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Opinions of Friday, 22 February 2013

Columnist: Ofori-Atta, D. M.

Akufo-Addo and the Challenge of Progress

By D.M. Ofori-Atta

The utter humiliation of the smaller Nkrumahist parties in the 2012 general elections has shown more than any other thing the decisive effect of the appropriation of the Nkrumahist spiritual and intellectual legacy by the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

For the many years that the 'Alhaji and Alhaji' weekend radio talk show has been serving as the flagship propaganda platform of the NDC it has never failed to replay the speeches of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah before, during and after the show. This is backed by old CPP songs which serve as the main tune of the show.
What is more of concern is the consistent invocation of the 'matemeho-people' description by panellists of the show as part of efforts to effect a negative restructure of the public image of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and its leaders.

This is not a new phenomenon. In the 90s at the time Rawlings had supervised the harshest, most reckless, degrading and subservient World Bank/IMF dictated neo-liberal reforms ever in the developing world, this same categorization of an emerging popular alternative leadership was invoked by morally corrupt high priests of the desecrated shrine of a 'revolution'.
This, in addition to the social interventionist policies of the Kufuor era—NHIS, School feeding programme, free maternal care etc—provokes a need for a critical re-examination to determine correctly, the place of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Ghana's politics and history.
The understanding that the NDC is a reformist or left-of-centre party is as mythical as the label 'social democracy'. Neither can it be credited with progressive leadership.
The kind of extreme neo-liberal economic reforms and anti-social programmes of the Rawlings era meant that at every step—or right-turn—of his 20-year misrule, the more progressive tendencies in the regime are flushed out to welcome new entrants, mainly careerist with an attitude of reactionary indifference to mass suffering.
The pro-democratic movements and tendencies inspired by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Kwesi Pratt, Akoto-Ampaw, Kweku Baako and others led finally to the Kumepreko demonstration in Accra on 11 th May 1995 in which three people were shot in cold blood.
The historic value of the Kumepreko struggle led by the Alliance for Change (AFC) can only be compared to the 1951 positive action that broke the back of classical colonialism throughout Africa.
Kumepreko ended the myth of Rawlings' heroism with the total collapse of the legitimacy of June 4 th and 31 st December insurrections. For the first time, perhaps, it has shown that it was possible to organize an active mass base outside the Rawlings cult of personality to intervene in the national politics.
A major tax on popular consumption, the Value Added Tax (VAT) had to be suspended for two years. This situation built confidence in the opposition and eroded the prestige and aura of Rawlings' invincibility.
But there were more devastating effects on the regime. Political plurality both outside and inside the NDC had become a growing feature. The last nail in the coffin of PNDC/NDC political monopoly had been driven.
In fact, all the major splits in the NDC occurred around that period. The then Vice-President Kow Nkensen Arkaarh could openly denounce Rawlings at the beginning of a drama that included a physical assault at a cabinet meeting and a sitting Vice-President running on the ticket of the opposition NPP.
Also, that period saw another internal rift in the NDC. Progressive sections led by Goosie Tanoh and Kyeretwie Opoku had issued out defiant reformist programmes in response to the crisis. In a couple of years this section had the strength to lead a breakaway National Reform Party (NRP).
The most decisive effect was perhaps the inevitable consolidation of the NPP and changes in its outlook and orientation. Its character had been radically shaped by the national situation. Its boycott of the first parliament somehow had a positive effect in broadening its base. Its leaders had no choice but to engage more actively at the base of society for the first time. By 2000 it had emerged has a national party and in alliance with other social forces and support from sections of the revolutionary elite in Accra defeated the NDC in the general election.
The idea that the NDC is a grass root party and the NPP being elitist is a myth. The NDC is neither grass root nor progressive. The anti-people economic and social policies of the Rawlings era could only have been possible under a despotic power with a dubious claim to revolutionary and popular legitimacy.
The NPP is the product of the struggle for social justice, accountability, political and economic democracy of which Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo remains one of the iconic figures.
On the 'Alhaji and Alhaji' radio show there is this regular pedestrian commentary that since the NPP has its antecedents in the United Party (UP) it is necessarily reactionary. If so, then the Republican Party of the USA that fought against slavery should be regarded as more progressive than the Obama led Democratic Party. Most of the analysis on the show is predominantly shallow; at best ethical and at worst sentimental. A historical analysis will need an understanding of the concrete conditions and the specific laws that guided the development of the two parties and their inherent internal and external contradictions.
A historical analysis will recognize that the most decisive consideration in understanding the character of the NDC is that it is a product of a military coup d'état. It rose from the top of society while the NPP rose from the base of society and had acquired features of popular participation and a rich history of internal democracy and accountability. It has always conducted competitive elections for its leaders at all levels of party organisation.
The NPP's pro-people character manifested itself not only in its vast social intervention programmes but its overriding concern for the welfare of the youth. It instituted the National Youth Employment Programme whilst the Mills-Mahama NDC understood youth development and progress narrowly. It meant nothing more than rewarding a handful of young men with deputy ministerial positions who overnight acquired vast fortunes, by which most of them have bought their way into parliament.
Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Felix Ofosu Kwakye, Stan Dogbe and Hanna Bissiw are now the iconic representatives of the Mills' era policy of promoting the 'youth'. The danger here is that President Mahama judging from his comments on youth emancipation and public show of approval for Mills' legacy may not direct any significant departure.
What this policy has brought in terms of the corruption of values of our generation is devastating; because every kind of success irrespective of its means becomes a model for education. Ripping of the public purse is now seen as legitimate means to abundant wealth.
The NPP replaced the heartless 'cash-and-carry' policy in our health system with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), introduced the school feeding programme, capitation grant, free maternal care just to mention a few.
President Mahama and his late predecessor stood on the shoulders of a man who retrenched over 300,000 workers, de-industrialized the economy and employed imprisonment and torture of those who stood against his anti-people radical neo-liberal policies.
Their Nkrumahist labels are the most disturbing deceptions in Ghana's politics. Dedicated Nkrumahist like Atik Mohammed of the People's National Convention (PNC) must be congratulated for taking a bold and consistent stance against National Democratic Congress (NDC) government.
The Nkrumahist movement is now an Nkrumahist monument hijacked by a few ex-radicals to cover the ugly face of a careerist, reactionary political class.
The NPP is promising Free Senior High School Education to give hope to millions of youth for a better future. The 2012 presidential candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in 1995 was the spokesperson of the Alliance for Change (AFC)—a movement that held the key to the final victory against political repression and economic oppression.
Age cannot be the guiding stick to determine fitness and wellness for political office.
In April 2000, Abdoulaye Wade after decades in opposition finally assumed leadership of Senegal at ripe age of 76 and governed effectively for 12 solid years and now in active retirement.
To the contrary, the late Umaru Yar'Adua of Nigeria, the late Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika and late President Atta Mills although younger were completely dysfunctional in office.

Nana Akufo-Addo at 68 is still strong and in sound health; and will remain the standard-bearer of a promising future till his last breath.
Today's battle is tough but tomorrow's will be easy because more of our countrymen and women are growing in the understanding of content in their political choices as against the illusion of deceptive labels.
Nana Akufo-Addo is in the Supreme Court to seek not only justice over an election but also restore hope for a generation.

D. M. Ofori-Atta
The author is former student leader and Convener of the Forum for Public Accountability (FoPA), a pro-people governance pressure group.