nkrumaist tradition hinges on a position of inclusiveness at a philosophical and practical level. And that no matter what language you speak in Ghana, you have a chance to become a presidential candidate and possibly president. Thus, in the domain of inclusiveness, the NDC and for that matter the Nkrumaists outshine the NPP. This is certainly a vote winner for many young people who now read more into our politics than Akuffo-Addo and top NPP stalwarts perhaps imagine.

Returning to the idea that the NPP does not have a clear policy for the development of Ghana, I want to base my argument on the Kuffour administration’s negation of their own policy objectives. As a liberalist-monarchist party, the NPP seems to imbibe the neoliberal principles of competitive market economy. However, it is not committed to plans to carve out reasonable government interventions to cushion the negative effects on poor people. Rather, the entire party hierarchy is interested in “what is in this for me”. With such a philosophy, no one is surprised that for eight long years, the poor got poorer and the ministers became richer. The Kuffour administration had no clear agenda after HIPC, although it took bold initiatives such National Health insurance and school feeding program. These programs were great visions, but apart from the fact that the implementation of these programs was fraught with administrative problems, it laid bare the cynical agenda of exclusion and discrimination of groups, regions and communities. Some research into the School Feeding program for example showed a glaring skew in the regional distribution of beneficiary schools. The skew was quite obvious, even to an idiot. For example according to a study by Sheriff Y. Abubakr, 2008), the Upper East, Upper West, Northern and Volta, regions, with a total number of 49 districts, had only 114 schools representing a mere 11.6% of schools under the Ghana School Feeding Program. This was, despite the fact that three of these regions were ranked as the poorest of the 10 regions of Ghana, and also had lower school enrolment rates due to poverty. On the other hand, Ashanti region, ranked among the least poor regions had 267 selected schools, representing 27.4% of the total. Thus, Ashanti alone had nearly three times the sum of the four other regions. Such uneven distribution of the benefits would bring into question the party’s capacity to run away from the accusation of being exclusionary and discriminatory. To my mind, a party with intellectuals and visionary leaders would promote a more egalitarian ethic in policy, decision-making and actions. The challenge is in the hands of the NPP to move in this direction.

Further, although the Kuffour government focussed its energy on the economy, the specific focus was on growth at all cost but with little attention to the real implications of a skewed economic growth on the poor. The government’s spending policies were dominated by ostentation and rather than substantive investment in areas that ameliorated suffering and propelled growth. For example, instead of building road and rail links to Brong-Ahafo and North to create linkages with the Bui dam and other agricultural areas for further development, they built a presidential palace. In doing these sorts of things, the NPP Government repeatedly negated its own principles for meaningful and self-propelling economic growth.

President Kuffour left office with no clear policy for Ghana and Akuffo Addo and the top men do not still know where to begin. Today, perhaps only the CPP has an articulated position on Ghana’s development that can be compared to the NDC’s. The NPP has none and, in my view, it is this policy vacuum that has become an albatross on the neck of Akuffo-Addo, hence his statements about enemies that actually don’t exist.

The NPP, CPP and PNC need to understand that politics in a developing country such as Ghana is about real lives of people who have never had portable water, access-roads to sell the farm produce and basic health care. So if you want power and you cannot tell the people what you want to do with it, then you are facing a long wait in the cold.

Attah-Mills on the other hand, has an agenda and this is clearly targeted at infrastructural, agricultural and educational development, including the SADA project to create linkages for further growth. If this vision can be seen by Ghanaians, then the NPP has no chance of pushing aside a visionary leader and party.

Dr. Ahmed Bawa Kuyini For CEVS-Ghana, Tamale.

Columnist: Kuyini, Ahmed Bawa