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Opinions of Friday, 13 February 2009

Columnist: Agbleh

Sacking Poku Lost NPP Power

SACKING FRANCIS POKU LOST NPP POWER
Col (rtd) Agbleh
The one-vote presidential aspirant and Communications Director of the 2008 New Patriotic Party campaign, Dr. Arthur Kennedy said what millions have been thinking but the press were waiting for it to be said, when he said some decisions taken by the then President Kufuor caused the NPP the 2008 elections.
Dr Kennedy got so much internal flak that he later on said on radio, “I did not condemn Kufuor, all I said was he is a good man, but he should not have built the Golden Jubilee House in an election year”.
He still went ahead to explain how, in his view, Kufuor lost the NPP the race, “Some people in the rural areas lack basic social amenities but we went ahead to use all that money to build a presidential palace - this is not the first time I am talking about this issue, I spoke against it in the year 2007 as well.”
I think Arthur Kennedy is wrong to think that the NPP lost the elections because Ghanaians who would have voted for the NPP were not happy with the purchase of a presidential jet and the building of a palace which President Kufuor was not to benefit from directly. Is that to say that Ghanaians preferred Prof Mills enjoying the two procurements because they contracts had already been signed, sealed and in delivery?
I agree with Arthur Kennedy that certain decisions taken by President J A Kufuor hurt the NPP, the same way certain decisions by Nana Akufo-Addo, such as not smiling enough, long convoys and necessarily finding accommodation for people who competed against him also led to square pegs in rectangular holes.
Simply put, Nana Akufo-Addo ran his campaign as if it was a coronation.. He campaign as if the Presidency was a formality of entitlement. The long convoys, speeding across villages, throwing dust to villagers on each side of untarred roads, showed opulence to the nastiest degree. Nana Akufo-Addo had very little time to sell himself to the Ghanaian voter. His adverts always showed him angry.
Never once was he seen with his beautiful wife and beautiful daughters, he devalued the essence of family values to the Ghanaian electorate. Yet, in his case it was even more necessary since there was a lot of talk about his sexual liberalism, a chronic problem Ghanaians believe he has for long shared with Messrs John Kufuor and John Mahama. There was also some number of Ghanaians who in fact bought into the false propaganda that Nana Akufo-Addo was a cocaine addict. This was because Nana refused to deal frontally with it and he probably refused ecause he felt he would win in any event. Perhaps, a mere 60,000 voters were not willing to entrust their country into the hands of an alleged junkie.
But, while all these and more may be cited, I am of the view that even had the NPP not done any of the above wrongs and won, the NDC would still have been in power. Why? Simple. The Commander-in-Chief had lost the command and control of the security forces. Less than 25% of the armed forces could the government count on. The majority of the BNI and the Police Service personnel had all been lost to the clarion call for change.
Indeed, intelligence information at the time was that a section of the armed forces was ready to strike if Nana Akufo-Addo was declared winner by the Electoral Commissioner. Indeed, a victory for the NPP would have been a lost for the nation. So how did it all get so bad?
The genesis of it is this: NPP lost the elections when President Kufuor chose to support Alan Kyerematen against the party's favourite, Nana. Kufuor's boys went ahead to threaten, sack, bully and buy people who were not prepared to support Alan. This led to the one major counter-productive decision that led to Messrs JJ Rawlings, Totobi Quakyi, Poturphy and Kojo Tsikata figuratively popping the proverbial champagne: the sacking of Francis Poku as National Security Coordinator was to me the turning point.
And Mr Poku was fired because he defied the President on Alan. He was not prepared to use the system to turn the presidential primaries the way of Alan. He refused to approve special operations budget for the Alan campaign. But, Francis had read the ground and knew that to force the flagbearership race for Alan is to force the parry into opposition. It would have split the party and given enough ammunition to the NDC, from PSI to MASLOC.
He had become "too powerful"! Once Alan conceded defeat to Nana, the writing was on the wall for Francis Poku, who was not liked by the IGP, the BNI boss, the Interior Minister, Defence Minister and Dr Amoo, because they all felt he was too powerful. Unfortunately, the President, suffering from an acute case of inferiority complex even felt that having an all-powerful National Security capo was an affront to his own constitutional powers! So Francis had to go and in the most embarrassing manner that even made the security rank and file very unhappy.
Mr Poku's sacking left a great vacuum. The government simply lost control of the security system. It was most telling that Kweku Baako was apparently hospitalised on the very day that Mr Poku was fired. Mr Kweku Baako’s anger with his friend, Kufuor, should have been seen as a telling warning of what had been lost to the country.
Mr Poku had a cunning way of getting information from the NDC side. He had spies everywhere. His sacking actually endangered the lives of his moles. Mr Poku had a way of keeping the security rank and file happy. Mr Poku had a way of pre-empting the NDC. He would have found an antidote for the so-called Volta Virus.
NPP lost the election because NPP lost control of the nation's security and the security of the elections. This was where Kufuor did the greatest damage to the party.
But, I believe God also must be given some credit once that fateful decision of sacking Mr Poku had been committed. A victory for NPP would have been ashes for Ghana. Now Ghanaians have the opportunity to better assess the performance of NPP and NDC.
2012 would be a crucial election. The oil money would not have been matured enough to help the NDC undo the difficulties that their first 3 years would see Ghanaians endure. The popularity of Nana Akufo-Addo would still be a useful asset if the party decides to stick with him. But that would call for patching up major differences and mistrust between Kufuor and Nana.
Alan knows without the Kufuor factor he might as well forget it. In fact, he is not even a member of the NPP as things stand now. He resigned from the party voluntarily and even if he rejoined he needs to be a member for 5 years in order to be eligible for leading the party. An Alan challenge would fail but would cause serious friction within the NPP. Is this worth it? NPP must show a better responsible leadership in opposition than it did in office.
Also, who ever wins the NPP flagbearership race must quickly get Francis Poku back in Ghana to take charge of the party’s campaign security strategy. The catch is to keep him away from the reach of Messrs Rawlings and Tsikata – their old nemesis!
The author is a retired army officer, currently advising the UN on international peace-keeping activities.