29.09.2002 Feature Article

Principles, Prostitution & Politics of the Stomach

Principles, Prostitution & Politics of the Stomach
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Alhaji B.A. Fuseini is a typical Ghanaian politician. He has joined the NPP again, after leaving it for the NDC! (see General News of Thursday, 19 September 2002). Perhaps, at this point, we should dub him a POLITICAL PROSTITUTE. I have a few words to describe his criss-crossing of the political divide: opportunistic, fickle, capricious, whimsical, inconsistent, disloyal, unreliable, etc. Politicians cross over to the other side of the political divide every now and then. However, when a politician crosses over and comes full circle, he must be regarded with skepticism. BA. Fuseini's behaviour of leaving one party for the other and coming back, has been determined, I believe, by how high or low the fortunes of the two parties (NPP & NDC) have been at any given time. A man of principles, however, should not care whether his party is in power or in opposition. He stays with it and continues to promote the strong principles and ideals which distinguish his party from other parties. We join parties to promote the principles we stand for; not merely as an avenue to hold political office. I am not too surprised though; for B.A Fuseini's action is a microcosm of the general attitudes and thought patterns of many of Ghana's politicians. And I will buttress this assertion with what I have observed for myself in the recent past. When the Third Republic fell to Rawlings' coup d'etat in 1981, I was shocked by many developments that occurred in the wake of the coup. Of course, the wanton brutalities of the soldiers across the nation did shock me; and so also was the abduction of the High Court judges and a retired military officer. But what shocked me the most was when four leading members of the two biggest parties of the previous dispensation joined the PNDC government. Nana Akuoko Sarpong was the chief of Agogo, and the Member of Parliament for Ashanti Akim North; John Agyekum Kuffuor was also a Member of Parliament for one of the Ashanti Region constituencies; both were Popular Front Party (PFP) politicians. Dr. Obed Asamoah was the General Secretary of the United National Convention (UNC), while Alhaji Mahama Iddrissu was, I think, the Vice-Presidential candidate (running mate) for William Ofori Atta, leader of the UNC. These four gentlemen were champions of democracy in Ghana. They were some of those on whom the growth and development of democracy hinged. They were vital cogs in the wheel of Ghana's fledgling democracy. They were the opinion leaders of our bourgeoning democratic movement, and the men we were looking up to in our national search for stability and in our collective efforts to perpetuate the gains of our home-grown liberal democray.

Which is why I find it hard to understand why these four politicains accepted positions in the PNDC -- a band of lawless soldiers and freebooters who threw a noose around the neck of democracy and strangled it for twenty years. Of course, John Kuffuor took a relatively early decision and quit his association with the PNDC guys. But why he even agreed, in the first place, to accept an office in that government continues to baffle me to this day. I know that he has been at pain to explain to us, over the years, why he decided to join the PNDC. He has advanced arguments like, "I thought they had the nation's interest at heart and so I wanted to help in what they were doing". How, in this world, could a military government ever have any nation's interest at heart? How could a democrat even come up with the idea that he could work with military dictators to build a nation? Why would you offer help to a man who has just taken away from you something that rightfully belongs to you? How can oil and water blend together in the same bottle? Kuffuor's explanation is exactly like the analogy of having your father's house attacked and burgled, and all his valuables taken away. Then the burglars, knowing you to be a man of great ideas about how to invest resources, approach you for help. Surprisingly, you offer to help them in investing your own father's stolen wealth because of a promise that they would give you a certain percentage of the profits that would accrue to them from the business venture. Why would anyone stoop so low?

In the tumultuous years of the Supreme Military Council when the honourable students of this country, under the umbrella of the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), pit their strength against that of General Kutu Acheampong and his instruments of oppression, some of the student leaders displayed raw courage and sheer defiance. One of these student leaders was Kofi Totobi Kwakye. As the NUGS President at the time, he became a paragon of student power against military aberrance. History has it that in one of his numerous anti-government activities he sustained serious injuries from an accident and had to be flown overseas for medical treatment. A man only goes to such immense trouble to project his movement when he believes, with all his heart, in the principles underlying what his movement is fighting for -- in Totobi Kwakye's case, the overthrow of a hated military government. Yet, that a man who had such an aversion for a military government didn't care a hoot when the PNDC government came to power and threw him an invitation to come on, is something that still beats my comprehension. My goodness! You fight Kutu Acheampong because he is a dictator, but accept, on the other hand, to work with Rawlings who has gone down in the history books as one of the the most hideous dictators Africa has produced. Why would you do that if you are really committed to your principles? Is it because Rawlings is more handsome than Acheampong or because he can tell more lies? Where are our principles? In our part of the world, it seems oftentimes that, principles only exist when it is convenient, or perhaps lucrative, to uphold them.

One of the reasons Alhaji Fuseini has given for going back and forth between parties is that he doesn't want to hurt the feelings of his brothers. Let it be known to the Alhaji that politics is not about brothers and sisters. Politics is about principles, ideals, policies, etc., and how to channel these into realising particular objectives. Besides, a party in government doesn't need any particular person's membership to bring development to their village. A responsible party should 'take' development to every community, irrespective of who its members are, and regardless of whether Alhaji, Mallam or Professor is one of its members. In other words, Alhaji Fuseini didn't have to desert the NPP for the NDC just to push the government to develop the Northern Region. There should have been more weighty reasons for that major move.

. Furthermore, politics is not necessarily about "opposing" people, either. Being in a different party should not have created a problem for Alhaji Fuseini's consanguineous ties to his 'brothers'. But even when it becomes necessary to oppose ideas and policies, the intention should not be to oppose for its sake. Opposition is not a personal act directed against any particular persons. Let's say, hypothetically, that my brother and I are in different parties that both want to dig a trench to carry waste water away from our village. I may want to dig the trench with 20 people using pickaxes and hoes, so that I would create jobs for my village folks. My brother and his party may want to use more powerful and modern earth-moving tools to dig the trench so that the job would not be as labour-intensive as the method I prescribe. But in doing so, my brother would put about 18 people out of work; plus it may cost our village a fortune to get the job done. But it would be accomplished much faster. So our parties argue over the cost-benefit aspects of these two approaches, weighing their merits and de-merits, while trying to win a following for our respective causes. All other things being equal, one of the parties would prevail at the end of the day. Sometimes, there is even a compromise situation in which the salient features of each approach are incorporated into the plan to dig the trench. This should not divide us as brothers, because all we have done is to get the best plan for our village in digging a trench.

However, the way we view politics in Africa, and what we expect from it, is what engenders so much needless antagonism and unnecessary polarisation in our politics. We believe wrongly that in politics the winner takes all, and that a party in opposition is there to call for the blood of the ruling party, and plot its destruction. Not only that, but we give politics a bad name when our ruling parties view the opposition with such jaundiced minds as if they are not partners in the collective task of nation-building. But the contrary should be the case. Opposition exists to keep the government on its feet and to act as a bulwark against those forces that erode the foundations of democracy. Opposition also offers alternative perspectives on how our people should be governed, and gives the electorate a choice to fall on should they feel dissatisfied with the performance of the government in power. We should be able to offer political opposition without making 'enemies' of one another. In the Third Republic, one of the Members of Parliament was a PNP woman whose husband was a PFP activist. I am told that, naturally, they had their divisions every now and then; but on the whole they succeeded in dwelling cheek by jowl every day of their married lives as political opponents. If a married couple could be active members of different parties -- two people who share the same bed, and for that matter their whole lives -- B.A. Fuseini's excuse that he couldn't afford to be in a different party from his brothers, is as lame as it is insincere. When all is said and done his main reason for leaving the NPP and coming back is not as he has said that, "..some of them joined the NDC in 1982 hoping that the party would improve the lot of Northerners." When all the hypocricy and smooth talk are stripped away, B.A. Fuseini's real intentions come down to this: In 1992, given the sheer strength of the NDC, the chances of the NPP dislodging the NDC from power were very slim. As a quick thinker, he quickly crossed over to the greener side of the fence because, like many of us, he wanted to be on the side of the bread which has the butter. Ten years on, after the NDC's fall from power, he realises that he should be wiser and do his thing again.

Anyway, B.A. Fusseini, the sons and daughters of the NPP would like to welcome you back to the party! Welcome back home! Like the prodigal son that you are, they have no choice but to take off your filthy rags and give you a thorough bath for contaminating yourself through your association with the NDC. But do know that through your unpredictable nature, you have squandered every iota of trust and faith that any of the members had in you. The NPP people don't care even if you were instrumental in starting the NPP. You are a traitor, and not many of them can trust you anymore. You are just biding your time to see how the next elections will go. Then, if the NPP loses the election you would do your thing again. But don't worry, Alhaji. We know why you are so fickle. It is all about bread and butter; it is all about survival. The game is called POLITICS OF THE STOMACH. B.K. Obeng-Diawuoh Bardstown, Kentucky, USA

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