When Akufo-Addo decides to fight the bull…

Sun, 6 May 2012 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The NPP’s Akufo-Addo is, indeed, a man of many parts—a lawyer, human rights activist, and politician, among others. Now, he has turned himself into a matador to kill the mammoth of a bull that Kennedy Agyapong’s hate speech has created.

He is wearing a red shirt to engage this bull, hoping first to hold it by its horns and bulldog it in the end. Mistake Number One: bulls hate the color red, which his shirt has. How tactically prepared is he?

At the first attempt, which he made yesterday (symbolized by the meeting with the chiefs of the Volta Region), he went for the bull’s tail instead. Mistake Number Two: Going for the tail is not the best initial move; the bull will turn round to sweep him off his feet and he should count himself lucky to survive.

The harm caused by Kennedy Agyapong’s hate speech can’t be undone with spur-of-the-moment manouevres. Agyapong’s nonsense already has precedents, a strong foundation, that no admission of the fact that the NPP is responsible for alienating the Volta Region will wash away so easily.

Akufo-Addo has been strident enough in stating his case to be accepted as a peace-loving politician. In his own words, he claims that:

• He “will not condone any ethnic agenda by any member of the party”;

• He “will “not tolerate any act that seeks to divide Ghanaians”; and

• He “does not harbour such motives and will not allow any member of the NPP to engage in any act that can plunge the country into violence.”

“I want to state here with all the emphasis of my command that I do not have any ethnic agenda and I would not condone any such agenda,” he is quoted as saying.

Everybody who listens to him or reads these statements will see enough reason to agree with him. I appreciate the beauty of that rhetoric and commend him for coming out with these utterances to enrich the discourse on the NPP’s “hidden intents” in its political agenda and its pursuit of political power at Election 2012.

Considering the extent to which the fire lit by Agyapong’s hate speech has reached, such utterances should be expected from Akufo-Addo. The occasion also demands that he make them to the Ewe chiefs. It is a matter of common sense for him to say so to the audience, hoping that they will spread the word to their subjects and, thereby, wet the ground for the NPP in the Volta Region.

I expect him to move down to the Greater-Accra Region with the same message in an attempt to assuage the fears and doubts of the Gas, who were also mentioned by Kennedy Agyapong as targets to be hit.

In effect, what Akufo-Addo has begun doing is routine. That is where the problem emerges. The timing for this damage control manouevre is inappropriate. It is no more kairotic, as we say in rhetorical theory.

Why did he wait for the negative impact of Kennedy Agyapong’s hate speech to sink so deep before coming out to attempt dousing the fire? Why did he defy suasion to make his voice heard long ago? Now, too much water has passed under the bridge. What he has begun doing has already lost its shine.

A politician who genuinely disapproves of Kennedy Agyapong’s nonsense would have risen up to the task to denounce it immediately he made those utterances. Forget about the statement issued by the NPP Chairman, which was so equivocal as to deepen the NPP’s credibility woes instead.

Then again, the tumultuous and rousing approbation given to Kennedy Agyapong by the NPP’s leaders and rank and file belies the official statement that came from Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey. Ghanaians saw how the NPP members (mis)conducted themselves, seeing nothing wrong with Agyapong’s “boldness,” (as they put it) and why he was right to do what he did. Some even contextualized his utterances and insisted that he would be their hero.

Do you see the bundle of contradictions? In one breath, the NPP leaders portrayed themselves as being against Agyapong’s declaration of war against Ewes and Gas, but in the same breath, their actions (both in public and on the quiet) portray a vigorous support for him and a celebration of his “heroism.” Who will not see the double standards on display here?

Against this background, the attempt by Akufo-Addo to massage the feelings of chiefs in the Volta Region (which he will extend to the Ga chiefs too in due course) falls flat on its face. The reality of the situation doesn’t support his loud-mouthed claims that he is not against any ethnic group or will not support any action by any NPP member to damage the interests of any ethnic group.

We must be honest to say that in all that has been happening over the years, Akufo-Addo hasn’t personally stood out as expressing any negative sentiment against any member of any ethnic group. At least, he hasn’t been reported as doing so nor have I heard anybody accuse him as such. That’s a plus for him.

But caught up in the whirlwind generated by the Danquah-Busia political family’s notoriety as an elitist, self-righteous, and bragging cabal, he has become an unwitting victim of circumstance. The indelible stain has rubbed off on him and it will be difficult for him to remove overnight.

Again, his attempts will end up in smoke because they are not based on the proper premise. Obviously, the motivation for Kennedy Agyapong’s nonsense came from Akufo-Addo’s own quarters. I am being brazen to say here that his declaration of “All-die-be-die” (meaning that the NPP activists must be prepared to do anything—including sacrificing their lives—to ensure victory for him) is the foundation on which all the belligerence is built.

Thus, one expects Akufo-Addo to recognize that he is part of the problem. What can make his damage control more appealing is a denunciation of that “All-die-be-die” war cry. Then, one expects that he will issue a stern injunction against its use for any political act or event. Not until he does so, all that he is doing will remain cosmetic and ineffectual.

More importantly, we must be reminded that the “All-die-be-die” mantra has received a pointed approbation from the NPP’s leaders and followers to such an extent that they won’t willingly renounce it. In this case, Akufo-Addo has a Herculean task if he chooses to tackle the problem from its base (within the ranks and file of the NPP). That is where he must start from, to wean his own party’s activists of that belligerence encapsulated in the “All-die-be-die” and “Yen Akanfuo” faux pas.

Beyond that level, we must recognize the fact that the NPP (as a political party) is larger and more powerful than Akufo-Addo (an individual party flagbearer). He is not indispensable. Therefore, when nitty comes to gritty, where will Akufo-Addo’s attempts to solve the problem in-house end?

The real power brokers in the NPP know themselves—and Akufo-Addo is not one of them. They call the shots. They are the money bags, the spiritual power houses, and the traditional power bases that we can trace to the very tap root that germinated with the National Liberation Movement (“Ma Te Me Ho”) with Baffour Osei Yaw Akoto, the Asantehene’s Chief Linguist at the Manhyia Palace, as the fount of authority.

The NPP wasn’t formed in Akim Abuakwa. It began as the Danquah-Busia Club, incubated by the late Attakora Gyimah of Nkokuo Buoho, near Offinso, in the late 1980s. Its secret meetings were held at several places—in the homes of those who mattered at the time, and at the Kumasi Youngsters Club (blessed by Catholic clergyman (Arch)bishop Akwasi Sarpong and the Chairman of the Kumasi Circuit of the Methodist Church at the time, Rev. Samuel Asante Antwi).

They also met at the K.O. Methodist Park, Kejetia, and the Kumasi Social Centre after they had mapped out their strategies to outdoor the DBC as a political party. The kingpins of the party at its formative stage didn’t come from the Volta Region, Greater-Accra Region, Akim Abuakwa, the Central, Western, or the Northern parts of Ghana. They were all Asantes, mostly intellectuals, businessmen, politicians, and chiefs.

Some might have died by now but their influence is still powerfully embossed on the party to such an extent that no individual of Akufo-Addo’s standing can hope to make any major shift and survive the whirligig of confronting the powers-that-be in that political coterie.

It is primarily for such reasons—and the outright show of disdain by some high-ranking members of the NPP toward other ethnicities—that the NPP comes across as purely Akan-based. Changing this impression is next to impossible for as long as the Kennedy Agyapongs concretize it.

In an attempt to rationalize Kennedy Agyapong’s hate speech, some NPP activists drew parallels between his sentiments and what Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor was alleged to have propagated in one of his books to suggest an Ewe ethnocentricism or tribalism. These activists brought up copious re-statements of what they attributed to Awoonor to insist that they found nothing wrong with Agyapong’s utterances.

You see how foolish some political activists can be? The explanation is clear that Kofi Awoonor (Chairman of the Council of State) was not inciting Ewes to exterminate the Akans, Gas, Hausas, Frafras, or Konkombas, among the 100 ethnicities that make up Ghana. His personal opinions don’t bind anybody to commit any atrocity although it has the potential to create tension.

Secondly, although Awoonor ranks high in the affairs of the NDC, he is not calling the shots at the elections. In other words, the NDC doesn’t seem to suffer any negative backlash as much as Kennedy Agyapong’s declaration of genocidal intents and purposes do.

Third, Awoonor has nothing at stake for which he should be scared as the NPP is doing now because of the repercussions of Agyapong’s incontinence and incitement of hatred against the Ewes and Gas. Whether the sentiments of Awoonor are consequential at all is doubtful. For that matter, drawing parallels between his utterances and Agyapong’s frightening call for extermination of Ewes and Gas is dumb!!

Finally, Awoonor’s sentiments may be unpacked as a direct response to Victor Owusu’s “Ewes are inward-looking” diatribe, which has detracted very much from any political party emerging from the Danquah-Busia root. If Awoonor was responding to Victor Owusu, then, so be it.

Indeed, Awoonor’s sentiments aren’t even widely known to Ghanaians as much as Agyapong’s hate speech does. So, the comparison is pointless as far as the voters are concerned. Any attempt to propagate it now will worsen the NPP’s fate, to say the least.

Those followers of the NPP who don’t know this history should now know it and position themselves better than they’ve been doing so far.

That is why I consider Akufo-Addo’s attempt to solve the problem created for him (and the NPP) by Kennedy Agyapong as a tall order. Certainly, we will continue monitoring the situation to see how it all pans out.

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.