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Opinions of Friday, 27 July 2018

Columnist: Chris-Vincent Agyapong

NPP’s poster boy Free SHS policy is dangerously wobbly - John Dumelo

John Dumelo, Chris-Vincent Agyapong and Michael Ocran John Dumelo, Chris-Vincent Agyapong and Michael Ocran

It was a regular beautiful day in Barking, London—the sun was out and there was no sign of the unpredictable London rains. I had woken up with birds singing into my ears; I spent the night at Waltham Cross’ De Vere Theobalds Estate, surrounded by tall trees and a large green field.

The preceding day was the annual Ghana Party in the Park, the largest afro-Caribbean community event in Europe which got me completely knackered. The law firm I work for, Fortwell Solicitors, had its debut stand at the event and there was a lot of walking around to do as well as a lot to drink. Somewhat, the enervation was beneficial as it made me sleep well. Perhaps, the greens that surrounded the huge Victorian-like estate aided in the good sleep—something I had not, until then had in recent times.

I reached out for my phone from the bedside and read a Whatsapp message from a friend, Michael Ocran, as my eyes struggled to bond with the piercing sunlight that had travelled 150 million kilometres at the speed of light, approximately 8 minutes and 20 seconds to reach the earth.

Ocran was reminding me that his wife was preparing some delicious local dishes and they were expecting to see me that afternoon as planned. After reading Ocran’s message, I saw another, from multiple award-winning Ghanaian actor and emerging young politician John Dumelo—telling me he was in London but as a result of my many broadcast messages, he had missed a message I sent him a few days ago about our scheduled London hangout.

I quickly messaged John back. I told him I was going to be at a friend’s house in Barking, for some drinks and food and therefore if he did not mind, he could come around to join me and we could even watch the 2018 world cup final together.

John immediately started typing back and his message was to ask for the address and to also find out if it would be alright to get to my friend’s place at around 1pm. I answered in the affirmative to the latter and provided the address as requested.

Prior to this meeting, the last time I had sat down with John Dumelo was in Accra in 2017, a day after I got married. And from that meeting, I produced an article on the then trending issue of him having ‘stolen a V8’ out of a conversation we had. He was dissatisfied with my article when it was published and said I had made far-fetched inferences and included certain things which he reasonably expected to have been communicated off-record.

Before that, we had bumped into each other one mid night on Boulevard de la Croisette, at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in France, when I was walking a white female friend to the beach. On seeing me, John passed a silly comment—that if he was spotted at that time of the night with a woman heading to the beach by me, I would have created a scandalous article out of that and yet here I was taking a late-night stroll with a woman who was not my girlfriend. We both laughed and went our ways.

As a celebrity journalist who takes pride in expressing my opinion irrespective of the foreseeable consequence, I fall out with a lot of Ghanaian celebrities and on my occasions have fallen out with John Dumelo but somehow, we always manage to patch up--because of Dumelo’s open-mindedness--perhaps inherent magnanimous’ nature.

Once again, we had risen above our differences and wanted to hangout, freely. There’s never a dull moment when hanging out with John Dumelo—more also, if you have spent over a decade writing about someone and mostly pissing him off with your articles, the conversation never ends, as the accusations and counter-accusations always ignite new and redirect old banters.

A few minutes after I got to Ocran’s place, there was a knock at the door and as expected, it was John Dumelo, in a red polo shirt, beaming with his usual friendly smile—devoid of any celebrity smugness. He sat opposite to me, as if we were about to negotiate a million-dollar contract but the grins he wore on his face indicated he had come in peace, even if I was not still convinced that he held no grudge against me, irrespective of some of my hostile commentaries about him.

It looked as if John Dumelo had rushed out of bed just like I did without breakfast—and soon, we were both munching on the served pieces of spring rolls and washing the debris down with a glass of tropical juice, poured out of a carton that sat at the centre of the table.

As the spring rolls gradually settled in our bellies, the conversation started taking shape, outside the pleasantry quarters. I asked John Dumelo where his newly wedded wife was, and he stated she was due to join him in London in a week time.

“So, you’ve decided to come to the UK early to mess with the London girls before she comes,” I said, ridiculously. With a face that supposed my statement was absurd, John said that was never the case—and that certain engagements had kept the Mrs a little behind in Ghana.

Soon, we were talking about gambling: I had been trying my hand on football betting on a small scale. John, on the other hand, said to be a master in “sports gambling” admitted that his new-found love, perhaps, an addiction is football betting. He said he “bets a lot” but only shoulders little risk.

That day, he had placed a bet that Croatia wouldn’t score more than 2 goals—that’s the sort of bets he stakes, and claims such picks are lucrative—and have made him some good cash over the last few months.

My friend, Ocran, who was not at home when I got to his place and when John also arrived joined us at the table and that kick-started a conversation on the political state of affairs in Ghana. There was a consensus at the table, that the NPP has so far been disappointing and that Nana Akufo Addo and his inner political circle, especially Dr Bawumia, have undisputedly been overwhelmed and slacking on their ecstatic pre-election promises to Ghanaians.

John Dumelo wholeheartedly agreed, but his agreement came with a caveat, obviously politically induced—that the John Mahama administration was far better in comparison to what the Nana Akufo Addo and his NPP have so far served Ghanaians. He mentioned, and we agreed, that the NPP’s poster boy Free SHS policy is dangerously wobbly as they seem not to have any sustainable funding—for the brilliant initiative.

On the promises of the NPP and what has so far been delivered: it was mentioned, inter alia, that 2 years is almost here, and we are yet to see any of the 1 district, 1 factory projects—as well as the many dams that became the political mantra of the incumbent government.

I asked John Dumelo about his entry to mainstream politics and he said he was working on it—and that he is eyeing a certain parliamentary seat, in the Volta Region. John spoke openly and confidently about his political strategy to becoming a Member of Parliament on the ticket of the NDC, unlike a few years ago before the recent elections when he vehemently and repeatedly denied belonging to the NDC or having any robust interest in becoming a politician.

Though John didn’t emphatically state it, his utterances and I am being careful not to make far-fetched deductions, pointed to the fact that he believes former President John Dramani Mahama is the right candidate to lead the NDC—if the party wants to come back to power anytime soon.

At the constituency level, John outlined some of the fundamental obstacles in his way. Of course, funding for his political journey is key but even the mindset of the people he seeks to lead in relation to the methods they use to establish who is the right candidate for their constituency was deeply worrying when he explained it to us.

John Dumelo wouldn’t want me to talk about this in detail and I do not even know how better to present this issue to you without being contemptuous of his constituents—so I will let it go, and that’s better than setting the good people John Dumelo wants to represent against him.

The award-winning actor, during our conversation, was unimpressed with the NPP’s performance so far, especially with what can be best described as Dr Bawumia’s silence and his failure to arrest and imprison the fast racing dollar as promised. John was polite in his criticism and was extremely cautious, not to call Nana Akufo Addo wholly incompetent. He seems to think Akuf Addo is a good statesman, surrounded by greedy, hungry and nefarious politicians.

On the issue of African politicians and corruption, John Dumelo, though intends to rely on the conventional way via which politicians fund their journey and campaigns said he is aggressively pursuing farming, with snail farming being his new addition—so to be able to some extent self-fund his political journey. Of course, hands will be needed in terms of funding, but the emerging politician believes corruption has become ubiquitous in Africa politics because every politician seem to owe someone, mostly a financier, a favour created on the back of a support lent to him. Therefore, John wants to owe a few people favours, such that he wouldn’t have to constantly find dubious means, to the detriment of the people he will represent, to satisfy his political debtors.

Mr Dumelo is determined to make a change as a politician and his parliamentary seat is somewhat guaranteed considering the politics of the Volta Region in relation to the NDC. But he faces a huge internal obstacle, which is, to win the primaries against contenders who perfectly speak Ewe and have strong local connections—despite his unique influences and ‘wider’ connections.

He recognises this hurdle and said: winning the primaries is what is going to be difficult. A lot of people are claiming to have been waiting long before me, and people are listening to such irrationality, instead of focusing on who can do the work or take the constituency to the next stage of development.

Even at the shores of the sea, John Dumelo admitted that he is pushing against a resilient storm. He is almost burden with all the problems of his constituents—which is not alien to any Ghanaian politician. If a constituent’s mother’s die, a call would be placed to you and if a constituent’s child gets admission to university, you are expected to take the cost and make it happen.

He said, seeking political power in Ghana does not come easy or cheap. Suddenly, you become the de facto father of all the constituents. It’s scary, and it should be for any young man without huge financial backing. But John Dumelo is resolute in his political bid. He told me he will be heard and seen soon, making a positive impact within the Ghanaian political landscape.

At around 5pm, John asked to excuse himself—as he wanted to attend Menzgold’s London launch later that evening. That was after we had enjoyed together bowls of ‘fufu, salted beef and pork feet light soup’ which he ate with a spoon. I told him it was pleasant catching up with him, once again. And that if for nothing at all, he has proven that he’s in fact a good gambler because his bet, ‘Croatia not to score more than 2 goals’ against France, came to pass.

So, John Dumelo left a little richer than he came. But I doubt that money can make any difference in his political journey. John stands as capable of being a good politician, but the question is: can he weave himself out of the web of corruption that has become synonymous to politics in Ghana?