Dragging the Asantehene Into Partisan Politics!

Fri, 3 Jun 2011 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

Michael Teye Nyaunu, the reckless and loose-tongued Campaign Manager for Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, who intends to unseat President John Atta Mills at the National Democratic Congress’s (NDC) upcoming flag-bearer-selecting congress, is in the news again for yet another error of judgment: the purported – the operative word here is “purported” – declaration by the Asantehene that he would support Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings against the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) Nana Akufo-Addo in Election 2012, were she to topple President Mills at the upcoming NDC party’s congress.

Michael Nyaunu, Member of Parliament for Lower Manya, is definitely not smart enough to lead Nana Konadu’s political campaign, as the tawdry lawmaker lacks the wisdom and circumspection required to lead any campaign, for that matter, since a campaign manager is expected to be careful about what he or she communicates about the candidate to the general public.

It was only about two weeks ago that Mr. Nyaunu insulted disabled Ghanaians – we are still waiting for an unqualified apology from the lawmaker! – when he ranted and raved that President John Atta Mills’ lack of visual acuity made him an incompetent leader, as though one needed a 20/20 vision to be a good leader.

Ghana’s chieftains are the guardians and repositories of our cultural heritage: the artifacts, the totems, the sacerdotal pieces, the oral histories, and the spoils of ancient wars. As such, our chieftains are generally held in high regard by their subjects. It is, therefore, understandable why Ghana’s Constitution both forbids chieftains from openly engaging in partisan politics and overtly supporting particular candidates: the fear is that members of an ethnic group may follow their chieftain’s endorsement of a particular politician to vote for him or her en masse, a deviation from the rules of fair play.

What makes the Asantehene’s position a difficult one is that he remains, arguably, the most influential and powerful chieftain in the country, which means that any politician intending to campaign in the Asantehene’s domain – the Ashanti Region – is expected to visit Manhyia Palace to first pay homage to the Asante king before embarking on his or her mission to win the minds of voters. With this expectation, however, is the heavy burden that the Asantehene carries while interacting with any politician: the need for the king to make a statement regarding the politician’s intent. So, what is the Asantehene to do? Generally, the Asante king is very circumspect in his pronouncements, but politicians would always make a big deal out of these rather cordial meetings, suggesting to the ordinary observer that he or she had gotten the Asantehene’s support simply by visiting Manhyia Palace. This is a huge dilemma for the king, folks!

It must have been a public relations nightmare for the Asante king, consequently, when the irresponsible Michael Teye Nyaunu, after a recent visit to Manhyia Palace to tout Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings’ decision to run against President Mills in the upcoming NDC party’s congress, openly declared that the Asantehene had thrown his support behind Nana Konadu’s pursuit of the Ghanaian presidency. This Nyaunu guy is a serious liability to Nana Konadu Rawlings, and the sooner the ex-First Lady gets rid of him, the better it will be for her reputation – at least, whatever is left of it so far.

The Asantehene’s friendship with Jerry Rawlings is a known fact, so is the Asantehene’s friendship with John Kufuor. Power courts power – that is to be expected. For anyone to falsely claim that the Asantehene’s friendship with the Rawlingses, or Nana Konadu’s Asante roots, will ultimately ensure the king’s official backing of Nana Konadu in any political contest is the height of foolishness, indeed.

I hope Michael Teye Nyaunu understands the nation-wrecking implications of the following statement attributed to him, published by a number of pro-Ghanaian Internet portals, after his purported meeting with the Asantehene in Kumasi a few days ago: “Otumfuo had told Nana Konadu he would rather support a fellow Asante royal than an Akyem native.” Furthermore, Otumfuo was said to have uttered the following words: “If [Nana Konadu] goes through the [NDC] primaries, majority of Asantes will support her and she can win.” Wow, Nyaunu is a divisive, myopic lawmaker whose ethnocentric rants must be watched very closely by all those who love Mother Ghana! The Ashanti Region is probably the most diverse region in the country, and I believe that the Asantehene takes very seriously the huge responsibility he faces every day in ensuring interethnic and inter-tribal harmony in the region.

Assuming that the Asantehene even made such a statement privately, what sort of person would Nyaunu be to share such things with the general public? (I state again that I do not believe that the Asante king would make such a callous, insensitive comment about two Ghanaian ethnic groups.) Nana Konadu Rawlings ought to know that, not only does she have a huge responsibility toward her fellow Ghanaians by making sure that her political platforms are not used to denigrate ethnic groups other her own, but she also has the arduous task of making sure that she has only responsible, mature and intelligent people both on her campaign team and as her spokespersons. Anything less and it will be considered a dereliction of duty.

I call on all those vying for the Ghanaian presidency in 2012 to be very careful about the statements that they make directly to the Ghanaian public, and about statements that are attributed to them. No one should be allowed to sacrifice the peace of the nation in an attempt to meet a personal political goal: the ascension to the ultimate Ghanaian political throne. Ghanaian voters are becoming more discerning, so politicians who assume that attempts at divisiveness and ethnocentrism will augur well for their campaigns should expect such negative tactics to backfire. Ghana must survive as an entity beyond December 2012, and the nation’s citizens must remain defiant in their collective efforts to maintain the peace beyond said date.

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, is pursuing a doctoral degree in Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University. He holds a master's degree in Public Administration from the same university. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.