Ghanaian politicians: Why wash your faces upwards?

Sun, 24 Feb 2013 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Saturday, February 23, 2013

One fashionable strategy being adopted these days by the mainstream political parties to disguise their activities is the formation and use of politically motivated groups that they disguise as civil society groupings.

Mushrooming all over the place, these so-called civil society groups have every attribute of these political parties no matter how hard they try to camouflage themselves. The only difference is in the name. The modus operandi, composition, and substance of their rhetoric are not different from what their mother political parties have given us to know about them. They are also fixated on insults and ethnicity.

They can be traced right to their roots in the NDC or NPP. These are the two main parties jumping on each other, forming these mushroom groups to rope in some known activists of the splinter political parties that are dying because of their irrelevance to contemporary Ghanaian politics.

Who are those forming these groups or sponsoring their activities deceiving? We are smart enough to know them for what they are—offshoots of the parties we already know. In their ignorance, they deceive themselves that we can’t sift the grain from the chaff to expose them. We can.

But the simple question is: What can these mushroom politically motivated groups achieve that their mother parties (NDC or NPP) cannot? Or by disguising themselves as civil society groups and acting as pressure groups, what do they think Ghanaians will miss in identifying them with the known political affiliations of their leaders/conveners and members?

The only advantage that these groups may have, which some may see as the need for their existence, is their being used in the off-season politicking that the mother parties can’t do. So, they have become surrogates. Nothing more than that, my dear friends. And they can hide anything from us.

There are many of such politically affiliated groups disguising themselves under various names but finding it difficult to hide their original political colorations.

Who will fail to see through this veil? Not even a blind person will see where they belong. So, by disguising themselves as members of these so-called civil society groups, what do they not think that will betray them and erode their credibility as such?

Or, what do they have to do or say for the good of Ghana that they can use their membership of the mainstream political parties for? How myopic can’t they be?

Take the Committee for Joint Action (CJA), the Association for Accountable Governance (AFAG), for instance, and you will see the simplicity with which their leaders and sponsors.

Who doesn’t know the political persuasion of the main leaders of the CJA or the AFAG? These are known active members or apologists for the NDC, on the one hand, and the NPP, on the other hand. They are just alternating, playing frontline roles, depending on which party is in power.

When Kufuor was in power, the CJA was a thorn in its flesh; but when the NDC took over, it virtually folded up as its main leaders were either appointed into high offices under the government or found it better to keep their mouths shut, close their minds to the very wrong things that they had risen up in arms against when their preferred party was in the opposition, and pretend all was well. Life must go on, they would claim and strive to grab anything offered them.

The AFAG took its turn when the NDC won the 2008 polls to see nothing good about the Mills administration and has since maintained its scathing thrust against the Mahama one too. To its leaders, the worst to have happened to Ghana is the rule by the NDC.

Then, move down the line to consider the other groupings whose main leaders are known in one way or the other for their anti-NPP (meaning pro-NDC) or anti-NDC (meaning pro-NPP) stance and bitter sentiments. They are all over the place, doing overtime for publicity at the least prompting, even when not necessary. Some appear to have little to do with all the time at their disposal and wade into issues that they know nothing about or have the capacity to confront. They are mere attention seekers!

All in all, though, they are definitely fronting for the faceless politicians manipulating them just because they know how to use such groups to serve their parochial interests. Sadly, the followers of these groups are genuinely ignorant, aggrieved, unemployed and desperately looking for something to put body and soul together, or just maladjusted and looking for the chance to vent their spleen on society.

There may be some who have genuine grievances or needs but don’t know where to go with them and gravitate toward such groups to be manipulated. Too much pent-up energy being wasted!

Two groups that have emerged to give us a wide window through which to see the political machinations going on, especially in this post-Election 2012 period.

Take the “Let My Vote Count Alliance” and the counter-group called the “Coalition of Ghanaian Voters” and their posturing, for instance. The former group is made up of NPP followers and its leaders are known high-ranking officials of that party. Others from the National Democratic Party (Ernest Owusu Bempah) and some splinter political parties have identified themselves with this pro-NPP group.

Clement Apaak is a known sympathizer of the NDC and leads the new group calling itself “Coalition of Ghanaian Voters” that has planned a procession to protest what its members say is the disrespectful attitude of the Minority in Parliament. The Coalition is also not happy about the constant hurling of insults at the President by opposition politicians.

A member of the “Coalition of Ghanaian Voters” is Bernard Mornah, General Secretary of the PNC, who has just announced his resignation from that position in the PNC.

Clearly, it is intriguing that these leaders of the mushrooming groups themselves fail to recognize their duplicity and political mischief. Take, for instance, this news report that the NPP has accused the police of being biased against them by allowing a pro-government group (“Coalition of Ghanaian Voters”) to embark on a demonstration after thwarting a similar action by a separate group (“Let My Vote Count Alliance”) weeks ago.

Rather funnily, these groups easily betray their true identities as their leaders come out with statements that tell us clearly where they belong. For instance, Samuel Awuku, the deputy communication director of the NPP, has accused the police of unfairness over their decision to deny the “Let My Vote Count Alliance” the chance to organize their planned demonstration in Accra.

He has insisted the police have continuously offered flimsy excuses in preventing demonstrations by opposition groups—a situation he described as ‘undemocratic’. He said this displeasure during a programme on Adom TV in Accra on Wednesday.

If the “Let My Vote Count Alliance” is an autonomous civil society group that has a problem with the police, how does that affect the NPP’s interest well enough for Awuku and all other NPP officials to be taking up the matter and making it an NPP problem?

Interestingly, most of those constituting the leadership of these groups are those holding various leadership positions in their political parties; thus, they are already known for what they are. Yet, they unwittingly portray themselves as politically neutral merely because they have now relocated into those groups. How juvenile?

Again, these groups need funds to survive. Where do they get that support from if not from the parent (the political party nurturing them)? How beneficial is it for a political party to spread itself so thin?

In any case, if the main rationale behind these mushroom groups is to use them for a membership drive, there is every indication that that objective won’t be easily achieved. After all, once people can point to the leaders and establish them as belonging to a particular political party that they don’t like, no amount of publicity or bribery will get them to join such groups.

Obviously, the committed activists and members of the political parties have already dug in, taking entrenched positions in their support for their preferred parties. Nothing will move them to defect.

Floating or uncommitted voters have their own reasons for sitting on the fence. It will be difficult to move them into such so-called civil society groups to be used for political mischief.

What will happen is that if they know that joining those groups will fetch them some goodies and freebies, they will gravitate toward them and grab whatever comes their way. Their primary objective is not to be turned into mules to be ridden by any politician but to enjoin the benefits of membership. On election day, they know where to thumb-print. No one will be foolish to count on such people.

These groups have emerged to ratchet up the political rhetoric and create conditions for politicking at different levels. As is beginning to emerge already, they aren’t taking any different direction from what the mainstream rival political parties have embarked on all this while. They are also on a collision course just as the NPP and NDC have been for many years. We expect these groups too to begin locking themselves up in confrontations. So, what will be new?

What new things will these groups add to our democracy? Nothing but the empty claim that freedom of association is being exercised. Even then, viewed against the stance of the police in terms of the Public Order Act, we can say that this freedom of association and action isn’t worth talking about because the police deny them the permission to take to the streets and they holler to complain about “bias.”

Some are more of a threat than an asset. Take what happened in the Dome-Kwabenya constituency where the “Let My Vote Count Alliance” held a public event at which the various speakers made inflammatory statements, forcing the police to act against them. The tension created by that group isn’t a benefit to our democracy. It rather threatens the democracy that we are spending day and night trying to nurture.

So, you see, the mere fact that these groups are mushrooming all over the country isn’t because they are designed to serve purposes that the mainstream political parties can’t. They are emerging because some people think they can use them to fight their political cause from more than one angle. The more these groups emerge to antagonize each other, the more likely it will be that tension will continue to be high in the country.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.