Feature Article of Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Columnist: The Catalyst Newspaper
President John Evans Atta Mills has a choice to make between winning the 2012 presidential election and losing it. This choice depends on whether he pays attention to, or ignores agitations from Volta, the ‘World Bank’ of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), particularly in this election year, irrespective of which issues are involved. The President has a choice to make between imbibing scathing castigations of the chiefs and people of Volta by Mr Kwesi Pratt on radio, even if they are totally wrong in what they ask for, and finding tactful means of resolving the issues emanating from the region.
Volta has been a done deal for the NDC in all presidential elections since 1992. But recent developments seem to be threatening this love relationship between the ruling party and the region ahead of the forthcoming election in December.
Volta, in The Catalyst’s view holds the key to President Mills and NDC’s retention in office in the forthcoming elections, a weird shift from the regions unbending support for the umbrella party over the years. A traditional stronghold of the NDC since the inception of the 4th republic, Volta has always remained a solid backbone of the ruling party in all elections due to its enviable bloc voting pattern in favour of the NDC but recent developments, if not properly handled, may cause an irreparable damage to this love relationship that can affect the party’s chances in the next elections.
For the first time since 1992, the Volta region has been agitating a lot in a relatively short period of time, beginning last year. The agitations which started with claims of marginalisation of the region in the sharing of the national cake by NDC governments, which manifestly is the result of low levels of development of the region, have recently seen an added dimension of some in the region wading into the raging Woyome saga, with complaints of discrimination against one of the region’s illustrious sons.
Submissions by Mr Kwesi Pratt, managing editor of The Insight and his ilk suggest that the President should ignore the chiefs and people involved and concentrate on the bigger national agenda because they do not have a case. Mr Pratt described as “silly” some suggestions made to the President in the wake of the Woyome saga, whilst insinuating that the request of pardon, for Mr Alfred Agbesi Woyome to be granted bail, by some 15 chiefs from his traditional areas in Volta could only be coming from ignoramuses.
Pratt’s personal liking for and relationship with President Mills is not in doubt. But what he seems to be forgetting is that without power, President Mills cannot continue to stay in office in order to carry on with his good works including the fight against corruption. That is why The Catalyst has a contrary view to Pratt’s open condemnation of the Volta chiefs because it can harm the President’s chances of retaining power in the next election.
Our humble advice to the President is this; he cannot afford to ignore the voices of dissent from Volta in this election year because he ignores the region to his own electoral peril. Mr President, you listen to Kwesi Pratt and forget 2012 because Volta has the power to make or unmake you at the polls on December 7.That is the bare fact. This posturing by Mr Pratt can turn out to be disastrous for President Mills at the polls due to the perceived personal relationship that exists between the two.
Of course the President must not pander to the whims and caprices of any individual or group of persons. The President cannot break the law or commit any such act as to undermine the constitution of Ghana in order to satisfy any individual or group of individuals, and we beg to differ with the notion that that is what the chiefs and people of the Volta region want.
The Catalyst is certain that the situation can be managed devoid of rancour, especially where likeminded people are involved. Volta region and the NDC have been on the same wave length since 1992.
This paper’s checks revealed that there is considerable political tension in the Volta region that disfavour the ruling NDC, the party the region has wholeheartedly embraced since the inception of the fourth republic. Verbal lashing of the chiefs and people of the region on radio by Kwesi Pratt is cannot be the best way of diffusing the tension in an election year, no matter how absurd the President and his advisors may consider the issues being raised.
The way to go is for cool heads to prevail and at the end of the day, a win-win conclusion reached. That way, the NDC will consolidate its ‘world bank’ status in Volta to help the Mills government retain power.
Volta region delivers massive votes for the NDC in any election except the Nkwanta North parliamentary seat that fell to the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the last two elections. It is expected that the region will maintain that tradition in the 2012 elections, without which things can go bad for the ruling party. Against this backdrop, it is suicidal if persons considered to be friends of President Mills such as Kwesi Pratt avoid tact and continue on the path of head-on collision with the chiefs of the region like he did on the Alhaji & Alhaji programme of Radio Gold in Accra last Saturday.
Kwesi Pratt treated like ignoramuses the chiefs some of the communities in Southern Volta who visited remanded Alfred Woyome at the police headquarters in Accra last Friday and asked that the President finds a way of ensuring a bail for him.
The section of Volta chiefs did not ask for Mr Woyome to be freed. They only expressed the need for him to be granted bail so that he can prepare well enough to defend himself in court. This they did by asking that President Mills intervenes by granting him ‘pardon’ for him to condition himself well for his defence.
For Mr Pratt to make comments that suggest that the chiefs and queen mothers have been compromised by money by Mr Woyome and that they do not know what they are about, amounts to an insult of their intelligence and integrity, to say the least. Open attacks on these chiefs will not help President Mills’ as far as his second term bid is concerned.
It is true that the President can have no say in whether a suspect is granted bail or not, even though he ordered Mr Woyome’s arrest. But we want to believe that the chiefs and queen mothers knew exactly what they were doing.
On the other hand, even if they were ignorant of the law on bail, let no one make a mistake, they and their peoples’ support for the NDC cannot be borne out of ignorance. It is their informed decision and The Catalyst can state that decision may suffer a serious blow if these attacks on them by the likes of Kwesi Pratt continue. Volta has never forgiven the Danquah-Busia tradition for Victor Owusu’s description of the region as ‘inward looking people.’
Two days before the visit by the Volta chiefs, Members of Parliament from the Volta region were guest of the beleaguered businessman in his cells. Apart from the ‘pardon’ bit, the MPs’ sentiments were not different from those of the chiefs. The Volta MPs expressed disappointment at what they described as the ‘Rambo style arrest’ of Mr Woyome.
With our political thinking caps on, The Catalyst can state on authority that the Volta chiefs and MPs did not act in a vacuum. There is a huge problem on the ground which needs immediate attention from President Mills and his NDC top guns, if they want to retain power in the 2012 elections
A critical point to note is that Volta, like some other regions, does not only vote in elections. Voltarians fight elections for the NDC. All we can tell President Mills is that he cannot afford to kill the hen that lays the golden egg on the ill-advice of Kwesi Pratt.
The Catalyst can state without fear or favour that Volta can become the waterloo for the NDC in this year’s elections. The current state of affairs in the region portends massive apathy instead of the usual massive votes for the NDC at the 2012 polls, although we can also state that that position is not entrenched as yet. And that is why a wise decision taken by the President now will do a great deal of good for himself and the party as a whole, not the mercenary attacks on the integrity of the chiefs and people of the region by Kwesi Pratt.