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Opinions of Monday, 29 November 2004

Columnist: Amankwah, Nana Kofi

Sankofa ? The Tragedy At Makola

ON December 7th Professor John Atta Mills and his National Democratic Congress (NDC) party will know whether the Sankofa dream becomes a reality or a day dream. On that day Ghanaians will elect their President and Parliamentary candidates for the next four years. All political parties have goals. But there is a difference between merely having a goal and winning the peoples vote of confidence to lead them to the Promised Land. It is a daunting challenge that requires a bold commitment and a political slogan that is clear and compelling and serves as a unifying focal point of effort. Like Dr. Kwame Nkrumah?s Convention Peoples Party (CPP) ?Forward Ever, Backwards Never?? a slogan that engages people ? reaches out and grabs the electorate in the gut. It is tangible, energizing, highly focused.

Take, for example, the 2000 election when the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was fighting the (NDC) from behind. David versus Goliath. Ghanaians were thirsty for a change and Kufour?s NPP grabbed the chance and coined the slogan ?Positive Change?. People got it right away. It created immense team spirit and solidarity with the electorate.

Professor John Atta Mills (himself a die-hard CPP) and his NDC have adopted ?SANKOFA? as their campaign slogan. Think about it. Does Sankofa stimulate forward progress? Does it create momentum? Does it get people going? Does it get people?s juices flowing? Do you find it stimulating, exciting, adventurous? Are you willing to throw your creative talent and human energy into it? Sankofa has no compelling clarity of direction. Sankofa, however, does fit with the core ideology of (P)NDC. To understand this ideology, please read the following story about the tragedy at Makola.

Ghana?s economy has been going through a bad time and a recent collapse in economic confidence led to a military coup. The military had good intentions but remained economically illiterate. Faced with serious food shortages and rapidly rising prices they chose the age-old method of intervention.

This never works. They sought popularity by blaming the shortages on black-market stock-piling; they took stern measures against smuggling; they instituted price controls and finally they turned the mob on the market traders at Makola (Accra). The mob destroyed the market by fire, violently dispersed the market ?mammies?, and still went home hungry.

By intimidating the only people who could be mobilized to get food into Ghana, the government perpetuated the shortages. If it had told the market mammies that they could keep all their profits from trade, if they had repealed all laws against smuggling, and if they had abandoned price controls ? in others words the exact opposite, of what they did ? they would now be ruling a fitter, fatter and well fed Ghana.

Why? Because it is a law of human nature that if you make it worth somebody?s while to put themselves out they will always do so, and if by doing so they bring in food to a starving country they will do more good for the people than any other grouping.

It will be unwise to write off Professor John Atta Mills and NDC?s in the December 7 election. However, above story clearly shows that the Sankofa slogan is a misplaced project. It sends mix messages to the electorate and brings back painful memories such as the Tragedy at Makola.


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