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Opinions of Thursday, 21 August 2014

Columnist: The Catalyst Newspaper

In The Era Where NPP Propaganda Holds Sway

If you are not conversant with the way the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) operates in communication, you could easily get carried away by what you hear them say loudly, repeatedly and forcefully about themselves on one hand and the NDC government on the other.
The NPP operates at the height of negative propaganda on a well-oiled media machine. The party acts like a contagious disease on a mission to infect the unsuspected within the wider spectrum of the Ghanaian society by trying to turn them against the NDC government with the hope of riding on that to attain political power.
The NPP are quick to shout “’propaganda” at the NDC, but that is diversionary because they are the masters of the art of political propaganda. It is not surprising because this has been their style since the days of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah when their Danquah-Busia forebears held Ghana to ransom, having used every means possible to achieve their parochial aim.

Government overwhelmed
A clear observation made by The Catalyst suggests that presently, the NPP is at their propaganda best against the John Mahama-led NDC government. They have deployed all their artillery in the mass media in a bid to have a stranglehold on the minds of the people of Ghana ahead of the 2016 election. Perception they say is a very powerful weapon in politics and the NPP knows how to exploit that avenue so well.
Unfortunately, the John Mahama-led NDC government looks as if it is falling victim to this political mischievousness of the NPP, as it appears overwhelmed by the firepower of the NPP propaganda spree. It is almost impossible for the government to communicate clearly to the people of Ghana on the much headway it is making. But then again this cannot be NPP’s fault.

NPP choosing NDC communicators
The NPP has to a large extent succeeded in deciding who speaks for the NDC and its government. They are quick to brand NDC communicators with ‘a heart’ as unworthy to speak for the party even though, truth be told, the NPP have some loose-talkers leading their communications.
The NPP always makes attempts at putting pressure on the NDC and its government to withdraw its strong political communicators, who have the guts to face them boot-for-boot in their shenanigans and expose their mischief without fear or favour.
The NPP controls NDC’s communications in two ways:
Direct: As soon as the NPP identifies an NDC communicator that match their hard-talk and thus being too hot for them to handle, the elephant party marshals its forces, like Franklin Cudjoe and his guys at IMANI Ghana and even Gabby Asare Otchere Darko’s Danquah Institute, to begin attacking the credibility of such an individual and creating the impression that they are not good communicators and so the government/party must gag them.
Indirect: It is common knowledge that the numerous NPP radio and TV stations in Ghana decide who is invited for newspaper review and political discussions on their programmes. The empanelling is done in such a way that the NPP almost always gets the upper hand. Aside from the empanelling of guests, the topics/stories selected for discussion is also another matter altogether, not to mention the conduct of the blatantly bias moderators against the NDC/government.
Even during the major news bulleting, resource persons who are hooked up with on the phone to speak to topical issues are carefully selected in favour of the NPP.

Up your game
One may ask what the NDC has done over the years to correct this anomaly. The NDC/government communication machine needs to up their game, or forget it.
The Mahama government’s communications outfit has run a solo race so far. This problem actually dates back to the days of the late President Atta Mills, even though, admittedly, the situation was quite better at that time. Those handling the NDC government communications have shown that they are oblivious of the fact that there cannot be a dichotomy between the government and the party that gave birth to it, in a critical area like communications. Unfortunately, this is the bane of the government.
For example, the manifesto on which the party rode to victory is party engineered. It is also a fact that those managing government communications and other areas of government business today may not have full appreciation of the original political thinking that went into the promises aggregated in the NDC manifesto.
It shows that Mr Dotse Malor, Head of Communications at the Flag Staff House and the numerous others who are supposed to be in charge of NDC government communications are relying solely on their professional prowess of mainstream dissemination of information, and that is why they are hitting roadblocks every step of the way.
Until they come to terms with the fact that this is Ghana politics and there is a certain opposition party called NPP who can be as boring as an aching tooth and must be tackled with firmness, we will remain where we are.

Free advice
The NDC must have their own ‘home grown’ communications strategy. There must be a two-prong approach to handling government communications. The party must resort to the use of party structures in disseminating government information, apart from the usual mass media approach of communicating government information.
Until the Dotse Malors of the Flag Staff House recognise, first of all, that the need for them to place their job in the right context of Ghanaian politics and that it is important that they look at their job from a political perspective rather than trying to be nice-guy carrier communication handlers at the presidency, the government will continue to suffer and face even more problems in times to come.
The propaganda unit of the NDC as a party is not a creation for fun. Truth is, until the government gets the full backing of its core followership by making them understand its policy directions and decisions clearly through effective engagements by the use of quality and timely communication from the top, it will continue to struggle. People at the grassroots of the party need to be made ‘communications ambassadors’ of the government.
One of the most effective tools in this effort should be the pro-NDC newspapers, who have been most reliable sources of information for NDC’s followers countrywide, over the years. This is a reality the NPP knows and so tries hard to confuse the public about the efficacy of these newspapers. Of course with advancement in technology, other means of reaching out to NDC’s ‘communications ambassadors’ with relevant government and party information are numerous.
The Catalyst is curious to know what the working relationship is like between the head of communications at the Flag Staff House, the minister for communications and the propaganda secretary of the NDC. In other words, until these three officials work in tandem for the good of the NDC and its government, let nobody dream any miracle can happen in terms of consolidating the support base for this government. Let’s not forget that NDC members form the bulk of support for the government and that ‘stronghold’ cannot be taken for granted by way of availability of reliable information in timely manner. As far as we are concerned such a relationship does not manifestly exist and the earlier that gets done the better.
The notion that government communication must be devoid of party involvement cannot be applicable in our part of the world because the political mindset in Ghana, for instance, is not comparable to the norm in the advanced democracies we are struggling to imitate. It is better for government communications handlers to understand this if they want the government to succeed.
Most often than not, NDC supporters for lack of reliable information from government communications outfit, turn to first feed on NPP’s negative propaganda which is always quick and timely before government steps in with rebuttals and reactions. This was the order of the day during Hon. Mahama Ayariga’s time as Information Minister, which is why he failed as information minister to a large extent. Under Hon. Omane Boamah, that disturbing trend has begun changing even though more needs to be done and The Catalyst hopes it will be sustained and improved very fast.
Simply put, President Mahama needs to make NDC followers assume ownership of the government and that undoubtedly will work wonders for his government, and key actors in this regard must be government and party communications handlers.
We shall be back!