Why is the NPP seeking refuge in the Asantehene?

Wed, 19 Dec 2012 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Monday, December 17, 2012

The announcement that the NPP will present a petition to the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, after a demonstration in Kumasi on Tuesday comes across as part of the intricate scheming by the party’s leaders either to save face and abandon their head-butting with the Electoral Commission or to raise their protestations to a whole new level. Either way, the gravitation toward the Otumfuo has added a new complexion to the matter.

The NPP leaders feel that they haven’t exhausted all the avenues to register their “anger” and, from the look of things, will not take chances. They want to go the whole hog, using both constitutional or legal and unconstitutional or illegal approaches. Perhaps, their cup is running over.

Having made their presence felt in Accra through unconstitutional means (causing mayhem and public nuisance), they have moved inland to do same in Kumasi on Tuesday. Unlike the Accra version of their street demonstrations, however, the NPP leaders intend to present a petition to the Asantehene at the end of the day’s protest march.

We don’t know what exactly that petition will contain but we can hazard a guess here to say that it will be based on what we already know as the motivation for the on-going protestations—a denunciation of the EC, the NDC, and the media for their part in the so-called rigging of the elections (or tampering with results of the Presidential Elections to boost President Mahama’s chances, as they have put it), a reiteration of their rejection of the results, and an affirmation of their threat to seek redress at the Supreme Court.

We expect them to pepper that petition with statements declaring their democratic ideals and the determination to present the intended court case as a reflection of those ideals. They will claim to be pursuing that cause in the interest of Ghanaians, hoping that victory for them will reverse the election results and give their Akufo-Addo the victory that has eluded him to become Ghana’s President.

Their claim that their court action will help us smooth the rough edges of our democracy sounds good in principle but may not be so in reality. I see this case as a mere constitutional formality being pursued to create the impression that the NPP has a strong case against the EC when, indeed, there is no such basis. The EC itself has stated categorically that it did nothing wrong to warrant this pestering. Wereko-Brobby’s admonition confirms it too. But those interested in mere legalities are encouraged to proceed to court.

What will the NPP be adding to our democracy when this case is thrown out and its demand that the results be reversed in its favour are pooh-poohed? The mere fact that the matter has been sent to court won’t add anything to our democracy. It will pass off as a vexatious exercise in futility.

No wonder the loser himself (Akufo-Addo) is gearing up to lead the party’s legal team. After all, he wears the shoe and knows where it pinches. More pinching awaits him on the way.

Now, back to why the NPP leaders want to petition the Otumfuo. We have no doubt that involving him in their agitations raises several disturbing questions that we must ask as we continue to probe the rationale behind their rejection of the election results and recourse to mayhem to undermine the Kumasi Peace Pact that its flagbearer had joined the other candidates to sign in the presence of the Otumfuo.

Historical antecedents explain why the NPP is turning to the Asantehene and no other authority in this matter. I will be blunt to make it clear that the role that the Manhyia Palace played in the tumultuous days of the National Liberation Movement (NLM) and its “Mate me ho” brigade is known and serves as a backdrop for our comments here.

Indeed, history tells us that the NLM was conceived, hatched, and nurtured under the auspices of Manhyia to oppose Nkrumah’s agenda for the country. The NLM’s main pillar was Oheneba Osei Yaw Akoto, the Asantehene’s Chief Linguist, who masterminded the actions of the NLM and its “Action Troopers” to commit atrocities against Nkrumah’s followers in the Ashanti region. Manhyia was said to have provided enough succour to sustain the NLM. Manhyia has remained a fortress for that political tradition.

The NPP’s forebears (both the NLM and the United Party that took over the agitations) operated solely to create disaffection for Nkrumah whom they saw as the devil incarnate to be snuffed out. They virtually made it difficult for Nkrumah to govern as he wished without resorting to draconian measures that would produce the Preventive Detention Act to cripple J.B. Danquah and send Busia into exile.

What the NPP has begun doing (couched in the militancy entailed by the “All-die-be-die” mantra) is just an inkling of what those heady days of the “Mate me ho” bedlam produced.

We don’t want to accuse the Asantehene of complicity in what is unfolding at the NPP front but we can recall his own utterances (especially when he interacted with Akufo-Addo just before the 2008 elections to invoke the Oyoko bloodline tying both) to say that he seems to be betrayed by unavoidable circumstances as a sympathizer of the NPP. Of course, Manhyia cannot divorce itself from what it had set in motion decades ago.

Then, with the glaring preferential treatment given him by the Kufuor government (including allowing him to contract millions of dollars from the World Bank that Ghanaians are to pay back), everything seems to portray him as the magnet to attract such elements. The NPP sees him as an ally and wants to use subtleties to involve him in its agitations.

Otherwise, why will the party’s leaders choose him as the appropriate recipient of their petition—which will definitely not be complimentary of the government and the EC? Don’t tell me that it is because he is eminent. Which of the traditional rulers in the country is not eminent, anyway?

Those isolating him to present their political cause to may have their own reasons and agenda; but they are only creating credibility problems for him. As we’ve already asked, what will the Otumfuo do with their petition? How do the NPP leaders hope to reconcile their presenting a petition to him with their threat to go to court? A two-pronged attack on the system?

Recourse to the court of the Asantehene has ulterior motives and seems defeatist to me. It is just an instance of fatal escapism. These NPP leaders are at the crossroads and looking for a cunning means to chicken out but fear the wrath of their own followers; thus, they want to hide behind this fount of authority.

It is not that chieftaincy itself is a democratic institution to repose any hope in. It is not. Our chiefs are as autocratic as one can’t imagine; they have made chieftaincy a mockery in contemporary times and unattractive for any serious-minded politician to approach in search of redress of the sort that is sending the NPP into overdrive.

Regardless of how he views the situation to open his doors to these NPP leaders, we wonder why the Asantehene himself won’t read between the lines to avert being drawn into the NPP’s game. Or why he won’t take steps to avoid being tainted by these self-centred politicians seeking every straw to hang on to now that they know they risk drowning in the high, turbulent seas of Ghanaian politics.

The Asantehene needs to know that this move by the NPP leaders has only one objective, which is to drag him into their parochial politics. Having helped to get these politicians to commit themselves to the Kumasi Peace Pact—which they have already breached with impunity—nothing should force him to take sides. He shouldn’t do anything to betray any hidden political interest.

Of course, the NPP considers the Ashanti region as the strongest of its strongholds. That was where the late Attakora-Gyimah of Nkukuo Buoho, near Offinso, conceived the Danquah-Busia Club (DBC) that was nurtured into the NPP when the ban on partisan politics was lifted on May 18, 1992. Thus, Ashanti is the NPP, and the NPP is Ashanti. Can we remove the traditional head of Ashanti from the political baby born there?

Now that the party’s leaders are turning to him for support instead of taking a straight line to the Supreme Court, tongues have begun wagging. Why did the NPP choose to go to him with their petition?

Although we can’t tell whether the initiative for such a petition was taken by the party’s leaders themselves at their own volition or at someone else’s prompting, we can stick our necks out to tell the Asantehene that if he opens himself up to these NPP politicians, they will use him to pursue their agenda.

Under the current circumstance, if he allows himself to be embroiled in this kind of politics, he will have a hard time protecting his image. The bottom-line is that the NPP is caught up in a self-created crisis and should be allowed to steam in it. He should avoid becoming a vicarious participant in the NPP’s politics of hate, reaction, and divisiveness. The price to pay for all that is electoral defeat, which they have paid but will not want to endure. That is the cross they have refused to carry. No crown, then!

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.