Should The Voice Of The Foot Soldiers Be The Voice Of The People?

Sat, 5 Jun 2010 Source: Jimah, Mustapha

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The NDC governments’ Sixteen (16) months in office has not been all that rosy. The government is faced with a lot of challenges in its quest to deliver the better Ghana agenda. The complaint of general hardship by the citizenry, the admittance and assurance by the government is a manifestation of the unfavourable economic condition that the government inherited. If things were that good as the opposition wants Ghanaians to believe, I am sure this government would be delivering beyond our expectation.

The actions and agitations of the party foot soldiers since the inception of this government have left tongues wagging about their locus in the party. They started by seizing some public toilets, it then moved on to lorry parks, toll bridges, destruction of government documents, closure of some NHIS offices and the call for the removal of certain personalities in government. The actions of the foot soldiers are not only a source of worry to the Mills government but seem to be gaining much attention amongst Ghanaians. This has resulted in some people asking whether it’s the President who is running the show or the foot soldiers.

Most of these foot soldiers justify their actions and are ready to tell their story to whoever is prepared to listen to them. They grant interview to radio stations also call in to programs to give reasons for their actions. Some of these foot soldiers claim they were sacked by the previous government and their jobs given to party cronies, others are of the opinion they have the divine right to enjoy since their party is in power. Some also engage in these acts to remind the government and its appointees about the better Ghana agenda they promise Ghanaians. Since these foot soldiers suffered in opposition to bring the government into power, it is in their own interest and the interest of the party to ensure that anyone who tries to sabotage this government is exposed and dismiss from office.

The actions of these foot soldiers have been condemned by some members of the NDC and other well meaning Ghanaians. Whilst some people are alleging that it is some powerful men in the party who are inciting the foot soldiers, others also think the foot soldiers are right in demanding what they deem to be appropriate and right for the party.

Quite recently, the Party chairman was in the news saying that the foot soldier concept is alien to the NDC; he was reported to have said the party’s grass root supporters are known as cadres. Whether they are cadres or foot soldiers, the underlying issue is that there is a problem to be solved and how do we as a country go about it? The President was also reported to have advice the foot soldiers to go slowly on their demands and not allow certain influential people to manipulate them in their actions. The call by President is in the right direction. Any demands on the government should be legitimate and just.

The question I am asking with this article is whether the voice of the foot soldiers is the voice of the people?

As the author of this article, let me try answering this question first before I solicit your views on this matter.

In the first place, we all have to admit that foot soldiers are now part and parcel of our political system. We can choose to call them cadres, grass root supporters or any other name we like. These are young men and women who have laid down their lives for their political parties, they go to the entire nook and cranny of this country with politicians, calling radio stations and doing propaganda for their respective parties. They police ballot boxes during polls and send strategic information about their political opponents to their parties; they are always seen at the party offices in small groups discussing topical issues and other gossips about their parties or their political opponents. They are at the beck and call of the big shots of their parties. They do all the “dirty jobs” for their political parties. The only handicap of most of these foot soldiers is their educational background. Most of them are elementary and secondary school leavers, some are graduates but unemployed, others have no skill and are unemployed too. There are others who are gainful employed but the love for their party makes them to religiously and assiduously support the party. These are people who would defend their political parties with the last pint of blood in them.

The recent agitations and actions of these foot soldiers cannot be said to be in the interest of their party and well meaning Ghanaians. It is a source of worry to the government and the NDC party. The duty of President Mills and his government is to solve the myriad of problems facing the country. The foot soldiers might have a case in certain instances. For example you do not expect a die hard supporter of a party to sit down and watch toll booth collectors pocket road tolls by receiving half the price for a toll ticket and allowing the drivers to pass without tickets as alleged by some of the foot soldiers who seized some toll bridges some months back. You don’t expect a foot soldier whose job was taken away from him because his party lost an election to sit down and watch those who took away his daily bread enjoy whilst his party is back in power. You don’t expect a foot soldier to sit down and watch the President’s appointees giving contracts to people who they perceive are not qualified or would not employ them but employ members of the opposition. Foot soldiers would definitely not look on whilst the representative of the President in a region or district perform abysmal. You don’t expect a foot soldier to sit down and watch Government appointees engage in allege corruption acts and “eat government money with both hands and feet”. How would you feel when you help a party to come to power and a minister or an official in government ignores you and pretend he does not know you when you meet him at a public function?

I do not support violent actions, people acting on hearsay or some few people trying to take the law into their own hands but it is equally painful to stand aloof and watch some few people destroy what you have helped to build.

Foot soldiers are the back bone of every political party; it is always their wish to see to it that their party delivers on their program and policies. The duty of our political leaders is to see how best they orient their supporters on their programs and policies, engage them through dialogue and see how best they can involve them in the effective and efficient administration of the country. Political parties should also be mindful of promises they make on campaign platforms. The Ghanaian voter is very sophisticated and very alert. He is prepared to punish any politician who fails to deliver. Opposition parties who take advantage of such mishaps in ruling parties and capitalize on that should also know that nemesis would catch up with them when they assume the reigns of power.

It is however welcoming to note that the NDC is trying to resolve this issue by initiating programs and policies that would go along way to provide jobs to the unskilled members of the party, the announcement of artisan training and other programs under the NYEP to absolve most of these foot soldiers is an excellent idea. I hope most of these foot soldiers would avail themselves to these training programs and acquire some employable skills for their own benefit. To those foot soldiers whose educational qualification is elementary but want white collar jobs or minor contracts from the government, my advice to them is to embrace education, acquire knowledge, upgrade yourself, add value to yourself and you can compete with that minister or special aide for a ministerial position or appointment in government, after all you were all in the trenches together, his only trump card was his education.

Now back to my question again, if you ask me whether the voice of the foot soldier is the voice of the people? What I can confidently tell you is that, the voice of the foot soldier is so powerful and should not be toyed with by any politician. Whether it is the voice of the people or not, I throw it back to the good people of Ghana to help me find the answer.

Mustapha Jimah Mustaphajimah@gmail.com Mobile: 0244677946

Columnist: Jimah, Mustapha