Opinions Tue, 14 Sep 2010

Should *Nana Concentrate More on Ashanti Region in 2012?

In the 2008 elections, NPP’s total vote in Ashanti region dropped by 5%, from 77% in 2004 to 72% in 2008. The P-ndc, on the other hand gained 5 percentage points in 2008, from 21% in 2004 to 26%. One could thereby conclude that the P-ndc gained what the NPP lost.

But what is to be accounted for by the decrease in total votes of the NPP’s stronghold? To find the answers to the above “puzzle”, let us turn to Dr. Kennedy’s seminal book “Chasing the Elephant to the Bush” and to history.

Before proceeding, I would like to state that many party faithful still consider Dr. Kennedys’ book as a betrayal and “a spiller of the beans” of party secrets. I shared the same sentiments until I read the book. The book is, however, harmless and there is nothing in it that some or all of astute observers of our polity did not know already. Dr. Kennedy’s crime was putting what was on everyone’s mind on paper. But no secrets were spilt. Since reading it, it has become my “Bible” on Ghanaian politics. I never hesitate to reference it. (I have since reviewed it. The review can be found in the archives of the various media websites. Part two of my review is yet to be published, however)

According to “Chasing the Elephant”, many of our regional executives, who were political veterans of 10 years or more, packed up and left for Accra when the party won in 2000 and 2004. This led to the party electing inexperienced operatives to fill these vacancies. Ashanti Region, no doubt, suffered this “brain drain” as well.

To make matters worse, only four out of the thirty nine constituencies in Ashanti region, had received campaign plans a month prior to the 2008 elections. Of course, with only six months to campaign, it was understandable that the party would concentrate more on difficult regions. So it did not come as a surprised that Ashanti region was neglected or was taking for granted.

Furthermore, conventional wisdom dictates that one does not spend more time than necessary in a region which is considered as a party’s “World Bank”. But the situation on the ground in Ashanti region is more complicated than it appears. We shall therefore turn to history before we get back the Dr. Kennedy’s book.

On election day and prior to it, the average Ashanti still needs to be urged and be convinced as to why he needs to leave his farm, close his store or as was the case in 2008, (December 7th was a Sunday) why he should leave his church to go and vote. The Ashanti would give his money and his praise to a party but if that party fails to vigorously campaign, day in and day out throughout the election season, only a rude awakening awaits that party. In other words, the Ashanti is not overly enthused about politics in general, despite our” praise singing” and financial contributions. And this is due to systematic political persecution of the Ashanti politician dating back to the pre-independence era.

Under Nkrumah’s Prevention Detention Act, the Ashanti politician spent his vacation at Nsawam more than any other politician from the other regions. Even under Acheampong’s regime, the situation was not any different as he suspected “any attempted coup maker” as an Ashanti, knowing full well that only his own” could disturb his reign”. Thus he made sure many went into exile or in jail in the initial stages of his era.

By the time the Chairman’s so called second coming dawned on us, the Ashanti had all but lost interest in politics altogether. We are yet to fully recover. In fact, many Ashanti mothers still warn their children to stay away from active politics. They do not hesitate, especially to warn their sons not to put their wives through the same pain and burden they went through, while their husbands were locked up in jail or were exiled or even dead by political act.

This has brought a sense of political disinterest into the Ashanti electorate which still lingers on. And any party or campaign that fails to understand this is doomed.

To get back to the “Chasing the Elephant”, a Kumasi resident recently echoed Dr. Kennedy’s observation that only Dr. Matthew Prempeh aka Napo, MP for Manhyia and John Owusu Afriyie aka Sir John, seemed to have been the only voices of the NPP in Ashanti, during the last elections. This friend of mine said, these two seemed to be everywhere during the 2008 elections. Both were “free men” then.

But now Napo is an MP and Sir John is the General Secretary of the party. It is going to be almost impossible for Napo to combine his duties as a member of parliament, campaign to retain his MP seat and be everywhere at the same time. As for Sir John, his duties as the General Secretary of the party would make it virtually out of the question for him to be in Ashanti region for more than two days in a role.

A huge vacuum has, therefore been created. My friend is so nervous that if Nana does not send bona fide politicians to the region to campaign “tooth and nail”, the voting percentage might dip again. Or the P-ndc might make in-roads in the region, which would be more devastating than a decrease in voter turnout.

So as we get ready for the campaign season, the argument is that, Nana must concentrate more on the Central and Greater Accra regions. An on going poll, albeit an unscientific one, at the NPP Youth UK website has the Central region leading as the region Nana should concentrate most, with the Greater Accra region in a close second. However, it would be catastrophic for the party and a “Christmas present” for the P-ndc if the Ashanti region is not equally given the needed attention. I therefore urge those “in the know” to pay heed and not take the Ashanti electorate for granted. In fact, Nana should set as his goal 80% of the total votes in the region. This can be achieved if more "big shot" politicians are sent to the region while *Nana himself, attends more to the other regions.

*There are many “Nana” in our country but there is only one Nana.

Columnist: Afrifa, Akwasi