Opinions Tue, 11 Aug 2015

'Let us focus on the bigger issues'

Our democratic culture is best enhanced through the freedom of speech. At the same time, our speech should be such that it will have the broader purpose of elevating our democratic culture. We must indeed protect the freedom of speech by saying things that advance the cause and course of our democracy, not the types that will put a whole question mark on the wisdom therein. If we want to criticize the government, our duty is to state our disagreement in plain, albeit succinct terms, not through innuendos, gossip and personal attacks.

Given the above, how is our country advanced by a debate as to who the president takes on his trips abroad? It makes sense to question the overall importance of presidential trips and to quantify their impact on the socio-economic goals of the state; but why should it become an issue as to the individuals involved? Every Ghanaian qualifies in some capacity to join the president on his trips anywhere, but the president has the power to decide who best fits the scheme of any particular visit; and so if what we are doing today is to put a certain emphasis on some special qualifications, then we are merely dividing the country into some elitist and non-elitist camps, and this is what we must avoid if our wish is to create one country, indivisible.

We may, if we want, criticize Madam Akua Donkor’s inebriated statements and lack of discipline in general. But even if we do, we will have to extend the criticisms to the goons within our own camps who are daily spewing out similar trash on our air waves. Thereafter, we will come to the conclusion that Akua Donkor is no worse than any of our politicians, whether educated or not educated, and whatever she has to contribute to the national goals on her return from Italy is not inferior to those who have so far embarked on any foreign trip with the people’s taxes. So what exactly is the big deal about that woman’s trip to Italy? If what we are doing is still playing the exclusionist politics of yesteryears which got the NDC scoundrels winning, then there is a problem within the party itself.

Within the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the bigger issue has nothing to do with whoever the president chooses to huddle with; it has everything to do with how to create a truly united party. I stated a long time ago that we, as a party, have constituted ourselves into hard-nosed factions dedicated to intra-party antipathy far worse than the hatred we bear for those wreaking havoc on the country. We have the capacity to destroy, insult, condemn or frustrate those within our own party far worse than those within the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC). Let us start with this so-called Akufo-Addo/ Alan Kyeremanteng factions within the NPP.

Apart from paying lip-service to party unity in the media, what practical steps has anybody taken to bring the Kyeremanteng camp into the presidential candidate’s special fold? Has Nana sufficiently invited Kyeremanteng and his group to any meetings and offered any of them any cabinet posts within a future Akufo-Addo government? If not, why not? And exactly what will be their vested stake in working for an Akufo-Addo victory if they are going to be sidelined now and in the future? Indeed, there are even some of these elements who believe that they will fare far better under an NDC government than an NPP one because at least they know within which party they are more loathed.

Now take this whole issue of the national executive imbroglio wherein a mere steering committee meeting led to a media fall-out in which the General Secretary is alleged to have stated that he was eating fufu in Kumasi. That act was not tampered by any consideration that the presidential candidate himself was at the steering committee meeting. And the contempt in that alleged statement is the residual result of the animosity within the two aforementioned camps.

And if we think about it, whatever division exists in the party did not start with the disagreement over any steering committee meeting. Long before this, party elders probably sympathetic to one particular camp had eagerly sought to disqualify Mr. Afoko from running, but he had been reinstated by the outcry of the general membership who finally elected him to the chairmanship. And by his victory, the general membership showed that they were not interested in factionalism within the party and would prefer the two sides to work together for victory.

The membership affirmed that notion by giving a mandate to the Akufo-Addo side to assume the flagbearership. So we have the executive party membership being sympathetic to the so-called Kyeremanteng’s faction while the flagbearership remained with the perceived Akufo-Addo faction. The presidential candidate’s duty at this point is to re-unite the factions by all means necessary. Sadly, he has not been able to do so.

It was one American president who sonorously declared that he would rather have members of his own party within his camp pissing out than for any of them to stand outside of the camp pissing in. The wisdom in this statement cannot be overstated, and that is why Barack Obama, soon after being handed the flagbearership of the Democrats, courted the support of his arch foe Hillary Clinton and eventually made her the Secretary of State.

If he had allowed her to stay in the senate chamber to make ugly noises, the party would have suffered the division it suffered during the Carter years and lost the elections. You can say the same for President Kufuor when he managed to unite all members of the party to win the presidency, and thereafter assigned important positions to each of his opponents. Now it is time for Nana Akufo-Addo to display the same political acumen by uniting both friends and foe.

This is because political clout within a true democratic dispensation is a matter aptly reduced to the skills of communicating and negotiating with staunch adversaries. The era of eliminating political opposition within Ghana itself died with Kwame Nkrumah who was naïve enough to think that the best way to handle opposition was to abolish democracy, incarcerate his opponents and make himself life president.

In the end, those who opposed him had the better of him, and their ideology finally trumped his Machiavellian posture and triumphed in the body politic of our nation. And the lesson under this ideology is that there is no win for those who refuse to bring their opponents into the camp to piss outside of the camp. Rather, as it is, too many of Nana’s opponents are standing outside of his camp and pissing in.

After all, it is conceivable for them to say that “All die be die”. So if the leadership credentials of Nana Akufo-Addo and his cronies were to be properly validated at some time in the future, the signs should by now show the closure of the chasm of factionalism within the party. Otherwise we should forget about 2016. In a party that has been in political exile since 2008, there is little incentive for anyone to be truly committed to any personality as such.

This is because the presidential candidate has little largesse to spread around. There are no ministerial nor executive nor diplomatic positions to spread around; so in essence, he has no means to appoint or disappoint. Under the circumstances, all motivation devolves on the faith one has in the present Akufo-Addo candidacy. Thus, many key followers are looking up to exactly what the future will hold for them in an Akufo-Addo administration.

And if in their estimation, they will not be included in governance, they can either become apathetic or plain mischievous. And to resolve this apathy or mischief, Nana Akufo-Addo should be seen to be making very big compromises.

He should begin by forming a shadow government which will include everybody within the NPP, carving out the leadership roles to all within all the factions. Thereafter, he should task them to come out with a plan as to how to liberate Ghana from the doldrums of our economic stasis and publish same to all Ghanaians.

Samuel Adjei Sarfo, Doctor of Jurisprudence, is a general trial attorney in Austin, Texas, USA. You can email him at sarfoadjei@yahoo.com
Columnist: Dr. Samuel Adjei Sarfo