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Opinions of Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Columnist: Manasseh Azure Awuni

The NDC and the Imaginary Foot Soldiers

On Sunday November 29 this year, I decided to visit the internet Café I used to patronize when I lived in Mamprobi. This was after I had received a rare service from the Ghana Commercial Bank’s problematic ATM at Korle Bu. If you owe someone and you have an account with this bank, which you intend to withdraw and pay, then don’t promise to pay in a day. Their networks may remain dead for days and the bloody ATMs will not be prepared to vomit a Pesewa even if you have all of Ghana’s money in that account. But those of us who have our roots in communities where GCB stands for bank as Pepsodent represents toothpaste; we save with GCB not because we want to but because we have to.

At IBE Junction near Akoshie bus stop, I heard someone shout, “Kukruuduu!” I turned and realized that some people were meeting in front of an old drinking spot. I drifted near the meeting place and with the help of a wooden board, I was told it was an “NPP Meeting”. Those invited were “supporters and sympathizers.” I pretended to be absorbed in what was written on the board, and that was when the first speaker was about to speak. The time was 6:50 PM but the time on the wretched invitation board said the meeting was scheduled for 4:30PM. They were twelve in number, 7 women and five men.

Prior to the 2008 elections, that venue would have been too small for the meeting and a good number of party faithfuls had to stand through such meetings. There would never have been enough seats to accommodate the die-hard supporter (not sympathizers). But today, where were they? Should the elephant emerge from the bush and head for the Golden Jubilee House, wouldn’t we find thousands of youth and old men and women alike fighting to be identified as foot soldiers of the party in that constituency?

That is what threatening the split of the NDC. It was Dr. Ekow Spio Garbrah who started the current wave of controversy. He didn’t boom like Former President Rawlings, the party’s founder who had started his criticism days after the handing over. His article sparked controversy and attracted a barrage of criticisms from party cadres who saw Mills’ former rival for the presidential slot in the party’s last primaries, as too treacherous to be honest. When the dust over Spio’s comments was beginning to settle, Majority Leader Alban Bagbin jumped into the” Enko yie” chorus. He was (or rather is) enraged by happenings in the party he and others had sacrificed to sustain in the eight years of being in the wilderness of opposition. Then as if in a calculated attempt to tell the old professor that there is a difference between what is honestly right and what is politically right, NDC MPs or top party gurus now take turns makes the headlines in the media by calling on the President to deliver.

This development has given the only credible pollster in Ghana a field’s day. He seemed to have been very quiet after his prediction that Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo would win the December 28 run-off by 50.8 went over the bar. He says the NDC can lose in 2012 due to the cracks. In fact, after the NPP’s defeat, one does not need to be a soothsayer to say that the NDC CAN lose. But is the NDC’s situation that bad? And how different is if from that of the NPP?

Both political parties are tarred with the same brush. They do not learn. They hate criticism, especially when it is coming from within. The NPP lost because they had too many praise singers who made us believe that Ghana was a paradise. They realized only too late that the Emperor was naked. Dr. Arthur Kennedy, the party’s Communications Director in the last election has just published a book about the party’s complacency that forced them to cede power to their sworn political enemies. A good number of NPP activists have called on the “political charlatan” to withdraw the book from circulation. The title, according to them, is a potent weapon in the hands of the NDC. What about the content? Doesn’t it provide enough lessons for all politicians at both the national and constituency levels?

Both the NDC and the NPP have their own internal wrangling and it is just too early to say how that will affect their fortunes in 2012. The actual rivalry between Nana Akufo-Addo and Alan Kyeremanteng is yet to be seen. In my candid opinion of the two, Akufo-Addo is the right person to lead the party but Alan Kyeremanteng is the right person to win for the NPP. As to how they will fare in the next election depends on how they are able to resolve their differences after the congress.

There are hints that the Professor does not intend to step down any moment soon. Some say the NDC can win without Rawlings. They needed to be in the hinterlands to know how people voted. There were voters who came to the polling station with one question to ask: “Which one of them is standing for J.J.’s party?”

Very soon when an NPP supporter greets another NPP supporter, “Afehyia pa oo!” the response will be “Afe sese na aka yen two years wo opposition.” December 2012 is like some seconds away. As to whether the NDC will make an unpalatable history of ruling for only one term in the fourth Republic depends on how they will make amends.

Writing in The Spectator of December 5, 2009, the Point of Order columnist Kwame Gyasi asserts,: “Yesterday, unless you were an NDC member, you were denied your rights as a Ghanaian to state jobs and contracts. Today, it depends on which of the two factions of the NDC party you belong.”

In a hasty and sometimes thoughtless bid to satisfy the perceived neglected foot soldiers, some NDC party members are compounding their woes by sounding as though Ghana and its goodies now belong to only these imaginary young men and women called foot soldiers.

I was in Kete-Krachi over the weekend to witness the celebration of the Denteh Akwambo (Nanaba) Festival. When the MP for the Krachi West Constituency, Hon. Francis Yaw Osei-Sarfo, was called to deliver his address at the grand durbar, the very first paragraph of his speech was an assurance to foot soldiers in the constituency that the NDC had not forgotten them. If you know Kete-Krachi and its problems, you’d better understand the gravity of the sin in prioritizing foot soldiers over the myriad of problems that threaten the very survival of the people.

But who are these foot soldiers?

I witnessed the 2008 elections in the Krachi West Constituency. It was all NPP in the Krachi township. The students in the universities, the polytechnics and the teacher training colleges were bused into the constituency in their numbers to help. On December 6, 2008, the youth were falling over one another to become polling agents for the NPP. When I moved to the Understanding Restaurant to get a feel of the NDC’s preparation, the atmosphere was the polar opposite of what was happening at the NPP parliamentary candidate’s residence. Only a handful of young men were seated miserably on the roots of a mango tree near the Kete L.A. Primary School waiting to be dispatched to God-knows where.

The fact of the matter is that it seemed shameful to for a majority of the youth (especially the educated ones) to openly say they belonged to the NDC. The woeful performance of the NDC in Krachi central is enough testimony to this assertion. Most of those young men I saw under the mango tree that evening do not have qualified BECE certificates. (I know them very well). This means that a good number of them do not fit into most modules of the NYEP.

Where have the foot soldiers sprouted from all of a sudden? Where were they when it was practically impossible to get polling agents for the party? Should they be given special consideration over more qualified personnel who can fit well into vacant positions?

The NPP set very risky traps, which the NDC must be very careful. When caterers for the school feeding programme were being replaced, what we heard was, “They are sacking NPP people and replacing them with NDC people.” Is it then true that those jobs in the past were given to only party members? Employees of the NYEP were serious campaigners for the ruling NPP in the last election. If we assume that they were party boys and girls called foot soldiers, for how long must we allow this trend to continue?

What definition do we give to foot soldiers and what aspect of our national constitution stipulates that priority be given to such opportunists as top government officials and MPs miss no opportunity to remind Ghanaians? The NDC must be careful, we don’t run the funeral of a man who died by stumbling over a stone. And our elders say it only a fool to who a proverb must be explained.

Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni [azureachebe2@yahoo.com] The Writer is the SRC President of the Ghana Institute of Journalism. You can read more of his works on www.maxighana.com