By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016
Folks, when the NPP’s Akufo-Addo recently took his electioneering campaign stumping to Northern Ghana, he made sulfurous speeches, ending up in giving us a new ridiculous refrain, “one village, one dam”. Such stumping was widely covered by the media and the NPP’s own communication directorate to create the impression that Northern Ghana had fallen for him.
Among others, the reports ridiculed President Mahama’s Northern Ghana origin, painting a gloomy picture to suggest that his “own people” had lost faith in him and found Akufo-Addo as a fitting replacement at the December 7 polls. We read the reports that quoted prominent paramount chiefs in the Wa, Yagbon, and Bawku areas as endorsing Akufo-Addo. The chiefs of Wa were even reported to have crowned Akufo-Addo as “the chief of peace” (something like that to reflect his posturing after losing Election 2012 and its aftermath).
We also read the report about the Yapeiwura (the Gonja overlord) as lamenting that even though he had his own brother at the helm of affairs (Meaning President Mahama), he and his subjects couldn’t get water to drink. The meaning here is that President Mahama hasn’t done anything to uplift living standards in his paramountcy. What then? He should be voted against.
From Bawku, we heard similar reports, especially those quoting the Bawku Naba as endorsing Akufo-Addo. From Garu, we also heard that the paramount chief decried the government’s poor performance and endorsed Akufo-Addo. The implications? An Akufo-Addo government would solve the existential problems of the area.
We cringed in the end, apparently because of our hunch that such reports were either too sweet to be true or that they had been embellished to serve the purposes of those behind them. It didn’t take long for our hunch to be confirmed. From Wa, the loud denial came; it was followed by the vitriolic protest of the Yagbonwura against comments attributed to him and his consequent demand for a retraction of the report and an apology from the NPP (which the party has refused to heed).
The protests from the Bawku Naba and subsequent developments have left me wondering whether Akufo-Addo’s visit would yield him the desired goodwill after all. First, the denial by the Bawku Naba regarding comments attributed to him speak volumes. Second, his summonsing of the Garu chief to answer questions regarding his open endorsement of Akufo-Addo mean much more than meets the eyes. Third, accusations by the Kusasi fraction of Bawku that Akufo-Addo is re-igniting the Kusasi-Mamprusi conflict are disturbing (See http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Kusasis-accuse-Akufo-Addo-of-inciting-trouble-in-Bawku-468255).
Folks, these are the main issues from which lessons could be learnt. First, the confusion over the exact utterances made by those prominent chiefs suggests that something didn’t work out well for either those making the utterances or those who reported them. Some claimed audio clips on those utterances were played by some FM radio stations to prove that the chiefs, indeed, made those utterances from which they are now running away, probably after the implications have sunk for them to realize their flub. Will their denial change the matter? I don’t know.
Second, concerns allegedly expressed about lack of amenities such as potable water or district hospital (in the case of Garu) are genuine and should be accepted as such by both the government and its critics, even if the chiefs have denied ever airing them. For the government, it is a matter to be given serious attention and well-thought-out answers given to the deprived communities. It shouldn’t be difficult to allay doubts and fears by proving to the deprived communities that plans are afoot to meet their demand over time. A genuine levelling with the people should bridge the gulf and not widen it to become a politically motivated tug-of-war. After all, those in the deprived communities also deserve their fair share of the national cake.
At this point, then, Akufo-Addo’s promise of “one village, one dam” comes up, even if we grant him the benefit of the doubt for making that promise on impulse and pandering to the political circumstance in which he found himself. The government has already explained what it is already doing to provide irrigation facilities and others, probably including dams, to deprived communities up north. All said and done, then, the ridiculous “one village, one dam” promise will remain a point of reference for comic relief, especially now that the NPP has said that it won’t throw further light on that promise, according to Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, MP for the Kwadaso constituency.
Third, the Garu version of events is more intriguing than initially felt. We have been given to know that the utterances attributed to the chief came from his spokesman, a retired public servant and a well-known NPP activist in the area. The chief is illiterate and sat through the event, listening to his spokesman say in English what he didn’t understand but that would turn round to embarrass him and cause his being summonsed by his overlord, the Bawku Naba. Is his illiteracy his disease here? We hear he has been taken ill and is yet to respond to the summons. The point here is that his spokesman put words in his mouth to please the NPP gathering and its Akufo-Addo. The fallouts aren’t good for the chief, though. Political mischief of the highest order here!!
Fourth, we note that from the other angle, President Mahama has also been touring parts of the country, interacting with chiefs, some of whom are openly praising him for his accomplishments and creating the impression that they are with him. In his earlier “Accounting to the People” tour, some of those instances (the Kwahu area one on my mind) angered the NPP camp. So far, we haven’t heard any protests from them as the chiefs in parts of the Central Region so far visited by President Mahama are singing his praise. No chief has come out to challenge any report on their utterances. Any lesson here? Yes!!
So, folks, we must turn full circle now to note that the electioneering campaigns by the two major political parties have so far given us something to ponder (over). Whether for good or bad, what happened in Northern Ghana on Akufo-Addo’s visit there has opened wide the window for us to see more than we’ve been given to do as of now. We wait to see whether the implications will sink and how the candidates will do things henceforth.
Those who will be quick to learn the lessons should avoid the pitfalls. If they fail to do so, they will expend energy, time, and resources only to earn the scorn of the people. Victory or defeat at the polls on Election Day depends on many factors that influence voters’ electoral decisions. Those who fail to connect with the voters look for redemption in the dark chambers of the Judiciary. They trust their own horses and chariots, not the right thumbs of the voters. And they lose out!
I shall return…
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