Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Echoes of yester-years

Political life in Africa is funny; two sets of treatment are handed out to key actors in the field. The treatment when in power is juicy but in opposition is messy. It is normal in African politics. Ghana is going through that phase, at least since we all submitted ourselves to the strong arms of democracy.

Back in 1993 the National Democratic Congress under President Rawlings was in power. Almost everything on the news was and about the former President and his party; commissioning of projects, meeting children at daycare centres, or drinking palm wine at nearby ghetto, the television brought all of that to our homes.

And despite one’s dislike for seeing those pictures, one had little choice but to see them. The best one can do is to put off the television set and wait for some minutes with the hope that Rawlings and his followers will be off the screen and then come back. But that never happened, in most cases. Every single news item was all about him.

Very little was said about those on the other side of the political divide. Their criticisms were muted in the media. They didn’t matter in the scheme of things. Everything was about Papa Jay.

The situation of the opposition became miserable during election periods. They were given a meager airtime on national television and despite their protests nobody gave them hearing.

Fast forward to 2000 and John Kufour became President. Everybody thought he will not stick the finger in the eyes of the opposition. He did not. His party was everywhere in the media. The NDC, then under the leadership of John Mills, were denied adequate access to the media.

Unfortunately, the National Media Commission, the body mandated to ensure such matters did not arise, went to sleep. Majority of their members who had spoken against the ugly practice during Rawlings’ time were mute. They had become bootlickers and were busy to take notice of any such thing.

The NDC cried and cried but their tears did not get anywhere. They were the lone crusaders. Nobody, at least from the NMC, was interested in their noises. After all they did not listen to anyone when voices were raised against them for deliberately restricting the opposition’s access to the state media.

The state owned Ghana Television carried every single news about Kufour. He was a globetrotter so every single news item never ended with announcement that read: “President John Kufour will tomorrow evening leave the shores of Ghana to attend the G8 Summit in Japan. He joins other African leaders who will be kept at the corridors of the event venue while the leaders from developed countries deliberate on how to slash debts owed them by poor countries. The president will also visit the Ghanaian community and hold bi-lateral talks with other investors.He returns after three weeks.”

This was the usual news bulletin during Kufour’s era. John Mills, who had twice lost elections, was also busy knocking on doors to be given a chance. He carried his placard marked ‘Better Ghana’ and was hopeful Ghanaians will give him the mandate. But very little was said about his campaign. At best he was ridiculed.

Everything in this country was about Kufour. Even when he coughed, spied on a beautiful girl while sitting on a high table at a public function, the state owned media covered it.

‘Sexy president’ eyes a young woman from his high table during the launch of the ‘Presidential Special Initiatives.’
He was the only president and he had his time ‘paaaaaaaaaa,’ as we say in Ghana.
He attended many festivals, met chiefs and got all manner of farm produce including goats brought to his home. He had it all but was still collecting from the poor. Only in Ghana!

President Kufour went to the annual Fetu Afahye in Cape Coast. That was in 2008. He was the big man for the day. Forget about the Omanhene. President Kufour was the big man.

Other visitors included John Mills, then in opposition. He was making his last attempt to the presidency and the Central Region, the very region which had ditched him twice, was the last stop for him. So any little chance would be most welcomed to him.

The festival was his last chance of getting close to his people so he could be given the nod. He was not the president but the leader of the then biggest opposition party. The story was that he went to the festival grounds and an attempt to greet President Kufour turned bloody. His bodyguards were subjected to severe beatings to the point that one of them nearly lost his balls.

The incident clouded the festival. It was all over the news. The beatings of Mills’ aide were never talked about.
The NDC raised protestation but nobody cared about them. After all opposition is not profitable.

The response from the ruling NPP and their elements was that ‘there is only one president.’ So Mills had no business going round to shake hands, including that of John Kufour.
Times have changed and the NPP are now in opposition. They have lost every single privilege that comes with power. The party has a new leader in the person of Nana Akufo-Addo (not so new though).

He went to the Fetu Afahye in Cape Coast somewhere a little over a week ago. The story was that he was prevented from going round to shake hands with the chiefs and people. Organisers say they did not want any of the visiting political figures to use the platform for their personal campaign. That was fair comments.

Secondly, President Mills was coming to the durbar grounds and anyone other personality ought to sit in his seat. Times have changed.
The Omanhene of Cape Coast was even reported to have overlooked Nana Akufo-Addo presence at the grounds. He was peeved and felt humiliated. He is the leader of the biggest opposition leader but was not respected at such an important ground.

His people were all over the place shouting their lungs out. They were also peeved their man was overlooked. Surprisingly the same chaps had forgotten there is only ‘ONE PRESIDENT.’ And that president is no other person than Prof. Mills.

This was the same man whose bodyguards were beaten to pop. Nana’s men did not go through that incident. So the best he can do is to wait and pray he comes to power so he pays the NDC back in the same coin.

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