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Opinions of Monday, 13 May 2002

Columnist: Adu-Asare, R. Y

NDC's Post-Congress Facade is no Panacea ....

...for Cohesion or Longevity
Obed Yao Asamoah, finally, has captured control of National Democratic Congress, NDC, the political party that he and his compatriots, by every deduction, conceived and then inadvertently handed over to Jerry Rawlings who ran away with it and made a mess of. The question to be discussed in this article is whether the NDC, the party in power in Ghana from 1992 to 2000, has the capacity to survive over the long haul, within the context of Ghana’s partisan political tradition?

To start with, Ghanaians have not asked, since the just-ended NDC’s face-saving and fence-mending national congress, what the outcomes and implications would have been for Ghana’s political landscape had Obed Asamoah lost his bid for the chairmanship of the party. Any attempt to answer that question at this time would be pure speculation. What is clear, though, is that on the basis of the acrimonies, vituperations, charges and counter charges from party stalwarts preceding the April 27 congress, it should not be too far-fetched to project that with the sidelining of Jerry Rawlings as “leader”, the internal chasm of NDC, as a political party, especially in opposition, is even wider after the 2002 congress. Following are some reasons.

In a commentary I wrote before the aborted December 2001 NDC congress, the point was made that the party’s elite is made up of a dichotomy of groupings that would be hard to bridge. This is what I stated: “Obed Asamoah, Kojo Tsikata and Kofi Awoonor, on the one side and Jerry Rawlings, Nana Konadu Agyemang and their Johnny-come-lately supporters, on the other, have no shared similarities in political thinking. The political commitments of both sides also are incompatible.” The incompatibility and political differentiations within the NDC I spoke of, surfaced clearly in the internal antagonisms that appeared in the press in the couple of weeks leading to the 2002 congress.

Without any trepidation, it can be demonstrated that a predisposition of anti-NLM/UP/PP/New Patriotic Party, NPP, is the only commonality of interest among the groupings constituting NDC elite. Beyond the commonality of deep dislike for NPP politics, the NDC elite groups are differentiated by ethnoclass as well as ethnoregional characteristics. Other characteristics differentiating the NDC groups exist.

Among the core of individuals who made up the Jerry Rawlings group of the NDC when he was in power, are people who otherwise would or did identify with the Convention Peoples Party, CPP and with Nkrumahism. Jerry Rawlings needed these people to fill the vacuum created by the radical left of the Provisional National Defence Council, PNDC, who became disappointed with Rawling’s flip-flop and dancing with notions of revolution.

While Jerry Rawlings needed the new crop of political junkies to fill the vacuum created by those he had forced to self-exile, these individuals also saw an opportunity to fulfill their ambitions for political power and fame, especially since they did not have to work for the making of the possibilities for them. Some of the new Jerry Rawlings elements, mostly intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals, had roots in the CPP tradition hence their dislike for the NPP. In addition, enthusiasm for public service in Ghana, with all the perks and perquisites, as well as ambition for fame, moved the Rawlings supporters in the NDC to disregard the extra-constitutional means by which the PNDC evolved and to forget who his compatriots were and had been.

Most of the core new-breed of Rawlings supporters have been educated and lived overseas. On arrival at the political scene in Ghana, it is defensible to say that the Rawlings “been-to” elements became conflicted or confused in their political consciousness given the difference between perspective and perception of reality of their boss’ style and attitude. It is no mere conjuncture to deduce that the reason the Rawlings guys keep hanging around him is because they would not want to be seen as having been dropped from positions of power; it is likely some even endured abuse and humiliation, as is known to be Mr. Rawling’s stock-in-trade. Yes, such are the people who would continue to hang around the NDC hoping 2004 would bring them new glories!

Obed Asamoah, alongside former Bank of Ghana governor Prof. Agama, was one of the leaders of parliamentary opposition in the Second Republic governed by Prime Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia-led Progress Party, PP, progenitor of the current ruling party, NPP.

In his role as a member of the parliamentary opposition Obed Asamoah’s political profile was raised tremendously when some uninitiated Ghanaians thought the United National Congress, UNC, represented the CPP interest. Not so. Instead, as can be deduced today, Obed Asamoah and his compatriots were set on a course to set themselves apart from the CPP that had been disorganized by the Kotoka-Afrifa military coup of 1966.

Expectation by Ghanaians that the parliamentary opposition in the Second Republic represented the CPP stemmed from the pre-independence partisan political dynamics which pitted the federalist ethno-regional National Liberation Movement, NLM, based in Ashanti, against Kwame Nkrumah’s nationalist party.

After the demise of Col. Emmanuel Kotoka, the Maj. Akwasi Amankwah Afrifa-led National Liberation Council, NLC, regime was seen as Ashantist. That Afrifa handed over power to K. A. Busia, a torchbearer of Ashanti-based United Party, UP, which begat the PP, infuriated non-Ashanti political activist. That state of affair, it may be surmised, gave birth to the Volta Region dominated UNC and its ascendancy as an opposition force in Ghana’s Second Republic.

There was no let up in the ethno-class/ethno-regional politics of Ghana when Kutu Acheampong, an Asante, overthrew the Second Republic. However, sincere and honest observers of the Ghanaian political scene should be in a position to testify that Kutu Acheampong demonstrated capacity to unite Ghanaians around his ethnic-free National Redemption Council, NRC.

Even after Acheampong had become suspicious of Volta Region-based politicians to undermine his regime, he continued to follow non-ethnic-based political appointments and programs. Arguably, Acheampong’s regime was more popular, during the period of about the first three years of its existence, than the last days of Kwame Nkrumah.

Capt. Kojo Tsikata (Rtd) was Acheampong’s first national security advisor. The reason he (Tsikata) lost that position, political sources indicated at the time, was because of Acheampong’s suspicion of his (Tsikata’s) close contact with Obed Asamoah, the deposed opposition parliamentarian from Biakoye, VR.

Given post-1981 political dynamics in Ghana with regard to the role played by Kojo Tsikata, Prof. Kofi Awoonor and Obed Asamoah and the positions they held in the PNDC regime, it is defensible to suggest that Acheampong’s suspicion of the Volta Region-based activists to undo his regime could be substantiated.

Fast forward to 1992 and consider the roles played and positions held by Kojo Tsikata, Kofi Awoonor and Obed Asamoah and the following point I made in an earlier article is confirmed: “…whereas Jerry Rawlings has been known as the coup maker and leader of the Provisional National Defence Council, PNDC, Tsikata was the real power behind the throne, so to speak. But for Tsikata’s capacity in security and intelligence matters, the PNDC and Jerry Rawlings would not have lasted as long as Ghanaians endured them. It is reasonable to speculate that Asamoah, Awoonor and Tsikata tolerated Rawlings for as long as they did out of concern for the alternative.”

When Obed Asamoah and his Volta Region-based compatriots chartered their political course in 1972 or before, Jerry Rawlings was nowhere close by and Nana Konadu Agyemang was a student. For Jerry Rawlings and his followers to think they can own and control the NDC while Asamoah and his compatriots are around remains only wishful in the best of circumstances. Why do you think Asamoah, with the chairmanship of the NDC in hand, is clamoring for the return of Tsikata to the party’s fold? Kofi Awoonor already is a member of NDC’s National Executive Council.

In sum, the deep divisions within the NDC core activists, characterized by differences in motives and interests with ethnic undertones and regional-based resource distribution envy, it is difficult to pretend that the NDC has a longevity of existence or even a chance to unseat the NPP, without any form of extra-constitutional intervention.

As I have suggested elsewhere, “Until the NDC matures into a formidable third stream with its own content of political thinking, the Danquah-Busia and Nkrumah paths are likely to dominate the Ghanaian society into the unforeseeable future. Simply put, the NDC remains an aberration, for the present.”

What is sad and represents the dark side of the NDC is how quickly those who had claimed to be CPPists and Nkrumahists in their former lives, abandoned the political principles of Nkrumah based on utilization of the power of the state for universal distribution of social resources in the interest of nation building. It is no wonder that a lot of progressive political activists of the CPP mold abandoned Kojo Tsikata, Kofi Awoonor, e.t.c, in a mass exodus from the PNDC.


Views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.