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Opinions of Thursday, 26 November 2009

Columnist: Achanso, S. A.

â??Foot Soldiersâ?? And Politics In Ghana

The role of political party loyalists, supporters and sponsors popularly known as “foot soldiers” in contemporary Ghanaian politics needs some examination. Foot soldiers in recent Ghanaian politics refer to people who are loyal or support or sponsor the various political parties in Ghana.

There is no atom of doubt that foot soldiers play vital roles in their parties in various ways. First, by their loyalty, foot soldiers help keep political parties alive. But for political party loyalists, NPP could not survive in opposition for thirty years. Similarly, political party loyalists have helped to keep Nkrumah’s ideas burning since CPP lost political power in 1966. In recent times, party loyalists brought the NDC back to power in 2008 after eight years in opposition. Second, foot soldiers are not only made up loyalists; they also include people who commit their resources to the development of their respective political parties. This is particularly important in view of the fact that political parties rely on private contributions to fund their activities. Finally, foot soldiers help to propagate their parties’ manifestoes to the electorate. But for the role foot soldiers play in this regard, it would have been difficult for political parties to sell their manifestoes to the electorate.

Nevertheless, foot soldiers are becoming detrimental to national development. Foot soldiers have largely contributed to their political parties loosing political power in Ghana. In 2000, it was the disaffection of NDC foot soldiers that led to the party’s exit of power. While some old foot soldiers felt slighted by the choice of the then Vice President, H. E. Atta-Mills, as the flag bearer of the party by his boss, former President Rawlings, others were generally not happy because they felt new members came into the party and were being favoured at their expense.

Similarly, the NPP lost political power in 2008 because most foot soldiers were disappointed that the Kufuor administration paid more attention to national development issues to their disadvantage. Such people, therefore, vowed to ensure that anybody the former President favoured for the party’s position especially at the national level was severely punished. This disappointment culminated into apathy in the last general elections in most areas in the country leading to the party loosing power.

Undoubtedly, the issue has reared its ugly heard in recent times within the ruling NDC. Apart from calls by ordinary members of the party throughout the country to the president to reward them on one way or the other, high-ranking members of the party are disappointed that their aspirations are not being met.

This issue raises a number of very pertinent concerns. Do foot soldiers often forget their parties’ promises to make life better for Ghanaians? If not, why do they normally think that they deserve this better life when they have not delivered it to Ghanaians? It appears that while the party leadership like the president is usually preoccupied with trying to deliver on the party’s manifesto promises, foot soldiers on the other hand are focused on fulfilling their parochial interests.

The issue also raises questions about the way political parties are sponsored in Ghana. It is natural that if private individuals sponsor political parties, they will expect something in return. As I indicated in another article published on this medium on 01/04/2009 regarding debates on the ex gratia, individuals such as Parliamentary Candidates spend fortunes on electioneering campaigns. Political parties do the same because private individuals sponsor them. I wonder whether as a people we question how our political representatives get these resources. We should be worried because they have always demanded their pound of flesh in various ways including ex gratia, rent (corruption) and foot soldiers taking the law into their hands to besiege District Assembly Offices and other state institutions. The most worrying aspect of foot soldiers is that they rob the country of political representatives who may want to pursue a national agenda rather than partisan agenda. Therefore, the earlier we arrest this canker, the better.

The issue can be resolved through state sponsorship of political parties. Let us not perceive the activities of political parties as their affairs (political parties) because they are integral part national affairs. If that is done, the state can regulate their activities. It appears political parties cannot do without loyalists and supporters. Loyalists and supporters need to be sensitised to support their parties on issues and principles based on national development aspirations rather than material gains.

S. A. Achanso.