Ask me to name one person as the greatest novelist of all times, it would not take me a millisecond to name my mentor, Chinua Achebe, the wizard of African fiction. When it comes to the local front, however, I will give it to the rather unpopular Kwakuvi Azasu, the author of The Stool, The Slave Raiders and a few other novels. The Stool is Kwakuvi Azasu's book I first read and when I saw The Slave Raiders on the shelves of a Legon Bookshop, I needed no one to recommend a good literary piece to me. I bought it instantly and I did not regret it.
The picture I am trying to paint here is the fact that one's choice of what to read does not always depend on the subject but sometimes the writer. There are people whose articles and features I never miss and one of such persons is Mr. Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafo, former editor of the Daily Graphic and now General Manager of Newspapers at the Graphic Communication Group Limited. My first encounter with this well-read man was when he delivered a spell-binding lecture on journalistic ethics at the British Council during GIJ's SRC week celebration about three years ago. Since then, I have vowed to read whatever I find written by him, even if I have no interest in the subject. Good literature is not easy to come by.
I don't know if anyone else has noticed it but Mr. Boadu-Ayeboafo's articles of late are often very critical of government even though one hardly read such topics in his write ups in the past. What easily comes to mind if one tries to interpret this is the fact that Mr. Boadu-Ayeboafo has a soft spot for the NPP and that explains why he is critical of the NDC. I, however, think it is very healthy for Prof. Mills' government. And it is the lack of these constructive criticisms that hurled the NPP back to the hell of opposition.
To quote Mr. Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafo: “…the greatest test of democracy is to tolerate opinions that we hate to hear. Criticism is criticism and no one must define what others must say, so far as they do not act illegally.” Criticism from the opposition was seen as propaganda and since we have demonized the term propaganda to connote lies, for which Fiifi Kwetey nearly paid dearly, their words were as weightless as a feather.
It is funny when some people heap the blame on the national executives of the party. I covered a few of their press conferences and monitored their campaign very well and I do not think there is anything humanly possible the NPP did not do to cling on to power. Talk of monopoly over both the state and private media in terms of adverts and news coverage and they were unprecedented. Talk about the best slogans and the assembling of all those who matter in the showbiz industry and the NPP was simply unmatched. As for the sharing of cash and goodies, they were peerless. The campaign was very innovative and their catchy slogans were very infectious.
But it is often said that it is impossible for life to snatch what death has laid grips on. The NPP was rejected and they had to seek solace in the vilification of the Volta Region, who, like their counterparts in Ashanti Region, one does not need a prophet to determine their voting pattern. Instead of apportioning blame and sometimes finding fault where there is none, the NPP should know that they lost because they had too many royal bards who did too much praise singing even when some of them seemed to hurt the sensibility of Ghanaians. The journalists did not help them because their sense judgment was clouded by the “friendliness of government.”
The World Bank, IMF and those self-seeking international organizations did not help matters. The NPP only got to know that the World Bank could be wrong only when the World Bank, like an adulterous woman, wrote to President Mills describing the economy (not ecominy) as “extremely worrisome.” Prior to that, their praise words were banner headlines which were cited very often. It was however too late. In fact, lying and praise singing has become so common in Ghana these days that it is fast gaining the status of a virtue. False praises usually precede the downfall of heroes.
In his short story entitled The Emperor's New Clothes, Danish story teller, Hans Christian Anderson, illustrates the deadly consequences of false and excessive praise singing. The story is about an emperor who is so infatuated with clothing that he invests a lot of resources on his wardrobe. Some swindlers who got to know this decide to take advantage of his weakness and dupe him. They promise to weave a very expensive cloth for him. They however claim that the cloth would be invisible to those who are not fit for their position and people who are “inexcusably stupid.”
A lot of money is given to them and they are provided with the best materials they need to complete their job. Each day they sit down weaving this imaginary piece of royal clothing which no one in the kingdom ever sees. When the emperor visits them he does not see what they appear to be seriously weaving, but to save himself from being described as stupid and unfit for his post, he swears it is the best material he has ever seen. His wise elders he usually sends to the weavers also commend the imaginary cloth very highly in order to save their position.
The end of the story is that the emperor finally appears naked (I mean stark naked) in a procession when he is supposed to be wearing this extra-ordinary clothing. All his subjects who go on the procession see his nakedness but cannot say it because they fear being tagged extremely stupid or unfit for their positions. A small child who cannot hold his peace when he sees the naked emperor in a palanquin shouts, “But the emperor is naked?” The irreparable harm has already been caused and it has been realised rather too late.
In the words of Adolf Hitler, “Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way round, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.” This is exactly what the NPP and the NDC started doing even before they went to congress to elect their flag-bearers. While the NPP was of the view that Ghana under the NPP was a paradise as compared to any other governments, the then opposition NDC was advocating for change on the premise that the condition of living of Ghanaians was worsening by every passing day.
Fortunately, however, the electorate were not flown from Mars, Jupiter, Neptune or any other planet to vote. They were witnesses to the daily happenings in the country and the outcome of the polls was an indication that the Ghanaian voter could not be taken for granted. Apart from the Ashanti and the Volta Regions whose voting pattern was as predictable as the ritual journey of the sun from the East to the West, both presidential and parliamentary results from other regions pointed to the fact that voters were more sophisticated and discerning. If the money the NPP used in their campaign was spent for developmental projects, there wouldn't have been any difficulty in convincing voters.
In 2012, Ghanaians will go to the polls again and the best slogan in every election is “Hwe wo asetena mu na to aba!” Look at your state of affairs and vote accordingly. The NDC will definitely be judged come 2012 and instead of beginning to parade praise singers at the various media houses, they should deliver what they promised. Ghanaians are looking on with eyes widely opened and must not be disappointed. If praise singing was the only way to cling on to power, the NPP's reign would have outlasted eternity.
Social commentators like Kwesi Pratt Jnr., who were unofficially declared personae non grata in some media houses like GBC have mysteriously found their ways there. (Pratt is objective though) Presenters of certain programmes in the state-owned media have changed and continue to change. Mr. Richard Quarshigah of the NDC now has power to call GBC and tell which panel is balanced and which is not. Would his word have been heeded prior to January 7, 2009? Editorials and headlines of the Daily Graphic have suddenly changed and one wonders if there is really freedom and independence of the media in Ghana.
The NDC has started a lot of praise-singing documentaries and Prof. Mills has scored himself high marks. Speaking to GBC Radio after on President Mill's 100 Days in office, Dr. Arthur Kwabena Kennedy of the NPP advised the President to take his time to deliver on his promises and stop praising himself. I find this advice as the best a leader could expect.
According to Abraham Lincoln, “If you want to know the true character of a man, give him power.” As to whether Prof. Mills is the man of peace he professes to be, will soon be known. Come what may, there will be a referendum in 2012 if Christ the Saviour spares us some more years to make amends as a nation. My advice to the NDC is that if a man dies by stumbling over a stone, we do not run to his funeral. We walk as though we fear to hurt an ant. It is only a … to whom a proverb must be explained!
Many are those who will argue that several factors accounted for the downfall of the NPP but those factors were not seen because the praise-singing was just too much and even the bad deeds were complimented. This was why they were not addressed and this finally spelt the doom of the party.
To the NPP, if you do not see any sense in what I have said, the search for why you lost will be as elusive as the proverbial foot of the rainbow. And to the NDC, I repeat, it is only a … to whom a proverb must be explained!
Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni [[email protected]]
The writer is a Level 300 student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, Accra.