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Opinions of Monday, 21 February 2005

Columnist: Alhassan, Amin Dr.

Open Letter to the CPP Leadership

Dear Party Leaders:

It is with serious concern about the direction or lack of one for the party that we write this open letter. While we do not in anyway profess to have all the ideas that would at once restore the party to its once dominant role in Ghana?s politics, we have observed certain disturbing tendencies and actions that are doing the party no good.

In a recent media interview, the General Secretary of the Party, Prof. Nii Noi Dowuona is reported to have made overtures to all Nkrumaist to identify with on going efforts to revive the party. His appeal comes at a time that the CPP leadership is said to have tasked its Research Committee to find ways and means of revamping the party?s fortunes following its disappointing performance in the last general elections.

The current stature of the CPP in Ghanaian politics is a rather sad commentary on the legacy of Ghana?s political colossus, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The irritating irony of the attempt to appropriate Osagyefo?s legacy is that whereas Nkrumah was a great political strategist whose success was due to his political foresight, the current leadership of the CPP is fast becoming notorious for its political hindsight. And until the current crop of leadership cut out the political deadwood in the party and inject in its ranks more youthful and reflexive leadership, the CPP will gradually campaign itself into political oblivion.

For many of us who identify with CPP we cannot, even in a very general sense, identify the target of the party?s message at the last elections. To start with, Nkrumah?s focus was on the grassroots, called the ?veranda boys? in the political phraseology of the time. Kwame was noted for his use of grassroots leadership in mobilizing. He was a man of context, thinking through the needs of the times and inventing new strategies to cope. The current CPP leadership is too elitist and disconnected from the grassroots, with a knack for issuing press statements and press interviews.

For instance why would anyone take the CPP serious after its parliamentarians, elected as opposition, quickly and opportunistically declare their readiness to work alongside the majority in parliament? How would any grassroots CPP actor feel when the few CPP MPs are silent on the case of the murder of local CPP Chairman Issah Mobilla? It is obvious to the public that he died in the hands of the state apparatus. And instead of the state demonstrating impartiality in handling the murder, the Kufour government tries to politicize it. Why will CPP lawmakers loose their power to protest and call for open and fair investigations?

The IGP came out recently to tell Ghanaians that the investigations into the murder of Issah Mobilla were completed. He did not announce any arrest! Police standard procedures require that the murder suspects be made to appear before a court to be granted or denied bail even before the Attorney General advices prosecution. Instead we saw the IGP insulting the intelligence of Ghanaians in a farcical press announcement. The shame is on the CPP as it is on the IGP. The grassroots are watching how the CPP treats their own kind when they get elected. The CPP has a lot to do to put its house in order.

Furthermore at a time that it is no longer politically strategic to identify with communist nomenclature, the CPP still uses ?Central Committee? and ?Research Committee? as names of its key administrative units. These terms add no political value to the party. Ever heard of the political strategy of ?skin-shedding?? You can change the name without changing the substance, please! Drop those names in order to resonate with the youth.

It is important to recognize that a large share of the Ghanaian electorate hardly identify with Nkrumah and what he stood for. Having joined the ranks of the electorate in the last two decades, the ?structures of feelings? of these hot-blooded youth resonates with market economic ideology even if they can hardly fathom out that the currently high levels of unemployment and unacceptable levels of poverty are largely due to Ghana?s religious commitment to the World Bank and IMF?s structural adjustment policies.

We cannot battle against the tsunamic currents of market fundamentalism in the public sphere for now. For strategic reasons, we need to shift our focus to winning the image and not winning the battle for ideas. CPP can do this by championing the rhetoric of economic nationalism within the framework of market economy.

We can win this battle for the image not by being bookish and theoretically inane, but by being pragmatic and learn to package our rhetoric. You do not go to the political platform and tell the crowd how the IMF and World Bank are screwing us up, as some of the CPP candidates did in the last elections. In the popular imaginary, these financial institutions have a high purchase than we can challenge. You can even see the current World Bank Resident Director, Mr. Matts Carlson, is a PR specialist by training and not a financial guru or development economist. The bank knows we have stuck to its dictates since Kwesi Botchwey took us to its doorstep in 1983, yet we are still struggling with poverty. Thus the World Bank?s immediate challenge is not about our development, but about how to keep its image high in the Ghanaian popular imaginary against the backdrop of its abysmal record as Ghana?s ?development partner.?

We have a couple of suggestions for the CPP. Focus on building the party at the grassroots. Let us remember that if Nkrumah had lived today, he would most probably have played politics differently. He did not start a political religion, and we are no followers of a doctrine. The relevance of Nkrumah lies in the Social Democratic politics he introduced in Ghana. Remember the Soviets did not hold him in high esteem (compared to Lumumba) because Nkrumah was a man of context who knew when to dine with the East and feast with the West. It is that reflexivity that we need to emulate and not a blind repeat of political strategies of 1960s for the electorate of the 2000s.

Finally, we would like to caution against the current approach of attending periodic congresses and offering leadership of the party to the highest bidder. In our opinion, leadership in any grassroots political party must be earned and not bought. We believe that if the CPP genuinely embarks on a process of building a truly grassroots party, a true leader respected by all party members and capable of leading the party to higher heights will emerge. As a party, we are at a crossroads. We either reinvent ourselves into Ghana?s political limelight or we risk becoming an electoral joke every four years. We believe that the process of reinvention requires new strategic thinking. Not the type that has supervised our party for the past four elections, but a more grassroots oriented politics of rebirth and rejuvenation.

Signed by

Shaibu Gariba,
Economist, Ontario Ministry of Energy, Toronto, Canada
sagariba@yahoo.ca

and

Dr. Amin Alhassan
Assistant Professor of Communication
York University, Toronto, Canada
Amin.Dada@gmail.com


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