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Opinions of Sunday, 28 December 2008

Columnist: Nelson, Ekow

Give Prof. Atta-Mills a chance

but the CPP is right to remain neutral

Ekow Nelson

A couple weeks of ago I urged supporters of minority Nkrumaist parties to vote massively for Professor John Evans Atta Mills in the run-off. The reasons I gave included what I described as the hubris and wanton vandalism of the NPP, but more importantly, because, having lost overall control in parliament and failed to persuade majority of the electorate to vote for their candidate after eight years in power, the NPP have not made a compelling case for a fresh mandate. I continue to hold this view even if I support the official position of my beloved CPP to remain neutral.

The NPP does not deserve to be rewarded with four more years in government; the other guy must be given a chance. This, after all, is healthy for our democracy: it will give the NPP time and space to rethink, reflect and hopefully learn not to take the voting public for granted. It will also be a shot across the bows of Professor Atta Mills, reminding him that, should he have any ambition for a second term, he cannot take the Ghanaian electorate for granted or worse, abuse their trust and grudging confidence.

My determination to see the current lot voted out has been all the more strengthened by the negative and guilt-by-association campaign being waged against Professor Atta Mills from certain quarters of the NPP. The most scurrilous is the suggestion that Professor Atta Mills and the NDC have a ‘hit list’ of high profile Ghanaians, including religious leaders, to be eliminated should the NDC win. Not only do these allegations smack of desperate Rovian tactics of the kind that did not save even Senator McCain; they are careless and disgraceful. But it is also rich coming from a party whose predecessor party - the UP - has a history of targeting innocent people. What chutzpah eh?

A little over a year after the 1960 general elections, one of the UP’s terrorist operatives who was working on behalf of their leadership in exile in neighbouring Lome was arrested, and among his possessions was a list of places the UP had targeted for detonating explosives. These included the Guinea Press, the Castle, TUC headquarters, CPP headquarters and the homes of Mr. Tawia Adamafio (then General-Secretary of the CPP) and Messrs Kofi Baako, Kwaku Boateng and Dowuna-Hammond all government ministers. Of course I can hear the usual chorus of UP sympathizers saying that is all in the past and they may very well be. But it is important to let the people know that the NPP itself is not clean and many of the conspirators then are still in the upper echelons of the party and remain unrepentant. Besides, there no scintilla of evidence that such an NDC ‘hit list’ exists and it is irresponsible and outrageous for the NPP leadership to encourage this type of loose talk that could easily inflame passions with deleterious consequences for us all.

In the period since my article, there has been a spate of endorsements from many quarters but the leaderships of the People’s National Convention (PNC) and the CPP have both declared themselves neutral. While their combined two percent share of the vote could make a difference in the outcome of such a tight race, their declaration of neutrality is for me, a welcome demonstration in humility: the two parties can’t pretend to have greater influence than their share of the votes from the first round indicates - any attempt to suggest they can sway votes will just be empty posturing. The decision is also shrewd, clever and demonstration, I hope, of a renewed commitment to chart a new course for the CPP and PNC. One in which we are not beholden unto either of the two major parties. While individuals like me are free to declare who we would like to win the run-off, it is important that the CPP and PNC give themselves enough room to manoeuvre if they have serious ambitions to remain independent viable alternatives to the two major parties.

I do not believe or share the view that the CPP is ideologically close to the NDC. What is point of an independent and weak CPP, if it is ideologically close to the NDC? That argument is tantamount to saying there is no reason for an independent CPP as long as the NDC exists and I reject that.

Remember: the policy of following prescriptions of international financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank did not start with the NPP; they were conceived, nurtured and delivered by the P/NDC in multiple births - ERP (Economic Recovery Programme), Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) among others - attended by the chief midwife, Dr. Kwesi Botchwey. It was the P/NDC that gave us our stock market modelled on the system that has collapsed spectacularly before our eyes in New York, London and elsewhere. Privatization of non-performing assets and the entire divestiture programme was invented by P/NDC and for a while Dr. Kwesi Botchwey was not only midwife to a long list of initiatives and acronyms he became the high priest of Ghana’s capitalist reconstruction feted in the corridors and palaces of the imperialist powers we the CPP are supposed to be against. Who says the NDC is Left or even anti-imperialist?

Was it not the P/NDC that cleared its stables in 1983 of the so-called Left, to make way for the harsh right-wing policies founded on the principles of deregulation, ending state support for key sectors that led to massive under-investment in our hospitals, schools, agriculture and infrastructure such as telecom? To argue that those who offered us as guinea pigs to the failed IMF/World Bank experiments of the 1980s are our soul mates is just not credible - unless of course we are suffering from some sort of historical amnesia.

I understand why some will do anything to get rid of the NPP and I share in the desire to have them booted out too, but we must be careful not to do anything to make life difficult for ourselves in the future and remember that there is always tomorrow.

As I have argued before, if the CPP wishes to remain independent it ought to learn to differentiate itself from the NDC in particular. Despite having many supporters we assume would ordinarily vote for a more viable CPP, I do not believe for a moment that the NDC is closer to the CPP or share our values. As I argued in my last piece, the NDC are a mirror image of the NPP – they are both parties of professionals and intellectuals: one claims to be on the Left and the other on the Right. But in essence, they both come at politics believing that they have a right to govern because they are smart.

Our foundations are different and best captured in the following words of admonition by the great Osagyefo: “Go to the people, live among them, learn from them, love them, serve them, plan with them, start with what they know, and build on what they have... for the masses of the people form the backbone of our Party. Their living conditions and their welfare must be paramount in everything we do. It is for them in particular and Africa in general, that our party exists”. That is exactly what Samia Nkrumah appears to have done in Jomoro and her success should be our model for the future – steering a fine course between the “devil and the deep blue sea”

Confronted with two these unpleasant alternatives, however, individual Nkrumaists must make choice but the parties do not have to. For my part, I urge individual Nkrumaists to vote for Professor Atta Mills not because his party is closer to the CPP or that we share the same values or philosophical outlook because I do not believe we do; but because after eight years in power the NPP have failed to make the case for a fresh mandate and we should not reward hubris or indeed vandalism. Give the other guy a chance; if he does not serve us well, we will boot him out too.

© Ekow Nelson December 2008