Opinions Fri, 5 Feb 2016

The shameful commercialization of Chairman Wontumi’s exclusive politics stinks!


“Those [entertainers] who will go for bribe from the NDC and campaign for President Mahama, I together with my people will see to it that their products are abandoned in the Ashanti region.”


That a leading figure of the main Opposition party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), could get up one day and openly declare an unconventional war of commercial sabotage against lawful citizens who have promised to throw their weight behind the National Democratic Party (NDC) is not unsurprising. Of course, this is a serious matter deserving of public opprobrium because, after all, the Constitution does not discountenance freedom of association. And how else could we explain it?

For if it were indeed otherwise Chairman Wontumi, also popularly known as Mr. Bernard Antwi-Boasiako, will no doubt be somewhat justified in his open declaration of war against those lawful citizens who oppose him ideologically. This should be a matter of great concern to all well-meaning Ghanaians. For this reason also Chairman Wontumi, the Ashanti Regional Chairman of the NPP, should have known better than to engage the public in that uncivil language of seeming political separatism.

Thus, Chairman Wontumi should have permitted the sneaking qualms of political correctness to define his brand of political communication that day. Instead he did not. Yet in another sense such a primitive typology of political communication is to be expected in this perverted dispensation of robust partisan duopoly. It should be clearly understood that where there exists an absence of a creative campaign of ideas spent low-caliber leaders, such as Chairman Wontumi, readily resort to partisan political commercialization of ethno-regional politics as a means to score cheap political points.

That depraved typology of political communication smacks of the economic character of internal colonialism. This is because the Ashanti Region is not the commercial metropole or centralized authority of the nation-state, in which case the remaining regions constitute themselves into a dated pigsty typical of subservient outliers of unproductive poleis. We could, therefore, point to an attribution of a superior sense of commercial paternalism in Chairman Wontumi’s partisan political voice insofar as the Ashanti Region, as though this region is an exceptional lifeblood of the creative arts.

Not even the substandard artistic products of Kumawood are. Kumawood’s artistic products are patronized by Ghanaians regardless of ethnic and regional backgrounds. Some non-Twi-speaking Ghanaians buy and watch some of the artistic productions of Kumawood in situations where these visual products are subtitled in English to attract a larger viewership. Presumably not every Kumawood actor, actress, producer, or director is an Akan. Therefore, it does not make practical economic sense for anyone to try to characterize the Ashanti Region as a commercial ghetto. This pattern of interpretation is specific to the patronizing language of Chairman Wontumi.

Still, any ostensible attempt to characterize the Ashanti Region as a commercial periphery with regard to the politically diverse enclave of consumers of the products of the creative arts does not necessarily constitute an immutable lifeline to Ghanaian entertainers. We use the phrase “politically diverse” for good reasons. Like citizens of the Volta Region, the citizens of the Ashanti Region are not inflexibly beholden to the emotional statics of ideology and politics. The social landscape of both regions shows a remarkable topology of ethnic diversity. Good political citizenship therefore requires flexible adherence to ideological diversity and tolerance. The social-political conventionalism of a unitary state such as Ghana’s should respond well to the grudging oversight of good political citizenship.

Unfortunately, on that particular day Chairman Wontumi deprived his political communication these simple statements of fact. In his ethically unbalanced political communication lies a greater tendency for swing voters to make easy gravitation toward entertainers who may have openly declared their political sympathies for the NDC, say. The constipated political psychology of parochial politicians in a sense, like Chairman Wontumi’s, therefore does not do anything to court sympathetic fellows in the creative arts, men and women who may be in a fixed state of partisan disequilibrium, into their chosen idolized political fraternities as such tendentious pronouncements tend to alienate sympathetic swing voters.

Politics is about the expressed power of numbers, only if they are not manufactured in the strong rooms of electoral underground chambers. No prudent and astute politician worth his salt overlooks the part the political arithmetic of numbers plays in political calculus. Plus, given the undeniable conflation and crisscrossing of ethnicity and partisan political ideology in the emotional gridlock of Ghana’s duopoly, one may want to be extremely guarded or circumspect in public pronouncements. Chairman Wontumi did not do this given that he may have overstepped the threshold of his emotional intelligence that fateful day.

It is, however, not too clear if his use of the phrase “my people” connotes either his political fraternity or his stilted allegiance to political ethnocentrism, or both. Regardless, within the larger context of Ghana’s duopolistic practice also exists an incubatory tendency to alienate certain ethnic constituencies in the ideological scheme of political calculations. It is an indubitable fact that the Volta Region and the Ashanti Region are the spiritual strongholds, the political breadbaskets if you will, of the two major political parties, the NDC and the NPP, and as a result, no mature or sophisticated politician will dare pander to vulgar political ideology based on intellectual parochialism.

Beyond our reservations, economic balkanization becomes a direct beneficiary or corollary of Chairman Wontumi’s misguided political vision insofar as the marketability of artistic products in the country. What if Chairman Wontumi’s vulgar political communication sparks economic wars in which political sympathizers of the NDC in the Greater Accra Region or of the Volta Region also threaten commercial sabotage against entertainers who throw their weight behind the NPP and its presidential candidates? Where will such a hypothetical internecine economic warfare lead us?

We do have an inkling of some of the provocative answers in the political character of Yaw Osafo-Marfo. But even more so, the implied and explicit ripostes to the same question certainly call for sweeping public condemnation of Chairman Wontumi’s politically incorrect pronouncement. Such publicly decreed primitive pronouncements are what is, regrettably, killing creative talents, entrepreneurial initiative, and innovative ideas. They make arrant nonsense of collective and individual drive for the political dynamics of internal developmental autonomy. In the main, these pronouncements have no room in the practice of inclusive politics and political economy. And we need to watch out!

Certainly, it is clear that we are at pains to remain intellectually emphatic about this negative aspect of our political culture of duopoly. Why on earth is it possible for Chairman Wontumi to accept the idea of Kwabena Kwabena and Daddy Lumba throwing their weight behind Akufo-Addo? But why will Chairman Wontumi resist the idea of entertainers like John Dumelo, Lucky Mensah, and Clement Bonney (Mr. Beautiful) doing likewise for President Mahama? If for nothing at all, are the NPP and the NDC not the two sides of the same coin even though the internal dynamics and constituent character of the NPP lean closer to the sticky wall of ethnocratic duopoly and ethnic nationalism?

After all, are the likes of Dumelo, Mensah, and Bonney not mature enough, we mean within the legal age limit, to exercise their franchise against or in support of a political party of their choice, much as Kwabena Kwabena and Daddy Lumba have done and promised to do so again in the case of the NPP? Does Chairman Wontumi feed these entertainers and their extended families and friends? Is Chairman Wontumi the sole employer of these artistes? Is every single member of Chairman Wontumi’s extended family and friends an NPP supporter? Does Chairman Wontumi own the Ashanti Region and all the markets in it? Is Chairman Wontumi willing or prepared to cross carpet to the NDC?

What makes Chairman Wontumi think that his decision to join the NPP for whatever reason is the same quantum of reason everyone else should buy into? If that were the case, what then is the provenance of his double standard? Well, this is not surprising. Ghanaian politics is full of sanctimonious hypocrites and therefore equally deserving of this pleonastic label. This much we agree!


Chairman Wontumi’s primitive political communication is nothing new in the history of modern politics. The Nazis and their American sympathizers did the same to African Americans, Jews, Native Americans, and women. In fact, Hollywood lost many talents and money because it chose to blacklist an influential group of actors and actresses for their alleged misplaced sympathies for other forms of political ideology not native to the elitist canon of Western political democracy.

Likewise, Apartheid South Africa did the same to Mariam Makeba. And the former indirectly effected something close to Makeba’s persona-non-grata status in the case of jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela. As a matter of fact, there were several gifted and talented men and women who left South Africa on account of discriminatory utterances and practices similar to Chairman Wontumi’s. Examples abound in other countries as well. Alas, Kumawood has blacklisted Mr. Beautiful (Clement Bonney) just the same way Apartheid South Africa did to Makeba. Kumawood has lost one of its talented actors on account of political intolerance and political ethnocentrism.

And we expect Kumawood to grow? This is what the partisan politics of internal colonialism is doing to the internal economy! All these examples do not bode well for coalition or inclusive politics in a diverse society such as ours. The point of it all is that such instances of negative political rhetoric coming as they are from parochial politicians, like Chairman Wontumi, who are used to elitist privilege of political primitivism are uncalled-for. Our advice to Dumelo, Mensah, and Bonney is that they should completely ignore him, that they should dismiss his crass ignorance of political realism, and that they have every right to associate with any political party they choose to identify with.

We shall return…
Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis