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Opinions of Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Columnist: Enimil Ashon

What the NPP may learn to their surprise

In September this year, I wrote that “Unless Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has the guaranteed say-so of God Himself about victory in 2016, he should do well to look around him. If Nana loses 2016, he would have lost it, not to the NDC, but to his Number One Enemy: unguarded language by NPP supporters, high and low.

“…Who, in that party, is beyond insult? In the NPP are men who ‘say it as it is and let the chips fall where they may!’ In the NPP, people ‘get it off (their) chest’ because nsem foo ye ehi and ‘if you keep mute at the barbering shop, you receive an unwanted haircut’. That is what can cost Nana Addo the floating votes.”

I have quoted myself extensively because I think the NPP is making me a prophet. Today, I address the party again because of this week’s Ablekuma South incident and the needless focus on the Daily Graphic for carrying the news on its front page. Suddenly, “Graphic is becoming more and more anti-NPP!”

My advice: When you constantly accuse a fair-minded person of bias, he/she will, with time, shift to act bias and antagonistic.

No man can absolutely swear on any human being. Throughout history, people have shocked the world by their sudden shift in positions. I can, however, almost swear that the Editor of the Daily Graphic is not in bed with the government or any political party. Like all human beings, he may, at one time or the other, respond to certain stimuli in ways that can surprise me; but, does the sighting of one swallow necessarily announce a summer?

Those who know the workings within the editorial department of Daily Graphic will testify that the paper’s desk (or Page) editors, with whom the editor takes decisions regarding what to publish or not, are no infants at all. These are tough-minded ladies and gentlemen who bear the scars of rough journalistic battles. I have known editors who have brushed aside all restraining voices by their page editors, insisting that since it is their names that appear in the imprints, opposition can go hang. Not Ransford Tetteh; at least, not against the tough professional gang that constitutes the Graphic Editorial Conference.

But given that I could be wrong, my advice to the NPP communicators is that even if Daily Graphic is showing signs of bias, the path of the political communicator in an election year is the path of tact and diplomacy. As our grandmothers will advise, “there are ways of putting a case across that will compel the white man to take off his hat.” In life, these are, as reggae singer Jimmy Cliff once said, “Simple truth everybody knows”.

NPP communicators may need to go back to the drawing board. Among themselves, I am sure, they have more than a dozen social psychologists. I recommend a lecture on ‘Attitude Change’.

Here is a case study in Ghana. Over a period of time, while everybody was looking the other way, the NDC has managed to cause a change of attitude towards it. How did it do it? Simply by de-emphasising the role of J.J. Rawlings in the party. He is the man against whom all anti-P(NDC) sentiments had been directed between 1982 and 1992 and from then on till around the time of Atta Mills. Actually, the NDC owes more to Atta Mills than they have given him. As the late President absorbed the furious and humiliating verbal blows of Rawlings, (e.g.“Atta Mortuary Man”), it was Atta Mills’ strong will, camouflaged in a lamb’s cry, that turned public opinion within NDC against the party’s founder.

Whether the NDC consciously and deliberately allowed those sentiments to run, I cannot swear. Suffice it to say that the effect of the social psychologist’s theory of Cognitive Dissonance set in and caused a shift in attitude. People who up to 2008 would not even look at NDC now do not see anything wrong with shaking hands with them. Why? Because they no longer see the NDC as the property of the Rawlingses - even in the Ashanti and Eastern regions.

If I were Nana Addo, I would treat Asiedu Nketsia’s prediction of one million NDC votes in Ashanti as the equivalent of the blind man who has threatened to hurl a stone at his enemy. The thing to do is to find out what is underneath his foot.

Everybody, including Yours Truly, is praying that the problems in NPP would soon be over. When it does and the party finally sits down, the communicators will realise that they need a new set of questions to replace the tired old set that starts by asking, ”What has the Mahama government done with all the loans they have contracted?” This is because when the likes of Kwakye Ofosu start reeling off projects upon projects, even the loudest mouthed NPP communicators no longer find their voice.

To NPP, the advice is simple: communication change.

Even before then, however, stop the fighting. Chairman is gone. General Secretary and 2nd Vice Chairman are gone? Remember, when a perfectly sane man is declared mad, he cannot defend himself. The more he struggles and shouts to free himself to prove his sanity, the more his very actions seem to confirm his madness.