The Dynamics of Political Struggle in Ghana

Feature Article of Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Columnist: Nani-Kofi, Explo

– Part 2

Ghana’s political landscape has been shaped by the era and events of the PNDC regime and its aftermath. The struggle to end the military regime of the PNDC and the venom around the battle has polarized the country in such a way that exchanges for and against have dominated political discourse and activity even in circumstances where there shouldn’t be. Ignoring this, means that you may be ignoring almost the whole of the politicized population of Ghana or even maybe almost the whole electorate. This article is trying to understand the roots of this situation and how one can identify where the dynamising spirit of the masses of the Ghanaian people are to root us in for popular struggle for advancement of society as a whole. In avoiding this route we could be imprisoned in the realm of the abstract where we may get our theoretical position correct but will be unable to develop capacity and strategy to carry the masses of our people with the progressive cause. Originally, the opposition to the PNDC was dominated by the old establishment figures with elements for change in a tiny minority. When divisions started in the PNDC which over the period was a conflict between the Left and grass root activists one side as against Rawlings and the military-cum-civilian bureaucracy on the other side the forces for change increased on the side of the opposition to the PNDC .

Right from the beginning a section of the Left was attacked by the PNDC as a carry forward of a conflict which had emerged in the AFRC between the chairman (Rawlings) and spokesman/ deputy chairman (Boakye Djan) of the AFRC. The leadership of the Movement on National Affairs (MONAS) who were in the same organization with the spokesman of the AFRC were arrested in early February 1982. The rank and file of the organization joined the supporters of the PNDC and some also left the country. In November and December 1982, some members of the United Front of the June 4 Movement and the People’s Revolutionary League of Ghana were randomly picked for their zealous publicity on the issue of an alternative to the IMF and World Bank by promoting the mobilization programme to insulate the population from IMF and World bank ‘quinine”. They were framed up as being involved in coup attempts which organizers were visibly known and were facing trial whilst the UF cadres arrested were not even interrogated about the coups. The NDM replaced UF members in positions that they had vacated and gradually Rawlings’ target radar focused on them as well. It started first by Rawlings requesting in 1985 that some of their members should not speak at public meetings and cadre schools. Finally, in 1987 a number of their members were arrested and even press reports in typical PNDC rumour style linked them with some supposed probable armed invasion of Ghana. In Eastern Region when the leader of PANYMO was tortured and removed as the coordinator of PDCs he was replaced by the leader of the African Youth Command. The same fate fell upon the African Youth Command leader as well later. By 1987 – 1989, the organized Left had been totally purged from the structures of the PNDC and their organizations also shrunk as members feared persecution by identification or confused about how the same leaders who brought them to follow the PNDC were now fighting the PNDC.

The way things turned should have also educated the Left movement as a whole about political short-termism. It showed the unpreparedness of the Left as the weaknesses which influenced Rawlings affected even those who broke away from Rawlings in their inability have staying power for building a radical Left organization and making an impact on politics commensurate with enormous efforts and sacrifices. Running the state is more complicated than just holding political positions, writing manifestoes, making declarations, making criticisms and shouting slogans. The area which started Rawlings’ departure from the Left was that he was frustrated with the state of the economy and was looking out for where immediately help will come from. If the Soviet money came, he would have even parroted the slogans more than Haile Miriam Mengistu of Ethiopia. The Soviets were also learning their lessons in Ethiopia and were not throwing money about that easily. Emmanuel Hansen, the Secretary of the PNDC wrote “. At this point a prominent member of the Right who was virtually the economic adviser to the government, succeeded in getting Standard Bank to advance substantial credits reportedly to the tune of US$ 1 million to the government, apparently with a promise for more if the government behaved sensibly, that is, did not make any drastic changes in economy and society and followed the IM/World Bank programme of adjustment and rehabilitation.” It was at this point that the inexperienced domestic Left was outmaneuvered.

The position of Libya, during the search for foreign assistance, puts at the fore the difference between revolutionary and bourgeois routes to societal change and progress. Emmanuel Hansen, again, writes “The Libyans expressed support for the Ghanaian revolution, but made it clear that they were unhappy with its pace as well as its direction. They wanted more far-reaching changes in the area of politics, changes which they thought would make the revolution irreversible. They were also unhappy that Ghana had no revolutionary initiative at the level of the economy. They argued, very much as the Ghanaian Left has done earlier, that revolutions are made because things are bad. They argued that if Ghana had all the money it wanted then would be no need for revolution. It was clear they entertained some doubts about the determination of Ghana to go on with revolutionary changes. The delegation to Tripoli returned with agreements extending credits for fuel purchases but no major capital credits or grants”. What will continue to be visible in the analysis in this article is how entrenched bourgeois ethics and culture is and how it is even ingrained in what is described as the Left.

The organized Left had not jointly worked out how to deal a possible situation of this nature as organization after organization moved in to take the place of those purged. Anybody who remained in the PNDC structures at this time had to distance themselves from any of the known progressive organizations which were the bedrock of the revolution in its early days. What the groups had in common was that they were existence as groups before Rawlings surfaced. They were therefore not his followers and also did not rate him highly in terms of his political perceptions and he needed to be in control. As their members were responsible in preparing many of the foundation documents of political and economic direction they did not hold the position, which a large section of the public had, of Rawlings as some visionary, which he was only a parasite on as a result of the work members of these groups were doing on behalf of the PNDC. The groups were also committed to the development of the new grass root structures of decision-making which involved the oppressed and marginalized sections of society and breaking the monopoly that the privileged few had on political decision making. In the area of economic recovery they were working and organizing for the mass mobilization that was to utilize our resources and build their capacity to insulate our people from the bitter pills of IMF and World Bank conditions.

Conflict emerged within the Left as to how to proceed with the struggle for democratization. There was internal conflict within the United Revolutionary Front of Ghana between the dominant sections of the exile wing and the domestic leadership in Ghana over the way forward for the struggle to democratize politics. The leadership of the URF back in Ghana was concerned about the ideological leadership of the struggle not being abandoned for the right wing and also that the masses be he base of the struggle and not he petit-bourgeoisie. They came up with a strategy whereby they can still mobilize progressives under banners which are not immediately identified as dangerous and which could also easily have international solidarity. They then constituted the Free Mandela Movement (FREEMAMO) as one of such front organizations. They also worked in establishing resistance committees in educational institutions and work places. West Africa magazine published activities, leafleting and resolutions of Students’ resistance committees, Nurses’ resistance committees and Teachers’ resistance committees in 1988. Most of the exiles in the URF who became impatient about returning home were now more committed to cross class relations in organizing and the total suppression of their ideological positions in those fronts. This also brought ethnocentric dimension into opposition work as anti-Ewe mobilization became one of the features of the opposition. That Rawlings is a half-Ewe and half-Scot was used as a reason for targeting the whole of the Ewe ethnic and this tactic rather worked to Rawlings’ advantage as in a collective defence by Ewes they fell automatically into Rawlings arms. On the other hand the Rawlings regime was not sharing the fruits of the nation along the lines of ethnicity or region as the Volta Region remained undeveloped all those years. This therefore neutralized he opposition. By 1986, Elizabeth Ohene’s talking Drums had folded up, the Ghana Democratic Movement and Campaign for Democracy in Ghana which all represented the establishment opposition was getting exhausted. By 1989 – 1990, it was an opportunity for the Left to fight for the hegemony of the opposition but it rather provided the human resources for the right wing to re-emerge.

After the Movement for Freedom and Justice was launched as a supposedly brought front in August 1990, Prof Adu Boahen, who was the chair and a representative of the right wing, fled to USA and hid there whilst the struggle was on back in Ghana, Johnny F.S. Hansen, doyen of the Ghanaian Left, who was vice chair had o act as chair and with Kwesi Pratt Jnr, Akoto Ampaw, John Ndebugre, Kweku Baako Jnr, Azuma Besore, Owusu Gyimah, Kwame Wiafe doing all the donkey job in the forefront of the anti-Rawlings opposition. It is he fruit of this work which created what is called the NPP today which because of this ideological suppression the Danquah-Busia group has just come to sit on top of his group a christened it as the Danquah-Busia party. So it was the Left-led opposition which created what is today called the NPP. This also explains why the NPP is so strong in the urban working class areas of Tema and Sekondi-Takoradi which is not normally their territory. The NDC however has kept the peasantry and regions of low commercial activity and therefore dominates in the marginalized sections of the population. The visible exclusion of the points on which the Left fell out with Rawlings meant that those issues remained within the forces who remained with Rawlings. The Left’s support base rejected the old establishment politicians who were overthrown through the 31st December 1981 coup d’etat and then the issues they identified was also not part of the platform. They either decided not to be in any group or stay with the devil they know. Another tactic which was employed to distract was the formation of the National Coordinating Committee of Nkrumaists which later became the National Convention Party (NCP) and led pro-Nkrumah and pro-CPP elements into an automatic alliance with Rawlings and the NDC. This meant that the PNDC managed to keep the core of supporters of the break away as well Rawlings hero worshippers altogether as it electoral core.

Even after the Movement For Justice managed to influence the opening of the space for a constitutional dispensation the culture of military rule did not disappear. The Alliance for Change (AFC) emerged which fought for the starting of FM stations when a member of Alliance for Change, Charles Wereko Brobbey, started a pirate radio station and the state closed it down. AFC went took the issue to court and won the opening the flood gates of the FM stations in Ghana now. From 1995, the Alliance for Change mobilized millions for some of the biggest demonstrations in recent times. Despite this, the NDC again won the 1996 Presidential and General Elections. The constitutional order emboldened some of the grass root activists who remained with the NDC to bare their fangs by creating a Reform Movement of the NDC to fight for the democratization of the party. However, those fearing a life of the NDC largesse buckled when the movement decided to transform itself into a he National Reform Party (NRP). Despite this, NRP’s votes in the parliamentary elections in 2000 was almost double that of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) which masquerades as Kwame Nkrumah’s party.

The breakaway of the Goosie Tanoh-led National Reform Party from the NDC in 1999 also contributed to denting the fortunes of the NDC in the 2000 elections. The domestic Left has therefore been very influential in all the changes in Ghana since the late 1970s but has ended up not shifting Ghanaian politics leftwards but rightwards. The dominating petit-bourgeois ethics and culture of operating and lack of confidence in taking the leadership role whilst leading in action meant that the Left always scored an own goal to the credit of the Right whose culture they operate with. The dominant role and contribution of the Left is not surprising because Left-wing politics came to dominate the Ghanaian studying youth from 1974 to 1979 so most people who were interested in politics had some Leftist association or inclination. No wonder, even with the NPP now christened Danquah-Busia, the Presidential candidate was a CPP member during Nkrumah’s days, the general secretary was a Young Pioneer and the Parliamentary Minority Leader is my own old pal from SMAU and PANYMO, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu. What needs to be interrogated is how can one have this Left-wing personnel shifting politics to the Right.

Deepening popular democracy and fighting neo-liberalism are still issues. Due to the total control of the NDC by the forces that had emerged in its forefront in the constitutional era, there is the constant regrouping of Cadres of the 31st December 1981 process. Whilst it is true that most of these people are mainly concerned about their exclusion from the gravy train, the impossibility of their being rewarded or compensated has made them a force and forum for returning to the debate of deepening popular democracy. In their meetings, even the government officials wear “revolutionary caps” when speaking and members have been boldly supportive of the section of the PNDC which was repressed and chased out as happened in Institute of Local Government in Madina, Accra, on 26th May 2012 and in Ho in September 2012. They are now forced by their circumstances to now be talking about the guiding principles of the PNDC and the tenets of the revolutionary process. This constitutes a forum where real experiment and its lessons are being discussed or debated and can be a path for engaging younger generations. This group had the largest contingent at KILOMBO 2012 Conference on Africa, Africans and Social Justice despite the fact that their regional leadership had only 3 days notice. The Socialist Forum of Ghana seem to be organized around Kwesi Pratt Jnr who has been a known social justice advocate in the process of the emergence of the 4th Republic and the Third World Network, which convenes the Economic Justice Network are also contributing towards a rebirth of the politics of deepening grass root and popular democracy. The KILOMBO annual conferences have sessions on the defence committees, national youth organizing commission, 31st December Women’s Movement and other structures of the 31st December 1981 process. It has a session on proxy war in Africa.This constitution a basis of seeking a dynamising factor mobilization and cadre building for social change. Enthusiastic younger generation of individuals are also linking up to build networks for social change.

In order to move away from the NDC-NPP dichotomy, there is need for spelling out other factors which has led to the political alignments which are being channeled to the NDC-NPP dichotomy exchange. Why is it for example that the NDC takes 8 out of ten regions in the country during elections? Why is it that the vast majority of the peasantry seems to have stuck with the NDC? How has the NPP eaten into working class areas despite the history of the support base of the 31st December 1981 process which laid the path for the formation of the NDC? Exploring these points further will assist progressive forces to build a dynamising pillar and strategy that can pull along the majority of the people. Mere manifestoes and rhetorics will not help resolve the gap between the progressive rhetorics and the masses voting with their feet setting their tents firmly in the NDC-NPP dichotomy. The perceptions people have during the Presidential debates and the votes should be a pointer to this. There has to be a strategy of how to enter into the population which has concentrated around the NDC and NPP. In addressing this, we have to organize actively and painstakingly at the grass roots and build units of a counter culture opposed to the establishment norm of running affairs according to the routine handed down by the colonial authorities and inherited at independence. The grass root initiatives should not only be declarations but mass work among the people. Kwame Nkrumah has analysed the experiences post-1966 in his Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare and the PNDC experience has given some practical experiences in terms of the character of the neo-colonial state making nonsense the position that you just need well polished manifesto to deal with neo-colonialism but groups claiming the Nkrumah legacy like the PNC, GCPP, DPP and the current CPP have not woken up to that yet. The entrenched bourgeois ethic and political culture seems to be dominating and the Ghanaian masses can clearly see through this without an assistance of any lens. After the Ghanaian Left brought Rawlings to power as a tragedy and then went on to create the NPP on silver platter for the Danquah-Busia cowards as a farce, I don’t know whether it is heading for another abyss and this need serious self-critical diagnosis.

There isn’t much of a choice politically in the country. The anti-Ewe and sometimes like in Fatwa-style pronouncement of Kennedy Agyapong anti-Voltarian politics championed by opposition, including by visible sections of the acclaimed Left automatically, denied the parties opposed to NDC votes in most of the Volta Region and where Ewes or Volta Region citizens live. The setting up of the National Coordinating Committee of Nkrumaists to beef up the NDC at its birth took away almost all the pro-Nkrumah votes from the opposition. Electorally, the opposition, therefore, had to be built mainly around the traditional votes of Oseikrom (Ashanti), Akyem and old memories of Dombo allies’ politics in the North. With the other parties, their claims only look credible outside Ghana. A lot of people outside Ghana, see the current CPP which acquired this name in1999 as Kwame Nkrumah’s party. The setting up of the National Coordinating Committee of Nkrumaists in 1991 to beef up the PNDC’s electoral strategy had swept the ground from under their feet before they even emerged in 1999 (8 good years later). Merely, thinking that by adopting the name of the old party will bring electoral fortunes does not take into consideration any historical realities. I always warned them it won’t work that way and that if talismans of that type exist in politics, Obote’s Ugandan People’s Congress with Obote himself alive would have gone to power in Museveni’s Uganda. After Limann’s People’s national Convention have defeated them twice in elections and always in parliamentary seats except when they had 5 back passes from the Danquah-Busia NPP ones fantasies need to be very deep to be hoping against hope. The recent election were worse as they had media space and coverage as the third party only to come sixth in the elections which actually has to earn them a place in the Guinness Books of Records wasting such a disproportionate media coverage and space.