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Opinions of Saturday, 21 January 2006

Columnist: Akosah, Kwabena Sarpong

The Congresses & The Role of the Johns

I?ve been mulling over the recent congresses of the NPP and the NDC. I?ve been tossing a handful of incidents and issues in my mind.

The partisan involvement of President John Kufuor and ex-President Jerry John Rawlings; the thuggish acts at Koforidua (what Dr Kwabena Adjei in his press confab casually referred to as ???.a few unfortunate isolated and irresponsible acts of waywardness and skirmishes?); and of course resignation of Frances Essiam, Kwaku Baah, Obed Asamoah, etc, from the NDC.

I started this piece before the new NDC honcho, Dr Kwabena Adjei, press statement. But I must say the statement came at a good time.

Dr Adjei made nameless allegations, murder included, against NPP. And most damning of all, he bewailed that police and most of us in the media (Chronicle is honorable exception) are watching unconcerned.

Are the allegations credible IGP Kwasi Acheampong? Or they are just a blabber of a disgruntled politician? We need to know, and soon.

Dr Adjei?s statement was also layered with promises about plans to give NDC a fresh public face. I would be thrilled to see this long-overdue reform take off because the public face of NDC, today, is, sadly, one of violence and belligerency.

I had personally been a victim of the party?s corrosive tactic. It was at a similar NDC congress; the venue was KNUST in Kumasi; and the year was 1994.

I was arrested by agents of the then governing NDC at the entrance of KNUST Great Hall (although I had invitation from the party?s press secretary Vincent Assiseh to cover the congress). I was unfeelingly manhandled and handed over to police who dumped me at KNUST police station.

May the Lord Almighty bless the soul! of the late great editorialist, T.H. Ewusi-Brookman; it was Mr Ewusi-Brookman, Pioneer editor and Chairman of the Ashanti Region branch of Ghana Journalists Association, at the time, who came to my rescue (bailed me) late in the day.

I need also to make an intercessory prayer for my cellmates. In my nine hours stayed with them, they prayed and cheered me up. One of them, an old man of about 70 years, who was being held on suspicion of murder, kept telling me ?you?re decent; you don?t belong to this place; you won?t sleep here, my son.?

And thank God, I won my freedom that very day. Wherever the inmates find themselves, God should grant them His mercies.

And do you know something? KNUST police dubiously charged me for assaulting an ?intelligence officer?; but they swiftly dropped the case as soon as they realized that the late Obeng Manu, the indefatigable human rights lawyer and KNUST lecturer, was my defense attorney. May the Lord also bless Mr Obeng Manu.

Do you know my sin? Reporter for the Statesman! What does Dr Adjei say about my trouble? Was it another unfortunate isolated and irresponsible act of waywardness and skirmishes?

Doc., I think my ordeal and the happenings at Koforidua portray a character, quirky character of your dear party that needs to be addressed. I had thought the once redoubtable NDC after two electoral defeats, 2000 and 2004, and somewhat the travails and toils of opposition party life in Ghana, may have forced NDC to re-package itself and re-present itself as a benign political organization.

But Koforidua has clearly shown that the party is not even at peace with its own self; physical attacks on Ms Essiam , and the story of Obed, who was stuck in his seat for a whole day, cowed by goons, (some I suspect had been recruited by Obed himself during the ?good old days?) braying for his blood show that there is something seriously wrong with NDC..

Dr Adjei said NPP Accra congress wasn?t incident-free. Fine! But so far we haven?t heard any ?Frances Essiam? from Accra. That?s the contrast, the contrast between Koforidua and Accra.

In fact, I have very little sympathy for Ms Essiam and Obed because they helped to make NDC a sacred monster. Or is it a case of (Dr Victor?s) Frankenstein monster unfolding?

Whatever it is, I?m very glad that the party hasn?t shed its violent self yet. And it?s dishing out a dollop of violence to some of own its members.

I?m tempted to think that Obed and Kwaku Baah?s departure from NDC may be a case of sour grapes. Their reasons for resignation are unpersuasive. So until Koforidua Obed and Kwaku Baah did not know the problems within the NDC?

I thought Captain Kojo Tsikata?s teasing metaphor ?cheese and chalk? which sought to elevate Obed over Dr Adjei was going to help Obed at Koforidua. But the way things turned out (overwhelming victory for Dr Adjei) the statement may have ticked off the delegates who then decided to disdain their ex-boss.

Captain Tsiakta may be a bundle of metaphors. I recall his ?I?m not ready for my wooden pyjamas? when there were rumors sometime in the ?90 that he was hopelessly ill.

We now know the stance of the eldest of the Tsikatas and the Ahwois in the high-pitched bloc battles within the NDC. Kojo is pro-Obed. And Ato is anti-Obed.

Where do Tsatsu and Kwamina stand? I?m much more interested in that of Kwamina, yes! I mean Mr Kwamina Ahwoi, the man who infamously introduced ?shitocracy? into our political lexicon.

Is the GIMPA lecturer still in his boisterous, strident self? I doubt. Lately, I find Kwamina?s tone somehow conciliatory.

I?m sure Ms Essiam, Obed and Kwaku Baah may have learned from their experiences at Koforidua that hero-worshipping doesn?t pay.

We?re told that while President Kufuor?s camp (or so-called Castle candidates) lost heavily in Accra ex-President Rawlings camp had a field day at Koforidua. If this indeed is the story then the congresses have unearthed very interesting lessons.

The main moral from Koforidua is that NDC can hardly wean itself from its founder, Mr Rawlings. In point of fact, Koforidua strengthens a perception that there?s an everlasting desire on the part of Mr Rawlings not only to sit on NDC, but Ghana.

It?s a perception that may haunt Dr Adjei, and the party?s 2008 flag-bearer. The NDC may be doubly haunted if their presidential pick is going to be Prof. Attah Mills or my sister, Naa Konadu (Mrs Rawlings).

And what?s key the lesson from Accra? NPP showed that it is a very assertive and independent-minded party; a party no one, not even the sitting President of the country, can impose his will on. This, for me, was the kind of image the party of Danquah and Busia established for itself last December.

But all said and done, Accra and Koforidua aren?t a good basis to prognosticate on how the 2008 polls would go. I would like to think that the outcome of that election might largely be determined by how President Kufuor would use the remainder of his tenure. God (Allah) bless Ghana!

Postscript: May I also ask God blessings for the late human rights lawyer and KNUST lecturer, Obeng Manu, who volunteered to defend me pro bono KNUST police dubiously charged

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