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12.05.2005 Feature Article

The Asawase Bye-Election: Seen From My Desk

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The outcome of the recent bye-election in Asawase-Kumasi has been subjected to various interpretations. There are opinions that suggest that what we witnessed was a protest vote against the New Patriotic Party (the NPP) government's petroleum politics. There are also other views that see the outcome as the obvious since the area is an National Democratic Congress (the NDC) stronghold. In the view of the NPP National Chairman Mr. Harona Esseku in a reported interview with JoyNEWS, it was due to a defective campaign and that the NDC got sympathy votes from the constituents who were still mourning the death of the NDC MP for the area during the 2004 elections, Dr. Adamu Gibrile. Their Excellencies, President J. A. Kufuor and vice, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, have both been rhetorical in their opinions about this outcome.

Much as one sees some truth in any of the reasons assigned above, there are other thoughts in addition that are even much crucial. The protest against the hikes in petroleum products is the one that catches my attention the most. When I first heard the incredible increment, I scratched my head and wondered what rationale could be assigned to it. I remember breaking the news on the popular Ghanaian Internet forum, Okyeame, with my own heading, asking whether everyone was well in Ghana. At the first sight, I had my own doubts and it seemed ruthless.

The government may have good intentions for such an increment. Nonetheless, intentions alone do not matter. What is significant is how much the average Ghanaian is going to benefit from whatever profits that come into the collective purse. This increment raises questions as to how much human touch President John Agyekum Kufuor's government takes into consideration in their policies targeted for achieving socio-economic growth and development. The NPP government has been too busy stabilizing the cedi, fighting inflation and less busy assessing how much the population is gaining from all these. The government must be honest with itself that there is little evidence which suggests that the gains [if any] made under the 4-year rule is trickling down to the mass of the people.

In many circles, the argumentation that the NPP is an Akan party is a major reason for this humiliating defeat. The elections in 2004 show that the NPP is weak in the non-akan areas. This trend seems entrenched and with no sight of ending soon. The party has been in government for 4 years now, yet the non-Akan population seems unconvinced about whatever it stands for. To make matters worse, there is a calculated and ongoing campaign that the NPP government is tribalistic and/or nepotistic. Though this allegation is more probably baseless, the government seems to be doing nothing to counter it. The NPP government is also accused of being one of the most corrupt in the history of civilian administration in the country. Again, this is mainly unsubstantiated, yet we hear these allegations quite often. There is a saying in Ghana that there cannot be smoke without fire and, again, silence is a trace of consent.

The government's lack of response to the rantings of former President Jerry John Rawlings is another area. Mr. Rawlings knows that he is most of the time wrong about his judgements on the NPP government. However, he is aware that no matter what, he is not or cannot be made a walkover. He knows some of his defiant and unfounded allegations will adhere. When he ”booms” many find it laughable but there are also those who believe him. What we shouldn't forget about Mr. Rawlings is that he is a master of exploiting situations, making him the only person in the history of the country to have headed two successful coup d'etats and, in addition, ruling uninterrupted for nearly two decades. Coup d'etats may seem a thing of the past, nonetheless, there is no gainsaying that Mr. Rawlings is leading the NDC towards a democratic comeback [and in fact soon], in spite of his defiant methodology. The chances for his NDC comeback is bright and getting better as the NPP government loosely leaves it's image in the hands of its opponents and, especially, in that of Mr. Rawlings. He was in Asawase just before the Election Day, and for the first time, since the ascendancy of the NPP into the throne, he was heard and won overwhelmingly.

The NDC's victory, the first in six parliamentary bye-elections since going into political opposition sent its supporters pouring onto the streets with their hearts full of positive optimism. The NDC retained the Asawase Parliamentary seat with its candidate Alhaji Muntanka Mohammed Mubarak winning 31,017 votes out of the total of 51,635 ballots cast to beat two other contestants Alhaji Shuaibu Musah Shariff of the ruling NPP, who had 19,875 votes with Mr Ibrahim Mohammed Issaka of People's National Convention (PNC) receiving 417 votes.

Some Ghanaians see the bye-election as a miniature referendum on President Kufuor's NPP government policy esp. on petroleum and, not least, a protest against the [common perception of] nepotism and corruption. In my opinion, this victory has come at a wrong time. At a time that Ghanaians are agitating over an incredible increment of petroleum products. This seems to have given credence to the complains of the organizers of the wahala demonstrations. The victory is also a significant evidence of continuous apathy towards the NPP by majority of the non-Akan population [including those popularly referred to as the Zongo communities].

It's up to President Kufuor and his NPP government to grab whatever chance is available to let all sections of Ghanaians understand and feel what they stand for. Any serious minded Ghanaian knows that putting the above factors together, the NPP is on its way back to opposition. Increased poverty, corruption, perceived nepotism and a divided country were not what Ghanaians were longing for before 2001. The government's legacy shall not only be assessed by how many roads, hospitals, schools, and houses were constructed but, significantly, how much of all these trickled down and added up to the well-being of the ordinary Ghanaian. Peter Ohemeng [A Political Commentator] Oslo, Norway Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Peter Ohemeng
Peter Ohemeng, © 2005

The author has 12 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: PeterOhemeng

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