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Opinions of Monday, 8 January 2018

Columnist: Yaw Osei-Amoako

President Akufo-Addo; The advocate of the marginalized in NPP

President Nana Akufo-Addo President Nana Akufo-Addo

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill -1874-1965 (Former Prime Minister of UK)

As a lawyer par excellence and one of international repute, Nana Akufo-Addo was called to the English Bar (Middle Temple) in July 1971 and to the Ghana bar in July 1975. He also practised in France for five years as a lawyer at the now-defunct New York-based international law firm, Coudert Frères.

In 1975, he returned to Accra to continue his legal career and with U. V. Campbell Chambers from 1975 to 1979, and in 1979, he co-founded the law firm Akufo-Addo, Prempeh & Co., which has become one of the most sought after law firms in Ghana. Some Ghanaian lawyers who enjoyed tutelage at his law firm are among the most outstanding lawyers at the Ghanaian bar and bench today. He is on record to have been the most quoted in law reports of Ghana.

Nana Akufo-Addo used his law practice to champion the cause of human rights, rule of law, justice, freedom, and democracy. He was well known for giving free legal assistance to the poor and fought for the rights and liberties of the Ghanaian people.

Indeed, many of the important constitutional cases of the modern era, which, inter alia, protected the independence of the judiciary, the right of the citizen to demonstrate without police permit, and the right of equal access of all political parties to the State-owned media, were undertaken by him.

As the General Secretary of the People’s Movement for Freedom and Justice (PMFJ), he was instrumental in leading the "NO" campaign in the UNIGOV referendum of 1978 which was to solicit support against the establishment of a one-party military government in Ghana under General Acheampong.

Having served as the Chairman of the Organising Committee of the Danquah-Busia Memorial Club, he travelled throughout the country in 1991 to establish branches of the Club. These branches eventually metamorphosed into local organs of the NPP prior to the 1992 General Election. In 1992, he was elected the first National Organiser of the party and later became the campaign manager of the party's first presidential candidate, Prof Albert Adu Boahen of blessed memory.

In 1995, Nana Akufo-Addo led the Kume Preko demonstrations of the Alliance for Change (AFC), a broad-based political pressure group, to protest the harsh economic conditions of the Rawlings’ rule. He was elected three times from 1996 - 2008 as the Member of Parliament for Abuakwa South in the Eastern Region.

He served Ghana from 2001 to 2007 as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, and later as a Foreign Minister under President Kufuor with brilliance and distinction.

As Attorney General, Nana Akufo-Addo worked tirelessly for the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, a law that had hitherto been used to intimidate the media and criminalize free speech and its repeal has enabled the Ghanaian media to become one of the most vibrant on the African continent.

Nana Akufo-Addo has sacrificed his life on countless occasions to defend Ghanaians through activism and legal practice. This is the persona Ghana now has as a president and the NPP has as a leader.

It is instructive to note that Nana Akufo-Addo has championed the cause of the downtrodden from his days at Betty House at Korle Wokon in Accra to the Flagstaff/Jubilee House and even as president, he continues to fight for the marginalized in the party he and others struggled against all odds to establish.

The fact that he will not go to the party people again for their mandate to lead them into Election 2020 as a sitting president cannot dissuade him from defending the rights of the underprivileged, deprived and marginalized party faithful to the chagrin of the powerful, strong and influential in the party.

Those who doubted his love for his party and his commitment to see it grow to the likes of the Conservative and Liberal Parties of Britain and the Republican and Democratic Parties in the US, respectively, in the past, should start revising their notes. Such individuals should be reminded that even if they hate the duiker, they must not fail to admit its swiftness.

A lot was said against this exceptional individual during his days before he assumed the highest office of the land by his fiercest and bitterest political adversaries both within and outside his own party and he gets vindicated one day after the other post January 7, 2017.

His novel idea to spend part of every Monday with the party faithful at the national headquarters, whenever he is not on national assignment outside the country is highly commendable. This is to enable him get first hand and not skewed and adulterated information on party issues so as to be abreast with the happenings on the ground.

This is the first in our short but impressive history in government in the fourth republic and it is an enviable feat he has chalked for himself.

His show of leadership at the Cape Coast and its subsequent Kumasi Delegates’ Conferences prompted this write up. As a rare-breed politician, his interventions at such conferences where he openly and publicly disagreed and forcefully expressed his disagreement with senior party officers on the future of the party were nothing but remarkable and indelible. Such were superb demonstrations of courage and the will to defend the weak and marginalized in his party.

At the Cape Coast Conference, when the Acting General Secretary in his report used the word “better” to describe the yet to be elected polling station executives to form the leadership of the party at the grassroots as against those who worked hard to bring the party to power, Nana Akufo-Addo could not hide his disdain.

Those who watched the conference on television could see a sudden change in his countenance! An ordinary leader would have glossed over this “slip of tongue” but not the man who has fought for the ordinary man over four decades.

He could not sit aloof for the thousands of polling station executives who worked hard day and night and at times in extreme difficult and dangerous situations to get him elected as president, to be denigrated.

He consequently asked for the word to be expunged from the report when the chairman of conference asked for the adoption of the report. I have followed political conferences of many political parties, big and small, in government and in opposition, around the world but that was the first time a party leader did something like that. I doff my hat off for you, Mr. President.

In Kumasi on December 17, 2017 Nana Akufo-Addo did three of such things in spectacular fashion.

First, when the contentious amendment proposal sponsored by the party’s Parliamentary Group to bar dual citizenship holders from contesting for any position in the party, a move to marginalize a group that has been of extreme assistance to the party throughout its days in political wilderness to the time the party formed the fourth and fifth governments in the fourth republic.

He observed without mincing words: “The motion to amend the constitution of the party which will make it impossible for dual citizens to hold party office and contest for elections will lead to the collapse of our overseas branches will be withdrawn.” He added emphatically that “I am against it.”

Second, Nana Akufo-Addo shot down another amendment proposal also in the name of the party’s Parliamentary Group and endorsed by the Constitutional Review Committee to allow MPs or Parliamentary Candidates to appoint all constituency executives.

This issue is completely alien to the party and would have legitimately given power to a selected few to manipulate the party’s leadership and power play at the constituency level and no wonder; he vehemently expressed his distaste for the proposed amendment and opined: “I strongly oppose to this amendment” and unequivocally added “It’s a disaster.”

Third, he concluded his opposition to some amendment proposals by also speaking against another one that stood in the name of a US Group which sought to make the presidential candidate the leader of the party.

President Akufo-Addo not only opposed this amendment proposal, he taught the gathering history lessons about the party and ended with what some considered a threat and which to some of us was a positive way of inciting people against potentially-destructive proposals: “It is against the tradition of our party and will be withdrawn, and if it comes up I will ask Congress to oppose and reject it,” he said.

For this show of unflinching spirit and exceptional courage to defend the weak and marginalized in the party, I wish to strongly appeal to all those who were to be pushed away through the failed amendments, the dual citizenship holders, current polling station executives and constituency executives and all those who feel marginalized in the party to rally solidly behind Nana Akufo-Addo in whatever way they can to assist him achieve his goals as the President of the Republic of Ghana.

The diasporians should continue with their efforts at different levels to help policies like One District One Factory (1D1F), the drive for the much-needed Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into the country and voluntary contributions for the sustenance of the Free SHS, inter alia, to be successful.

The current polling station and constituency executives should help to explain his policies to the people and galvanize support for his year-old government.

We should also pray to God to grant him long life, good health, wisdom, fortitude and the will to continue the fight for the marginalized else the party will suffer because for those of us who are very passionate about this party, he remains our hope for the future of NPP.