You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2009 12 02Article 172799

Opinions of Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Columnist: Ayena Brantuo Benjamin

Zita, The Best Decision NDC Ever Made

Tuesday, December1, 2009

To critics who question the righteousness of Zita’s appointment, I say simply. Stop being myopic and see beyond your nose. To vet the performance of Zita (Information Minister of Ghana) with business benchmarks, where competence is the ability to maximise profit at all cost, to the satisfaction of shareholders, is to assume that the motivation of businesspersons is the same as that of politicians.

In fact, not all political actions are necessarily answers to the immediate questions that warranted those actions in the first place. Political appointments are no exception to this rule. A political appointment must satisfy some competence in the chosen sector for which the appointment is intended. However, like all political actions, it must first answer the remote but primary question of how it can add to the overall strategy of wrestling political power or sustaining one in future elections.

Lest we forget. The essence for which political parties exists is the wrestling of political power or the sustenance of it, other unintended but positive consequences notwithstanding. An example or two will suffice.

Why do presidential candidates from Southern Ghana prefer running mates from Northern Ghana? Can it be that northerners are competent running mates whilst their counterparts from the other regions are not?

Again, why did President Kufour preferred his brother-Addo Kufour, a medical doctor by profession, to Major Courage kwashigar, military expert, to head the Ministry of Defence, whilst the latter managed the Health sector with his military expertise? Is it that medical doctors are more competent at managing the military than a military expert? Finally, is it not also curious that newly elected governments in Ghana see as a bigger priority to dismiss all heads of corporations and boards of government agencies, appointed prior to their assumption of office, without regard to the competencies of those they are dismissing? Can it be that all such officers so dismissed lack competence whilst their potential replacements do not?

It is my humble submission that politics is about political expediency and what one does to come to or remain in power. Competence (in the sense that it is used in business and professional circles), if at all considered in politics, plays an auxiliary role. Because partisan politics is not an avenue for addressing the concerns of the masses as it is a medium by which the elites in a society alternate themselves in and out of power-NDC today NPP tomorrow. In other words, addressing the concerns of the masses is only an accidental consequence of politics or a crush of interest of the politician and the voter.

If politics were about addressing the concerns of the masses, government will not be purchasing too presidential jets, build a presidential palace, celebrate 50th anniversary at a cost of ¢60,172,251,840, pay millions of dollars in ex-gratia, dish out 50,000 dollars car loans to MP’s and build four stadia simultaneously, yet complain about the lack of funds when the masses merely wants water, electricity and accommodation for students.

The point is not so much about passing a moral verdict on politicians and their motives. It is about aiding political commentators and analyst to make political judgement in the context of political environment and psychology.

This is precisely my qualms with the critics of Zita, Minister of Information-Republic of Ghana. They measure her performance with business indicators alone, and ignore other useful indices relevant to the mission statement of politics. Such index include but not limited to; how her appointment brand the image of the NDC, train tomorrow’s leaders of the NDC today, and attract floating voters to the political party.

To pass a verdict for her dismissal or stay base on a single indicator as competence at her job, is like telling a good food by how it looks or by dismissing a car merely by a look at the body, without the engine. I wish to broaden the Debate and analyse the appointment of Zita base on the three cardinal principles outlined supra.

IMAGE BRANDING

It appears to be that a product is sold in the 21st century not necessarily because of its efficacy or usefulness but the attractiveness with which the said product has been packaged for the market. Brands like Guinness, Nike, and David Beckam are no better products to the many already in the market, yet people patronise them because of the trusted and convincing nature of the brand. Politics is no exception to this rule since appearance is everything. Except Kwame Nkrumah’s CPP, which demonstrated in government that it was a leftist party, a clear alternative to the Centre-Right Danquah-Busia’s opposition party then, all other successive governments have almost demonstrated the same tendencies with few cosmetic differences. Yet Ghanaian voters are either members of NDC or NPP. What inform Ghanaians to passionately support different political parties, sometimes at the peril of their lives, when the political parties are no different from each other in terms of their policy direction? Simple. People shop for political parties not necessarily because of what the party does in power but how it has attractively branded itself for sale in the political market.

It is for this reason that the NDC must purge itself of allegations of violence- coup mentality, a party for thugs and political strongmen-constantly heaped on them by their opponents. The NDC must work to project that it has a human face and ‘mere mortals’ succeed in the party. Lessons from the last elections are too priceless to be ignored by all political pundits, particularly the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC). It proved beyond doubt that the history and the circumstances, which birthed the NDC, remain a potent and distractive arsenal, which not effectively addressed through politically correct actions, can be a huge liability that will roll back many hard-earned achievements of the party.

Of course, the NDC makes no apologies to the effect that the party was birthed out of the 1981 coup, which brought PNDC regime to power. What is of greater consequence is the fact that even though the NDC today upholds and practices one of the highest standards of democracy, it has failed to deal decisively with the propaganda spread by its opponents to the effect that the NDC is the same today as in 1981 and will be so forever more.

We witnessed the then ruling NPP during the 2008 elections, re-enacted the 1981 revolution to Ghanaians in its gory and picturesque form as a scare tactics. Ghanaians were inundated with campaign commercials depicting graphic images of how our mothers were beaten in the streets, how people were murdered in cold blood with impunity, how people were arrested and detained without trial and how property were unlawfully confiscated.

The important point is not the truth or falsity of this propaganda tactics as it is about the kind of image the NDC is building for itself, when present generation, who are not armed with the facts of the times, listen to events such as these and those recounted at the national reconciliation commission. It is not about whether the high court judges were murdered by the PNDC or whether it true that cabinet ministers and party members were dished out slaps when they disagreed with the founder of the NDC. It is about how these stories make the brand of the NDC unattractive for sale.

I wish to submit that the appointments of Madam Zita, and many more of her kind, like Hannah Bisuoh-Deputy Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Akua Sena Dansuwah-Minister For Women and Children’s Affairs, Mrs Joyce Panford Addo-Speaker, Republic of Ghana, James Agyenim Boateng, Deputy Minister for Information and others, is a giant way forward.

These personalities have cloth the NDC with an ambiance of peace, calm and sobriety as it is doubtful to attribute violent tendencies to these mothers and family personalities, who now constitute the leadership of the Party. Their strong Christian values, humble backgrounds, the fact that they are not hard-core politicians or even stock of the PNDC makes it laughable for anybody to input violent motives to them and by extension the NDC.

However, names like the Rawlings, the Tsikata’s, Ahwois, P .V Obeng, Aseidu Nketia, Gbevlo Lartey etc whilst they are noble citizens of Ghana and pillars of the NDC, their names alone inspire fear and awe. Therefore, in dealing with allegations of violence it is a politically correct action to have these men strategically position so that the party benefits from their wealth of experience. But certainly the face of the party must be represented by more innocent faces like Hannah Tetter, Zita etc because fine feathers make fine birds.

One of the greatest things the NDC did (may be not deliberately) with reference to its violent image, was not only to have had Professor Mills as Presidential candidate but madam Hannah Tetter Kpoda as the face and spokes person of the campaign. This action frustrated and distorted the campaign propaganda of violence making rounds at the time against the NDC.

The then candidate Mills and campaign spokes person, Hannah, spoke with so much confidence and moral authority that, it compelled the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to admit that these individuals in the NDC were ‘good people in a wrong party’.

I will take nothing away from the priceless contributions the firebrands in the NDC made to achieve the 2008 victory for the NDC. I insist that they are even much needed now that the party is in power because if you wish for peace, prepare for war. But for the sake of political expediency, the face of the party must not be represented by firebrands, unless we are not interested in winning the war on perceive violence being preached against the NDC.

I must not be misunderstood. I do not admit that the NDC is violent for which reason it must work to improve it. Violence in today’s NDC is perceived and by association of its past then real. Nevertheless, to the extent that perception is a reality in politics, it must be tackled.

The history of the NPP is public knowledge. They staged the first coup in Ghana and have at various stages in our political history acted alone or in concert with international enemies to visit mayhem on Ghanaians. Even as government in our recent history, the death of Issah Mobila-Northern Region CPP party chairman, in military custody, Murder of the Yaa Na and forty others, including the bloodbath, which ensued at the various internal electoral processes of the NPP in 2008, is a demonstrable evidence that this party is inseparable with violence as far as furthering political expedience is concern.

The painful truth is that, notwithstanding the aforementioned, the NPP through politically correct actions is not perceived as violent as the NDC has been represented to the Ghanaian voter. This trend must reverse.

If the NDC is able to convince Ghanaians that it is not violent, there will be nothing that the NPP can ever beat the NDC to, because the record of the NPP in fighting corruption, nepotism, tribal politics, and improving the economic conditions of Ghanaians, is to say the least pathetic.

TRAINING TOMORROW’S LEADERS TODAY

The principle of continuity as the lifeline of any institution, including politics, is indubitable. The lack of succession plans underlines why most institutions are pale shadows of their old images or why some African leaders are so afraid to vacate power after their tenure is spent, since they failed whilst in power, to train able heirs capable of addressing their interest when they are out of office.

Visionary leaders do not only train enough expect hands for tomorrow but they also have the courage to field such trainees today in sensitive positions even before the old and expect hands are completely depleted. Like they say, train a tree when it is young.

The few mistakes that occasionally emanate from the fact that these trainees are trying to adjust to their new environment, pales in significance to the long-term importance of this arrangement. It takes the myopic to label these actions as mediocre, and a preference for team B instead of A.

The appointment of Zita as the Information Minister whilst sidestepping the experienced Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, is a visionary one. The NDC wants to function again when their expert hands are no more. It is never prudent to write your will whilst on the sick bed.

The introduction of Zita, Ablakwah, Agyenim, Hannah Bisuoh, Fiifi Quartey, Omane Boamah, etc at this time when the founder of the party and all the expert hands are alive should not be source of rivalry. It should rather be an opportunity for the leaders of the NDC tomorrow to be trained today.

Failing to plan, they say, is planning to fail. I have no qualms with the fact that the NPP continue to use J H Mensah, Hackman Owusu Agyeman, Felix Owusu Agyepong, and Apraku. But trust me, if they do not change this and have many more like the Kwaku Kwartengs, John Boadu etc, they will laugh at the wrong side of their mouths in future elections because you cannot eat your cake and have it.

APPEALING TO FLOATING VOTERS

No political party wins an election depending solely on its core supporters. The history of all electoral victories is the history of all political parties, which strategically position themselves to win the mandate of floating voters. The floating voter must be able to see his/herself in the campaign of the political party trying to win his/her mandate because birds of the same feathers flock together. This underlines the reason why political strategists choose their speakers, bearing in mind the venue and the targeted audience. For instance, if they are speaking to the ‘Zongo’ community, they necessarily must have a speaker who hails from that community. This is true for the other facets of the society.

The magnetic properties of Zita to attract floating voters are immeasurable. Most floating voters are most likely to identify with her humble background. She gives hope to and reflects the character of all the many Ghanaians aspiring to greater heights in life from a humble background since Zita has travelled from that stage of being a restaurant owner to now being a respectable lawyer and a Minister of State. She also challenges the youth to take on daring task irrespective of the outcome. Her confidence to have contested the experienced Prof. Mike Oquaye as MP, for the Dome Kwabenya constituency is a case in point.

Again, her strikingly beautiful personality is a great political weapon to attract the huge constituency of very beautiful Ghanaian women who are mostly passive and indifferent to politics.

Additionally, she is also likely to win the votes of floating voters who are respecter of the institution of the family. She is happily married and blessed with a daughter, a situation that is very uncommon with women politicians across the African continent.

Zita is not your everyday hard-core politician. She is also not associated with the history of the NDC found in the story of the PNDC. This attributes will make floating voters believe her message without the usual suspicious they attach to what politicians tell them because she is just an ordinary person like them who possesses no special political credentials. Finally, the fact that despite her lack of deep involvement with the NDC she has been given a Ministerial appointment speaks volumes. It gives hope to the many youth out there who are politically ambitious and willing to make a career out of politics to run to the NDC. The sudden rise of Zita within the ranks of the party is ample testimony that there exists social mobility in the party and that once you join; you are as much part of the family as those who have joined long ago. The significance of this point is that it provides a clear alternative to the many young people in the opposition NPP who felt embittered for the total neglect meted out to them when the party came to power after 30 years in opposition.

In conclusion, this article is coming on the heels of many political commentaries emanating from seasoned journalist, political scientist, members of the NDC and NPP, about the wisdom in making Zita a minister of state whilst sidestepping some NDC members perceived to be more experienced than her at this critical moment in the history of Ghana and NDC.

Whilst conceding that most of these comments have been forward looking, some have simply exhibited intolerance, emotional outburst and gross exhibition of ignorance about the motives of politics and how to achieve those motives. I will reiterate that politics is about wrestling political power or sustaining it and therefore all political actions, appointments inclusive, should not only satisfy the immediate reason that necessitated the said action but also must satisfy the broader question of how that action can add to the fortunes of the said political party to maintain or come to power.

I think that Zita has done her best under the circumstance as Information Minister and her performance reflects government’s own output. But what is refreshing is that, aside her work at the Ministry, she has branded the image of the NDC, she is a case for training tomorrow’s leaders today and importantly, her special circumstance and background, remains one potent arsenal that will attract floating voters to the NDC. This is a better alternative to an Information Minister who knows all the talk but does not add to the overall strategy of maintaining the NDC in power.

AKYENA BRANTUO BENJAMIN.

Former JCR President, Commonwealth Hall, Legon benakyena@yahoo.com 0262199700