Friday, 27 May 2011

Nana Akufo-Addo and the Ghanaian Presidency: Shoot and Hit or Miss?

Eyes on the prize?
Reading the Daily Graphic today I found a report(p.13) on Nana Akufo-Addo's engagement with his party the NPP a poignant throwback to the 2008 elections and thus troubling. It is reported that the presidential candidate argued that liberalism had won the global ideological war and since the NPP in its  antecedents was linked to this view of the world somehow the NPP held the answers to Ghana's policy challenges. 

I think the presidential candidate missed an opportunity and crucially to highlight where he wants to take Ghana; a more profound and pressing question than his penchant to constantly remind us of the ideology of the NPP. My take is that Nana Akufo-Addo in his narratives is finding the warm womb of his party's purported ideological triumph too comfortable a place to inhabit. I have had occasion to make this point in a piece I wrote in my column(Asia 601) in 2008 in the Graphic Business which I reproduce in full below. For a youthful population(I teach a few) I guess Nana Addo will be putting his formidable oratorical skills to greater use if he focused more on the everyday existential questions and his solutions going forward.   



I discovered a new bookshop recently and in my last visit found in stock some classic pieces of literature. These books penned with such verve and literary power by Alexander Dumas, Jack London, Victor Hugo, Mark Twain, Henry James and of course Charles Dickens among others stared from the shelves. I bought Dickens’ book “Hard Times” which has become the title of this piece.

The ruling NPP has received one hell of a pounding at the polls. That is beyond debate. Beyond argument also is the role of the Electoral Commission in helming the whole process and going by the book. Dr. Afari-Gyan’s principled, professional and fearless approach to the task shines through. He represents so brilliantly and effortlessly what our compatriots have consistently expected of our Republic’s intellectuals, leading lights and elites: trustworthiness and selfless devotion. I remember meeting him once at a seminar. At the refreshments he nibbled on his chicken piece and made small talk with all.  No airs; free of pretense; simply a fellow compatriot. I salute you, Sir: unlike some of our compatriots you have testicular fortitude!!!!! Cajoled you never balked. Threatened you stood firm. Attacked you never wavered. When the EC erred you admitted it and sought amendments.  Kudos to your team too across our Republic.

This election goes down in our history for its nail biting, hair balding, heart attack inducing closeness! The results show a polity split right across the middle. The NPP’s ego is badly bruised. The NDC is emboldened. How a ruling party that came to power with so much goodwill from the electorate (after the contradictions of the Rawlings years) could go head to head with an opponent led by a twice beaten candidate and be so badly bloodied speaks volumes. My take is that it brought this grief upon itself. And as a collective simply learnt nothing from the monumental blunders that got the NDC butt kicked from power in 2000. When we complained of economic hardships and social distress the NDC in power pointed to economic indices and infrastructure. Ditto the NPP in the run-up to the elections. The perception was that the NDC had become arrogant, insensitive, rudderless, corrupt and downright silly. The NDC was simply almost impervious to such thoughts and carried on as usual. Ditto the NPP. For Christ sake how can you inaugurate a Presidential Palace a few days to elections in the throes of national economic strain and in the full glare of an opposition chafing and hungry for power? Its simply bad strategic thinking and PR!!! And that matter of seventeen gentlemen running for the presidential primaries of the NPP was flippantly defended as democratic and therefore sane. The good people have shown what they think of the NPP’s policies and actions so far in the results of the December 7 vote and its a worrying verdict.

The NPP must seize the moment and re-invent itself. It seems to me that it is hide-bound, slow to respond to changing times and held captive by old guards. Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew deliberately ensured that the Peoples Action Party allowed fresh minds and ideas to bubble to the surface. Indeed he stepped down as PM to hand the reins of the state to young, fresh blood. China’s Deng Xiaoping ensured that the old comrades of the revolutionary era in the party and across the bureaucracy remained permanently in their sofas. This maneuver ensured that the average age of top state and party officials is currently in the 50-55 years band down from 70 decades earlier. The NDC and NPP have proved really languid at regeneration. Ex-President Rawlings and wife (may have cost the NDC the presidency in this election) and other stalwarts of the 1980s still tower over the party. What new can they bring to the policy table? Every human being peaks and declines.

The run off beckons. The battle is joined. If the NPP is to win the run off it needs to change its rhetoric heavily weighted as it is on emphasizing its democratic and economic record. Its democratic record is unassailable and known! Indeed Ghanaians by voting massively for constitutional rule in the referendum of 1991 underscored their belief in democratic governance. To keep on harping on this is to flog a dead theme. Nana Akufo-Addo must amend his rhetoric (free it from economic indices and jargons) to reflect more sensitivity to the economic pain and social distress of his compatriots.

Ordinary Ghanaians have shown that they run our beloved country. My ninety–four year old grandfather in law voted. Looking at the snaking queues of my compatriots in their flip flops(chale wote) and Sunday best voting under the scorching sun was empowering. The message is clear: “We love our Motherland. We will chose who we will to serve us. Politicians the game is over. Henceforth beware. We cannot be taken for a ride anymore.” These are hard times?  If you are a foolish politician!!!!          


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