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Opinions of Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Akufo-Addo, still a democratic dancer

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

Of all the contradictions boiling in Nana Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the 2008 general elections, none is more intriguing than his continued enrichment of the democratic field through his ability to play with idealism and pragmatism. That Akufo-Addo’s on-going broad-side post-Election 2008 “thank you tour” still plays out like campaigning for Election 2012 reveals his strong conviction as a democratic and freedoms enricher.

Because he lost the elections to President John Atta-Mills, it is more the idealistic Akufo-Addo that Ghanaians have got to see first – through his detail explanation of democracy and freedoms as vehicles for progress, and as Ghanaians have come to know well, his over 30 years of struggles for democracy and freedoms. But despite opposition charge that Akufo-Addo is arrogant, over the course of the campaigns, as he darted around Ghana a different Akufo-Addo revealed himself. This was disciplined, a unifier and consensus building, practical and cautious – politically liberal, non-arrogant, yes, but in many ways temperamentally rooted in the NPP’s democratic conservatism.

Akufo-Addo was also unequivocally unafraid of the trade-offs, compromises and conflict inherent to Ghana’s toddler electoral politics. He took on the autocratic and the megalomaniac ex-president Jerry Rawlings often ignored stupidity that is increasingly becoming a serious concern as Ghana enlarges it democratic space, by reporting him to the Inspector General of the Police for threatening him and in doing so further enhancing the democratic believe in Ghanaian institutions.

Coming from a party with high leadership potentials, the NPPs have warmed to both sides of Akufo-Addo, and correctly so. The NPP, CPP, NDC, PNC and Ghanaians have learned in the past 51 years that neither idealism nor pragmatism is functional unless coupled with the other. After the 2008 elections Akufo-Addo has proved he has the ability to be an idealist and pragmatist at same time, with his eyes on democratic and freedoms growth.

And there are reasons to believe that Akufo-Addo will further help promote democracy and freedoms as a leading opposition figure against the fact that the ruling Nation Democratic Congress (NDC) roots in democracy and freedoms are shallow, coming from long-running military juntas and Marxist-Leninist traditions with human rights violations despite its affirmation that they are now social democrats.

Such backgrounder feed into the fact that Akufo-Addo’s instincts will orient him toward democratic pragmatism more often than not, as democracy driver and democracy watcher. For one thing, the return of some former P/NDC military junta figures such as Lt. Gen. Arnold Quanoo and Lt. Col. Larry Gbevlo-Lartey as members of President John Atta-Mills’ security team has send concerns in the democratic field.

Part of the democracy and freedoms work is to tame brash plans and actions that undermine democratic ideals. With Atta-Mills increasingly seen as easily manipulable and too quiet for Ghana’s sizzling politics, especially by the less democracy savvy forces within the NDC, Akufo-Addo and his democratic fellows have to be on guard against the NDC bending democratic values and relapse into the dictatorial practices of the P/NDC era.

The NDC come against the John Kufour-led NPP that further grew human rights, democracy and freedoms – so, if Atta-Mills follows the usual pattern, he will have to be inclined toward caution. The image of Victor Smith, the impetuous former spokesman for Rawlings and part of the Atta-Mills transition team, raiding the Osu Castle with some military officers to recover state-owned vehicle from ex-NPP functionaries sent wrong signals to the Ghanaian democracy and recalled nightmarish images of brutal military threats, deaths, harassments and fears during the 20 years of the P/NDC era. Ghanaians would prefer the return of more democratic prudence in government in the last eight years.

With 2008 presidential elections being virtually 50-50 for the NDC and the NPP, Akufo-Addo has to remember that Ghanaians who voted for him didn’t do so just for his sobriety but the spark of his democratic idealism as well. The principles Akufo-Addo will act on are tied together by a sense of idealism about what the ruling NDC can accomplish when it sets out to deepen democracy and freedoms.

Akufo-Addo has the opportunity to teach the NDC and Ghanaians that democracy and freedoms aren’t grown by governing parties only but the opposition as well. Akufo-Addo faces Rawlings and his NDC associates who weren’t born and bred of democratic conviction but the diet of chaos, unfreedoms, threatening military juntas, and dictatorship.

Around Africa, all eyes are on Akufo-Addo to continue to demonstrate his democratic ideals and pragmatism, especially in accepting the results of the 2008 elections results despite some serious issues involved. Atta-Mills, after all, don’t have history of struggling for democratic ideals. But in opposition, instead of abandoning democratic idealism, Akufo-Addo should strive to deepen it for the good of posterity. It becomes Akufo-Addo’s responsibility and obligation to Ghanaians against the fact that there are still some who aren’t committed to genuine democracy and freedoms, and would see Ghana relapsed into military rule.

After all the undemocratic figures Akufo-Addo and his associates battled against for are still around, more in the ruling NDC. It means using his part of the democratic capital Ghanaians gave in the 2008 general elections to stop undemocratic behaviour and dealing unflinchingly with figures around Atta-Mills who still have military, enemy and dictatorial mentality that could be released to suppress Ghanaians freedoms. And it means Akufo-Addo and his NPP constantly revivifying their ancient roles as the vanguards in crafting strategies to check the spread of undemocratic behaviour.

Whether he is in opposition or if he were to be President, Akufo-Addo has proved that he can balance democratic idealism with democratic pragmatism. With the Ghanaian democracy only 17 years old, more democratic work needs to be undertaken, especially in further expanding decentralization by integrating it with traditional institutions and values. Atta-Mills attempts in integrating traditional rulers into district assemblies are one such step. The idea has been that if Akufo-Addo had won the 2008 elections, he would have further build upon John Kufour by deepening democracy and freedoms, of which he has been in the forefront in the past 30 years.

Of course it isn’t a mystical formula and possesses its own perils, as Akufo-Addo is fully aware when he battled military juntas and anti-democratic forces to help open up the floodgates of democracy and freedoms Ghanaians are enjoying today. But more than ever, now that he is the leading opposition figure and the fact he won 50 per cent of the 2008 votes, Akufo-Addo shouldn’t forget that he sold himself to voters as a democratic idealist. From Akufo-Addo, Ghanaians have felt the jolt of great democratic things in the making.