What about the NPP makes it attractive? (Part I)

Fri, 26 Jul 2013 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Once again, we have heard something to the effect that certain personalities are doing politics against the NDC/government, using the auspices of their institutions. They have been accused of hiding behind the smokescreen that they have turned their institutions into and are provoking public panic or anger against the government.

Dr. David Percy (a member of the National Reform Party and a board member of the National Service Scheme) has condemned the National Peace Council (NPC), the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), and the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) as “fronts for the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).” Speaking on Radio Gold on Monday morning, Dr. Percy said that last Friday’s national summit on Peace, Justice and Reforms, an initiative of the NPC, the Manhyia Palace, the Civic Forum Initiative (CFI) and the IDEG, was to further the agenda of the NPP. He said it would be reckless and dangerous to lull the people into thinking that those institutions were disinterested parties in the on-going election petition case. (See https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=280250). These are serious allegations; but I am not really surprised at them because they are not new to me, having heard about them for some time now. What amazes me is the inability of people like Dr. Percy to fathom why such institutions and their elements will choose to promote the NPP’s cause and work against the interests of the NDC and its government. This issue has nagged me over the years, and now that Dr. Percy’s allegations point to them, they need to be unpacked. The moment is ripe for it.

Similar allegations have been made over the years and fingers pointed at some in the mass media, the clergy, civil society organizations, chiefs, workers’ and traders’ leaders, and many more as lackeys of the NPP bent on sabotaging the NDC. Others identified as “irritants” because of their persistent criticisms (e.g., Franklin Cudjoe of IMANI) have also had their share of the tongue-lashing. Many more are not spared either. As surely as night follows the day, such allegations continue to be made. So far, I haven’t heard anything from those making the allegations as to why their targets have chosen to be in bed with the NPP and not the NDC. This silence prompts two main questions: What about the NPP makes it more attractive than the NDC? Why will anybody choose to gravitate toward the NPP and not the NDC? Answers to these fundamental questions should clarify the matter and help us know how to contextualize Dr. Percy’s claims for proper analysis. These allegations grate on the ears, especially when none of those being accused has been bold enough to confirm the allegations nor have those making the allegations adduced any evidence apart from the assessment of public postures and utterances to justify their claims. We can hazard a few guesses to set minds at ease.

Ideologically, the NPP is a conservative political entity built on the Danquah/Busia (and Dombo?) aspiration of “liberal democracy” and property-grabbing. Its adherents make no secret of their penchant for self-acquisition. Their manifesto may be silent on it but their real and practical acts of commission and omission speak volumes to substantiate that impression about them.

One couldn’t have failed to see its concrete manifestation in the 8-year rule of Kufuor. Indeed, having itched in the political wilderness for 30 years before grabbing political power, Kufuor used every opportunity to confirm the property-owning mantra. The floodgates were thrown open, causing a mad rush for property and self-aggrandizement. Let’s take, for instance, Kufuor’s own junketing all over the world and the unrestrained dash by his government functionaries (not to mention the high-ranking NPP leaders’) for property. Then, turn round to review the list of appointees that Kufuor placed in charge of government business and you should know why the NPP is what it is. For one thing, the NPP leaders know how to handle those who do their “dirty” political work for them. They compensate them fairly and use them to the full. Be they journalists, teachers, traders, drivers, or what-not, they are not sidelined if engaged to do the party’s bidding.

Unfortunately, the NDC is otherwise. Let me just cite one example to substantiate my stance. We easily recall the street demonstrations by the NDC’s foot-soldiers and the reasons that they adduced to support their grievances in the first few months of the late President Mills’ administration. They took the law into their own hands, evicting government appointees from offices and forcefully taking over public toilets to manage?

Their reason? The government wasn’t fulfilling its promise on job creation for them despite the hard work that they had done to put Mills in power. They claimed that they were not compensated and couldn’t look on without doing anything to draw attention to their plight. Of course, they were roundly condemned by the government and some measures taken to rein them in. Apparently, the security forces were unleashed on them to silence them. Their grievances have still not been met; and we can’t rule out any resurgence of their agitations. Certain reasons continue to be raised by critics of the government to justify why the NDC doesn’t seem to be the preferred home for those now being accused of hiding behind the pulpit, the Bar, and civil society groupings to do politics in favour of the NPP.

1. Economic power

The Ghanaian economy (especially the private sector) is largely controlled by those who are either sympathetic to or aligned with the NPP. If you doubt it, just do a quick assessment of the industries and big-time business enterprises all over the country and you shouldn’t be left wondering why I have made this huge claim that the economy is in the hands of those opposed to the NDC/government.

Of course, their tap roots run deep, spreading centrifugally from the foundation laid by their benefactors in the Gold Coast era who established industries and companies or who simply took advantage of the prevailing favourable environment to break through as successful business people. And what they established has thrived over the years despite the vicissitudes of the Ghanaian political and economic systems, especially the tumultuous June 4 and December 31 revolutionary excesses. Do you wonder why they keep on accusing Rawlings of being anti-rich and consequently extending their bitter sentiments to the political family spawned by him? 2. Political power It is often said that the NDC knows how to mobilize support to help it achieve political power; but the truth is that it doesn’t really exercise that political power properly to break through and accomplish the agenda that will reinforce its base and translate that power into an economic asset. Apparently, the NDC’s investment in the struggle for raw political power seems to be regarded as an end in itself, which is why even when voted into office, its government cannot function effectively to undercut those forces using their economic power to undermine it.

Indeed, there is much talk that when the NPP is in power, money “flows” in the country and that even if the cost of living remains high, people can do business and get their money’s worth. On the other hand, when the NDC takes over, the situation reverses—the money no longer circulates and business grind to a painful halt, apparently because of the government’s inability to manage affairs effectively.

This is a terrible indictment, which, apart from other factors, is often at the heart of opposition to the NDC. The problems that have emerged (increasing tax rates on foreign goods and cars, especially at the Tema and Takoradi harbours; the shortage of Dollars; the sporadic Dollar-Ghana Cedi exchange rates; high foreign debt; increases in prices of petroleum products and utility services; corruption at SADA and GYEEDA; and many more) are pointed to as evidence of the NDC government’s failure to manage the economy properly. This situation gives vent to criticism by opponents of the government, which gives them some political leverage.

We are, however, not recommending the NPP’s manner of politicking to the NDC because that “book politics” won’t move Ghana out of the woods. It is sterile and swelf-0serving; but it also opens new windows through which the NDC leaders can view politics more broadly to be able to fashion out their own particular approaches to put the party poles ahead of the pack. That is the only reason for citing the NPP’s record.

3. Governance style

There is also much talk about the governance style of the NDC, beginning with Rawlings and touching on Mills to the incumbent (John Mahama) that negatively affects the NDC’s standing. Of course, the Rawlings style has its peculiarities and implications (granted that the soldier in Rawlings couldn’t be tamed and turned away from the characteristic “buga-buga” approach toward command-and-control). But Rawlings’s brusque approach and peremptory governance style has its positive aspects even if abused. The late Atta Mills’ laid-back approach to governance struck most people as “strange” but he left his mark on the scene for which he is being remembered today. President Mahama’s own governance style has its ups-and-downs. Criticism of his style is rife, especially given the worsening economic situation in the country.

The reality is that the government appears not to use the political power at its disposal to endear itself and the NDC to the hearts of others than the die-hard party supporters. To change the situation, the party/government will have to make amends. What it has done so far isn’t fetching any political capital. The so-called transformation that is touted as “Social Democracy” isn’t giving the government anything new nor has it yet been implemented to make the rebranding of the NDC meaningful. The same old wine in its old wine bottle but with a different label won’t entice anybody to the party’s cause.

I shall return… • E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com • Join me on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mjkbokor

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.