Throughout the political and social discourse in Ghana since the struggle for independence, no concept has proven to be as strategically shortsighted as the assumption that intimidation, bullying and a culture of insult leads to achieving political power. It merely leads parties and agencies to give into the temptation to intimidate and bully their way to power or obtaining their demands – as if anyone could.
The Busia/Danquah tradition did this prior to the attainment of Independence and for the subsequent fifty-eight years of Independent Ghana. During the Matemeho period, they resulted to bombing their way to power. Hundreds and thousands of our country men were killed and maimed. There were numerous assassination attempts on Kwame Nkrumah before and after Independence. R.R. Amponsah led a coup to overthrow Nkrumah one year after independence, and the NLC populated by the tradition banned the then CPP from participating in a “democratic” election. Yet what do we the followers have to show for all these tragic events?
Only the little over two years of Busia and Kuffour’s term. All the remaining democratic governments have been led by Non-Busia/Danquah tradition. Not only that, in the 2012 elections, NPP won only the Ashanti Region and the Akan-speaking part of the Eastern Region, yet the country spent the whole of 2013 contesting a frivolous challenge to the elections at the Supreme Court.
Just when things were becoming harder for the Mahama-led administration and thus a potential chance for the NPP, the whole party has been engulfed in internal fights, intimidation and insults. Everybody wants his/her share of a power we have not yet won. Meanwhile, agencies and constituencies of the party have engaged themselves in making the country ungovernable. When the whole nation gathered in Senchi to deliberate on a way forward for the country, the only people who boycotted the meeting were the NPP. Every single program the Mahama administration has initiated in the country has come without the support of the NPP. But I have yet to read about the alternatives from the party. On what basis am I to vote for you? Simply because things are hard under Mahama? Or because there is dumsor? What shows that things will be different under Akuffo Addo? After all, most of the judgment debt payments started under Kuffour and Akuffo Addo. Additionally, the Volta Lake did not start drying overnight. But was drying throughout the Kuffour administration. What did they do to alleviate the potential power shortage? As far as I know, nothing.
Nana Addo has competed in every single election in the NPP be it for flag-bearership, parliamentary or party leadership since he was old enough to do so, yet on every occasion, he makes unpardonable mistakes. Nana should know after two unsuccessful attempts at the presidency that the factionalism, coercion and culture of slander happening in NPP is a clear manifestation of his leadership qualities and his temperament. Most of the factions are following him and are intransigent because of what he tells them. The problem is not the Alan/Kuffour faction or the Afoko/Agyapong backbiting. The problem is his leadership. Why did Kuffour have to go and seek help from Otabil and others to solve the problem? Where were Akuffo Addo or any of his “biggest fans,” like the Okyehene?
The NPP is becoming more and more polarized and corrupt. Several members have started the manipulative maneuvering in politics that so many of our citizens despise. Corruption is not simply the pocketing of bribes. Corruption is an offense that has many degrees. As the dictionary tells us, corruption is “a changing or being changed for the worse”. In NPP, this comes from a feeling of entitlement – “I belong to this party or tribe; I am of the law fraternity; I am a medical doctor; I am a leader of NPP.” In other words, “I am powerful so I deserve these things”. Akuffo Addo has failed to change this culture of entitlement in the party. This has led to corruption, backbiting and factionalism. Just when we thought things are cooling down, in the party comes the accusation and counter accusation in the public about a bank account. The police has been called in and there are press conferences and counter press conferences, not from foot soldiers and “call-in” propagandists, but from the top leadership of the party.
The party leaders (the elected officials or well-connected community leaders) who rally to Akuffo Addo’s cause, ostensibly to protect his image and legacy without letting him know his faults, have actually hurt him. To be fair, some have done so out of true friendship and fondness but most do so out of pure political calculations, whether subtle and unconscious or blatant. There are the politicians and executive members who want to be in power while businessmen want contracts without regulation. All of these need the political machine to realize their dreams. Unfortunately, they will not even wait to obtain the political machine first. They want to replace Afoko and Agyapong now and anybody who stands in their way.
To make matters worse, the traditional press that affiliates with the party has its head up its ass. It is thoroughly incapable of looking at itself and understanding that most transcribers of press releases (formerly known as “journalists” and “public relations officers”) are entirely unqualified to write about the economy or winning elections. Indeed, they are oiling the machine of intimidation, bullying and culture of insult. The political season has begun and Nana Addo is running. That is enough. It is the year of the toilet, so let’s all talk shit. Does anyone seriously need a reminder of the possible consequences of such an approach?
After the removal of all impediments to press freedom that led to the so-called culture of silence, the freedom of expression that ensued has given way to all sorts of uncultured and downright savage ways of engaging in debates. Sure, it's fun to dish on NDC members who can cry all they want but then it doesn't end there. The internet, radio stations and party meetings have become places where personalities instead of principles are discussed and judged by a hidden jury. I have listened to radio discussions and call-ins, even by journalists, that describe former President Kuffour, Afoko and Kwabena Agyapong in very distasteful terms on air. That's below insensitivity.
This culture of intimidation, bullying and insult is based on propagated lies about party leadership by people who have no idea how the political parties are run. The downright hypocrisy and inability of some executive members and Nana Addo to educate their followers, just to score cheap political points, increases this abusive mindset. Some of these party members behave as if “tear them down” is their only political philosophy. They recruit and pay a special group of propagandists and serial callers to respond to any pronouncement from political opponents with misinformation, fabrication and downright insult. What are we fighting over? Just to get Nana Addo elected?
As a party, we go out of our way to hurt and offend others. We do it to everybody who is not like us. They are of a different tribe or political party so we abuse them. One particular example is how Akuffo Addo, Bawumia and the party discussed the “bloated voters register”. The party has a genuine case about the possibility of errors and bloating of the register even with the biometrics. But is this bloating only from the Volta Region and by Ewes? How come that Togolese were the principal group highlighted in every discussion about the register? The whole country knows that when an Akyem or Asante man says the register is full of Togolese, he is referring to people from the Volta Region. Why these insinuations one year before a general election? For Nana to win the 2016 elections, we will need to win votes from the people who traditionally don’t vote for the party, and is this our invitation to them – “Hey, you are Togolese but we want you to vote for us” Just after we finished insulting them, Nana Addo has to start his “Rise and Build” tour in the Volta Region. Really! What will be the net gain in the region after all these insults? As a party, we have lost the sense that words and actions have consequences and hurt. We have turned all complaints into intimidation. Anybody who makes a complaint has a right to do so, but when you go too far as to start bullying and harassing someone with insults, there is obviously something deeper going on. I think criticism is important in democracy, but some things are just destructive and mean. In recent times we have come to solve any form of confrontation with some form of insult and intimidation. It happens between leaders who disagree and particularly with rivals. One thing is that we have unknowingly cultivated the language of contemptuous insolence with time.
This has never been the nature of Ghanaians. Our people don't tear people down for a living, and NPP should do whatever it can not to be associated with it. The world and Ghana have changed. I am not asking for cowardice in the face of unprincipled and politically motivated assault. I am asking for us not to emulate the bad and uncivilized behaviors of others just because we disagree with them. We are Ghanaians and members of the Busia/Danquah tradition. We don't do cheap things. We were raised with pride and high self-esteem, so insult is not a part of us.
The recent culture of insult and the sheer arrogance that is silently creeping into our party is the single most important reason why we do not have broad support in other parts of the country. The country is waiting for our leadership; the same leadership that helped the Gold Coast, and now Ghana, to come this far. But democratic governance must include dealing with difference of opinion and winning or losing elections. We don't seem to tolerate loss of election and people who disagree with us. Any leader who does not belong to our party and competes with us is vilified. We did it with Kwame Nkrumah, (and with the advent of unlimited press freedom) Rawlings, Arthur Mills, Mahama and even members of our own party. This has cost the party a lot in elections since Independence and has affected Ghana's development because the country has been denied of the leadership that our party could provide.
I am praying for a time when there will be political maturity in our country and party, and our people will realize that because we compete for the same political power and development of our country (including the comforts that come with it) it is okay to sustain the competition with our rivals. But to stop this getting completely out of hand, we need to unite with our rivals to identify the cause of the scarcity that makes us negatively compete against each other, with some national goals and programs that we can collectively agree on to ensure political maturity.
The selfish people amongst us whose sole aim is to gain power will not side with us but will frustrate us and use us to score political points. Also, leadership of the party who think they are good on their own and are trapped in self-deception, unable to get out of the groove of their self-justifying behavior, should be made to know they are being unwise. These people usually work out their fears and frustrations by using the party members to find scapegoats. The problem is who is going to allow him/themselves to be used to achieve the goals of others at the expense of decency and victory for our party. We or them?