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Opinions of Saturday, 12 May 2012

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Has Nana Akufo Addo Thrown in the Towel for the Presidency?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

When Kennedy Agyapong, the (Dis)honourable National Patriotic Party (NPP) MP made his war declaration and incitement to ethnic hatred, the Presidential Candidate of the NPP, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was out of Ghana. It was expected that on his return he would respond appropriately to his beleaguered MP’s actions, since the incitement to ethnic hatred had the potential to deflate his presidential ambition as well as NPP’s electoral fortunes in the forthcoming General Elections in December 2012. In fact, some of his opponents within the NDC challenged him to respond to the matter but his aides and close allies claimed that the party leadership had responded, so Nana Addo had nothing to add to it. Last week, Nana Addo gave his official responses to the matter in a press interview, an official statement from him and a visit to the Chiefs and people of Volta Region, one of the two ethnic groups that were to be attacked. It is these actions by Nana Akufo Addo that are the subject of my analysis in this article.

In fact, prior to his return to Ghana, some Ghanaians and most of Nana Akufo Addo’s adversaries called upon him to immediately condemn the actions of Kennedy Agyapong from wherever he was. The NPP as a collective issued a statement that distanced the party from the actions of the MP but failed to condemn him. From that, it was obvious that Nana Akufo-Addo’s opponents expected nothing but condemnation from him whenever he had the opportunity to respond. Nothing short of that would have been acceptable to them.

Nana Akufo Addo had a number of dilemmas to navigate with his response/s. First, his party had issued a statement that did not condemn the actions of the MP. Second, his close aides claimed that he had nothing to add to what the party had said. There is also the question of him threading carefully in order not to portray a picture of disunity among the party leadership on this subject as well as not isolating or even leaving the MP to hang when the party and Nana Akufo Addo himself may need his millions in an election year. The other conundrum for him was whether with his own “all die be die” and “we Akan fuo” mantra, he had the moral authority to condemn the MP. On the other hand, he will need the votes of the two ethnic groups, particularly, the Ga votes to secure the presidency in December.

Having found himself in between a rock and a hard surface, Nana Akufo Addo, a shrewd politician opted for the lesser evil by calculation and avoided condemning the actions of his millionaire MP. Not surprisingly, he issued a statement very similar to what the party had issued in the heat of the declaration and incitement, granted media interview and rounded up the responses with a visit to the Volta Region. The responses in my view were perhaps, indications that both Nana Akufo Addo and his party are conscious of the fact that, Kennedy Agyapong might have caused irreparable damage to his chances of securing more votes from the region. It would be politically prudent and rational to secure Agyapong’s financial support rather than lose that also. But has Nana Akufo Addo made the right political calculation and would that pay off by way electoral dividend for his failure to condemn actions of Kennedy Agyapong?

My first answer without any hesitation is, time will tell. However, on a second thought, I am tempted to believe that Nana Akufo Addo and his party might have made political misjudgement that could be discussed in another book post December Elections. Nana Akufo-Addo could have and should have condemned Agyapong’s actions without necessarily throwing him into the hands of political enemies who are waiting to just devour him. That would have put Nana Akufo Addo above others, including even the President, would have also exhibited his true and unique leadership qualities that he is not only capable of but able to make tough decisions and a strong character with an independent mind of his own. These are value driven campaign slogans that he could have benefitted from and reaped political goodwill from. Sadly, these have been squandered in just a week. For example, when in 2004, the then Conservative MP and now second term Mayor of London, Boris Johnson made an insulting remarks about the people of Liverpool, the then Party Leader did not only ask him to apologise but also ordered him to travel to Liverpool to offer the apology, which he did. The electorate considered the action of the party leader as decisive and also admired and genuinely forgave Boris for going to Liverpool to offer a personal apology to the people.

Nana Akufo Addo is also on record to have said that, he could not comment on the Kennedy Agyapong declaration and incitement because the matter was before the courts. At the same time, he had issued a statement on the same matter. What sort of contradiction is that? I have no doubt that as a renowned lawyer Nana Akufo Addo is aware of the potential for contempt of court should he condemn the actions of the MP. I am also convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that there is no iota of truth that, a condemnation of the action would necessarily constitute contempt of court or prove the guilt of the accused. This is borne by the fact that since court proceedings began numerous people have condemned his actions. Another weakness in the excuse offered by him as to why he was unable to comment on the case is that, the same Nana Akufo Addo commented on the Woyomegate after court proceedings had began. In fact, he did not only comment but claimed such payments would not occur under his Presidency and almost ordered the President to make sure that Woyome repaid the money to the state. Some of the NPP Communication Team have defended and still do defend Agaypong’s actions as the direct consequences of President Mills and his government’s failure to act to stop the violence against NPP supporters from NDC supporters. What is more contemptuous of court than this if not the typical Ghanaian politicians’ double or triple standards?

The most singular action that made me question whether Nana Akufo Addo has thrown in the towel for the Presidential contest in December was his response to a question by Joy FM journalist, Sammy Darko, on the Agaypong incident and the violence during the biometric voters’ registration exercise. Nana Akufo Addo is reported to have said, “let the President show the way as to his desire for the politics of issues and discussions and the rest of us will follow” (see “President Mills must sit up”, Joy FM online, May 3 2012). Interesting, isn’t it? Until I read this I wrongly assumed that Nana Akufo Addo led but not follow and never expected him to be an apostle of his staunch opponent. On the contrary, the practice on the ground does not support his stand. Nana Akufo Addo led the way to call on President Mills to support military action in Cote d’Ivoire before the President’s “di wo fie asem” policy. He led the way by issuing a statement calling on African leaders to support the candidacy of the Nigerian Finance Minister for the head of the World Bank position. He has just issued a statement congratulating the newly elected President of France. It is not clear if President Mills has done the same on behalf of the Government and the People of Ghana.

My point is, Nana Akufo Addo leads most of the time when it favours him and keeps quiet when it is against his personal interests. He never follows. For example, during the debate on the subject of same sex relationship in Ghana, he kept silent over the issue even after President Mills made his position public. This was because, he was due to meet with the UK Prime Minister at the time, the country that raised concerns over the subject and threatened to make aid to Ghana conditional on the matter. The Prime Minister leads the Conservative Party, a political ally of the party Nana Addo also leads in Ghana. Is this political opportunism, pure double standards or mere hypocrisy? I have a message for Nana Akufo Addo and Ghanaian politicians. You are either “Odum” or “Wawa”, you cannot be both (“Odwa” coined from first two letters of both trees) at the same time or at different times. Such double standard attitude and hypocrisy cast doubt on the integrity of political leaders.

What is Nana Akufo Addo doing about the people of Ga as the incitement to ethnic hatred was also against them? Perhaps, because his wife is a Ga and leading members of NPP are also Gas, there is no need for him to worry or likewise the government, he is of the view that there is no Ga Mantse, so there is no one to visit and offer an apology to the Ga people. In fact, if I were in Nana Akufo Addo’s shoes (glad I am not a politician), I would have paid visits to the two ethnic groups and offer my apology on the same day. As the Ga people are not only in Accra, he should have visited the Regional House of Chiefs to offer his apology to the Ga people. In fact, the Ga votes would be more crucial for securing the Presidency by Nana Akufo Addo more than any other region in Ghana for a number of factors. Among others, it is a floating region that is not considered strong hold of both NDC and NPP as it is ethnically more diverse. However, NPP has a reasonable number of its leading members from the region and he should have taken advantage of that to repair any political damage (even if perceived) Kennedy Agyapong might have caused. Is that another political blunder on the part of Nana Akufo Addo and NPP?

Nana Akufo Addo’s decision to visit and apologise to the Chiefs and people of Volta Region in person shortly after his return to Ghana was right, appropriate and politically astute. Nonetheless, his failure to condemn Kennedy Agaypong’s actions before the Chiefs, the apparent disregard for the Ga people on the matter and his “President must lead for us to follow” statement could be self inflicted political suicide that could be a high price to pay for the December General elections. Personally, I am of the view that both Nana Akufo Addo and the NPP should have sacrificed Kennedy Agaypong’s money (his money and not the person) for more votes from the Volta Region and to gain majority of the Ga vote. These elementary political mistakes are such that, one is tempted to rightly or wrongly conclude that, perhaps, Nana Akufo Addo is beginning to realise that the damage to his political fortunes is so elephantine that, the odds are stuck against him in December 2012. Are these the signs of the beginning of the end of a long held ambition and gargantuan political dream? Six months from now is a very long time in politics and anything and everything can change. I may be wrong but only time will tell.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK