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Opinions of Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

In Consolidating Democracy, put Akufo-Addo at the Castle

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

You don’t have to be one of the growing pundits in Accra or among transnational Ghanaians in London, New York, Toronto or Berlin who are keenly influencing the democratic growth of their homeland to observe that democracy is flowering in Ghana.

In recent times, you read varied political headlines that tell how Ghana’s democracy is moving: “Offinso South MP withdraws from primary,” “No negative political activities; police warn,” “Who stole whose manifesto?”, “Vote NPP for better economic management - Bawumia,” “Elections are about responsibility and good governance- French,” “NDC: We will ensure fair adminstration of justice.”

Still, in recent days, you have seen political parties fighting over manifestoes. You have read about Paa Kwesi Nduom, the flagbearer of the Convention Peoples Party (CPP), rubbishing Sekou Nkrumah, of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), for suggesting that the CPP and the NDC are ideological soul-mates and should therefore merge. Captain (rtd) Boakye-Gyan, ex-spokesman for the elsewhile military junta Armed Forces Revolution Council (AFRC), thinks all the political parties are the same old, same old good-for-nothing organizations that he has opted to be an independent parliamentary candidate.

Now and then, in the last leg to the December 2008 general elections, the political temperature rises, negativity flying all over the place, with either a “boom,” reckless speech from the unpredictable ex-president Jerry Rawlings or clashes in the north between the NPP and the NDC or a court settling a disagreement within the CPP over a primary election. In some sort of Botswana ways, traditional rulers have been guiding the democratic dispensation, offering advises, calling erring politicians to order.

So, how do the political leaders tell Ghanaians about the consolidation of democracy as safeguard for progress: Who would be the best candidate at the Osu Castle to consolidate the on-going 16-years-old democracy that sometimes appear shooting itself on the feet?

I know most of the presidential candidates peripherally, but have followed their utterances, activities and body languages since they assumed the top candidacy of their parties. Here is my personal assessment of their capacities for consolidating democracy against the backdrop of developmental challenges.

Edward Nasigrie Mahama: Hopeless. Despite his People's National Convention (PNC) being a small party, he hasn’t been able to grow the PNC over the years and have not shown political savvy by either coalescing with ideological bedfellows like the NDC or the CPP. Now and then the PNC is riddled with internal crisis against the national view that Mahama is an autocrat and lacks democratic characteristics expected of the new democratic dispensation. But real-world democratic growth has never been, and never will be, Mahama’s or the PNC’s outfit.

Paa Kwesi Nduom: Methodological, strong and well meaning on social democracy – the raison d’etre of his CPP. But weak on broader democratic appeal and the view that his campaign lacks internal party coordination. In some future election, how to marry a real commitment to social democracy, with the CPP’s Nkrumaist credential, with the rudiments for a strong democratic consolidation may well be the No. 1 issue. But, regrettably for Nduom, and perhaps for Ghana, not this time, when democracy is developing.

John Evans Atta-Mills: When I listen to Atta-Mills, and hear him talk about the NDC’s social democracy, I get flash of his years as a Marxist-Leninist socialist. While both the NDC and the CPP are social democrats, there are philosophical differences. While Atta-Mills is sincere, his NDC, as the main opposition party, hasn’t campaigned fully on freedoms and democratic growth. Atta-Mills is seen as the puppet of Rawlings, who has iron grip on the NDC and whose democratic commitment is suspect. Atta-Mills body language doesn’t look like somebody who wants to be president, more because of the brutal shadow of Rawlings whirling around him. With the national view that he is not-his-own-man; Atta-Mills is a mismatch within the overwhelming Rawlings machine within the NDC. Atta-Mills don’t have the freedom to consolidate democracy.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo: What can one say of Akufo-Addo? I met him briefly in his office in Accra in 2006 when he was still Foreign Minister. He grew up in a highly political family, dating back to the foundation of Ghana. With degrees in economics and law, and fluent in French, for the past 30 years Akufo-Addo has been in the forefront of Ghana’s democratic growth, battling fearsome military juntas at the risk of his life. For years, Akufo-Addo helped pushed the frontiers of freedoms. His campaign speeches demonstrate this. Akufo-Addo projects democratic electricity and detailed grasp of Ghana’s development challenges, and can easily release the long-running stifled freedom energy needed for genuine progress. Such attributes has made him have thorough grasp of Ghana as democratic project. No major democratic and development issues escape Akufo-Addo’s attention. And since becoming the NPP’s presidential candidate, he has proven his ability to more than hold his own in democratic, freedoms, and development discussions.

If you have skin problem, you go to a dermatologist. You see a dentist if you have sore tooth. If the biggest challenges facing your country are economics and democratic consolidation, who should you put in charge?