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Opinions of Saturday, 14 July 2012

Columnist: Agambila, G. A.

Cleansing the NPP

Dr. G. A. Agambila (former deputy finance minister, Ghana).

13 January 2009, Ghanaian Chronicle.

The Castle Mafia suffered from a Samson syndrome (the Samson of Delilah fame): Alan
Cash or no NPP President. DCEs and Regional Ministers who had already been selected
as our Parliamentary Candidates were dismissed for insufficient fealty to Alan
Cash. Is this the action of a leadership that wants its party to win the coming
Why is it that a political tradition that traces its origins to the 1940s, and won
its first free and fair election only in 2000, lost power so soon and so painfully,
now risks decline?
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) has lost power because its leadership desired money
first, and power second. The National Democratic Congress (NDC), by contrast,
pursued power first, and money second. The December 2008 election has allowed both
parties to be rewarded with what they valued most. The NPP leadership has since
2001 become wealthy. Don't ask me to bring the evidence, ask the 17 presidential
aspirants how much their campaigns cost, and where they got the money to finance
them. So long as the NPP leadership is motivated first and foremost by money, and
the NDC by an unquenchable thirst for power, the NDC will govern, and the NPP will
pursue private business interests.
NAÏVE Many of us who entered the political fray in 2000, did so in the now naïve
assumption that our leadership desired power to develop Ghana, fight corruption,
and deepen democracy. In short, to realise the dreams of our fathers emblazoned on
our national crest - Freedom and Justice.
The NDC has now come into the shade from the hot sun. We have a saying that a fool
falls asleep in the shade, unaware that the sun will soon scorch him. The longevity
of the NDC's stay in the shade will depend on whether the NPP can reorganise
itself, and (more importantly) whether the NDC will, in the fullness of time,
crumble from within, due to gluttony and the inevitable internal power struggles.
The sources of the NDC's power struggles are legion - Rawlings versus Mills,
remnants of the PNDC era versus pragmatists/conservatives of the
post-constitutional era, ethnic tugs of war involving Ewes, Fantis and Northerners,
etc.. And there is of course the population's inevitable disillusionment with the
NDC. The people believe, literally, that the NDC will reduce the cost of fuel,
health, education and a multitude of other costs. No such thing will happen. And
when the disillusionment sets in, the NPP will afford a wan smile. The NPP's fall
from grace to grass, can, secondly, be traceable, not to the Akyem Mafia (as
'Maame Coomson' asserts), but to the Castle Mafia. What are the failures of the
Castle Mafia?
First, the Castle Mafia lacked interest in solving any national problem, unless it
involved either procurement or the sale of assets. Examples of national problems
that received eight years of neglect are corruption in such critical governance
institutions as the Police, the Judiciary, and other public services, public sector
reform, pair trawling, national identification, and sanitation. The half-hearted
feints at these particular problems were constrained by procurement opportunities.
Yet, these are problems that touch the lives of Ghanaians. It is out of this
preoccupation with the politics of procurement, that the government brought such
embarrassments as the IFC and CNTI 'loan' agreements. That our national debt is
still about $6 billion (post-HPIC debt reliefs) is eloquent testimony to this
ravenous attachment to the politics of procurement. Much of this debt has been
incurred, in practically sole source procurement arrangements.
The folly of the Valco purchase, was similarly motivated by the politics of
procurement (where shall Ghana find the cheap electricity to feed Valco? What
cost-benefit analysis was done to justify a government pursuing a divestiture
program, getting into a business it knows little about?) That reminds me; Question:
whatever happened to the much-touted Presidential Special Initiatives (PSIs)?
Answer: They were touched by the gangrenous hand of the politics of procurement.
The Castle Mafia pursued policies whose only useful purpose was to help galvanize
the NDC, and get them battle-ready for the elections of December 2008. A few
examples may drive home this point. ROPAB or ROPAL.
The NPP did not implement it, and any implementation could bankrupt our country.
The rush to pass this bill filled our streets with NDC hotheads and their
sympathisers. The incarceration of Tsatsu Tsikata, and the trial of Nana Konadu
Agyemang Rawlings. These two trials helped the NDC energise its troops, gave them
an emotional cause around which to rally, fight and die for the NDC. If Tsatsu was
so guilty, why the last-minute Presidential pardon? Only time will tell if these
flirtations will be requited.
I understand the case against Konadu is weak, and I will not be surprised if the
case is abandoned (or you prefer to believe that the Father and Founder will still
be going to court?) What good has come to the NPP or the people of Ghana from these
trials? The Castle Mafia had other better examples to demonstrate their abhorrence
of willful causation of losses to the state, but would not use them.
The Castle Mafia thought it was okay to 'leave northerners to solve their own
problems' when it came to the Dagbon and other problems. The NDC propaganda
machinery feasted daily on these issues. A day hardly passed without Radio Gold
trumpeting 'the death of the Ya Na and forty others,' and the 'death of Issa
Molbila.' While our support was being eroded this way, some NPP supporters
sanctimoniously blamed 'northerners' for being too hot-headed and violent.
The Castle Mafia believed that what they could not do to Nananom of their towns and
villages, they could do to Nii Mei. Hence, they sold government land to themselves,
friends, clansmen, and many others willing to make a deal. A man once came to the
building I lived in (next to Rawlings), and told us he was from the Zenith Bank,
and had bought the house and the next one belonging to Valco. All this, without the
knowledge of the relevant government agencies.. The sale of Ga land was another
rallying point for the NDC. As Jake presciently said, no party has won the
Presidency without Greater Accra. And so it came to pass that Jake became an
accurate prophet (without a church).
The Castle Mafia did not think Ghana was good enough for them to stay in, hence a
commitment to frequent travel (with the incidental benefit of unaccountable
imprests). Even a woman deeply in love can tolerate only so much absence from her
loved one; prolonged absence does not a fond heart make; it makes the heart to
wander. And in this case, into the waiting arms of the seductive NDC.
I could go on, but this paper does not have the space, and you don't have the time
to read a complete catalogue of Castle Mafia failings. Let me therefore summarize
by saying that the Castle Mafia suffered from a Samson syndrome (the Samson of
Delilah fame): Alan Cash or no NPP President. DCEs and Regional Ministers who had
already been selected as our Parliamentary Candidates were dismissed for
insufficient fealty to Alan Cash. Is this the action of a leadership that wants its
party to win the coming elections? The opposition Presidential Candidate was
singled out for national honours; will President Bush have done same to Obama
before the U.S. elections? While former President Rawlings was campaigning in hot
dusty villages of the North, the Castle folks were gallivanting abroad, sipping
wine in cooler climes. Finally, the blame for the failure of the NPP rests on its
executives at all levels: polling station, constituency, regional and
national. They too prefer money to power. Being a party without an ideology or
national vision, many of our members naturally tend to pursue personal pecuniary
goals (borrowing from Thomas Hobbes about a property-owning democracy is not an
ideology, certainly not for these enlightened times).
I know from personal experience that you cannot call a meeting of NPP activists,
without sending them away with some money and/or food and drink. And money that is
given for political activities, often sticks to the pockets of the recipients,
leaving political work undone or poorly executed.