THE main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress, yesterday launched their campaign at a well-attended event at Cape Coast in the Central Region, where their flagbearer Fiifi Atta-Mills introduced his 'doubles partner' for his rematch with Kufuor-Aliu, impliedly handing over an advantage to his opponents, who have had four clear years of practice as a team. Dropping his previous partner, a Christian from the North, Mr. Martin Amidu, and going for a Moslem, with may be politically weighty decision, may add some gravitas to his campaign – the duo unlike the Mills-Amidu ticket represented a double dose of political weightlessness.
Neither the flagbearer nor his partner 'owned' a constituency. Mills and Amidu lost their various constituencies to women – Cape Coast and Upper East (Christine Churcher and Hawa Yakubu, both of the NPP doing the damage). This time, his partner owns a constituency – Kumbungu constituency in the Northern Region - and has more machismo than his lead partner.
Significantly both are original CPP adherents, Mohammed Mumuni, quietly slipping out of his CPP colours in 1992 to join the NDC and Mills himself dragged from his slumber as an alumnus of the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute and taxing chores at the Ivory tower by E.T. Mensah, Ahwoi and Faustina Nelson of the NDC.
Despite the ruckus over Mills' choice of Mumuni over Mahama, the gulf between the current standing of the lead opponent, the gentle giant John Kofi Diawuo Agyekum Kufuor and Mills on the national acceptance, is too wide to be bridged by the extra couple of thousand votes that the dapper John Mahama would have exacted.
The added advantage of incumbency and disproportionate media support (perhaps appreciation for riding the anti-press regime of Obed/Rawlings/ Amidu) is certain to cancel out the squeaky cleaner image of the NDC pair, which suffered the arguably exaggerated tag of mass corruption.
NDC founder Jerry Rawlings went to crude lengths to punish corruption and appearances of corruption- sometimes by extra-judicial means, like overturning judgements of competent courts and ordering fresh trials and obtaining convictions.
The same cannot be said of the NPP duo, with the case of Bamba sticking out like a giant signboard of a sitting government postponing the certain judgement of tomorrow.
Despite the perception of arrogance of power and corruption within the NPP in the relatively short space of time - it took more than 10 years for the AFRC-PNDC-NDC apotheosis to lapse into corruption - the entire party's fortune is now driven by one man with the deadly efficacy, brutal instinct and raw power like Boris 'Boom' 'Boom' Becker of Germany in his prime.
John. John Agyekum Kufuor is delivering what the people need – not what they necessarily want. They would have wanted him to have a sharper tongue, but that is not his metier.
In the most inspired decision that attracted sharp criticisms and even rejection by his own finance Minister, the smart-ass Osafo Maafo, Kufuor took the courageous stand of taking the country into HIPC, calculating that as a country in the throes of bankruptcy brought about by Mills'/ Rawlings' reckless spend, spend, bust economic management style, only that route was the way forward.
Today, thanks to Kufuor, on whose coat tails even the NPP book-long Ministers are riding, they have begun commissioning projects in their constituencies and taking political credit. The development projects taking place in the rural areas funded with HIPC funds are real, visible and tangible all over the country. Kufuor has stolen the thunder and captured the rural hearts with these tangible projects in spite of the widely known fact that the NDC was strong in the rural areas.
The Human Rights record of the NDC's antecedent, the AFRC and the PNDC, were so horrendous that, the Ghanaian voting public dread a return of the NDC. As is to be expected, the NPP political leadership and the news media, which is unashamedly pro-NPP, continue to rub it in – with the stomach turning narrations of horror at the National Reconciliation Commission, giving it currency and poignancy.
Harruna Iddrissu, the national youth organiser, who went on radio to rubbish the entire private press in 2001, has been at pains to remind the voters about this distinction. Mercifully, it was the same private newpaper, The Chronicle (he was accusing The Chronicle among others as gutter press despite warnings by the paper's publisher with whom he was debating) that gave him audience and published his plea.
The truth is that there is a clear distinction that exists between the AFRC/PNDC under the Rawlings revolution the environment of the rule of law under Rawlings and Mills in the NDC.
Still, the voters are not prepared to forgive in a hurry. Unfortunately, the journalists and the public have forgotten that it was Rawlings who compensated for his youthful revolutionary annihilation of press freedom by liberating the airwaves, which in turn turned round to combine with the print media to hasten his demise.
Worse for the NDC, the nation's biggest daily the 'Daily Graphic' is now edited by an NPP man, but as luck would have it, the professionalism of the editor has prevented it from being an out and out propaganda mouthpiece.
Such is the sizzling adulation of Kufuor that even opposition parties and renegades within the NPP are canvassing their supporters to vote him for President and their choice of parliamentary candidates. This development is set to push Kufuor/Aliu into a first round annihilation of Mills/ Mumuni, though a tactless approach of intimidating the electorate to vote for MPs against their wish can only backfire and lead to a scuttling of precious votes.
Intelligence suggests that more 'Skirt and Blouse' voting will unfold over the coming weeks. One day is a long time in politics, and Kufuor, who has promised to bury the NDC, has also threatened that the best is yet to come.
One major blunder may change the equation, but inside track information is that the biting commercials compered by Nick Amarteifio and Oboshi Sai-Cofie of Media Touch – then in opposition but now ensconced in Government - will be unleashed shortly to even widen the gap. So far, it appears to be so very good for the Kufuor/Aliu partnership to serve for the match point much earlier than the previous encounter in 2000 where the difference in votes was in the region of 700,000.
There were signals in Cape Coast yesterday that the town may provide some consolation for Mills. This time, it appears that he may be able to save face by narrowly winning Cape Coast for the NDC if the NPP continues its heavy-handed tactics towards the youth in the municipality.