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Opinions of Saturday, 6 October 2007

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Election 2008: The Rational battles the Irrational

Over fifteen years into its nascent democratic dispensation, the Ghanaian democracy is increasingly becoming sophisticated, as it globalize and employs fully tenets of information technology and scientific opinion polls. Against this backdrop is politics of insults receding gradually, as political parties, transnational Ghanaians, and civil society campaign for politics of issues and inclusiveness. Nana Akufo-Addo, a leading presidential contender of the ruling New Patriotic Party flagbearership, in a tone symptomatic of the emerging political climate, advised his “colleagues and their supporters to avoid using abusive language and insults against one another during the campaign, because it would not help the party” and Ghana.

Eventually, Ghanaian politics is progressively battling irrationality that has bedeviled Ghana’s political growth, where prophets, juju and marabout mediums, Malams, Voodoo priests, Shamans, “Men of God,” and other spiritual mediums hold sway in the political arena and hugely directed public opinion and other interpretative political mechanisms. At certain period, it was almost like what is happening in the Southeast Asian nation of Burma (Myanmar), where its long-running military junta is heavily driven by astrologers to the extent that that it has made Burma not only one of the poorest, rough, unpleasant, and irrational countries in the world but as Ben Macintyre, of the London, UK based “The Times,” writes “The junta’s belief in astrology in part reflects the capricious weirdness of a peculiarly nasty regime, insulated from the rest of the world and divorced from reality.”

Today, Ghana is not Burma (in fact Ghana’s top military barrack is named “Burma Camp”), where years ago it was a playground of military juntas, coup detat attempts, autocrats, confused democrats, and one-party apparatchiks, and all these heavily driven by prophets, juju and marabout mediums, Malams, Voodoo priests, Shamans, “Men of God,” and other spiritual mediums who scrambled the political terrain. Ghana’s democratic growth is increasingly throwing more light on the dark recesses of its political topography, where appropriation of information technology, democratic values, serious issues and global development values, as seen in the on-going electioneering campaigns, are pushing many an irrational interpretation of political and development matters to the background, further helping to rationalize the bumpy political terrain. More especially as the on-going political campaigns leading to the election of a presidential candidate for the ruling NPP in December indicate, driven more by rational scientific opinion polls and analysis than irrational spiritual mediums and their unquestioned predictions.

Nobody illustrates the battle between politics of irrationality and the increasing rationalization of Ghana’s emerging democracy than Nana Akufo-Addo, 63, the former Foreign Affairs Minister and Attorney General and Justice Minister, respectively, who has been the subject of prophetic and other spiritualists’ predictions and scientific opinion polls, and is currently a leading presidential candidate for the ruling NPP as its December Congress approaches. In August, the Accra-based Crusading Guide’s James Donkor reported that one Prophet Sarfo Adu has prophesied that Nana Akufo-Addo has being chosen by “the Almighty God” to be President of Ghana. Prophet Sarfo Adu said God has told him that He (God) has chosen Nana Akufo-Addo to be the President of Ghana from 2009 to 2016.” Prophet Sarfo Adu said he had prophesied in the same manner about the incumbent President John Kufour and “that God spoke about President Kufuor in 1996 and commanded him (Kufuor) to visit him (Prophet) in 1998 and in 1999 at the late J.Y. Manu’s house in Accra and prayed for him in 2000 before the elections.”

Nana Akufo-Addo hasn’t personally commented on such prophetic predictions, and neither has his campaign managers – normally most Ghanaian “Big Men” do not comment on such prophet chants but do cheer up with such favourable predictions privately.

Sidelining the prophets means rationalizing events on the ground that demands questioning, hard planning and campaigning. In August in Kumasi, Nana Akufo-Addo launched, perhaps, the most sophisticated campaign since the dawn of multi-party democracy by a single politician. Appropriating all facets of mass communication networks – FM/SW/MW radio stations, Internet broadband, television, telephony, pod cast, etc, his formal launch was received by millions of Ghanaians nationwide and in the diaspora. Such strategy is being repeated practically nation-wide. Added to the sophisticated campaign machine, most polls put Nana Akufo-Addo ahead of not only other NPP presidential aspirants but also the main opposition National Democratic Congress candidate, Prof. John Atta-Mills. In an opinion poll conducted by the respected Research International, an international research institute, and carried by the Ghanaian media, Nana Akufo-Addo led other three top presidential aspirants by 40%.

Unlike the predictions of the prophets, Voodoo priests, Malams, juju and marabout mediums, Shamans and other spiritualists about Nana Akufo-Addo, the scientific opinion polls indicate Ghanaians rationalization of Nana Akufo-Addo from his activities on the ground and not from any unseen actions. More seriously, the prophets and other spiritualists are not questioned by Ghanaians as to how they arrived at their predictions – practically most Ghanaians do not question what the prophets and other spiritual mediums tell them, leading to a huge culture of gullibility. Ghanaians’ rationalization of Nana Akufo-Addo come from his long-running struggles for Ghana’s democracy and progress, to the risk of his life, from the dark periods of the brutal military dictatorships to crass human rights violations in the past 30 years. Added to this is Nana Akufo-Addo’s distinction as Foreign Minister (he came second as the best performing Minister by a poll conducted by Research International), his transformation over the years, and formidable campaign machine shaped by hard work, strategy, long-term planning, dedication, steadfastness, and his long-running struggles for Ghana’s progress.

As the 2008 general elections closes in, prophets, Voodoo priests, Malams, juju and marabout mediums, Shamans and other spiritualists will be having feasting season, with Jean-Francois Bayart, of the “The State in Africa: Politics of the Belly” (1993) fame, in mind. As the rational and the irrational battles in Ghana’s emerging democracy, the dilemma is how the spiritual mediums’ extraordinarily unwarranted influence on the entire Ghanaian political life weakens rationalization of the democratic process, so much so that even the elites, like Nana Akufo-Addo, who are expected to radiate high-level reasoning to illuminate the democratic path, are under the heavy sway of the prophets and other spiritual mediums to the injury of Ghana’s democratic growth.