By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor,
June 10, 2009
A June 9, 2009 news report on JoyFm Online had it that Kwame Pianim, a founding father of the NPP, had told Citi News that the party should elect a Ga or a Fanti as its chairman to dispel the perception that the NPP is an Akan Party. Presented under the headline “NPP needs a Ga chairman to win power,” this news report brought to my mind an interesting but somehow profane quip, which vividly portrays the fate of the NPP:
If you are destined to suffer streaks of bad luck, no matter what you do, you cannot change your circumstance. Even if you go to the brothel to solicit the services of prostitutes, those you approach will tell you that they don’t have any change. Then, when you go to look for the exact fee and return to pay for the service, every one of them will tell you that she has closed for the day. Kwame Pianim’s call, which appears to be his solution for the NPP’s crisis of identity and the fear that the party’s fortunes may not change for the better, reminds me of that gibe. Once anybody runs into such a problem, it is clear that he has been defeated by the Fates. Kwame Pianim’s suggestion demonstrates the sorry state of the NPP.
He says it is only by selecting somebody from the South like a Ga, Fanti or an Ewe that the NPP will begin to enjoy the mass following it “derives” (or desires?) to win the Elections.
Kwame Pianim says a Ga chairman for the NPP will make the party very comfortable in Accra. Let’s hear him in his own words: "If you have a Ga as your chairman, it also means that you’ll feel comfortable in Accra. They will sell you to the people around here and when you feel comfortable in Accra that reflects all across the country because people will see that you are followed in Accra.” Kwame Pianim wades on further: “Even though the Akans are in the majority in Accra and the Gas are in the minority I have always been of the view that we should always get Ga candidates for our constituencies in Greater Accra and support them with our majority, not taking over so that a time will come when the Gas will not be represented in parliament…The minority tribes should feel comfortable in the major political parties that we have, it reduces tension in Ghana,” he said.
My immediate response to this piece of irritating news report was to laugh my heart out in utter disdain. In an attempt to rid itself of its seemingly problematic complexion as a tribal party, the NPP wants to dig itself more into the quagmire of tribalism! It appears that the more the party seeks to right its own wrong, the more likely it is that it will rather wrong that wrong all the more. Why look for a Ga or a Fanti to chair the NPP? How much will such a Ga or Fanti chairman alone bring to the party to rid it of its current thick and impenetrable Akan coat?
Kwame Pianim’s suggestion is as problematic as the problem he seeks to solve. At best, it is a clear indication that the awareness has now dawned on some of them that the NPP is still a long way away from appealing to the Ghanaian electorate as a party that cuts across the over 100 different ethnicities constituting Ghana.
Again, this observation by Kwame Pianim is a belated subtle admission that the NPP elements have now turned full circle to concede what has been perceived by most Ghanaians not subscribing to their Danquah/Busia “Mate Me Ho” political veneer, but which they have persistently denied as an identity crisis. How pathetic!
Then, it suggests that the veil covering the eyes of these NPP elements appears to begin being lifted by the political reality now staring them in the face. Can it be an admission of fallibility, after all—something that they have arrogantly refused to acknowledge even though they should have known that as human beings, perfection shouldn’t be their quality? After allowing their political wits to be blunted by arrogance and narrow-minded “book politics,” they now appear to have entered an epiphanic moment to know that their defeat at the 2008 elections did, indeed, stem from negative public perceptions of the NPP as well as other NPP-oriented factors such as the haughty and self-acquisitive nature of the NPP during Kufuor’s administration.
But all hope must not be lost for them. They now have the chance to confront their own conscience, which should bring them face-to-face with the facts on the ground. So freed from their cocoon of arrogance, uppish public posturing, and elitism, the truth should hurl them into making amends. It is only then that their self-righteousness will evaporate, yielding its place to more productive politicking to involve all segments of the Ghanaian citizenry in the workings of the NPP. The party has its role to play, especially in the opposition.
Turning the NPP into a mass party with a national character goes beyond the presence of a Ga or a Fanti as the party’s chairman. In any case, why limit the choice to only a Ga? (The mention of a Fanti of an Ewe by Kwame Pianim is only a slip of the tongue). Arguably, the NPP is desperate and is giving clear indications that it has already begun the slow dance toward committing more political improprieties, which will have devastating effects on its fortunes in the future.
The warning is clear: unless the NPP takes drastic steps to rebuild its image, it will continue to hit the snag in the political waters and be shunned by those who detest its brand of annoying and unproductive tribal politics in the 21st century. Eventually, the internal wrangling, bickering, and unhealthy jockeying for national positions and the flagbearership among the various factions in it (such as the Akufo Addo versus Kyeremanteng camps) will intensify and the party cannot prevent itself from being locked in a slow dance toward remaining in the opposition.
The real problems confronting the NPP go beyond the ethnic origin of the personality who chairs the party. Those of us for whom the NPP has no attraction see issues beyond the mere status and ethnic extraction of the party’s chairman. The truth be told, the NPP is what it is because of its own deep-seated systemic problems and negative endemic qualities that have eaten so deep into its fabric that no cosmetic last-ditch smokescreen in the form of a Ga or a Fanti National Chairman will change its fortunes overnight. We all heard the loud noise of self-acclamation and the glib predictions of a “done deal” for the NPP when Peter Mac Manu was chosen as the National Chairman. In the end, that balloon of positive hopes burst into gasps of anger and disdain for him. Now, is it a Ga or a Fanti chairman that will claw back the electorate’s goodwill for the NPP? Ridiculous!
What will be the benefit of such a Ga or Fanti National Chairman when we all know that such a person will be nothing but a pawn in the game that the real but hidden power brokers of the NPP are wont to play as they toss and turn him around to suit their parochial political and economic interests? Who doesn’t know that by its very nature, the NPP has been built around the Akan elitist Danquah/Busia ideology that has always projected the Akan elements as the real power wielders whose word is the command within the party? Will we so soon forget the shabby treatment given to Aliu Mahama who was used and discarded to the advantage of the Akan cabal?
When the late Attakora Gyimah and the small cell of die-hard Danquah/Busia elements of Asante extraction in Kumasi were making their initial moves in 1992 to form the Danquah Busia Club (before the lifting of the ban on partisan political party activities in Ghana by the PNDC government), which of them had any room for a Ga, an Ewe, a Fanti, a Frafra, or Kanjagah to be at the helm of affairs? When the DBC eventually metamorphosed into this NPP, who among the Asante pillars favored the inclusion of anybody from the other ethnic groups to join the core of the party’s power brokers? Peter Ala Adjetey and Odoi Sykes were only used and discarded at will. In the reign of Kufuor, we all saw where the actual power base of the NPP lay. With this open show of desperation, the NPP must be feared.
I daresay that not until the party reorganizes itself drastically, no amount of calls such as Kwame Pianim’s will endear it to those he thinks hold the key to the party’s success at the polls. The task is tremendous, and petty cosmetic solutions of the sort that he has suggested will only massage feelings, not solve the systemic problems. It reminds me of how Akufo Addo unwittingly mocked the electorate when he chose to do his politics by joining passengers on a “tro-tro” bus from Kwame Nkrumah Circle to Osu. It was quickly interpreted as a desperate political gimmick to connect to the electorate for personal political gains. The upshot? No goodwill for him as expected. He only succeeded in alienating the electorate because they knew who he was in reality—a classic example of the elitist and “book” politics that the NPP is known for. No support for pretenders.
Kwame Pianim may be on a genuine one-man crusade, crying his heart out to expand the scope of the NPP but it is all in vain. He has already struck the wrong chord to give us a cacophonous rhythm. To me, no amount of exhortations regarding an NPP Chairman of a Ga or Fanti ethnic extraction will solve the party’s problems. The NPP has been carrying a baggage that is full of questionable items on its political agenda. Kufuor gave us the clear picture and Ghanaians are not in a position to have it turned on again all too soon; hence, the defeat of Akufo Addo and the seemingly desperate acts of public posturing that the NPP elements are taking these days.
Now in opposition, the NPP may rightly see itself as being in the frying pan (according to Arthur Kennedy’s lamentations that being in opposition is like being in “hell”); but if it doesn’t hasten slowly in seeking solutions to its self-created identity crisis, it may end up hopping into the hot, blazing fire of Ghana politics, which will consume it beyond redemption. A Ga or a Fanti National Chairman may seem an attraction; but if he (it can’t be a “she” under the NPP) does politics as the NPP has been designed to do, he will drag the party deeper into the political wilderness.
In the end, the NPP can even go for the Ga Mantse or Ga Manye to chair it. Again, they can go to Cape Coast to grab the Oguaamanhene (Nana Kwasi Atta) or to Winneba to lure Nenyi Ghartey; or to Dunkwa-on-Offin (or Jukwa) to prevail over Odeefo Boa Amponsem to be their National Chairman. Nothing productive will result from this effort. It will all end up in smoke because it takes more than the presence of a Ga or a Fanti to tone down the Akan (or Asante) complexion from the NPP and turn it into a party of a truly national caliber like the NDC or CPP.
Why is it too difficult for the NPP elements controlling the affairs of the party (wherever they are) to be humble, to eschew elitism and ivory-tower politics, and to relate more respectfully to all segments of the Ghanaian populace in a manner that will make them connect properly with the very people whose mandate they seek to be in power? For now, the NPP feels secure in its Akan cocoon, which no Ga or Fanti National Chairman can enter to function productively for the party to grab political power. Mr. Kwame Pianim must look far afield and come back with better solutions. The Ghanaian electorate are enlightened and will not fall for this bait to be entrapped by the NPP.