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Opinions of Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Columnist: David Adumbire

The ghosts in Akwatia: Lessons from NPP 2020 primaries

Dear Uncle Dan,

Once again, I have gotten another energy and urge to speak. I have got so much to talk but anxiety whispers and tells me, "Don't speak". I live in a country where people will put labels on you depending on what comes out of your thoracic cavity. At a point, even if you cannot breathe, you cannot talk. You may even talk but you cannot be heard. If you are heard, you can be ignored. That is where we are. But I am not going there today.

If I may let you know, I have read and heard many people say that we live in an extraordinary time in human history and that life would not be the same after the Covid-19 pandemic. I know you do not know what I mean. Covid-19 is a disease that has spread through many countries in the world. Surprisingly, the impact of the disease is different in different countries and in different forms. In Italy, many have died. In Brazil, about 50, 000 people are gone. In USA, thousands have died. In Nkrumah's Ghana, 85 people have died but there are many contestations as to the right statistics of infections.

But if you remember, it has been almost four years since we “asked” those umbrella people to leave the affairs of the state unto the hands of the elephant people. This week, the ruling party defied the odds of COVID-19 and conducted a successful primary. The national contest is in December 7, 2020. So, this was an intra-party contest. There were about 374 aspirants contesting in 168 constituencies. The gender differential in our body politic and the low women participation in governance was clearly evident in the contest. Of the number of contestants, 325 were men and only 51 were women. In Ghana, we have always talked about plans to facilitate women's participation in decision-making by promoting affirmative action programs to reduce gender disparities in decision-making and government participation.

Successive governments always pride themselves in the steps they took to address problems facing women seeking to gain entry into public and political leadership. But these are simply rhetoric than reality. I have read somewhere that some 67 aspirants, who went unopposed in the election were actually protected. While I do not buy into such protectionism school of thought, my beef is, why won't such protection policy be given to women?

During the election 2016, one of the biggest surprises apart from the NDC shocking and shameful defeat, was when Mercy Adu Gyamfi, popularly called Ama Sey (a hairdresser in Ghanaian parlance) beats incumbent Baba Jamal (a lawyer) to become the Member of Parliament for Akwatia in the Eastern Region. Such a victory was like a tortoise winning a rabbit race or if you like it was much like a goat winning a fight against a lion. It is not only in boxing that we have typology of boxers. In the political arena, we often hear about “heavyweights”, “big wings”, “seasoned” on the higher continuum. And on the lower continuum, we hear “amateur”, “underdog”, “new entrants”, “lad” etc. So, Hon. Ama Sey was an amateur politician in comparison with her opponent. But she won.

That victory gave many people hope that, our Ghanaian parliament, after all, is not only for the too lettered and that given the blessing of the people, one can go there despite one's deficiency in the queen's language. But in 2020, we are actually not in normal times. We are fighting COVID-19. We were to have our population and housing census. We are registering our nationals and we are compiling a new register for election 2020. Our ruling party-the NPP re-scheduled its primaries due to COVID-19 and finally conducted it. That elections have produced a mixture of surprises and lessons. Yes, surprises! About 40% of sitting members of parliament have lost their seats. Some have lost honourably and others miserably.

I start from home but only to add that, Hon. Mercy Adu Gyamfi, alias Ama Sey would be going back to her salon because four dead people from Akwatia thinks she does not deserve a second term. Dead people? Yes, I mean ghosts. They came back to life, voted, and went back to their resting places. No wonder the voter's register has become topical and a household name in Ghana.

So, it came to pass that Hon. Tangoba Abayage, first female Upper East regional minister like many new entrants was underestimated in this lion fight. Novice? No. Naïve? No. So why was she underestimated? I actually don't know. What I know fully well is that, only lions live in the jungle. If you like Ghanaian politics, apart from its recent moneyocracy, is male dominated.

The male dominance did not begin today. In September 1969, about 140 members were sworn into parliament with only one woman, Mrs. Lydia Akan Bodin-Po Kugblenu from the Upper region of Ghana. If you want to trace from my own backyard, the first female we had in parliament is Ms. Catherine Tedam, in 1970. She won a bye-election in the Chiana/Paga Constituency in the Upper East region under the ticket of the Progress Party.

So, the political contest in Ghana is always male-dominated and I am not surprised, Hon. Tangoba Abayage branded herself the lioness. She has conquered a big lion in her own party awaiting another lion. Dakoa Newman did same and John Kumah did same. Asenso-Boakye did same gracefully at Bantama and in Walewale, Lariba Abudu did same.

On the other score, we have big guys like Mark Assibey-Yeboah in the New Juaben South Constituency losing his seat. He is not the only one, many big guys fell. It was an election that many political analysts and pollsters got it wrong in their predictions.

Gleefully, the opposition NDC is content with the results. To them, delegates were simply speaking in one language-CHANGE. In 2016, Ghanaians spoke about such change. They spoke about arrogance, mismanagement, corruption, and wasteful spending. At the time, the guys at the top were too high the social ladder hence could not hear the loud voices of the masses. Those close to them were only busy singing praises. To their dismay, change happened.

So, our MPs who lost might have suffered similar faith. Some of our politicians and their close followers have one thing in common. They forget that power is fluid. Power like life itself is a pendulum. It swings. One time you are up and another you are down. Power is from the people and when given to you, do not abuse it. It is important that, when the people give you their power, you must make sure the goodness of political power reaches their doorsteps. Do not promise people heaven and give them hell, the day of accountability is near.

These days, we have foot soldiers and some actually “fool soldiers” branded as social media communicators and paid by politicians to insult the opponents. Disaster is looming. We have some appointees who have elevated themselves to gods and wish they have the power to sell air to humanity. But this election has produced many lessons; we have no underdog in the game, people's power is not to be taken for granted, money may not buy all the votes and conditions are not permanent. Those who have the opportunity today must be humble. It will not be permanent.

Congratulations to all losers and winners!!!

Writer's Profile
Name: David Adumbire
MA in Population Studies
Contact: dadumbire@gmail.com
Address: Regional Institute for Population Studies, University of Ghana, P.O. Box LG 96, Legon, Ghana

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