Opinions Sun, 12 Mar 2006

NDC still struggling with its image

The recent events surrounding the passage of the Representation of the People Amendment Bill (ROBAP) have exposed a major character flaw in the politics of Ghana. Opponents of the bill which has been legally and constitutionally signed into law have chosen the streets to demonstrate their opposition and plan to continue to do so even after passage of the bill. Why would they continue even after the passage of the bill?

It is obvious to this analyst that the leadership of the main opposition party chose the disruptive course of street demonstrations over the decorum of parliament for a good reason. I believe the reason is to create political instability in Ghana. I believe that having failed to persuade the majority in Parliament to drop the passage of the bill, the leaders of the main opposition party now seek to use this issue to instigate police action that will serve as a pretext for chaos, a situation that they can exploit to their political gain. In fact, they seek to fulfill the threats they issued about dire consequences that would follow the passage of the bill. This is sad for Ghana but it is not entirely unexpected.

The NDC has long demonstrated a major character flaw, political roguery. It is simply not civilized for a bunch of elected representatives of the people to abandon their seats in parliament, the embodiment of the country?s democratic governance, to demonstrate repeatedly on the street over a simple constitutional issue. ROPAA is not the Preventive Detention Act. The issue underlying ROPAA is not political; it is constitutional. The 6-month continuous residency requirement for registration to vote in Ghana was a flagrant violation of the constitution. If it were ever applied strictly, a large percentage of Ghanaians living in or outside Ghana would be disenfranchised. ROPAA will correct that legal anomaly. Is the opposition against the correction of this anomaly? It would not surprise anyone to see that NDC leadership would oppose the passage of ROPAB. After all, they are the same people who inserted that residency requirement into the statutes of Ghana by decree (with no chance for public debate or street demonstration) under the protective cloak of PNDC.

The issue of whether the NPP government was pushing for the passage of the bill in order to exploit its effect to its advantage is a political one. It is also only speculative. I have not seen the results of any scientific poll that concludes that the majority of likely voters among Ghanaians in the Diaspora would vote for the NPP. Is this the issue that really concerns the ?Concerned Ghanaians?? I don?t believe that is the issue. I believe the NDC leadership has simply targeted the passage of ROPAB as an issue to use to cause disruption and chaos on the political scene in Ghana. I believe they have calculated that their fortunes may be better in an unstable political climate, a situation they can exploit to their benefit. When Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, the NDC Deputy Secretary General announced last week that the NDC would ?mobilize about 500 ex-servicemen, former members of the defunct 64 Battalion and other security minded personalities to protect the demonstrators?, it was completely in line with the NDC gamble. It?s back to the PNDC era.

The Electoral Commission now has the constitutional mandate to translate the ROPAA into action. To my knowledge, they have not spent millions of Ghanaian taxpayer cedis to do this. The only sound I have heard from the Commission was a suggestion made by the Chairman (prior to the passage of ROPAB) that it would be unlikely that Diaspora Ghanaians would be able to vote as early as the 2008 general elections. The ball is in the court of the Commission now. It has to come out with the plan of implementation, estimate its cost and work with government to find a way to implement the law. The bill passed in parliament did not attach any implementation deadline; the Electoral Commission is under no undue pressure to ensure that ROPAA is executed in time for the 2008 elections. Currently, the only money that is being ?wasted? on ROPAA is the cost of police activity surrounding the demonstrations of the so-called ?Concerned Ghanaians?. So what is all the noise about?

The noise is not about ROPAA. Truly concerned Ghanaians are being misled by NDC. As a student of the P(NDC) political phenomenon of late 20th Century Ghana, I have commented previously on the strange psychology that seems to define their leader Jerry John Rawlings and his ardent followers. I have long concluded that the military man Rawlings, an intimidating bully by nature but an insecure, poorly educated man by circumstances, takes advantage of the chaos created by political instability to install himself above even more capable and intellectually superior men. His domination is the result of the fear he instills in others. This is the personality the NDC chose to endorse again at their Koforidua Congress.

In the beginning of the PNDC era, some leftist intellectuals, perhaps disenchanted by the power and personal wealth amassed by others, fell under the spell of the populist rhetoric of the no-nonsense, soldier revolutionary. Even if they knew that the intellectual underpinnings of the Rawlings? rhetoric were hollow, they chose to stay with him because his overall message resonated with their own socialistic political persuasion. Struggling effete intellectuals are suckers for no-nonsense revolutionaries. These intellectuals were forced upon Ghana as a new breed of leaders brought to clean up the culture of corruption, apathy, and indiscipline that was fast engulfing the Ghanaian body politic. In the beginning the slogans sounded sweet and frustrated Ghanaians flocked to their support.

By the time reality hit the PNDC revolution, it had become clear that socialism would not feed Ghana and that the IMF and World Bank had more to do with a developing country?s ability to feed itself than the populist rhetoric of its leadership. So, it was time to change direction. With the help of Dr. Kwesi Botchwey and others, Ghana swallowed the Structural Adjustment Program of the IMF and World Bank. That was the end of the revolution. If you must borrow to feed your country, the lender holds the true power. And in the end, Rawlings and his band of pretend leaders (unelected PNDC Secretaries and others) had to make way for multi-party democracy, the only legitimate form of governance acceptable to the lenders.

So, the socialists and neo-capitalists of PNDC transformed themselves into the NDC. There was one overarching concern during the transition from PNDC to democratic government. What would happen to these usurpers of constitutional authority should power fall in the ?wrong? hands? The only chance these people had was to retain the ruthless but popular bully as their leader. So they made him ?founder? of the NDC. As payback for his turning civilian and remaining their leader, these falling intellectuals pledged to stay together under the umbrella of the NDC. Some of these were people of quite diverse political persuasions. The main force that had attracted them together under the PNDC was their thirst for power. Others had no political persuasion, only personal ambition. The NDC was born to protect people who were afraid of persecution and retaliation. It was a rogue party right from the start. It would be up to the intellectuals to dress it up with political rhetoric and give it some respectability.

By this time, these collaborators were getting older and politics had taken over their academic and other professional careers. It was time to take stock and look into the future. Whereas in the beginning, these PNDC leaders and sympathizers might have been too scared of their violent master under autocratic ?rule by decree? to engage in personal aggrandizement, the post-1992 era was different. It was now ?democracy? and time to cash in. Party politics would open avenues for personal aggrandizement. Taking the cue from Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, the one person who knew better than anyone else that the lion?s bite was weaker than his bark, these financially deprived revolutionaries began to fatten themselves.

It seems to this analyst that the price Rawlings was forced to pay for the retention of his tired and poor PNDC comrades in the transition into the NDC era was his silence as they built their financial future on the back of taxpaying Ghanaians. First, they ensured that the 1992 constitution would protect them from their misdeeds in the PNDC era. (Even beret-wearing revolutionaries have strong self-protective instincts.) Then they used their new positions, legitimized by the elections, to acquire loans illegally, collect lucrative fees for serving on Boards, siphon off kickbacks on contracts awarded by government. Under the guise of building their party, cash collection and the attendant corruption became the modus operandi. In the end, the revolutionaries all got fat but under the strong protective wings of their fire-spitting leader, Jerry Rawlings. Now the party of socialist revolutionaries had become the party of mutual self-protection. ?I know what you did and you know what I did, so let us stick together.?

When the time came for Rawlings to step down, the last thing the leadership of NDC expected was that awe-struck Ghanaians would wake up from their fear and adulation of their light-skinned, plain-speaking, fear-instilling revolutionary. NDC leaders were simply unprepared to give up the reins of power. John Atta Mills simply lacked the charisma of Rawlings or the adulation of the gaping masses. The mad dash of NDC leaders to steal government cars and pay themselves off on their last week in power was a final testament to their fall as revolutionary heroes. In the end, they had descended into the same gutter from which they promised to lift Ghana. Then came NPP with a promise, yet again, to set the course of the country right. Their failure to fulfill their promise is a story for another time.

In the meantime, Rawlings, never admitting to defeat or failure, took the offensive and began to do the only things he has ever learned well in his life ? intimidate and threaten. From his revered-then-disgraced position as former head of state, he has repeatedly launched attacks, threats, false accusations, and ridiculous unsubstantiated charges against Kufuor?s government. He has been on a political campaign platform ever since he stepped down as President of the Republic. Even when Atta Mills was running for the presidency, Rawlings was the loudest self-promoter. The man could not retire from politics; he had promised to protect his collaborators. The tactic has worked. He has managed to scare Kufuor to stop prosecuting NDC leaders for financial corruption. The recent threat issued by Rawlings at the Koforidua NDC Congress that NPP leaders should be prepared to serve 30 years in Nsawam Prison is a revelation of the man?s real reason for remaining active in politics.

The unanswered question is this: why do the smart people of PNDC/NDC still support this man Rawlings? Why are they afraid to distance themselves from his disgraceful acts? Why did they never condemn him when he made those ?boom? speeches, leveled unsubstantiated charges of mass murder against NPP leaders, called President Kufuor derogatory names, and issued threats against NPP leaders? Why do they follow him even after he has publicly disgraced them? Why are they not embarrassed by the intellectual weakness, illogical thinking, and crazy utterances? Are these people mere gaping sycophants? Or, is there a method to this seeming madness?

There is no question that Rawlings enjoys a strange popularity among some Ghanaians. I am not sure whether this support comes mostly from disenchanted, young people who knew him as Junior Jesus and the only leader during their formative years. Many people still admire his apparent no-nonsense style, unconcerned about his apparent lack of intellectual power. In fact his anti-intellectual stance has spread throughout the NDC leadership. It does not matter to Rawlings? followers that the man does not tell the truth. It does not matter to these ardent supporters that the man is as inconsistent in his convictions as a two-year old toddler. Whether it is the ?250,000 house in the UK, the Jaguar car, or the Toyota Landcruisers, they still believe in their savior. But there is a flaw in this adulation. It cannot be completely genuine.

I don?t think P. V. Obeng, Atta Mills, Ohene-Kena, Ohene Agyekum, Ato Ahwoi, Kwesi Ahwoi, and Kwamina Ahwoi, Kwame Peprah, Kojo Tsikata, Tsatsu Tsikata, Alban Bagbin, Kwabena Adjei, and all the other followers are fools. I also believe they know a fool when they see one. There must be something else that drives these people to line up behind this man Rawlings. When Rawlings knocked down his then Vice President Arkaah, Kwamina Ahwoi publicly denied that any such thing had occurred. Following the Koforidua disastrous Congress, Ato Ahwoi was on radio denying that Frances Essiam had been physically assaulted. Atta Mills, the respectable, levelheaded law professor, has also found it necessary to dig deep into the gutter to show his roguish side. He has shown the world that there is no depth to which he will not sink to demonstrate that he is a Rawlings boy.

I submit that these people follow Rawlings because his bullying, fire-spitting, wild-talking personality is precisely the cover they need to protect themselves. He intimidates them alright but, he also scares off would-be attackers. These followers have tasted the good life under his permissive stare and he is their meal ticket. They have decided once again to bank their future prospects on their Junior Jesus hoping he will lead them back to the promised land of power and honey. They know what holds them all together and I suspect that it is neither a deep respect for the man Rawlings nor a belief in a Rawlings ideology. One day, we will all learn from P. V. Obeng, Kwesi Botchwey, Obed Asamoah, and some of the faithful just why they kept following this bully. ?I know what you did and you know what I did, so let us stick together.?

So fellow Ghanaians, I submit that NDC is using the ROPAA only as an excuse to create chaos in the country, as they had threatened. In the chaos, they hope their savior will re-emerge. ROPAA is not what they are after; it is political power by force. If they will recruit former military people who supported and protected Rawlings when he was in power, what more evidence do we need to understand the real purpose behind all these demonstrations. NDC remains a roguish party, still struggling to show a clean face. Ghanaians deserve a better opposition party led by leaders whose hands are not so bloodied. Come 2008, let us march all those political rascals out of parliament.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: King, Gene