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Opinions of Friday, 6 August 2004

Columnist: Kpessa, Michael Whyte

ELECTION 2004: Ghanaians At Crossroads.

Elections are the spices that give taste to a strong and viable democratic society. Elections offer the ordinary people the chance to employ their own bosses. In fact it is during election times that even the unemployed have the unique opportunity to join others in hiring somebody for job of higher office. So elections are about choices, but choice only makes sense when the alternatives available present marked as well as impressive differences. As Ghanaians go to the polls soon, the facial differences of the two major presidential candidates may lure us in to believing that we have different options to choose from. The truth however is that Elections 2004, is not only a replay of Election 2000, this time it offers Ghanaians no real alternatives. This disturbing phenomenon is what this article seeks to explain by examining various variables that match the two contenders and the platforms they represent.

Presidential Candidates

Both the NDC and the NPP have chosen ?Johns? to bear the flag of their respective political parties. One is ?John the declared?, the other, ?John the incumbent.? Interestingly both Johns are lawyers of no particularly impressive career in the practice of law except that ?John the declared? is well known for his competency in tax law. Much of what is known about ?John the incumbent?s? legal career is shrouded in mystery and myth. Both Johns have no parliamentary experience in the 4th republic but each brings to their tickets enormous executive and cabinet level experience of at least four years. The physical posture of both Johns projects the embodiment of human-ness, gentility, peace and tranquility however none of the two possess what it takes to be an astute politician. Neither of them is eloquent when it comes to oral delivery and oratory skills, and both are no match to Kwame Nkrumah and ?John the Ex? in terms of the charm and charisma it takes to ignite the political passion, emotion and sentiments of the Ghanaian people. Whilst ?John the incumbent? has a long and patient career in politics dating back to the 2nd republic, ?John the declared?s rise to political fame was crafted when ?John the Ex? chose him as the running-mate for 1996 presidential elections, and eventually declared him as the de-facto successor. With these John?s forerunning our 4th Republic, it is attempting to assume a ?Jesus? would emerged in the 2008 elections. Are Ghanaians expecting a political messiah or it is the case of Johns imposing themselves on us?

?John the incumbent? was born in 1938; he was an old boy of Prempeh College in Kumasi, read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University in the UK from 1961 to 1964. He later obtained a Bachelor of Law degree. In terms of education ?John the declared?s portfolio is very impressive. He attended Achimota school in Accra, obtained a first degree in law from Legon, got the Professional certificate in Law form the Ghana school of Law in 1967, studied for his LLM in London school of Economics and Political Science in 1968, and pushed on to get his PhD from School of Oriental African Studies, University of London and the Stanford Law School, California in 1971, Born in 1944, ?John the declared? is now a Fulbright scholar.

As far as work experience is concerned, ?John the declared? leatured in the university of Ghana, served as a visiting scholar to a number of universities across the globe. He served on a number of university committees and attempted to become the university of Ghana vice-chancellor but lost to Professor Addae Mensah, one time General Secretary of Limann?s PNP. ?John the declared? has a number of publications to his credit, and was Ghana?s Vice-President from 1996 to 2000. ?John the incumbent? on the hand served as Ghana?s Deputy minister in the second Republic, was the Director of Ashanti Bricks and Construction Company and Cojak Company Limited from 1973 to 1978. He was an MP for the Atwima Nwabiaga constituency in the second republic, was the PNDC secretary for local government for six month in 1982, and chairman of Asante Kototo Football Club from 1988 to 1991. In his first attempt to get the presidential slot for the elephants, he lost to Professor Albert Adu Boahene. Both John has a relatively admirable work experience (not in practicing law) and know what it means to be defeated in an election with some comportment.

Interestingly both ?John the incumbent? and ?John the Declared? have served under ?John the Ex? at different times and in different capacities, ultimately one became the obedient as well as faithful servant, and heir to the throne; the other became a ?deserter? leading the crusade for change in Ghana. As frontrunners of the two major political parties, both Johns are yet to display any accurate understanding of the real issues that matter to Ghanaians and the strategies needed to fix the rather fragile economy. Be that as it may, the race to the Osu Christiansburg Castle is between two Johns of the same kind. One an Asanti, the other a Fanti, but both are Akans. They both represent two platforms in Ghana; ?John the incumbent? is a patriot whilst ?John the declared? is a democrat. It is being rumored in town that ?John the declared? is picking ?John the communicator? as a running mate for the 2004 general elections. My, oh my! Ours is a republic of Johns. Our ex is John, our incumbent is a John and we are destined to have a John come December. Given the rather unimpressive similarities between ?John the Incumbent? and ?John the declared? their personal traits would not be a good basis for our judgment. After all there is no drastic difference between the two. So do we turn to the parties they represent for our electoral judgment? Perhaps!


The NPP traces its history to the political traditions of J.B. Danquah and Kofi Abrefa Busai. This is a tradition of conservative and right wing political platform. The NDC on the other hand evolved from the PNDC and claims to represent a third force in Ghanaian politics; however its mix is that of Nkrumahist and Danquah-Busai. For instance it has Danquah-Busai right-winger like Dr. Obed Asamoah and Nkrumahist like John Mahama both playing front role of the NDC. Critical observation reveals of the NDC?s structure, organization, leadership and support base reveals that its mix has more of Nkrumahist elements than the Danquah-Busia elements. Funny enough, the NPP as it is today is not distinctively Danquah-Busai. Of course it has large numbers of Danquah- Busia adherents but quite a numbers of its support base have long history of being Nkrumahist. Albert Kan-Dapaah for instance has a long history of being a loyal Nkrumahist but remains a faithful member, and a minister of the NPP. Remarkably, the NPP has chosen to work closely with some of the fine Nkrumahist brains such as Paa Kwasi Ndum and George Hagan. Clearly. What makes political parties different in Ghana is no longer existent and difference in the two major parties today is too tin to notice.

The NPP could be cast in the image of the Republican Party in the US, the Conservative Party in the UK and the Conservative Party in Canada; conversely, the NDC assumes the shadow of the Democratic Party in the US, the Labour Party in the UK and the Liberal Party or perhaps the NDP in Canada. Often times conservatives are elitist and the NPP is no exception. The NDC shares a mass support base with the Canadian Liberal Party, and policy orientation with both the Democrats and the NDP. Even though it usually asserted that ideologies play no role in post cold war politics that cannot entirely be true. The ideologies of today are not a contest of communism against capitalism, it the clash between liberal values and the values of conservatism. Ghana lacks a true liberal party yet both the NDC and the NPP possess some defining elements of liberalism with varying degrees. With that the NDC could best be described as center-left and the NPP center-right. In effect both the NDC and the NPP remain at the center making it almost impossible for the uncritical minds and the ordinary voter to notice whatever difference might exist between them. If the parties as they are today do not present us with real alternatives for choice, then electorates may be compelled to examine performance record of both parties as oppositions and governments to form an opinion.


NDC as a government was for many Ghanaians a nightmare. Surprisingly however, many NDC functionaries whilst in power thought they have the solid support of Ghanaians. So was the NDC defeat a shock to them? Yes it was. The insensitivity of the NDC as a government, as well as its ability to suffocate the parliamentary minority remains fresh in the minds of many. Equally the NDC could be remembered for it dexterity in connecting with the ordinary, and the delivery of social infrastructure. As a government, the NPP is still popular with many Ghanaians even though there is no drastic change in policy direction since the government assumed office four years ago and ethnocentrisms has eating into the moral fiber of the party?s political appointments. The economy is still dependent on the multi-lateral institutions and foreign assistance without any significant efforts at putting the economy in the hands of Ghanaians. The NDC professed the philosopher of attracting foreign investors hence ?John the Ex? traveled across the globe in an effort to woo investors, the ordinary Ghanaian is yet to be told how many investors took ?John the Ex? serious and came down to do business with us. The NPP government under the cover of ?economic diplomacy? sent ?John the incumbent? trotting the world with cup in hand. Our foreign policy has not seen any significant change. Our beggar status has muted our ability to state our position on world affairs - a thing Osagyefo was excellent at doing. Both the NDC and the NPP have maintained our presence in key international institutions across the world and that is a good thing to do.. The NDC lobbied to get Kofi Annan the top UN job whilst the NPP did same to get Mohammed Ibn Chambers the top Ecowas Job. Foreign policy objectives set forth by Kwame still guide our nations Conduct in a changing world. Under NDC, most foreign diplomatic appointments to our missions abroad went to political appointments with no experience in the old art of diplomay. The NPP keeps to the same standard of appointing diplomats. It is no longer prestigious to be a career diplomat in Ghana; you simply would be rendered useless.

As opposition parties, the NDC has shocked many Ghanaians. It was believed that the NDC would collapse after the 2000 election; in fact it came close to that during its two congresses that elected party officials and the presidential candidate. However, the NDC came out perhaps stronger than before and continues to perform creditably well as a party in opposition. In recent times the NDC has exposed various scandals in the dubious loans contracts the NPP was getting the nation, and compelled the government to be a little more meticulous. Given the excellent performance of the NDC in opposition so far, one may plead with Ghanaians to keep the NDC in opposition much longer for the sake of our nation. Ultimately too, it is in the paramount interest of the NDC to stay a little longer in opposition so as to purge off the negative images it has among Ghanaians; and allow analysts a good basis for comparative measurements of the two parties. After all democracy is not about power, it is about consensus building in an environment that permits agreeing to disagree on the issues. Similarly governance goes beyond governments; to include all other activities that have a bearing on the nation building. The NPP arguably, did not excel in opposition; it was not able to expose the scandals that eventually sent former ministers like Victor Sarlomy, Kwame Peprah and other to jail. It was wide-awake when the NDC bought the presidential jet only to come out and complain later. In opposition, the NPP was a failure; so is there any guarantee that the NPP would keep faith with Ghanaians as a government? The signs from the loan scandals do not seem to suggest so. Thus if the NDC cannot be trusted with power now, the NPP is failure when it is assigned opposition role, and it is engaging in scandals as a government, then performance of the two parties cannot inform our choices. We are still are the crossroads. But what about the issues?

The Issues

Normally, decision in an election is based on the party or candidate that is able to display the most understanding on the problems of the electorates and offered in the explicit manner how to tackle them. Unfortunately the issues have been pushed to background again in this election year by both the NDC and the NPP. Majority of Ghanaians would probably prefer to hear how ?John the Incumbent? has been addressing the issues of poverty, education, health, social welfare, unemployment, job creation, agriculture and industrialization among others. Similarly, it ?John the Declared? would boost his chances if he spent some time to explain his position on how to address same issues and why they were not adequately when he sat on the right hand of ?John the Ex.? Disappointingly, each of these Johns keep flip-flopping on the very issues that has the magic to make a winner or a loser out of them. Ghanaians are yet to see an election won on the issues. The victory of the NPP in 2000 was not because they address the issues better, it was because Ghanaians were fed up with image of ?John the Ex? and were unhappy with his shadow hanging over ?John the declared.? For those of us interested in foreign policy and international security in an increasing violent world, it appears certain that our issues would never be mentioned because both candidates assumed the security threat of terrorism is confined to the United States. But wait a minute! Do remember Kenyans and Tanzanians suffered too, when the US embassies were bombed; forcing Daniel arab Moi, the then Kenyan President to lead a street demonstration against Osama Bin Ladin?


Countrymen and women, we have a difficult task ahead. What do we do when we have to choose between two persons of the same kind for the highest job on the land? This time it is not Ama Ata Aidoo?s, Ato Yawson that faces the dilemma, the entire Ghanaian public is at a cross roads. Which way should we go? Shall we go to Ekumfi in the Central Region or to Bantama in the Asanti Region? Whichever way you decide to go is your ultimate choice; such a choice may have a bearing on your future hence the need to think through how we perceive Election 2004 again and reassess our position. Bear in mind also that Election 2004 marks the end of our democratic transition process and the beginning of the consolidation. Elections 2008 promises to be perhaps the most exciting in our history and one cannot wait for that to come. Election 2004 is important but does not offer us the enthusiasm and excitement we hope for; neither are we getting a new deal in terms of policy. Much of the factors that caused the defeat of the NDC remained with us to, for instance corruption is still within officialdom, our economy is ran today by the IMF and the World Bank than the NDC days, inflation is still with us, unemployment is prevalent, problems with higher education are not dealt with and the list goes without end.

But the truth is, there no particular reason to believe the NDC will win the 2004 elections because large sections of the Ghanaian society are still suspicious of the NDC, the party has allowed the image of Rawlings to dictate its pace too many times, the Ghanaian media is still uncomfortable with the NDC; and some of its leading members still project the image of arrogance and show no persuasiveness in their public comments. All these may work against the NDC, however, being the broadest-base party in Ghana today, NDC could spring a surprise if the NPP foreign loan scandals persist. Finally this piece predicts that PNC, GCPP, Reform Party and the CPP would perform poorly in 2004 than they did in 2000. Again it predicted here that the NPP will take more than 60% of the seats in the newly created constituencies and districts in 2004 elections but will lose some of its seats in major cities to the NDC. Without predicting who would win the presidential seat, this piece again predicts that this time Ghanaians would decide the outcome of the elections with the first round and there would be no need for a run-off. All these predictions are subject to the political terrain remaining relatively the same up to December. Should anything significant alter the political terrain, these predictions may be affected. We are a nation of great people and the world is watching the extent to which we will give meaning to our fine words of ?peace-loving.? Let us unit in shouting ?never again? to violence, fraud, and all electoral malpractices. Let civility prevail in Election 2004.

Michael Whyte Kpessa,
Ontario, Canada.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.