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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Will Raila go Nana's way?

Ghanaians fit neatly into Professor John Mbithi’s adage that Africans are notoriously religious. Ghana typifies this African tendency in many ways, including its politics.

A ready example is that opinion polls in Ghana are not the preserve of the scientist. Religious leaders make a prediction, maybe more appropriately prophecies, about election results, often with close precision. In fact, their prophecies as to who would win and by what percentages during the 2016 general election were only a percentage more or less of the final tally formally announced by the Ghanaian electoral commission.

At least two Christian pastors have prophesied on the spiritual relationship between Ghana and Kenya. In their view, despite the distance between the two countries, they share a common fate and, as such, whatever happens in Ghana has a spiritual ripple effect in Kenya, politics notwithstanding.

The similarities are striking. I start with Ghana’s Nana Akuffo-Addo, the former opposition leader and current President since January.

Nana’s father was the President of Ghana between 1969-72. Nana also became a politician by becoming one of the champions in the fight against military dictatorship and its attendant human rights violations. Nana is, therefore, viewed in Ghana as one of the key leaders of the Second Liberation against military rule that ushered in multiparty democracy and restoration of constitutionalism in the early 1990s. Nana, until his election as President, was considered a pro-democracy and human rights activist, often in the courtroom and on the streets agitating for social change.

As expected, the status quo establishment branded him as violent and divisive because he was raising ordinary people’s awareness of their rights. Nana became a popular choice of the New Patriotic Party of Ghana for the presidency in 2008, 2012, and 2016. In his quest for the presidency, he tried thrice.

When he alleged rigging in 2008, the party leadership insisted on concession over court arbitration. The election irregularities in 2012 exceeded those of 2008. He and NPP petitioned the Supreme Court for declaration that he was rightfully elected. The court dismissed the petition.

Nana made his last stab at the presidency in 2016. The nature of the campaign and the issues bear close similarities to those of Raila Odinga. Interestingly, in both situations, the incumbent’s political party insists that any other candidate would have been preferable and even beat them but the two in their respective countries. The thinly veiled truth is that both are seen as no-nonsense principled leaders.

Nana was 73, when he ran against the National Democratic Congress incumbent government of John Mahama. He was taunted as an old man who should give way to the younger generation of the incumbent. His earlier resistance to authoritarian regimes through street and other protests, invoking human rights and democratic principles, was willfully misconstrued. Nana was exiled from Ghana in the late 1970s and 80s.

When challenged on its governance record and incompetence, the Mahama government quickly asserted that it was investing in big infrastructure.

The NPP and Nana hammered on the regime’s corruption, over-borrowing and accrued foreign debt, the largest in the country’s history. They derided the government as incompetent, attributing the high cost of living and unemployment to both ineptitude and corruption. The NPP sneered at the Mahama government’s infrastructure programme as a pretext for personal enrichment through price inflation of projects.

NPP insisted that the Ghanaian electoral commission was in cahoots with the government to rig the election, filing several court cases for declaration. The local vernacular stations broadcast messages on Ghana’s electoral commission, rigging of elections and its dire consequences.

Come December 2016, the much-maligned candidate, Nana, won the election as predicted, even prophesied, by sheikhs and pastors.

We see in Kenya the not dissimilar similar story of Raila, the NASA flagbearer.

This year, Raila, like Nana, is making his final attempt at the presidency. This, at the age of 72, used to tout him as old. The governance record on human rights, democratic changes and the constitutionalism he has advocated for are dismissed as non-developmental. Development is reduced to infrastructure by the incumbent government. Like Ghana, the NASA response is that it is not value for money.

As in Ghana, NASA has categorised the national debt as the highest ever in the country’s history.

For months preceding the election, there have been several court applications to ensure free and fair elections. They both rely on the strategy of adopting a polling station to ensure a high turnout and vote protection.

Will the religious leaders of Ghana be right in their prophecies about Kenya’s elections as they were about Ghana? August 8 will tell.

Nana K. A. Busia, Jr

Research Fellow/ Guest lecturer, Public International law,

ICWS, University of London,

UK.

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