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Opinions of Saturday, 29 August 2009

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

NDC And NPP: Can't You Get Along

..... Over A Cold Star Beer And Banku At My Place?

The National Jeopardy: Tribalism and Political Fanaticism breed interparty rift.

Our fragile, infant democracy and our quest for economic freedom are taking a wrong turn lately—courtesy of the bad blood between NDC and NPP.

The political cage -fight between NDC and NPP seems not to stop anytime soon because a knock- out is nowhere in sight. But can’t we all get along for the sake of the national progress and mother Ghana? Paradoxically, when two elephants fight the casualties are the weeds, small trees and plants that need nutrients the most.

The main casualties of the political fight are the poor voters who have to stand in line for hours to vote every four years for the people who are busy fighting each other instead of finding solutions to our emerging problems. Please somebody should tell me: Since when did trying to beat each other in the head in a cage- fight constitute national progress and a political maturity?

The relationship between the NDC and NPP has never been lovey-dovey since Rawlings’ era, but it’s getting out of control these days. The poisonous political feud between these two main political parties is so fiercest that it’s preventing us to see the good in political and tribal diversity. The sad part of this national tragedy is that the media is standing idly by and fawning, drooling and crooning all over the feudfest .It has done little to change the tone, tenor, or temperature of these two political parties and their interparty rift.

But all that is about to change—at least if I have my way to mediate a ceasefire over a cold star beer at my place. Yes, it’s a dream but I’m not giving up on my dream of mediation in order to stabilize the situation.

Yes, I know I have stepped into dog poop by bringing this in house fighting to live. For one thing I didn’t set out to write a piece that would attack or explain tribal diatribes on our political landscape. I have got no illusion that writing about tribal politics is the equivalent of walking a picket line—I can not do everything right. But, how long can we stand by to watch the fight? I’m not a formally trained mediator or philosopher. I’m fundamentally a social commentator and a person who roots for Ghana and her quest for economic prosperity. However, I don’t expect to see any full-fledged impact of my writings, supposedly on the Ghanaian political or social equilibrium .But, I hope one day history would prove me right.

Unfortunately, we have reached the point where if a point is made on anything that affects the country, the first question people ask is:” Whose idea was it?” In effect, people want to know which party came up with the idea before they are willing to support it. So to them the issue is not whether it is a right idea or wrong idea for our country. Instead it has come down to whether the idea originated from NDC or NPP. It depends who looks at it and one’s party affiliation and tribe. But, I’m not sure if we have true NDC or NPP ideas. Though we have plenty of anti-NDC or anti-NPP ideas floating around in Ghana’s political corridors, we still don’t have rooms for positive ideas from a party we don’t like.

Virtually, every meaningful conversation I have ever had with well-meaning Ghanaians on the subject of Ghana has either gotten around to politics or tribal fanaticisms .They are problems to Ghanaians who want Ghana to be a place they can live. The point is we don’t have to be unusual or saintly human beings to confront these problems. So to defuse the volatile relationship we need to get them to sit down at a” cold beer summit”.

On July 30th, 2009 President Obama ended a feud between Harvard Professor Gates jr, and Police officer Sgt. Crowley of Cambridge over a cold “beer” at the White House. That got me thinking: “What if the NDC and NPP could end their feud over a cold Star beer or a bottle of Herb Afrik bitters at my private Retreat at Tweapease, tucked inside kwaebribirm district?” We can even top it off with goat meat with okra sauce and banku .And, if that is not enough we could play the late Bob Marley’s music;” One love, let’s get to gather and feel alright.........” and we all would hold hands and dance the night off.

But, I’m beginning to worry. So forget about a cold Star beer summit .That’s not happening with the rate the parties’ foot soldiers and power brokers are fanning the hatred flame .The best we can hope for is a country being ruled on tribal lines. Given the toxic tones of the parties I wonder whether or not anything meaningful can be achieved within reasonable time.

It appears neither Herb Afrik bitters nor a cold star beer and okra sauce with banku could resolve the feud because NDC and NPP parties and their sympathizers don’t want a cease-fire. They don’t want civility to be introduced into the Ghanaian political arena because the spectators have wrapped themselves up in the tribal costume. They have little inclination to shift their beliefs and hatred towards each other and they continually and covertly fan the tribal fire while openly chanting their love for Ghana.

I know I have my work cut out for me because the two parties are not willing to end the feud anytime soon. It isn’t just that they can’t solve it, but they’re using it to promote their own tribal agenda. The car-hungry, property-grabbing, me-first, I-get-mine—politicians ---with insatiable appetite for worldly toys make their daily breads by promoting tribal and political tensions.

The feud has underscored the politically hazardous ecology that the parties are busy helping to cultivate. But, in these hard economic times do we really need that political drama? They are doing that whilst the people are suffering, schools are falling apart and road network are ridden with pot holes, water shortages and youth yeaning for employment.

Unfortunately, the feud is gaining political and social tractions to a larger extent with the help of the parties’ power players and foot soldiers, who use party affiliation to camouflage their tribal -cleansing sentiments and their own personal short –term agenda.

A multi-party system is a good thing. It provides a system of checks and balances. And, from a distance the feud between NDC and NPP looks and sounds like an ordinary political check and balance. But, it’s characteristically loaded with tribal diatribe, innuendoes and the promotion of one’s tribe over another; all to the detriment of mother Ghana.

These days the lines between party memberships, a fan, or ethnic fanatic are getting very blur---with deadly consequence. Do you know the difference? A lot of people don’t. If you don’t believe me check the Forum on the Ghanaian blogosphere or the comments that will follow this piece.

One can not say something about a particular party without being put into some kind of ethnicity slur or a tribal straight-jacket. And, for any piece to get the sharp wit readers’ attention it has to be either using one tribe against the other or attacking one party and praising the other. And if one could throw in a little Ashanti bashing or downgrading the Ewes the article will most likely hit a home-run with no sweat. And if one wants to break the blogosphere’s seismograph, just throw in the former Presidents’ names. Forget about lack of quality or lack of socioeconomic importance in some of those articles. Who needs good, uplifting ideas in Ghana? As long as we can have tribal-baiting attacks in our articles all is well.

A party fan is a person who likes what a particular party does. He cheers for the some of the party’s policies and voices his objectivity when he senses any political hanky-panky .On the other hand, a party fanatic is the one who believes that his party can do no wrong. He makes up excuses for anything his party does. To a party fanatic, NPP never made any mistake or NDC is the best thing that has happened to Ghana.

A Party or ethnic fanatic tends to be one –dimensional person. He has no balance, no middle ground, and no other depth, when it comes to his beliefs about his party or tribe.

A political fanatic eats, thinks, and sleeps with his belief about the party he loves and is crazy about. It all started from being a fan, and then morphed into a hardcore party membership. Then it progressed to fanaticism. Those who are dressed up in the tribal hated costumes and party overalls owe Ghana an explanation as to why they are tearing Ghana apart.

The fact of the matter is you can be a fan of a party, support some of its policies and still be smart enough not to agree with every move it makes. A fanatic can not make that distinction. An NDC fan is someone who probably voted for President Mills, for a number of reasons. He likes him and thought of him as someone who has the best interest of the country at heart. An NDC fanatic thinks President Mills cannot do any wrong and that he’s a rain maker who can also make us walk on water. That NDC fanatic will see NPP as the scum of the earth and vice -versa .It works on both sides of the political aisle. In fact, I can not get over the tribal and political fixation the people in my district have over NPP. Ironically, in the last election the voters predominately voted for NPP, while they’re wantonly enjoying the social amenities the NDC government provided. What do you think of that?

Fanatics are typically unable or unwilling to see the good in anything they don’t like. They are so caught up in seeing the bad .Conversely; they also get so caught up in seeing the good in something they like that they can’t see the bad. Political or ethnic fanaticism blurs one’s vision. Sometimes, it can even blind one because it can take one’s ability to think right.

Political or tribal fanaticism is also a strong emotional impulse that can cause people to speak before they think or speak instead of thinking therefore causing absurd things to fall out of their mouths. You don’t believe it? Read some of the comments that will follow this piece—and I haven’t even mentioned Rawlings’ name yet.

On the ethnicity front, combine fanaticism with stupidity and personal hatred and before you would know you have a full –fledged ethnic- cleansing with Rwanda-influenced proportion. I would never wish it on my worst enemy’s nation, let alone on my motherland. But we have to be mindful of history and realize that a little spark on a socially inflammable matter can lead to an inferno. The genocide in Rwanda started 45 minutes after the President’s plane was shut down. The Hutu attacked the Tutsi because both tribes were so consumed with hatred and tribal animosity to the point that one little thing could easily ignite tribal fire-works. Do the Liberia or Sierra Leone civil wars ring a bell?

For one thing, whether NPP or NDC, we all own the same land. And those who call themselves’ Christians’ read the same Bible. The religious among us also pray to the same God (god) and share the same air. So stop being used by politicians for their own ends. Whilst they’re getting a $50,000.00 car loan, you probably don’t own a bicycle. While they are grabbing more houses, you are probably renting a single room at Nima. Are your kids’ tuition being paid because the person in power is from your tribe? Their kids attend private schools while your kids attend”saato” (government school). Are libraries being built in your district because of your tribe or party affiliation?

The fact is trying to separate the truth about one’s ethnicity from political fanaticism in Ghana can be like trying to unmix two shades that went into making the same paint. It requires special skills and intuition and an over-dosed amount of patriotism and thick-skin .We constantly use one tribe against another as if one tribe has a patent on integrity, credibility , patriotism, honesty, generosity, openness, and empathy. In fact, each tribe in Ghana is filled with the negative traits we detest in people. Our tribes are full of individuals who lack credibility. They are selfish, integrity-impaired, mean and egotistical. So we can’t and shouldn’t hold one’s mistakes or bad judgments against one’s tribe. We have to be independent thinkers and well-informed citizens so as not to be victims of the political feud.

You may not agree with me on most of the points in this piece. But, you won’t have confusion as to where I stand on issues of national interest. And, in this day and age that should stand for something. Yes, I have my beliefs and tick-offs, but I’m not fanatic about them.

So what are my beliefs and tick -offs?

I can not stand the sight of the food certificate the airport authorities issue to travelers at Kotoka airport. It is useless in the eyes of the custom officers in our host countries. So if the government wants donations from travelers it should come up with a better way. Whoops, I forgot that our policy makers are too busy fighting the interparty war.

I’m against partisan-bickering. I agree with only half of what NDC or NPP stands for. But most of all I believe in anything and everything that will make Ghana prosper. I think politicians should take a test to determine their level of skills and competency .They also have to declare to us what books they read (if they read at all) and who are their heroes and their sources of inspiration and aspiration. I think every party should declare its ministers during the political campaign so as to allow the voters to assess them.

I believe teachers should be paid more than politicians. I also believe that government should be ran like a business. Just as in business customers’ needs are to be met. Any successful government needs to go hand in hand with addressing the challenges of the people by meeting their basic needs—water, food, shelter and clothing. Don’t forget to add their communication needs to the equation because these days living without communication tools is a no-no. We can not live without our cell phones.

We don’t expect to sell hope to the people and not recognize what is going on in their personal lives. So to be an effective government there is a need to address serious social challenges of the people.

On the social front, I hate our culture of entitlement and matrimonial estate inheritance system because they’re tearing families and marriages apart unabatedly.

Yes, I strongly believe in God, but I think one doesn’t have to go to church or mosque to be spiritual. In fact, there are individuals who are spiritually inclined but are not affiliated to any organized religion. The question is what is our purpose as people? What’s our sense of having meaning in our lives? This goes beyond a basic spiritual sense of purpose and eternal connection. It’s that feeling that our lives are valuable and that our future is worthwhile.—even if our present circumstances are dark. Having a sense of purpose bigger than us will allow us to deal with issues that matter.

To some orthodox religious people, when all else fails they try to explain suffering by believing that it comes to liberate us from a world of pain and lead us to a better place. God uses our tragedy and suffering in order to “repair” us.

It boils down to this: Sometimes in our reluctance to admit that there is unfairness in the world, (and we play a role in our own downfalls) we try to persuade ourselves that any negative thing that is self-inflicted is not bad, and it’s not our own making. It’s an excuse for not being troubled and outraged by injustices around us and not using our God- given intelligence to try to do something about our problems. Politics is like religion, it can make you think of crazy things and do crazy stuff to justify the unjustifiable.

Politics is like religion; where everyone has his own brand and thinks his brand is the right one. There are so many religions and some of them have their own books. They think their books are the right books. But, the right religion is the one that takes care of the people’s needs and aspirations. Just as the right party is the party that takes care of the people’s needs and the country’s aspirations.

Oh, on cell phone addiction I think just as parents should worry about kids’ inappropriate downloads from the internet I think cell phone usage by teens should be regulated and monitored. Excessive texting under their covers at night and “sexting”can interfere with the kids’ social skills development .So parents have to be “parents” on this one. By the way, when was the last time you saw a Ghanaian teen holding a book, other than a text book? There are probably more cell phones in an average household in Ghana than books. Are the provisions of town libraries part of the national agenda? I’m just checking! What is wrong with that picture?

Parents who refuse to give in to society’s pressure are not being mean or punitive or unfair. They are just being concerned, responsible parents. Sometimes parents need to deprive kids of their favorite toys, in order to drive home a lesson. The children may feel that they’re being arbitrarily deprived of something all other children have, and may wonder why ostensibly loving parents should treat them that way. But, that is because they are still young and when they grow up they will come to understand the wisdom and necessity of the parents’ action.

Now you know, I have my own beliefs and tick-offs, but I won’t let them blur my views.

Let’s be smart enough to separate our emotions from our mouths .We should be intelligent enough to stick to our tribes and parties but we shouldn’t do that at the expense of others and the country .It’s most likely you’re reading this piece on the net or on a system which was put together by Ghanaians who put their parties’ and tribal differences at the door and worked towards a common goal .So let tone down the insults.

Unfortunately, some people are naively hijacking the political system by throwing stones around the glass house that hosts our fragile infant democracy----and some are fanning the frames of politically-charge fire works while the rest of us---including news commentators of every ilk and stripe--- are standing by with water cans. But, there will be no happy ending, with the hero rewarded and villain punished. In the era of globalization hanging on tribal and political sentiments can only take us so far---to our own destruction and socioeconomic hardships. When everything is said and done, it’s a fight no one can win.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi NJ, USA

*The author is a social commentator and the founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment foundation for the youth of Asuom.