By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Thursday, May 17, 2012
As if he has just woken up to the reality that bad leaders are elected by poor citizens who do not vote, the NPP’s Akufo-Addo is on a campaign of sorts, dubbed as “Restoring Hope,” to move the electorate to vote for him in the December elections.
But he seems to be digging his own grave more than uplifting himself to the vantage point. I will be brazen to say that he is not restoring any hope but rather dampening it.
He has so far not said anything new to restore anybody’s hope that he has what it takes to outdo the incumbent or previous governments whose visionlessness hasn’t taken us out of the woods yet. All that has come from him is either promise-making or a scathing attack on President Mills and his government.
He has given little for us to know what a future government led by him will do that we haven’t seen other governments already do in Ghana. Or to warrant his being given the mandate to rule. Bombastic speeches and self-aggrandizing posturing won’t help us develop our country.
Akufo-Addo is limping politically and all others in his campaign team are limping too. Just as it is in the animal world, when the leading animal is lame, the herd fails to get to the pasture.
Considering the rumpus that occasioned his earlier promise to make education free at the secondary level, one would expect Akufo-Addo to be guarded in his politicking; but he hasn’t. Instead, he has moved into a higher gear, doing nothing but making promises here and there.
His latest promise is that he will introduce a “Zongo Development Fund” to address the development gap in impoverished communities should he be voted into power. According to him the special fund will be an annual budgetary allocation that will aim at deprived communities, mostly referred to as Zongos.
My immediate reaction to this sweeping but senseless promise is to wish that Akufo-Addo were near me so I could pull his ears very hard!! It seems he needs something of the sort to re-align him to reality.
Will this man ever learn any lesson to know that promises of this sort cause more harm to political fortunes than any good that might be imagined therefrom? Or that they are also demeaning and are better not made?
I am highly surprised that Akufo-Addo will make such a promise and be defended by Mustapha Hamid that “the fund has become very necessary because over the years a general developmental fund has not solved the infrastructural deficit that exists in those communities.”
But what should I expect from such desperate people?
This promise is as hollow as it confirms the desperation with which these NPP functionaries are approaching Election 2012. It is a clear case of crass opportunism. And we know that a smart opportunist can be an intellectual moron.
Akufo-Addo’s recourse to such pathetic appeals to win electoral favour brings to mind the futility of this promise-making galore as an electoral bait. Were it for promises alone, there would be no need for Election 2012 to be contested at all between the incumbent and these opponents. It stands to reason that President Mills and the NDC campaigners for Election 2008 had made numerous promises which have turned out to be the cause of their woes and sleeplessness because of how difficult fulfilling those promises has been.
But for this promise-making spree, what else would Akufo-Addo have used to reach out to the electorate?
Sometimes, I wonder what these Ghanaian politicians take the electorate for. As dummies or people whose thought process is so impaired that they can be turned into puppets to be bobbed up and down for political advantage?
By playing to the gallery and making this kind of promise, Akufo-Addo comes across as a dangerous character who will sacrifice everything to achieve his political ambition. Indeed, this latest promise betrays his shallowness and strongly detracts from whatever he is worth. It is an insult to the residents of the Zongo communities and must be condemned, not commended.
The Zongos have their unique history and characteristics. They evoke pride among their dwellers and give them the distinct identity that they uphold with vigour and determination. To write them off as impoverished people who cannot live their lives without handouts from an Akufo-Addo government is insulting.
It is not as if the Zongo communities sprang up to be inhabited by the dregs of the society or to be regarded as synonymous to extreme poverty, want, disease, and abject squalor. Those who know the history behind these Zongo communities will hesitate to think the way Akufo-Addo does, which is the rationale behind his promise.
The Zongos are cultural symbols that construct the identities of their inhabitants, not as the poorest of the poor who cannot live their lives without any handout from the Father Christmas that Akufo-Addo wants to turn himself into.
They emerged to accommodate the needs of citizens from mostly Northern Ghana, Nigeria, and other countries in the West African sub-region who settled in southern Ghana and were initially considered as “strangers.” Of course, they didn’t settle directly among—or intermix with—the local residents (apparently to have a separate identity and live their lives as their cultural preferences would allow them to) and to enable them to preserve their distinct socio-cultural selves. There was no melting pot activity.
Anybody who knows this history will be quick to conclude that the differences between those settlers and the indigenes far outweighed any similarity that might encourage their commingling. Religious faiths and preferences also influenced the need for separate existence—those in the Zongo community being mostly Muslims who were content with their conditions of existence and have even been proud enough to see that “Zongoness” as a mark of pride—of belonging to roots that can be traced.
And they have been at peace with others in the particular locality without even seeing themselves as disadvantaged or discriminated against. Akufo-Addo’s promise has a huge potential for discrimination.
Anything that characterizes the Zongo community has more to do with culture and politics than economy. It is an open secret that residents of the Zongo communities are as rich as their counterparts living outside the Zongos. Go round these Zongos in Ghana and you should see things for yourself.
If anybody gets up today to equate life in the Zongo community with poverty, that person must be feared. It is only a mischievous person who will do so, especially if it is for political capital as it is in Akufo-Addo’s case.
Lifestyle and the sense of identity and belonging are the main measuring rods, not poverty. By making this promise, therefore, Akufo-Addo has only opened himself to scorn—and he will have more of it than he can cope with.
Larger level concerns remain. Is Akufo-Addo saying that he will isolate the Zongos in all the cities, towns, towns and villages in Ghana for this special development into “inner-city paradises” while leaving the other parts of those cities, towns, and villages undeveloped? Or how is the Zongo to be carved out of the entire lot to be so developed without provoking anything untoward?
Better still, how will such a project be carried out? Pulling down all the existing structures (rickety or not) in the Zongo and rebuilding them under a housing project (with all the drainage, public utilities, etc.) in place while leaving other parts of the locality untouched? How many of such projects can an Akufo-Addo government undertake in 4 years to make it sustainable, anyway?
More importantly, where will the money for such lofty projects come from? The petroleum industry? Loans? What difference, then, will such a government make from what we already have?
You see, Akufo-Addo is simply not making a good mark in his campaign. He has already hit a snag and will suffer for it.
At a time when public anger against Kenney Agyapong’s unguarded utterance (declaration of war against Ewes and Gas) has negatively affected the NPP’s image, one expects something better from Akufo-Addo than this promise to the Zongo communities.
He has so far shrugged off commonsensical demands to renounce Agyapong’s threats and his own war-mongering cry of “All die be die” as a prerequisite for creating a congenial atmosphere for the electioneering campaign toward Election 2012.
Having made a half-hearted attempt in his interaction with some chiefs in the Volta Region, which hasn’t in any way solved his own credibility problem, he seems to have no regard for the Gas (at least to be moved toward assuaging their doubts and fears within the context of the Kennedy Agyapong nonsense). He is unperturbed by public opinion and is adding more to worsen his footing.
Such is the nature of this self-conceited braggart of a politician, carried away by a run-away ambition to be Ghana’s President at all costs. I wonder what he will say to the Fulani community too. Build kraals near the Osu Castle or the Jubilee House and grow luscious grass for them to graze their cattle on?
I deride his so-called campaign of hope restoration as shallow and whimsical if all it has to offer is empty promises. Until anything different emerges from him to change my impression, I will continue to urge Ghanaians to disregard him and his NPP team whose only badge of honour is cunning manipulation of the citizenry and self-conceit. Hopes can never be restored through promises and the flogging of a dead horse.
The Zongo communities deserve better than this rabble-rousing and massaging of emotions, which is nothing but a manipulation of a rather sensitive cultural issue for selfish political gains. Fie on such filthy and insulting promises!