By Michael J.K. Bokor, Ph.D.
Over the past few days, utterances from the camp of the NPP indicate that the party’s functionaries still “don’t get it” that their party lost the elections because of several factors that must but be looked into for amends to be made. Instead, they are either gearing up to engage in name-calling or outright vilification of those not in their camp whom they unjustifiably see as the cause of their woes.
The NPP functionaries have a lot of soul-searching to do and must get down to business to tackle their own internal problems as well as to devise better strategies to reach out to Ghanaians. Anything short of that self-rediscovery will not redound to their fortunes. They have for eight years been too arrogant and too self-satisfied to remain in power. Now out of power, they appear to be belligerent for nothing. I pity them because this is the first time that a governing political party from their Danquah/Busia culture has tasted defeat at general elections in Ghana. The Progress Party didn’t last because it was kicked out in January 1972 by the military. Being a novelty, this defeat may sound strange to the party’s followers; but I will implore them to see it as a political reality that is the result of their party’s inability to touch base with the Ghanaian electorate. It is time to move on, even if zig-zaggedly for now.
Judging from the kind of post-election rhetoric being indulged in by the party’s leaders, activists, and spokespersons, I have my doubts that the NPP will redeem itself all too soon. The condemnation of the NPP as Akan-based will continue to stick until something drastic happens to give it the kind of national character capable of changing public perceptions. It may, however, take long in coming.
Take, for instance, the ongoing vilification of the Volta Region and add to it the embers of Victor Owusu’s infamous “Ewes-are-inward-looking-people” statement of 1969 and you will realize that the NPP will have a hard time turning the scale in its favor in that Region. The more these functionaries continue to stoke the fire of hatred, the more they push away the electorate in that part of Ghana from their cause. They have also extended this finger-pointing to those in the northern parts of Ghana, although their party made some political gains in some constituencies not known to have favored it hitherto.
None of the NPP functionaries are asking why the party lost the regions that it had won in other elections and the Dec. 7 elections (Greater Accra, Western, Central, and Brong-Ahafo). Depending on how the tide turns over the next few years, the NPP may find it difficult to claw back the good will it has lost. Instead of turning attention to that problem, the party’s functionaries are bad-mouthing every they suspect of being an opponent.
Several other factors are responsible for the situation in which the NPP has found itself. I will raise some of them from hindsight and historical antecedents. Then, I will peep into the future of the party. Elitist as the UP political culture is, it hasn’t been able to descend from the ivory tower of privilege to build any lasting and fruitful relationship with the ordinary Ghanaian. In government, the NPP under Kufuor couldn’t disengage itself from “book politics” and continued doing things anyhow, trusting that its hirelings in the mass media and the security services would do the bridge-building for them. It didn’t work; not could it have worked because that was not how politics under our new democratic dispensation was designed to work. Direct contacts with the people and the ability “to live like them” are the main trump-cards. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, for instance, knew the sentiments of the ordinary people and related productively to them, sometimes through his mannerisms. He often wore “batakari” whenever he was to be among those known for the “batakari” costume. Among others, he brought his politicking to the level of the people and they accepted him and his party. He related to them in their localities and indicated to them that he was just like them in any way, except that he occupied the high office of President. At that time, Dr. Busia and his UP cohorts enjoyed their elitist posture and mocked him. In our days too, we could see the difference. Former President Rawlings learned a useful lesson from Dr. Nkrumah’s conduct in office and went the way of the “Verandah Boys,” only to be mocked by the NPP. How many times had we not heard their taunts that Rawlings was wearing smock instead of “suits” (white man’s sense of formal attire) to attend events in other countries, which they considered to be unbecoming of a Head of State? They accused him of cheapening the Presidency and gave a thumps-up to Kufuor when he appeared in his element. We all saw the difference when Kufuor showed up in suit after suit, even in the hot weather in Ghana. There was one exception, though, when he appeared in Kente cloth before the British Queen, virtually exposing his hairy chest in the cold weather during his London visit about two years ago. One wondered what he was doing in that garb on that occasion when the indigenes themselves were in warm attires to shield themselves against the bitter cold. Priorities misplaced? Or was it a reversal of postures? Why?
When Prof. Mills began his door-to-door campaigns, the NPP functionaries derided him and later presented him as a “sick man” whose antics would end up in smoke. Their hirelings in the media were at their best, telling Ghanaians that wherever Prof. Mills went, he attracted only children, even though he was indeed endearing himself to all strata of the Ghanaian society except the NPP functionaries who had chosen not to see reality. The NPP trusted its wealth to do the work for it and threw caution to the wind. Wherever its functionaries went, whether before their Legon congress to elect their flag-bearer or not, it was money that was “doing the talking.” Then, reports came out that the NPP had spent 48 million dollars on the campaigns before the Dec. 7 elections, which it didn’t win outright, though. Money-swine politics!
The electorate collected all that money and gifts but didn’t bite the bait for the NPP to hook them with which to grab its electoral victory. You see? Money couldn’t buy love nor could it garner electoral support in this century when the electorate knew that for close to eight years, they hadn’t had any relief from a government that glibly promised much without hesitation but didn’t do a lot for them.
From the look of things, I can confidently say that Kufuor fought hard to become Ghana’s President to fulfill a personal ambition. My hunch is that he saw himself as a “professional politician” who was called into service at a young age and must rise to the citadel of power. He did so, riding on the crest of the popular quest for change of government in 2000. Just look at the spate of foreign trips, which he undertook because of his penchant for travelling, as captured in his own curriculum vitae!
Looking closely at Akufo-Addo and the high degree of aggressiveness in his bid for power, I am left in no doubt at all that beneath that quest is his desire to fulfill a personal ambition too. The driving force, certainly, is that his father (Edward Akufo-Addo) was once Ghana’s president (even if a mere titular one); therefore, as his son (who got acquainted with the privileges of such a high office at the time his father was the President), he must also become a President. Then, the torch would have been passed on from father to son. May Ghanaian politics be damned to accommodate such a quaint sense of dynasty! It appears Akufo-Addo and his NPP supporters can’t see things beyond the terministic screens that they’ve erected between themselves and the Ghanaian “politicalscape” and its electorate. They choose to see what pleases them and to interpret issues to soothe themselves, hoping that by continuously hurling invective at the prime-movers of the NDC’s cause, the Ghanaian electorate would turn to them. It has already failed them but they are unwilling to abandon that line of politicking. Call it political paralysis.
In less than a week that Prof. Mills has been inaugurated into office, their hirelings in the media (Daily Guide, especially), have begun the mudslinging and rabble rousing to suggest that the return into office of the NDC is a déjà vu (as one of them has put it). If the serial killing of the 34 women did the trick for them before the 2000 elections, their recourse to a so-called hate campaign through that self-generated hit list or suggestions that “a vote for Prof. Mills is a vote for Rawlings” did not. Why? The answer is not far off. Unlike the pre-2000 election period, Ghanaians had had enough to inform their electoral decisions. No amount of fear-mongering or “book politics” could save the day for them.
What beats my understanding is the failure of the NPP leaders to come to grips with the plight in which they are now. It doesn’t have to take any wailing, weeping, or gnashing of teeth as Lord Commey did at the Trade Fair Center last Saturday to make amends. It demands a deep-seated introspection and conscious efforts to right the wrong that has sent the party into opposition and made Akufo-Addo a laughing stock to some of us. And he is already talking of a come-back by 2012. What is the source of this sudden optimism? We heard more of such boasts before Dec. 7 and will wait for 2012. To those NPP supporters who don’t know the genesis of their NPP, let me provide some insights to help them in comprehending why their party is where it is today. I will do so because I was there when the party began taking shape as a mere pressure or interest group that held several meetings at the K.O. Methodist Park in Kumasi, the Catholic Social Center, the Kumasi Youngsters Club, and many other locations. I saw everything in its true nature and listened to several of the key figures (excluding Kufuor because he was virtually invisible at the time). Prof. Owusu Sarpong, the late Obeng Manu, and many more often led the anti-Rawlings discourse at such gatherings. The NPP grew out of the broad Danquah/Busia culture as a cell initially formed by the late Attakora-Gyimah of Nkukuo Buoho, near Offinso in Ashanti, who was a former editor of the Ashanti Pioneer. In its formative nature, it was called the Danquah Busia Club (DBC). Its activities were initially clandestine but bloomed into open politicking when the PNDC government lifted the ban on party politics on May 18, 1992. Then, the DBC metamorphosed into the NPP. Right from scratch, the party assumed an elitist posture, apparently because of the core of people nurturing it. Those were university lecturers/academics, rich business people, and the clergy (I can still remember how the Methodist Rev. Asante Antwi and the Catholic Bishop Akwasi Sarpong reinforced the DBC’s anti-Rawlings rhetoric at some of their meetings!!). So energized, the bunch of elites mowed their way through to make the NPP known to the electorate. Well, enough of the history for now.
What the NPP stands for is known to us all. In the face of electoral defeat, the party is not only jolted but has demonstrated its hidden side to the world, at least, if we consider the machinations revealed in the tapes that Radio Gold played and the clandestine manner in which they went to court on a Christmas holiday to get support from the judiciary to halt Ghana’s democratic process. They lost again but have remained destructively defiant and unproductively loud-mouthed, taking every opportunity to make ugly noise and to bore (or annoy) the majority that voted against them.
My humble suggestion to the NPP functionaries is simple: instead of wasting time and behaving as if Ghanaians were ungrateful by voting down the NPP, it will do them a world of good to begin picking the pieces on the quiet to assess the broader-level issues that turned the electorate against them. A good way to do so is to find out why they lost the elections and what they can do to undo the harm for the sake of the future viability of their party.
Why am I saying so? I have a strong premonition that with the current blame-game going on, if care is not taken to put their own house in order, they risk an implosion. Snippets of the trouble that is looming have already emerged from sections of the NPP calling on their National Chairman and the national executives to resign their posts for new and fresh blood to inject some new dynamics into the party. Then again, the party’s foul-mouthed writers (such as Okoampa-Ahoofe) have already identified Kufuor and others as the cause of the party’s woes and have not relented in lambasting them. By the time the next general elections is held, most of the pillars of the NPP (B.J. da Rocha, Appiah Menka, Odoi Sykes, R.R. Amponsah, Kufuor, J.H. Mensah, etc.) would be so senile as not to know how ---or have the capacity to---intervene in resolving any internal crisis likely to endanger the party’s viability. I remember the positive contribution of da Rocha that cut short the waywardness of Mac Manu and Akufo-Addo at the courts. Such pillars may claim to have powerful spirits but their flesh is weak already. Why not do what will give them the consolation that even in defeat, their party is still on its feet?
Granted that such pillars end up leaving the scene (as all mortal beings will), what may be left will be NPP leaders whose intense but wayward enthusiasm would create more problems for the party than can be contained. I know very well that some of those who played frontline roles in the just-ended elections can’t claim to be as useful as those I mentioned above. They may have the zeal but are not politically savvy enough to keep things together. I see them as nothing but fiery, fast-talking, and conservative democrats whose hot air precedes them. Let them prove me wrong if they wish.
Just imagine Konadu Apraku coming out just yesterday (JoyFm Online) to refute allegations of stealing the party’s campaign funds and you will realize that there is already an uphill task for such a person. Then, Arthur Kennedy’s backdoor contract comes up. He is already tainted. Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey has dipped his hands into the pot and cannot hide the sludge or smudge. Are these the characters to lead the NPP into victory in future? We must not exclude Akufo-Addo himself because---whether he likes it or not---he contributed to his own loss. There was a big question mark hanging over him before the elections, which he couldn’t provide any answer to remove. Indeed, wherever he was, I saw him in the posture of one big question mark: Is this man sure he is well-cut-out to be President over 22 million people and a polarized country?
Here was someone seeking such a high office against whom allegations of drug-abuse had been leveled and consistently drummed up by his political opponents, but who chose to use spokesmen to do damage control for him instead of openly clearing the air himself. Then, when he opened his mouth, he said what would worsen his public image instead of ameliorating issues. He was reported to have praised his virility and that he would have married a woman from the Zongo community. By making such unguarded comments, he exposed his underbelly and carried himself to the electoral slaughter house. The result? No need to belabour it.
He must still be dazed at the electoral defeat, having failed to win the first round in the anticipated “one-touch “ fashion and being humiliated at the run-off. The NDC had insisted that the run-off was not between the two political parties (NDC and NPP) any more but between the character and public image of the two contestants. In every sense, Prof. Mills presented a better picture to the electorate throughout the country. They went for him as their appropriate choice, leaving Akufo-Addo in the lurch for the NPP to either lick its wounds and make better preparations for the next elections or neglect them to fester into a paralyzing gangrene. As of now, it appears the NPP hasn’t learned that lesson.
Let me cut it short here with a clear message to the NPP: Ghana’s democracy has come to stay and it is imperative for it to put its own house in order if it wants to serve useful purposes till 2012 when the opportunity emerges again for another electoral contest. Victory belongs to the fittest!