Opinions of Sat, 27 Dec 2008133
Why Akufo-Addo lost so heavily in the Volta Region
He was always going to do badly there but few could imagine the extent to which Akufo-Addo would be so thoroughly clobbered in the Volta Region especially in the constituencies that make up the Ewe heartland. He didn’t do well even on the fringes. He did not win in the sole constituency (non-Ewe speaking) in the region whose parliamentary seat his party retained. No, it is not that, as a proponent for change, I am exactly basking in vindication over the miserable plight of the NPP flag-bearer in the region. I am as worried over the patently tribal nature of this year’s voting as any other well-meaning Ghanaian.
Those who argue that even if NPP had paved Volta Region’s roads with gold, they still wouldn’t have voted for the party just don’t get it. Who says this is about roads and development projects? This is tribal politics, pure and simple, and the Asantes, Akyems and Kwahus are EQUALLY as guilty of it as are the Ewes. Just look at the figures from the constituencies where these tribes are dominant. Those Asantes who, for one reason or the other, didn’t want to vote for an Akyem just simply stayed away instead of voting for a Fante man they perceive as a proxy for the Ewes.
The “hostility” between an ayigbeni and ebluto is not a cloak and dagger one in which each is hiding a cudgel behind his back waiting to strike once the other turns his back. I do not believe that the animosity will ever result in sanguinary feuds. No. In fact, the average individual Asante does not really harbour any ill-feelings towards the average individual Ewe. The opposite is also true. It is at the political level that the differences are so nakedly marked. The average Asante is not likely to vote for an Ewe as president and that favour is very squarely returned. I cannot presume to talk for all Ewes but many of them, even if they do not voice it openly, still perceive of NPP as basically an Akan party (eblutowo fe party). They may have a reason to do so. No one person epitomises a party’s character more than its flag-bearer. People don’t really care who a party’s chairman is because he is not the face of the party and will not become president of the nation. In more than 50 years of the Busia-Danquah tradition, there has never been an occasion when they have had a non-Akan as leader. The real stalwarts of the UGCC were Akan. Then came J. B. Danquah, followed by Busia, Victor Owusu, Paa Willie (in the splinter group), Adu-Boahen, J. A. Kufuor, and now Akufo-Addo, who lost out to ... guess who? Alan Kyerematen! The fact of Aliu Mahama’s personal inappropriateness as presidential material was certainly not the only reason why he came a distant third. He was in a race he was NEVER going to win. Everybody knows that, today, a non-Akan has no real chance of clinching that post. If the NPP should go to the primaries tomorrow, they will emerge with yet another Akan as flag-bearer. The party’s constitution does not bar people from other tribes from being voted flag-bearer but every Ghanaian knows that this rhetoric is far more divorced from the reality than meets the eye. This doesn’t do well for the party’s image as a truly rainbow association especially among the Ewes. It is true that the Ewes are not the only tribe in Ghana and should not complain about a perceived Akan hegemony but they are the ones who sit heaviest on the other end of the tribal see-saw in Ghana’s politics.
The Ewe vote that went so heavily for Mills is not because they are so madly in love with NDC and Rawlings. After all, Mills is not one of their own even if, for some queer reason, the Ewes don’t regard the Fantes as eblutowo in the same league as Asantes, Akyems or Kwahus. The Ewe vote for Atta-Mills is really a vote against Akufo-Addo for who he is and what he represents.
These things cannot change by appealing to eblutowo and ayigbefuo to start loving each other (after all they don’t really hate each other) or to stop hurling insults at each other on ghanaweb. The onus will be on the political parties which, as the greatest agents of change in this matter, should take practical measures that will neuter the deleterious effects of the divide. We should here distinguish the parties, as organisational units, from the tribes that mostly vote for them. A failure of the NPP, for instance, should not be construed as a failure of the Akans because they happen to be the ones who predominantly vote for that party. For the NPP to break through the Ewe perception of their party as one that is dominated by Akans, they will have to squash that perception where it will hurt the party most. The most daring move this time around, perhaps, would have been for the party to have chosen an Ewe running mate – a non-electable post. But that move would have been suicidal to the party and I bet it never even crossed the minds of the high ranking party officials. The party is in a fix because it doesn’t even have enough popular Ewes of merit to fill that post, or any other post for that matter. Major Quarshiga is not popular among Ewes especially as he is regarded as a turncoat who was rewarded with a ministerial post for coming over from the ‘enemy camp’. Elizabeth Ohene doesn’t get audience even in her own village. For now the NPP should not forget that it is a party’s historical duty to woo the people over to its side (not the other way round) and they should never throw up their hands in despair in this effort. That is why Akufo-Addo should visit the region again and campaign for votes in the run up to the run-off. After all, in the presidential election, every single vote, even those from the “hostile territory”, counts.
If the NPP, as heirs to the Busia-Danquah tradition (ye nim won fri titi), does not have the stomach to elect a non-Akan as flag-bearer, it will be left for the NDC to cut through the tribal divide. This is where that party can steal the rug from under the feet of NPP. NDC has many Asantes and other Akans of merit in the offing to be chosen as flag-bearer. If Mills loses, the NDC must, perforce, choose another Fanti or Akan, Ga or any one of our Northern brothers and sisters as flag-bearer. The Ewes feel their quota has been used up by Rawlings and are not craving for another Ewe leader so soon. Having an Asante or Akyem (especially one who is young and not the near septuagenarian that Akufo-Addo is) as flag-bearer of NDC will pose a real positive challenge to the Ewes. They will be forced to vote for him or split their vote (depending on who the other side is fielding) and we will avoid this year’s sorry spectacle of a whole tribe voting, as if in lockstep and with one voice, against one man. Now that politics in our country seems to be coalescing around two parties (the CPP and the PNC turned out to be midgets which couldn’t even nibble at the heels of the big two), it will be essential that these two parties reflect a truly national outlook not only on paper but in actuality.
Since our country is not as monolithic a unit as, say, the USA or France, the national spread of the figures would seem to be a better indication of nationwide acceptance than the absolute number of votes garnered by a candidate. This would seem to favour the Professor more than it does the Nana. The Nigerians once tried to build this principle into their system but it was attended by a number of problems resulting in the famous (or is it infamous?) court ruling of three-quarters of the states plus three-quarters of the votes in a critical state that tilted the decision in favour of one candidate. Of course, the Nigerians are adept at finding all sorts of reasons and practices to deny the electorate a true expression of their democratic wishes. Fortunately, in Ghana, we haven’t gone so far.
Akufo-Addo may still pull it off even if by a wafer thin margin of victory. The tribal fault lines are hardening in our country and the Akans constitute the largest single tribal group. But it will be good for the nation if he loses. In fact, an Akufo-Addo loss will be good even for the NPP itself (except, of course, for those individuals hoping to recoup the investments they made in the party or those eyeing the plum posts that will be up for grabs). His loss will force the party to re-examine itself and deal with the internal squabbles that have been gnawing at it from within but on which they have so successfully placed a lid to present a united face to the public. Depending on how these quarrels are resolved, the party may yet come out a stronger and a better political organisation.
I am one of those who think a change is needed at this gestation period of our democracy in order to strengthen it. Ghanaians have shown that, in a poor country like ours, elections need not be won by the highest bidder who has oodles of cash to spray around like at a rich Yoruba man’s party. They have shown that they cannot be frightened by the threat of a danger looming from more than 20 years ago when they have the evidence of the past eight years to go by. I am exceedingly thrilled by the ability of my countrymen and women to change governments without a drop of blood. I am neither a member nor a supporter of NDC (which, anyway, also contains the same unsavoury lot we have as politicians) and the thrill in which I am engulfed now was the same as when, in 2000, we saw the end of Rawlings’ grip on our politics. That is why I am hoping that on Sunday, Ghanaians will not allow the beast to weasel out of the noose but go the whole hog to deliver the coup de grâce to the NPP so that we can all have a fresh start (one that will do good to the NPP too) and yet another start again in four year’s time if the new government doesn’t perform to our expectations. We have the right to require of every government to keep raising the threshold.
And when Atta Mills becomes President, let us resolve, for goodness sake, not to call him by the title “Professor”...
Kofi Amenyo (firstname.lastname@example.org)