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If our political parties fail, our democracy will suffer (Part III)
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If our political parties fail, our democracy will suffer (Part III)

Sun, 1 Apr 2012 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Thursday, March 29, 2012

We now turn attention to the NPP to see how its internal politics affects its future viability. We do so with a clear understanding that the party is a human institution that will definitely have flaws. We expose these flaws not with the intention to do harm but to highlight them as concerns to be addressed.

THE NEW PATRIOTIC PARTY (NPP)

The NPP activists may be relishing the ongoing crisis in the NDC, their arch nemesis, hoping that it will persist, worsen, and condemn the party to an implosion from which it will never recover to threaten their party’s future political fortunes. That may be a misplaced celebration. For, the NPP has the same problems that the NDC is facing except that it hasn’t simmered for so long as to threaten its internal unity.

It is not as if the NPP is devoid of internal worries. The problem for the NPP may be more troubling, especially if one relates issues to historical antecedents. Considering the factors that caused the split in the UP family and fragmented it into various political parties in 1979, one will not miss the danger facing the NPP. It is usually driven by ethnic sentiments that have a wider scope and potential to destabilize the party than its functionaries will openly admit.

Let’s rewind to some important historical moments in 1979 to contextualize the danger that negative ethnic sentiments poses to the NPP. I have in mind the Asante-Akyim rivalry and bitter opposition that led to the Asante Victor Owusu tearing off in one direction with a bunch of sympathizers to form the Popular Front Party (PFP), and the Akyim William Ofori-Atta (Paa Willie) also taking off on a different route to form his United National Convention (UNC).

This dichotomy was largely responsible for the poor showing of the UP family at the June 18, 1979 general elections, which gave the unsung Hilla Limann the electoral victory to lead the pro-Nkrumahist People’s National Party (PNP) into office.

A bit more of the UP tradition’s political vicissitudes. We all know that the “Mate Me Ho” culture emerged from the splitting up of the conservative United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) following the rejection of its “go-slow” approach to the fight for independence by Nkrumah and his verandah boys constituting the Convention People’s Party.

Left with no support from the young radicals, the conservatives in the UGCC had no force to confront the CPP electorally and dissipated into the ethnic-based National Liberation Movement, led by the late Oheneba Osei Yaw Akoto, chief linguist at the Manhyia Palace. No wonder that most people today still regard the NPP (an offshoot of this NLM) as having its power base at Manhyia. But that’s a different story to tell.

Considering the trouncing that it received at the hands of the CPP in the 1951, and 1954 elections, the NLM extended its arms to other splinter mushroom political parties in the Gold Coast (notably, the Northern People’s Party, the Muslim-influenced party, and those in the Volta Region opposed to Nkrumah’s CPP) and re-emerged as the United Party, led by Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia.

Yet, the UP hadn’t found its niche nor was it accepted by the majority of the citizens at that time. We know the terrorism that characterized the period before Nkrumah’s adoption of the Preventive Detention Act, declaring Ghana a one-party state by banning all other parties, and turning himself into a Life President to rule with an iron fist that was to prepare the grounds for his overthrow on 24th February, 1966.

Yet again, we can recall how the UP resurrected, following the reinvention or reengineering of its main activists to assist the Afrifa-led NLC. As a confirmation, Dr. Busia was appointed the head of the Center for Civic Education, which helped him in his political bid to carve swaths of territory for his Progress Party to win the 1969 elections; thus, giving the UP a taste of real power for the first time, however transient its tenure might be.

Even though one of their trusted pillars in the military, Gen. Acheampong, betrayed them by overthrowing their government, some of those who helped him rule were supporters of that very political culture. The distrust/mistrust among them simmered until the ban on partisan politics was lifted for the June 1979m elections.

This bit of history tells us that the events of 1969 had deeper roots in the insatiable quest for power among these UP elements.

Burt the real deeper-level problem of the NPP is the general perception that it is Akan-based, which by and of itself is a possible cause for a future destabilization, especially if we revisit the ethnic sentiments characterizing the struggle between Alan Kyerematen (predominantly an Asante) and Akufo-Addo, the Akyim. We know the nature of this in-fighting based on ethnicity and will not delve into it here. But we want to refer to it as a time-bomb that is ticking no matter how much mum the party’s leaders keep over it.

This problem has the potential to cause a more devastating harm to the NPP’s interests than its followers may fathom or want to deal with. This problem, unlike that of the NDC can tear the party apart for it to disintegrate into splinter ones, as nearly happened some time ago when some disgruntled followers in Kumasi came together to form a party that they thought would represent their interests better than their mother party, the NPP.

This negative perception of the NPP as an Akan-based party has been difficult to erase, apparently because the party’s bigwigs have either not found the appropriate means to do so or by underrating its negative impact, they are deceiving themselves that it won’t harm their interest. This kind of miscalculation might be responsible for unguarded pronouncements coming from none other but the party’s flagbearer (Akufo-Addo) that is encapsulated in the obnoxious “Yen Akanfuo” faux pas.

Such pronouncements and the public posturing promoting them have tended to reinforce the negative perception of the NPP and detracted from its mobilization efforts. The party’s leaders at all the levels may continue to deceive themselves that public disenchantment with the Mills government makes their party’s victory at Election 2012 a certainty only to realize rather too late that the ethnic sentiments reinforcing the NPP’s partisan politics won’t usher them into office.

On a more disturbing note, the impression created that the Akan-based NPP has disdain for other ethnic groups in the country (especially Northerners and Ewes) isn’t good. No one needs to be told the extent to which this negative perception has gone in detracting from the NPP’s worth in the estimation of those who see themselves as the targets of that disdain.

The NPP may be proud of its history as an offshoot of a political culture with deep, long roots in Ghanaian politics. But any public goodwill for it will be contingent on factors other than that M.B.E. (in the Ga language, Mba Bie Etse,” meaning “I have been here for long.”).

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE COUNTRY’S DEMOCRATIC EXPERIMENT

We have a peculiar problem, which is the inability of the state to fund political parties, which has its own implications for our democracy. The various parties are, therefore, constrained financially and that creates room for unsavoury practices and the infiltration of unscrupulous moneybags to influence party work with their largesse, which only turns out to be the bait that paves the way for their fleecing of the system should their parties win the elections to be in power.

We have heard of all kinds of party financiers who have turned out to be crooks who manipulate the system for personal gains. We must not continue to create opportunities for such characters. That is why the various parties must devise better strategies for membership and financing.

Our electoral laws on party funding may be fierce only on paper because nobody seriously monitors contributions and the donors to weed out malpractices. We don’t know what the cap on party financing by one individual is or whether foreigners are not deeply involved in funding our parties as a means to seek undue favour, a definite source of corruption!

It shouldn’t be difficult for the parties to institutionalize annual dues and fund-raising activities (whether through business ventures or special programmes). If such activities are genuinely pursued and party work is not skewed to favour an inner circle of friends, family members, and others, those who genuine support the parties will contribute their quota to run the parties. It’s high time the haphazard approach to party work be discarded for a more streamlined and civilized one.

That is why the leaders of the various political parties must rethink their strategies for politicking and sink their differences to nurture their parties into viable institutions of state. It means working hard to position any of these parties as capable of replacing the other if the electorate so decide. It means doing all that is required to build these parties into reliable institutions that can stand on their feet in readiness for elections as stipulated.

So built on strong foundations, they should still be able to stand firm even if they lost the elections. After all, they are designed for any eventuality and must not break down just because of an electoral loss. They should use that experience to re-strategize for the future. That’s what viable political parties do until Lady Luck shines on them one day.

The Inter-Party Advisory Committee isn’t do much to instill confidence in the people that they various parties are truly committed to sustaining our democracy. The bickerings and needless wranglings that characterize its meetings and the exchanges among the member parties don’t encourage us to see this IPAC as capable of solving problems that endanger our electoral process and democracy, generally.

If our politicians don’t do things properly, they will not help our political parties maximize productivity to be self-supporting and viable. Yet, we need these parties to grow our democracy. That’s the main reason why the leaders of the various political parties must place the parties’ interests above their personal, selfish, and narrow ones.

• E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

• Join me on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mjkbokor

• Get a copy of my novel, The Last Laugh (PublishAmerica.com, April 2009)

• Coming out soon: The Story of the Elephant, a novel

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.