Opinions Fri, 3 Jul 2020

Manasseh Azure Awuni: The NPP, Ewe votes and the 2016 victory

Jesus said in Matthew 12:34 of the Holy Bible that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” This can help to understand the reason given by the Member of Parliament for Adansi Asokwa, K.T. Hammond, for the presence of soldiers in the Volta Region.

His lips only allowed passaged to what some believe is the overflowing content of his party’s heart concerning the Volta Region and the Ewe people.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP has stated that the reason troops were sent to the Volta Region was to stop Togolese Ewes from registering and voting in Ghana. He said the Ewes in Togo and those in Ghana considered themselves as one people.

He proceeded to quote false statistics to back his equally false claim that in the second round of the fiercely contested 2008 election, these “Togolese” made the difference in the win for Prof. John Evans Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

This is not the first time the first time his party has questioned poll numbers from the Volta Region.

In 2015, the NPP said at a press conference addressed by it’s running mate, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, that over 76,000 Togolese had registered in the Volta Region to vote. The party insisted a new voters’ register had to be prepared because of this and allegations of minors in the register.

This year, the NPP has got its wish. The EC is compiling a new register despite stiff oppositions from civil society and the main (and the only viable) opposition party. Some leading members of the NPP such as Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, revisited the Volta issue, questioning why Ketu South, a vibrant border area, had the highest number of registered voters.

When the Supreme Court ruled that the EC could go ahead and compile a new registered, there were reports of that the military had been heavily deployed to Ketu South and parts of the Volta Region along the border between Ghana and Togo.

While the government gave different reasons for the deployment, K.T. Hammond said it was to stop Togolese from coming to register because the Ewes in Ghana and those in Togo were like family so some of them often crossed to come to Ghana to vote.

What he has forgotten is that there are actually Ghanaians living in Togo, as there are Ghanaians living everywhere in the world. This year, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) moved from Ghana with relief items to Togo to support Ghanaians who fell victims to a fire accident in Katanga (Togo).

The EC says it is in the process of implementing Representation of People’s Amendment Law to ensure that Ghanaians living outside the country are able to vote in the coming election.

Are we saying there are hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians living in the United States, Germany and Great Britain, but we cannot have Ghanaians living across the borders?

According to the 2010 Population and Housing Census, the total number of people in the Volta Region was 2,118,252. Ewes formed 78% of the population of that region. This means the Ewe population in their home region was 1,563,269.

However, the total population of Ewes in Ghana, according to the same census, was 3,323,072. In effect, the Ewes in their home region of Volta formed only 47% of the total of Ewes in the country. A majority (53) of them live outside their home region.

Togo is closer to the border towns in the Volta Region than most towns in Ghana. So it is possible that thousands of Ghanaians live and work across the border and should not be referred to as Togolese when they cross over to vote.

According to the 2010 PHC, there were more Ewes in the Greater Accra Region than the Ga people, who are the major ethnic group in the national capital.

The NPP which claims to be reading, must not just look at poll figures from a constituency in the Volta Region and say that cannot be right. They should dig deeper and understand the dynamics of the people, their numbers across the country and why they live mostly outside their home region.

I once visited a friend at the Wli border post near Hohoe in the Volta Region. Most of the farms are across the border. There’s a Ghanaian community on the mountain close to the border, but, according to my friend, the Ghana side is so steep that one has to enter Togo before coming back to the community in Ghana.

What this means is that if the soldiers are going to turn everyone away from crossing the border to register, they are going to disenfranchise many eligible voters from taking part in the next election.

The government says the deployment has been done in all border regions and towns. Doesn’t that also raise questions considering almost all the border constituencies are strongholds of the opposition NDC? Start from Aflao to Nkwanta to Paga to Hamile and start descending towards Elubo.

Due to Covid-19, borders have been closed since March and security agencies, led by the Immigration Service have been manning them? Why the deployment of the military? Have the immigration officers called for reinforcement?

Or is anybody denying the fact that the military connotes intimidation, brutality and abuse of human rights because of our history?

K.T. Hammond’s words have sparked yet another heated conversation about the seeming hostility and disdain with which some members of the NPP, in their utterances, treat the Ewes of the Volta Region and other minority ethnic groups in Ghana. Whether this is real or perceived, one fact cannot be hidden – the NPP consistently raises hackles with some ethnic groups.

In my book The Fourth John: Reign, Rejection & Rebound, I recounted how the NPP’s relationship with the non-Twi-speaking ethnic groups is not the best.

“The attitude of the NPP towards ethnic minorities has garnered support for the NDC among such groups. Both the NDC and NPP do ethnic politics, but while the NDC engages in ethnic politics of inclusion, the NPP often indulges in ethnic politics of exclusion. The party makes the non-Akan or specifically, non-Two-speaking ethnic groups, feel they are less important.

“At an NPP rally in 2011, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo referred to the party supporters as “we Akans”. In 2012, an NPP MP, Kennedy Agyepong, while reacting to electoral violence said Ewe people in the Ashanti Region should be killed. In 2017, a deputy Agriculture minister, William Quaitoo, was forced to resign after his comment in the wake of the fall army worm invasion appeared insulting to the people of the north,” I wrote.

Yaw Osafo Maafo, the senior minister, was caught in leaked audio making comments that suggested that people from some parts of the country are not supposed to govern Ghana because where they come from do not have natural resources. Not long ago, Ursula Owusu, stoked controversy when she said, “we have taken/rescue our nation”.

Those who made these comments, including Nana Akufo-Addo, have explained the context and justified them, but it is worrying that such statements have assumed a disturbing rhythm among leading members of the NPP.

Antagonizing the Ewe people in Volta Region is not healthy for the NPP. The Ewe, like the Asante in the Ashanti Region, are noted for voting in a certain way, but their role in ensuring victory for the political parties they do not vote for should not be glossed over.

The NPP has been making modest gains in the Volta Region since 1992 and whenever there is voter apathy in that region, it benefits the NPP. In The Fourth John, I tracked the gains of the NPP in the Volta Region:

“In the 1992 presidential election, the NDC, represented by J.J. Rawlings, got 93.2% of the votes, followed by the NPP’s Professor Albert Adu Boahen, who got 3.6%.

“In 1996, Rawlings obtained 94.5% of the Volta Region votes while John Agyekum Kufuor obtained 4.7%.

“In the 2000 election run-off, Prof. Atta Mills of the NDC obtained 88.5% while Kufuor got 11.5%.

“In 2004, Prof. Mills got 83.4% while Kufuor, who again won the national polls got 14.3% in the Volta Region.

“In the first round of the 2008 election, Prof. Mills got 82.9% of the Volta Region votes while his closest contender, the NPP’s Nana Akufo-Addo got 15.0%. In the second round of voting, Prof. Mills obtained 86.1% while Nana Akufo-Addo got 13.9%. Mills won that election.

“In 2012, John Mahama of the NDC obtained 85.4% of the votes in the Volta Region while Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP got 12.9% of the votes.

“In 2016 when Mahama lost, he obtained 80.9% while Akufo-Addo got 17.4%, the highest share of the votes the NPP ever had in the region.

“President Mahama obtained the lowest percentage of NDC votes in the Volta Region since 1992. Beyond that, the absolute figures of votes recorded in the Volta Region also dropped for the NDC candidate.

“In 2012, Mahama obtained 734,641 votes in the Volta Region. In 2016, he got 629,398. This means his votes in his ‘world bank’ dropped by 105,243. This was despite the fact that in 2016, 115, 503 new voters registered to vote in the Volta Region from the 2012 figure.

“It is important to look beyond the figures in the Volta Region only. The Ewe people are known to vote for the NDC. Statistics show that a good number of Ewes live in other regions. According to the 2010 census, 20.1% of the population of the Greater Accra Region were Ewes. The Ewe population formed 18.9% of the people living in the Eastern Region.

“The Central Region and Western Region each had 6.2% of their population being Ewe. This means there were as many as 806,000 Ewes living in the Greater Accra Region which had a total population of 4,010,054 according to the same census. So if Ewes were not enthused about voting for the NDC, then it went beyond those in the Volta Region.”

From the above explanation, the NPP has a lot to lose if they anger the people of the Volta Region or Ewes. They may not be happy Mahama or the NDC but they will go out to vote in protest. At least the NDC does not make them feel less human.

The NPP will end up indirectly working in the interest of the NDC when actions such as the deployment of the military and comments such as the one uttered by K.T. Hammond continue.

The wide gap Akufo-Addo opened in the 2016 election was partly because Mahama’s strongholds did not record high voter turnout. That should not be lost on the NPP.

Besides, the Ewe people and all ethnic groups should be treated with respect and dignity even if they don’t vote for a particular party. Ewes should not be portrayed as dishonest people who have the propensity to commit electoral fraud. It’s offensive.

After years of ethnic stereotyping, dangerous prejudices and being at the receiving end of crude ethnic jokes, is there any wonder that some parents refuse to let their children attend good schools such as Ola Girls’ SHS just because they are located in the Volta Region?

The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a freelance journalist and a writer. He is the Author of three books: Voice of Conscience, Letters to My Future Wife and The Fourth John: Reign, Rejection & Rebound. His email address is azureachebe2@yahoo.com
Columnist: Manasseh Azure Awuni