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Opinions of Saturday, 21 July 2012

Columnist: Tawiah-Benjamin, Kwesi

Sorry Mr Fui Kwadzovia, I Vote For Monty Brewster

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So what made ‘Brewster’s Millions’ tick? A young man is tasked to spend, or perhaps misspend $30 million in 30 days, to inherit a $300 million fortune willed to him by his great-uncle he never met. To help him dispense the cash quickly, he forms a political party which campaigns against itself and everybody else, urging the electorate to elect ‘None of the Above’ as Mayor of New York. He fulfils the conditions at the very last second to earn the millions he never worked for. Turns out the electorate did actually vote for the ‘None of the Above’ party, forcing a re-election for a new mayor.

This Walter Hill-directed comic masterpiece is good enough for a movie. And perhaps the producers needn’t worry about illegal replication of the movie, either in full or in part, because it is unlikely any electorate in even the funniest democracy on the globe will ever vote for the likes of Brewster for any serious political office. However, many a disillusioned electorate in many of our modern democracies would wish we had Brewster standing for office when it becomes too difficult to make sense out of anything anybody is saying. When none of the options provides a satisfactory answer in a multiple choice situation, the right answer is ‘None of the Above’.

So when Mr Mawuli Fui Kwadzovia, a bookish and enthusiastic follower of Ghanaian politics wrote to seek my opinion on the chances of the NPP and the NDC in our December elections, I felt a somewhat natural pulse of urgency to invoke George Barr McCutcheon’s 1902 novel that inspired the Brewster film. Mr Kwadzovia, none of the above stands a chance.

If objectivity means anything in journalism, then I am happy to deny myself the natural right to opinion and informed commentary on the electoral chances of any of our political parties. Understandably, the stakes are high. The terrain looks so topsy-turvy. Time is the biggest winner here, because she holds the outcome of the whole process in her womb. Even then, people fear that heated events may force time to miscarry or abort the baby just to prevent a natural birth. Those who believe in prayer are slugging it out with the spirits, binding and loosening to pave way for a successful 2012 elections, while politicians continue to muddy the waters with careless talk.

Thankfully, none of our political leaders has Brewster’s calamity. The actor who played the Monty Brewster character in the movie, celebrated comedian and satirist Richard Pryor, had a life that was perhaps more complicated than the role he plays in the film. Born to a prostitute mother, he grew up in a brothel manned by his grandmother. He was expelled from school at age 14, joined the military where he was incarcerated for stabbing a white soldier. He married seven times to five women, most of the marriages lasting about a year. Many of the gentlemen who have put themselves forward for the highest office of the land are decent men, at least by our standards. The NDC’s Prof Atta-Mills is respected in academic circles, especially in Canada, as a scholar with some pretty good ideas. Those close to him testify of a very good and humane person who is unashamed to pour rose water on a toad. He has avoided any scandals to his person, but in the midst of judgement debt scandals and ineptitude here and there, how scandal free is the president? His health may not be an issue, but is his government healthy?

So far, what has been the electoral message of the NPP? Two separate monologues do not necessarily make a dialogue. The electorate need to understand their conversation on why they are a viable alterative. They had a message before Woyome and CP and Ablakwa. Nana Addo would not explain his free education policy to Steven Sackur on Hard Talk, because he claimed he owes only the people of Ghana that explanation, but do Ghanaians believe his alternative to education funding? True, distributing free laptops to village schools where ICT translates as Information Computer Teaching is no cure for computer illiteracy. That may be what the NDC is doing, but how will the NPP do it? We need to know.

The problem with the CPP is not the lack of energy or dynamism or appeal. Like the NPP, they have the men, well some women too, but they are like a good danceable song whose lyrics never register on the hearts of the dancers. Abu Sakara Foster is good. Well, he is better than Bright Akwetey. If the connoisseurs are right that a political organism would travel through five stages of development before they reach the acceptance level, then Sakara is only at the bargaining stage. Like the PNC’s Hassan Ayariga, he carries the collective Golgotha of a tradition that shares the fate of a stepchild in a home of freethinkers. They do not need reason to think you out.

The PPP is Papa Kwesi Nduom traveling in hope and never minding much when he arrives at his destination. He may not lose his way, because he carries a map but he is never Robert Frost. In Nduom’s case, the Road Not Taken will not make a difference. The NDP is good to know. They are not in to do a Brewster. They don’t have $300 Million. If they ever did, they blew it like Monty did. How funny is that: ‘None of the Above’ wins again.
Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin is a journalist. He lives in Ottawa, Canada.

Like former premier Tony Blair of Great Britain, I belong in the Third Way, that fine junction between

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