By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK August 21, 2014
The events that unfolded at the headquarters of the main opposition party, NPP on Tuesday August 19, 2014, should not be swept under the carpet quietly without a national debate (see, “Mayhem at NPP Headquarters”, Ghanaweb/Myjoyonline.com, August 19, 2014). In this article, I will attempt to discussion the internal party conflict in general and the events on the day in particular and the potential dangers it could pose not only to the party but Ghana as a whole.
I am not sure if I have been naive to believe that NPP leadership is from more professional backgrounds than the NDC or I have been unfair to NDC. The management problems of the new NPP National Executive or the Chairman and the General Secretary have exposed my naivety or unfairness in the aforementioned belief. In fact, some of the actions and omissions of the General Secretary since his election are so elementary that, someone who was a Press Secretary to Ex-President Kufuor as well as a former presidential aspirant leave much to be desired, notwithstanding the fact, that he leads a political party that claims to be Methuselah of democracy and repository of rule of law in Ghana.
I also rightly wrongly assumed that the former post holder, Sir John was a disaster for the party but Mr Kwabena Agyeapong has shown by his management style that, perhaps, the office of the NPP General Secretary is becoming a poisoned chalice. I know nothing of the party’s constitution and other governance documents. However, it is best practice that the retirement, dismissal, suspension, leave/holiday, etc of party office holders and officials, either by election or appointment should follow due process (policies, procedures, practices and processes of the party). What is baffling is how the Director of Finance and Administration and Acting Communications Director could be asked to go on leave if they were volunteers and not paid appointees? Did they have any terms and conditions of engagement and if so, were they complied with, when they were asked to proceed on leave or dismissed?
It is interesting that the two officials concerned are also refusing to accept the decisions of the General Secretary, who is more or less the Chief Executive of the party because the decisions breached the party constitution. In fact, the former Director of Finance and Administration in an interview on Peace FM threatened to break into his office and go back to work. The reality is that as far as political positions are concerned, the appointing authority has a wide range of powers to hire and fire at any time. In fact, it is the norm that, new (elected) officers appoint people they can trust and in doing so, often get rid of those appointed by their predecessors. This is no strange and therefore the brouhaha over the decisions of the General Secretary is much ado about nothing. Of course, some consultation with colleagues would have been better but at the same time one should not be surprised because he once held a powerful position in government that he did not have to consult but ordered those below him and they had no choice but to obey his edicts. I hope he and the National Chairman will learn lessons from their unilateral or bilateral decision making processes and adopt a multilateral approach.
With regards to the events at the party headquarters, if the report by Citi FM’s Richard Delah Sky on Wednesday’s Breakfast Show was accurate, then Ghana must prepare for trouble during and after the 2016 general elections. According to Sky, an NPP fundamentalist by the name Hajia hurled insults at the General Secretary from the outside building. She later gained entrance into the building and disrupted the press conference with her insults and later saw Hajia holding a machete. At this point, the host of the programme asked him how Hajia got the machete and Sky responded that it appeared there was some room within the building that had machetes stored in it. What for? According to him, he also witnessed a man being stabbed with a machete by one of the irate men as well as a pistol with one of the macho men.
What was alarming was a short recording of a former NPP parliamentary aspirant for the Weija Constituency, Mr Kofi Dotse Appiatu-Ampaw who wanted to put into context for the journalists present what was happening (see, Ghana could ‘burn’ if NDC rigs 2016 elections – Kofi 1234 Warns”, Ghanaweb, August 2014). He said on tape that Tuesday’s violent attack on the NPP’s headquarters by a mob of angry machete-wielding and gun-toting youth, is a watered-down harbinger of the potential outburst of violence that will manifest in 2016, should the governing National Democratic Congress attempt rigging the polls as the party did in 2012. Referring to the irate mob, Mr Appiatu-Ampaw said, “you see, there is very deep-seated anger boiling amongst them and that anger I’m telling you that the full venom of it is going to be seen in 2016. All that you are seeing here is a little bit of demonstration. I’m telling you 2016 let any word get out that somebody has tried to rig an election, I’m telling you if we are not careful, we are going to burn this country.”
The above are alarming because it sounds as if NPP is arming its members and planning anarchy and havoc on Ghana if they do not win the 2016 presidential election. From what transpired at the Supreme Court and the recognition by NPP that they failed to protect their votes at the polling stations, angry response to any attempt by the ruling NDC to rig the election would not be a surprise. However, to say that in 2016 “let any word get out that somebody has tried to rig an election, I’m telling you if we are not careful, we are going to burn this country” is dangerous and tantamount to treason or incitement to armed conflict. This is because Ghana is rife with daily rumours about anything and everything, particularly during presidential elections.
Did we not hear about an alleged foreign IT company in Accra manipulating election results before transmitting them to the Electoral Commission in 2012 which turned out to be false, yet NPP supporters besieged the premises of the company? With the proliferation of private radio stations across Ghana with many of their reporters and presenters untrained and unprofessional but churning out party political propaganda against their political opponents, it would only take just one of such uncouth presenters to broadcast such imaginary rigging by NDC for the whole country to be turned into a bloodbath. If NPP supporters could exhibit such level of violence towards their own leadership because of differences of opinion and some perception that the Chairman and General Secretary have 2020 Agenda, then only the heavens know what could happen if their arch rivals are alleged to be rigging the 2016 presidential election.
Ghanaians should also be worried because the Party Chairman Mr Paul Afoko accused those who besieged the party headquarters to be NDC members. Describing the mob as “intruders”, Afoko said he was told the irate youth were members of the ruling NDC, who had been hired to execute a hatchet job against the NPP. He insisted none of the attackers was a member of the NPP (see, “NPP Violence: Thugs were NDC hatchet men – Afoko”, Ghanaweb, August 20, 2014). This is contrary to what other leading members of the party are saying. According to the former General Secretary, Nana Ohene Ntow, “the people who are behind this can be traced and they can be identified. These are people who have been pushed by party people, the perpetrators were influenced by very well-known people in the party and called for thorough investigation into the mishap.” (see, “Ohene Ntow Expresses Disgust at Mayhem”, Ghanaweb/Myjoyonline.com, August 20, 2014). The former National Youth Organiser, Mr Anthony Karbo has also said NDC had nothing to do with the event because it is not possible for NDC members to gain access to the party headquarters (see “NDC had no role in Tuesday's chaos - Anthony Karbo”, Daily Graphic, August 20, 2014). It is equally dangerous for Mr Afoko to seek to blame NDC supporters for the actions of his own party members.
Though there are no differences between what some NPP supporters did and what some NDC supporters have been doing (violently destroying party properties because they disagreed with decisions of government or their party leadership), it is wrong and unacceptable for Mr Paul Afoko to blame supporters of their rivals for what happened. In fact, some supporters of both NPP and NDC are violent, anti-democracy, lawless and danger to the stability and peaceful development of Ghana.
From what Mr Appiatu-Ampaw was recorded saying, it is undoubtedly clear that the some NPP leaders and members have not learnt all the lessons from the mistakes and irresponsible utterances with references to violence (such as the infamous “all die be die” and the incitement to ethnic hatred of “beat or kills Ewes and Gas”) that contributed to their defeat in 2012. The only lesson they seem to have learnt is that elections are won at the polling stations and at the courts. Unfortunately, it appears NPP’s antidote to wining the presidential election at the polling stations in 2016 is planning to wreak havoc on Ghanaians based on mere rumours.
It sounds as if NPP leadership either do not understand contemporary Ghanaian politics or are living in kukuland. That is, many, if not all make the presumption that because of the corruption, mismanagement and poor performance of the Mahama led NDC government, they would be voted out of office. That could be deceptive or complacency. Assessment of recent voting pattern and the behaviour of Ghanaians are that corruption, mismanagement and poor performance are less relevant for many of the electorate when it comes to voting preferences. Indeed, most Ghanaian care less about what is wrong and right. The evidence is in how the convicted drug dealer and former MP was welcomed back in Ghana after serving a ten year sentence in the US for drug trafficking. He was given a hero’s welcome and almost became the modern day Robin Hood. Moreover, if voting decisions were based on performance, then by NPP’s own achievements under President Kufuor relative to NDC’s performance under the late Mills and Mahama government, then NPP should have won the 2012 elections by landslide.
For NPP to assume or believe that because of the current economic mess, victory in 2016 is a forgone conclusion and therefore any other outcome contrary to this belief would be rigging and therefore they must result to violence, is tantamount to holding Ghana or an intimidation tact that could backfire on them. Politics is unpredictable, so is free and fair elections in democratic societies such as what happened across Europe in the May European Union Parliamentary elections when far right and anti immigrants parties who normally perform poorly at national elections surprised the mainstream parties and won seats beyond their own expectations.
What happened at the NPP Headquarters was anti democracy, a threat to national peace and security and should be condemned by true believers in democracy and all peace loving Ghanaians. I do hope the security agencies are firmly on the ground with their eyes and ears active to disrupt any plans and attempt to cause havoc and mayhem in Ghana in 2016.
Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK