Ghana: The NPP’s defeat: How religion did it (Part I)
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Do you recall what happened when rumours circulated that Akufo-Addo had pissed on a mosque in the Tamale area when he visited the palace of the local chief to seek his blessing for his bid for the Presidency? Or that the late President Mills won the 2008 elections because of the spiritual powers inherent in the ring that the Nigerian T.B. Joshua of the Synagogue had given him?
In Ghanaian politics, religion plays a major part in making or marring of political fortunes. As the NPP leaders huff and puff at the outcome of Election 2012 and threaten to go to court to seek redress but can’t go once-and-for-all, they seem to gloss over a crucial element that I want to discuss here.
Of all the factors that contributed to their defeat, none jumps at me more than the role that religion played. In fact, putting everything together, I can say that despite the NPP leaders’ placing their faith in God and nursing optimism that the Lord would help them win the elections, the outcome of the polls proves otherwise.
God took the bite out of that arrogant posture to bring down on them the house of cards that their Men-of-God had helped them build! God is not an Alata Man to be toyed with, my friends!
Here is why I regard their recourse to God as a mere window-dressing. Before the elections, they had put so much trust in God, declaring everywhere that “the battle is of the Lord’s,” and organizing prayer-and-fasting sessions. But what have seen after the elections? Nothing of the sort, which speaks volumes about their impulsive use of God’s name in vain.
Surprisingly, none of them is even calling for a church service or Muslim prayers to thank God for helping Ghanaians vote. Any hint of anything of the sort came rather prematurely when Kwadwo Owusu Affriyie (the NPP General Secretary and chief comedian of the party’s ongoing “Concert Party” show) announced that Akufo-Addo had won the elections with 51.8% when voting hadn’t even been completed or the votes tallied. He asked the party’s supporters to wear white and go to church to celebrate that “victory.” At that time, God’s name leapt onto lips only to vanish when reality dawned.
We don’t have records to know what percentage of Christians or Muslims voted for or against the NPP; but we can tell that the manner in which the party used religion to polarize the society didn’t work in its interest. The writing was on the wall, but paralyzed by their own self-absorption, they didn’t see it.
Several happenings suggested that religion was going to play a huge role in determining the fate of the NPP, more so when the party’s own leaders and activists began highlighting religion as a major electioneering campaign topic and used it as a tool as such.
From all indications, recourse to religious sentiments and the inability to allay fears, doubts, and suspicions portrayed the NPP as being merely opportunistic. Voters would not be swayed by any spur-of-the-moment display of religiosity or parroting of Biblical quotations to support political machinations.
Yet, that was exactly what the NPP organizers were doing. Flitting from one religious function to another and identifying with varying religious causes just for the sake of political expediency won’t persuade anybody to identify with their cause, especially when beneath that veneer is the perception that the “Yen Akanfuo” mantra was really influential and motivated disdain for other ethnicities.
Using religion for off-colour politics in this 21st century cost the NPP a lot. Religion (combined with ethnic sentiments), then, became the nemesis for the NPP at Election 2012. I challenge them to do a serious dispassionate appraisal of the situation to know how not to go that way next time. I doubt if they are prepared for what they will uncover. They hate the truth and will quickly sweep this factor under the rug as they continue to bare their teeth at Afari Gyan and his Electoral Commission as the cause of the electoral doom.
It was crystal clear that the NPP leaders were bent on exploiting religion for Election 2012 even though they had created the impression (from their incessant condemnation of the late President Mills’ bent toward Christianity in office) that they won’t. They were just undermining Mills’ inclination for him to abandon it for them to exploit. And they overzealously exploited it to their own doom.
That was why they officially began their electioneering campaign stunts at Essikado, near Takoradi, with a non-denominational church service at which they committed their intentions to the Supreme Deity. We saw how it all happened and why they chose that path to tread. In Ghana, God looms large in our national life; but we can’t bend God’s arms to serve our human agenda.
Then, as if that ceremony was the launching pad for the spiritual uplift to usher them into the Presidency, they never looked back. They declared weekly prayer-and-fasting sessions and mobilized their friends in the hierarchy of the religious set-up, be they in the orthodox and unorthodox churches, to raise high the banner of religiosity.
They even went to the extent of co-opting Muslims, counting on the Muslim faith of Mahamudu Bawumia to rope in the Muslim community to their cause. We saw how Akufo-Addo particularly invested himself in all manner of religious encounters, shuttling between Christian religious services and Muslim prayer sessions. Others turned to traditional African religious sources.
Indeed, God’s ears were really being bombarded from all angles day-in-day-out with prayer requests that verged on desperation. God hates desperate acts. He answers those who diligently call on him, not those who know him only in times of trouble or when seeking his favour to serve their own purposes.
Not to be outdone, Bawumia was all over the place, worshipping at numerous mosques in many parts of the country and snuggling close to the Muslim community, where he used every opportunity to condemn the incumbent in a bid to ramp up support for the NPP’s cause.
Akufo-Addo intensified his search for God’s intervention when he undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem during Easter and participated in religious ceremonies to curry favour from God. At the Wailing Wall, he wailed and gnashed his teeth as custom would demand. I don’t know if that physical demonstration was backed up with penitence.
Apparently, he was going through all that motion with a heart heavily laden with dispositions that his “All-die-be-die” mantra could easily conjure up. God sees the heart, not the lips and limbs!
The bottom-line is that while the NPP was investing itself in matters of the faith for political leverage, Ghanaians knew what its leaders had done to the late President Mills when they set upon him for leaning to God in managing the affairs of the state.
They had stridently condemned him for mixing governance with Christianity and wrote him off as a failure. They didn’t agree with him for introducing the National Day of Prayers nor would they give him any elbow room in which to acknowledge the presence of God in his life at the Presidency. What they did with the TB Joshua element is still fresh in our minds.
At that time, these NPP leaders discounted the value of the Supreme Deity in governance. But seeking to win the elections—and trusting that the omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God is the one who appoints and “disappoints” (Kwame Kwakye fondly remembered here!) kings on earth, they turned to him and won’t stop doing so until their battle cry of “The Battle is the Lord’s to fight for us” reverberated all over the political landscape to their own delight and to the chagrin of those who saw them as hypocrites.
I shall return…
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