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Opinions of Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Columnist: Asubonteng, Bernard

Arrogance of Power, NPP's Undoing

Sometimes things unfold in life and you wonder why they played out the way they did; then, upon a soul-searching reflections, you come to realize that almost everything happens for a reason. Stated differently, a lot of things happened in life to teach a valuable lesson(s) whether or not the players involved are prepared to learn from it. So, sitting back watching and reflecting on the 2008 elections in Ghana, including the stunning performance of Rawlings-micromanaged NDC, and how the NPP leadership has virtually mishandled the political capital entrusted them by Ghanaians 8 years ago, one has to admit that the NPP’s huge election loses are lesson-teaching narratives. And the subtext of the story is that: the NPP top operatives have screwed up; it’s time for them to grow out of their naked and undisguised arrogance of power. Although the warning signs were clearly marked on the four corners of Ghana’s walls, it’s unbelievable that a well-organized and one of the most democratically-oriented parties—NPP—in Africa and the world at large would walk around with their pants down and let political arrogance blind them to some common sense socioeconomic realities on Ghanaian cities, towns, and villages.

The fact that NDC might have won or is on the verge of winning the 2008 election at the time of writing this piece is beside the point here. The point is Rawlings. After all is said and done Rawlings will not only be a de facto policymaker but the security overlord of NDC government. No doubt a victory for NDC is a big victory for the vociferous Rawlings and his disgruntled socialist-inward-looking appendages. Can any true NPP sympathizer explain otherwise that the political quagmire the party leadership has brought upon itself is not traceable to arrogance of power? What else could it be? Unequivocally, I share the Shakespearean view that “Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault…is not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

The massive electoral vote for Mills-cum-Rawlings’ party is not because the NDC has better polices than NPP; it has more to do with the political resentments many Ghanaian electorates are harboring toward NPP’s top echelons. The ostentatious exhibition of power by many of the high-level party leaders on weekend funerals, and in other public places that has nothing to with official duties has registered well on many Ghanaians’ mindset to the point that if any political moron talks about change in election time, Ghanaians would fall for it. This explains why the NPP government is struggling now to stay afloat on the stormy seas of Ghana body politic.

It appears many people, especially in the rural areas think the NPP is taking them for granted when they look at the price of (say) kerosene. Many of us know that the price of petroleum is dictated by the global market forces and not one individual government. But in an environment such as Ghana where the majority of the population lives in some settings bordering almost on subsistence levels, how can you persuade these folks you have little or nothing to do with the price of gasoline (petrol) while you drive around in BMWs, Mercedes, Land Cruisers, including a big-butted woman in fancy clothes? The NPP knows all these political suicides and minefields before they assume power eight years back. It’s hard to understand why the party leadership fails to shrewdly navigate these dangerous political waters.

This brings us to the question of Power. Repeat after me if you can: Power! Power! Power! How does it sound even in your lungs and ears? Doesn’t the mere utterance of the P-word evoke some kind of unique but thrilling experience? Is that one of the reasons so many people act the way they way they do when they get hold of power—political power especially? I’m trying as much as many world-class sociologists are doing to anatomize and make sense of the phenomenon called power. What makes a lot people show the best in human nature in their bid to acquire power only to show their beast side after power is attained? The point is what exactly is inherent in power that makes many mortal humans who wield power behave as if they’re larger than life? To me, the relation between the acquisition of political power and its proper application may never be settled or understood. For if anyone had told me the NPP (the leadership) of all parties would allow political power to turn them into some kind of uncontrollable high school kids from careless rich parents, I would disdainfully dismiss those comments without second thoughts. These are the party people who have been tormented in the opposition for a considerable length of time. Since Ghana’s Independence, Danquah-Busia traditionalists have been in power for just 10 years out of our 50 years nationhood. This means they’ve spent almost forty years in opposition. One hopes the NPP administration as an offshoot of Danquah-Busia pedigree, having struggled in opposition for such a long time will be circumspect by avoiding all the political pull-downs when they finally gained power. But your guess is as good as mine.

I’m not alone, there are many NPP followers and sympathizers home and abroad who are disenchanted regarding the showy ways many of the so-called party insiders or the founding fathers are running the party. In case you are surprised about the NPP’s abysmal performance in this election, here is one for you. There are many instances within the party constituencies (Central, Ashanti, Eastern…) where the foot soldiers—the grass-root people—pick their own candidates only for the party higher-ups to step in and imposed their preferred candidates. This is one reason many independent candidates won. I do not claim to know everything about democracy but I know one thing for sure vis-à-vis a viable democracy: it endures smoothly if it starts from the bottom-up rather than the top-down. From all indications, many of the NPP top-rankings lost their bearings somewhere along the way and they were not listening to the numerous complaints.

I’m disappointed and sad. This is not because of the big loses sustained by the NPP incumbents, but for the fact that some of the leaders’ self-serving overtures are going to expose a lot of well-meaning and hard-working Ghanaians to the whims and caprices of the bloated egos of the “life founding father” of NDC and his wife--Mrs. Agyeman-Rawlings.

As stated earlier, Atta-Mills is not the issue; the problem is Rawlings—a polarizing, divisive, and tribal politician. He has mastered certain words and phrases that appeal to the basest instincts of some Ghanaians. Perhaps this is the kind of politics most of these Ghanaians want. They’ll surely get it in Rawlings’ NDC. But, once again, I’ve no tears for many of the NPP leaders’ election predicament. Democracy is supposed to be “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” In any true democratic environment, there should be no room for political arrogance on the part of the rulers. In this case the NPP as a beacon and model of Ghana’s true democracy fails the litmus test via arrogance and lack of self-introspection.

By- Bernard Asubonteng, Atlanta, GA (Media Communication Writer)