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Opinions of Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Columnist: Amenyo, Kofi

Akufo-Addo may be the enfant terrible of NPP

I am sure that in his heart of hearts, Akufo-Addo will not wish blood and mayhem on innocent Ghanaians. We all know he really wanted to say his party would not tolerate any violence during the elections and is prepared to defend itself if any such violence is visited on it. Then he should have said that in more straightforward terms that the ordinary Ghanaian can understand unambiguously and not remind us that all die na die. Mba! We Ghanaians celebrate the dead but we don’t really like talking about death. In fact, we fear death and this fact alone will make us very bad suicide bombers. In many of our cultures, you do not even compare a living person with a dead one. Some people say the candidate’s words were just a metaphor but if so, it is one with too sharp an edge for comfort. Our country has known electoral violence in the past and any reminder of that sends a chill down our spines. We do not want that to happen to us again, no matter which party initiates it. As for his statement about the stereotypes of Akans being cowardly, it is a blatant lie. We all have certain prejudices about the various ethnic groups in our country but thinking that Akans are cowards is not one of them. After all, Asantes make up the largest core of ethnic support for his party. No Ghanaian with the faintest inkling of our country’s history will call Asantes cowards. They are not! When it comes down to it, it is the Fantes who are prejudged as cowards (Megya tuw, m?nto mbom...) but the source of that is the Asantes. Perhaps the candidate may have had in mind the elitist backgrounds of the founders of the party tradition to which he is an heir – men in suits who wouldn’t deign to find themselves in a barroom brawl but would readily pay others to do the dirty fighting for them. Then why put an ethnic slant to it?

Defending oneself when one is threatened is in order but we should all rather be working hard now to put concrete measures in place to make sure that no one resorts to any form of violence, intimidation or cheating during the next elections. We should all be talking about how to use the state’s resources to ensure a fair and violence free elections in all parts of the country, not talking about how prepared we are to meet violence with violence. We must do everything to reduce cheating to the barest minimum. Everyone knows that there was widespread cheating by both sides especially in the second round of the last elections. We should seek to make that impossible.

Even the very best can make mistakes. The candidate won’t be the first to drop such a clanger. Even the bright Obama has been caught with a gaff a number of times. Just google the appropriate term and you will see how often top politicians said the wrong things. We have also heard gaffs from a few celebrities of late – Charlie Sheen, John Galliano. It is a dicey thing for a top politician to admit he has fumbled. It is the duty of the PR men, where possible, to try to slate over the damage. I am not too sure if the candidate’s corner has been successful in doing that. But one thing is clear for some of us non-partisan observers: it is part of the ongoing debate on the type of political culture we want to forge for our country. In that sense, we welcome the debate. It is a test of our still burgeoning democracy.

The ultimate test of democracy in Africa, for some of us, is the ability of the electorate to change a sitting government through the ballot box. It is not enough that a government can, in principle, be changed through the electoral process. There must be, at least, one instance that this really happens. That is why Botswana’s political process, despite all its niceties, is still suspect. The opposition there can never win even though their elections are free and fair. South Africa has been practising true one man one vote democracy for too short a time for us to come to a conclusion as to whether they have really made it. We in Ghana have shown, not once but twice, that we do not need a coup d’état or some bogus revolution to change a sitting government. We have shown that the ordinary person’s vote matters and that the power of incumbency can only go so far. The Nigerians may not be able to beat us there because the old ways of doing things are still very much in place there. I think Jonathan Goodluck will bow out honourably if he loses. The only problem is that he is not going to lose! Watch this space.

Akufo-Addo faces a daunting task. If, when his party was in power, he couldn’t convince Ghanaians with a clear-cut and indisputable victory, how is he going to do that from opposition? Not that it is impossible. It is only more difficult. George W Bush won a first term in controversial fashion. But with his re-election, his victory was in no doubt. If the same scenario plays itself out in our politics, Akufo-Addo is in for a rough ride. But other combinations are possible too. His party can win a clear majority in parliament but the people may reject him as President. The opposite is also possible if less likely. If the electorate continues to show the same level of sophistication displayed so far in the Fourth Republic, we will be in for some interesting times. In 1999, Ghanaians were fed up with so many years of P/NDC and gave Kufuor a comfortable victory. But he barely scraped through a re-election. As things stand now, there doesn’t seem to be much to choose between the major parties. NDC is turning out not to be any better, or worse, than NPP and the other parties are still very much in the doldrums. This should make everybody’s vote important – as long as no one cheats.

Akufo-Addo may yet turn out to be the enfant terrible of NPP (if he is already not one). His chubby face makes him look literarily like one too, even though he is no infant. There are those who like him by hook or crook. There are others who support his party but don’t really like him but will vote for him because they love the party more than its candidate. Then there is also a section of Ghanaians who just detest the man for what he is. Many of these are footloose voters needing only flimsy reasons to change sides. These people may not dislike the party but just can’t stand the candidate. But if Nana Konadu joins the race, the equations will change dramatically. There are those who dislike Akufo-Addo but loath Nana Konadu even more! We are likely going to hear such people echo that statement by Kotoko supporters about their city rivals: Se Nana Konadu b3fa nkoaa de3, ene3 Akufo-Addo nfa. But if Akufo-Addo should lose, his party will rue the day they elected him and debate forever if they made a good choice in putting him up when they have equally good (if not even better) material in the party.

If you come to look at it very critically, our country has really not been blessed with great leaders. We talk these days so much of Kwame Nkrumah who, truly, had a great vision for our country. But the fact remains that he couldn’t transform all of that vision into reality. We can’t continue saying: oh, if only he hadn’t been overthrown... The ability to stay put in power and achieve your dreams for the nation is part of the art of greatness. Nkrumah couldn’t quite do that. Rawlings could have just about made the cut of our great leaders but the many bad things that happened under his long rule sum up to remove the glitter from his record. People are not going to forget those things in a hurry whether he was directly responsible for them or not. Kufuor may not be the worst head of state we ever had but he was certainly not the best and he could have been far better than he was. As for our other leaders, the less said about them, the better. So we, as a nation, blunder on. The choice next year is very likely going to be, yet again, a straight fight between Mills and Akufo-Addo. The only sad thing about this is that none of these two very old men is really attractive. Poor, poor, poor us!

Kofi Amenyo (