Feature Article of Monday, 4 February 2013
Columnist: Antobam, Kobina
By: Kobina Antobam
In 2008, I was in the U.S. and was eagerly following Ghana’s election campaigns when a news item caught my attention. Candidate Akufo-Addo had brought his campaign to the U.S. and he looked very confident of victory. The New Patriotic Party was still in power and we all thought that a win for Akufo-Addo was almost a slam dunk. I believed he thought so too. Akufo-Addo looked so relaxed and judging from the ear-to-ear smile on his face in every picture, he was certain he had the presidency in his pocket.
He took his campaign to New York City, Washington DC, Chicago, and ended up in Los Angeles. Those were the days when the then President Kufuor allowed the state coffers to flow freely to his select people. The news about Akufo-Addo’s travel to LA was exactly what jolted me out of my seat. There on Ghanaweb.com was a photo-news report on Akufo-Addo’s LA trip. Alan Kyerematen, who had been sidelined in favor of Akufo-Addo, was there. Asafo Marfo was also there with him. There were a few more starry-eyed wishful hangers-on there too, anxious to grab on to Akufo-Addo’s coattails. Why not? He was on his way to becoming president and the oil money was going to continue to flow freely into their hands.
Then I read the description of Akufo-Addo’s LA trip photos, and I quote:
“ Nana Akufo-Addo in Los Angeles. The final coverage of Nana Addo’s tour; The finale of Nana Addo’s US tour which was well organized by the Los Angeles NPP (City of Angels). Dinner held at the Posh LA Airport Hilton Hotel and a cocktail reception held at a posh Malibu mansion in honour of Nana Addo.”
I immediately wondered after reading this that if a poor struggling Ghanaian citizen anywhere in Ghana was debating whom to vote for and all of a sudden he or she reads that one of the leading presidential candidates has been living it up in the United States at a “POSH” here and a “POSH” there, and has been having cocktails and living in mansions (poor farming and fishing Ghanaian village residents don’t even know what a cocktail is), this Ghanaian will readily conclude that Akufo-Addo has only his own selfish interest at heart.
Furthermore, what was the need to tell the world and show us pictures that Akufo-Addo was in a “POSH” hotel and a “POSH” mansion? It displayed a sense of inferiority. In other words, “Look at me now, a once an African village boy like me now lives in a POSH MANSION and has cocktails in a POSH hotel.” And to make matters worse, Akuffo-Addo posed in front of that so-called “big mansion” on the hill in Malibu where he was housed as if he was trying to tell Ghanaians that “I’m already your president and see what you all are going to get from me when you confirm me with your vote. And this is how I, Akufo-Addo, your de facto president-elect, am going to live when you acknowledge my presidency with your ballot. By the way, if you Ghanaians don’t know, Los Angeles means the City of Angels.”
Let me tell you young aspiring politicians, three qualities Ghanaian candidates should always project to the citizens: humility, humility, and more humility. These same ordinary Ghanaians who cannot even spell “cocktail” or better yet may never sip a “cocktail” are the same Ghanaians who will cast their votes for all of you future dis-Honorables. So, please, don’t patronize them!
So, as was expected, truly attentive Ghanaians with sharp discriminating memories voted and ensured the defeat of the New Patriotic Party again. Ghanaians, of course, showed with their votes that there is nothing “new” about the NPP. Counting on the expected Supreme Court judgment from the current futile challenge of the election results that will surely sap and douse the spirits of the NPP rabble-rousers, it looks like there is a reasonable certainty that a good majority of Ghanaians will eventually breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate NPP’s irrelevance for a good many years to come.
The daunting foibles of the NPP go way back to pre-independence times when parochial elitism and distasteful airs of importance, I mean “krakye,” “mate-me-ho” and “wofa” pomposity, clouded their relationships with all other Ghanaians; and consistent arrogance, egotism, and empty falsehood of superiority added to the disdain many Ghanaians have of that clannish group.
During his eight years in office, John Agyekum Kufuor and his tribal cohorts couldn’t contain themselves and true to form, did everything to jolt our memories back to the beginnings of the NPP, I mean the times of Danquah and Busia, when Kwame Nkrumah saw through them then and cracked the whip hard enough to diminish their overzealous political intrusions and destructive patterns of behavior. The only avenue left for them in those Nkrumah days was deadly “Kulungugu” violence which they believed would ensure a lasting acceptance and approval of all other Ghanaians. It worked for them briefly immediately after the 1966 coup but it has not helped them and the country anymore since, because we are all aware that what is fleeting always blows away quickly in the wind. A couple of generations have replaced those of the Nkrumah and independence era, yet Kufour and Akufo-Addo, who grew up in those times and refuse to accept established history, keep reminding young Ghanaians of NPP’s irrepressible passé histrionics and separatist traits.
For eight years, Kufuor gave us enough to reflect on when future elections came around and he helped us decide who we should decide to vote for. He and his group threw caution to the wind and were overly ecstatic about their once-in-a-lifetime chance to rule the country and couldn’t help but display and brag about their extravagance. And, yes, Mr. Akufo-Addo, when December 7, 2012 came around, we never forgot “emperor” Kufuor, the winner of the self-awarded atrocious and offensive sash of ridiculously superfluous medals.
Just as his 2008 vainglorious Los Angeles campaign trip displayed, Akufo-Addo’s struggles for popular acceptance also go a few years back. Though opponents had craftily defined Akufo-Addo and popularized an uncomfortable abrasive ever-tightening straight jacket of negativity around him beginning with his first run for president in 2008, he worsened matters on his own by his imprudent utterances during the 2012 presidential campaign. With or without veracity, Akufo-Addo’s opponents and critics had been very successful in labeling him a drug user and a promoter of the exponential growth in the illegal narcotic business in Ghana. In a remarkable Wiki-leaks revelation, a colleague was very damning and extremely injurious to Akufo-Addo’s reputation. He was quoted as claiming that he was present many mornings when Akufo-Addo woke up with a thick lingering halo of marijuana smoke around him! If that doesn’t kill presidential dreams nothing else will. He had also been tagged as arrogant, “tribalist”, a philanderer, and more, and that he was desperately in pursuit of a dynastic legacy simply because his father, by sheer accident or circumstance, was once a brief unremarkable caretaker President of Ghana.
And to make matters worse, many Ghanaians watched Akuffo-Addo display more style than substance during the televised debates. For example, when asked how he would tackle the universal, pervasive, and nagging corruption problem in Ghana, Akufo-Addo, with all the resources available to him as a president, if he became one, could only think about employing the media investigative tactics of Anas Aremeyaw Anas. In as much as there is passivity, resignation, acceptance, and tolerance for the canker of corruption, and the fact that, despite its universal prevalence, there have been zero arrests, indictments, prosecution, and penalizing of anyone in Ghana for corruption ever, Akufo-Addo’s half-baked solution sounded very hollow.
Who was he going to secretly videotape? Would he target only his enemies and the opposing party members? Or would he also go after members of his own party and his own ministerial staff and all parliamentarians? Would he secretly videotape Kufuor and the EO Group principals to determine how they craftily stole a good chunk of the oil revenues and still have the balls to throw them in jail? What about the cream of the powerful NPP mafia? I believe that Akufo-Addo was, and still is, so beholden financially and politically to his very powerful NPP backers that he wouldn’t dare touch them with a ten foot pole if he had become president. Or would he have been selective and targeted only those he wasn’t beholden to? Would he have spread his surveillance to cover all bribe-taking civil servants in the country? And at what cost? What about bribe-taking policemen, customs and excise officers, the judiciary, and all areas of the government where “if you don’t pay you don’t get?” The answer he gave for reducing corruption was a huge crock of crap. His answers to other questions also lacked depth and seriousness.
Also, with Mr. Kufuor, the deceitful flatterer, masquerading as some wise old sage while telling triple whoppers during the campaign period, and Akufo-Addo, with his contradictions, especially his infeasible and impractical free education for all while ogling the oil money to pay for it and still finding extra money for everything else, it wasn’t difficult to predict a defeat of the NPP.
It was also an additional blow to the NPP when the security and safety agencies, especially police and the army, voted overwhelmingly for the NDC. That was mainly because of the troubling disruptive fallout those agencies feared from Akufo-Addo’s “all-die-be-die,” “we Akans,” and “win at all costs” hasty rants. I can understand that theirs was more a protest vote against the NPP than an absolute unquestioning acceptance of the NDC.
Most of the civilian population also realized that Akufo-Addo couldn’t be their tribal-neutral president. The evidence against him was overwhelming. Most of it came from Kufuor and the party’s history. With his tribal leanings and NPP’s history, many Ghanaians were sure that Akufo-Addo would be like Kufuor and wouldn’t be able to transcend tribe and be able to attend to the balanced needs and interests of all Ghanaians.
And, finally, let’s don’t forget all those cowardly self-deported web writers who saw nothing wrong with Akufo-Addo ONLY because of tribe. They managed to pour a few more gallons of kerosene onto Akufo-Addo’s pyre. And then there were those radio and television hot-heads who opened their mouths wide enough to slam both feet in. Do you remember Kennedy Agyapong and others? And, very importantly, let’s don’t forget eight years of Kufuor. These people had succeeded in establishing a phalanx of tribal separatists who boastfully had victory in the bag even before the first ballot was cast, but succeeded rather in causing Akufo-Addo’s defeat. They all twice contributed to Akufo-Addo’s downfall. They have consistently been like your pesky nagging neighbors who refuse to leave you alone until you figuratively pick up stones and throw at them in order to drive home the message that they should stay within their boundaries so that there will be peace in the whole neighborhood. When I say this I am very well thinking about that inveterate kook and coward in New York, who wouldn’t leave us alone, who was so beaten and deflated by the election results that he was going to take all of us on a disastrous trip on “the road to Kigali.” I wonder if someone in the NPP got to him to stop his useless unreadable series of cacophonous nonsense.
If NPP wants to turn things around, they should embark on a long period of deep reflection and assessment of their social and political positions, a serious consideration to distance themselves from the party’s historical legacy, an examination of their self-imposed ideological hindrances, narrow traditions, adhesive labels that won’t easily remove, and all other constructive criticisms, especially those from outside the party. The party, NPP, if they want to, should embrace tribal diversity without unease, prejudice, or a hint of clannish attitudes of superiority.
In the meantime, for the sake of 23 million or so Ghanaians, the powers inside the party should seek a dignified face-saving concessionary exit for Akufo-Addo as soon as possible. I understand that, for Akufo-Addo, the presidency of Ghana has often seemed so close but turned out to be yet so far away. If Akufo-Addo’s 2008 loss was a dream interrupted and deferred, his 2012 loss sends a loud and clear message that it’s definitely over. Sorry, my friend. NPP supporters should lick their chops and try to make the most of future political opportunities. Right now, it’s over. Akufo-Addo’s chances of becoming president are over. Maybe, just maybe, someone like me may someday reconsider my vote when there is a clear evidence of real change, improvement, maturity, and balance in the party.