It was 2AM when a friend on Facebook sent me a message. He had heard that some people had poured acid on the Upper East Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) so I should check if it could be a story. Curious about the news because of what had happened in the region a week earlier, I wanted to know if he was in Bolgatanga and could provide more information. No, he said. He was in Florida.
As a journalist who is active on social media, I am often overwhelmed by such alarming leads, most of which often turn out to be false. I called the Upper East Regional Correspondent of Joy FM, Albert Sore, at 2:12AM to verify. He said he hadn’t heard about it so I went to bed that dawn hoping it would be one of those false alarms. The Upper East Region is one of the most peaceful and politically stable regions in Ghana apart from the protracted chieftaincy dispute in Bawku.
But it was not a hoax as I had hoped. The barbaric act was true. The NPP Regional Chairman, Adams Mahama had been attacked. At 6AM, the Public Relations Officer of Upper East Regional Police, ASP Thomas Agbanyo, confirmed the acid attack to Joy FM:
“The stench of the acid was just so much that when we opened the Pick-Up he was driving in, all the seats were torn by the acid. He was showered with the acid, from the head through the face to the body and all parts,” he said
Mr. Adams Mahama’s aide, Zakaria Osman, told Albert Sore that his boss was in a critical condition, adding that “his whole body is burnt”.
That morning gory images of the man, whose skin was almost peeled off by the acid, flooded social media, especially Facebook. He was about to be airlifted to the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra for treatment. But that did not happen. He died before the arrangements were concluded.
Though Mr. Adams Mahama was a party chairman, his attack and subsequent death would have been treated only as a criminal offence, with the NPP unanimously demanding justice, and perhaps, pointing accusing fingers at the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC). But the death of the party chairman seems to have deepened the internal war raging in the party. The reason?
A week before the incident, there had been a violent confrontation in the Upper East Region, which resulted in the scuttling of a planned meeting between the NPP National Chairman, Paul Afoko, and the General Secretary, Kwabena Agyepong and other regional executives of the party.
Adams Mahama had said he was not aware of the planned meeting and wondered why the two national executives would organise a party meeting in his region, with his executives and would not inform him about it. Some party supporters purportedly in the camp of the flag bearer, attacked the two national party executives. But for the timely intervention of the police, the outcome could have been bloody.
For their safety, Kwabena Agyepong was whisked away to the Northern Region while Paul Afoko, sources say, went to stay in Navrongo. Paul Afoko and Kwabena Agyepong were said to have lodged an assault complaint with the Upper East police but also indicated that Adams Mahama was well aware of the meeting.
This controversy was still raging when Mahama Adams was attacked, leading to his death the following morning. For this reason, some party members, including some members of parliament and elders of the party, believe the two national executives of the party had a hand in what they call “the murder of Chairman Adams.”
For such people, the link is clear. If a witch cries in the night and a child dies in the morning, we do not consult the soothsayer to ascertain the death of the child. The fact that one of the alleged perpetrators of the attack, who has been arrested by the police is said to be the brother of Paul Afoko has deepened their suspicion. It is too early to conclude or link the murder of Chairman Adams to the two party executives. But what is known to all, except those who landed from Pluto last night, after a decade’s sojourn, is the growing and disturbing level of violence and intolerance in the NPP.
Once upon a time in the political history of Ghana’s, there lived two dominant political traditions. One was founded on solid ideological and liberal democratic principles. The other had its foundation on two revolutions founded on the principles of probity and accountability. The probity and accountability only existed on paper and on the hypocritical lips of the founders. It did not exist in practice. The party founded on solid liberal democratic ideas is called the NPP while the one built on revolutionary pillars is the NDC.
When Ghana returned to multi-party democracy in 1992, these two political traditions have taken turns to occupy the political space.
The NPP has generally been seen as more peaceful than the NDC. The reason is obvious. The mad man who has been certified by the curer of sick heads to join his household still has something small to scare away children. The NPP has always tagged the NDC as a violent party. In fact, in the 2008 elections, the NPP had campaign ads that featured the NDC as a violent party, a party made up of murderers. Whether the NDC is indeed violent or not, is a subject of big debate. What can, however, not be contested is the fact that the NDC has not had a clean sheet as far as non-violence is concerned.
One such violent incident, which has become the mascot of the NDC as far as the NPP is concerned, is the violent Koforidua Congress in 2005. On Thursday January 5, 2006, a former Chairman of the NDC and Minister of Justice and Attorney-General under the Rawlings regime, Dr. Obed Asamoah announced his resignation from the party. In his press statement, he cited violence as the reason:
“Within the NDC as of now, dissent, particularly against certain personalities, is considered as treacherous to be dealt with by violence and hooliganism. It is obvious that I do not share in those methods. I therefore no longer can associate myself with an organisation employing such methods.”
There is a story about two neighbours; Shea Butter and Salt, who had a fight. But there came a heavy downpour the night before the fight. Shea Butter spent the whole night gloating over the predicament which had befallen Salt and forgot to take shelter. After the rain, the sun visited. And Shea Butter melted. That is what has happened to the NPP.
The NPP refused to learn from the NDC’s mistake, and today, that violence is threatening the survival of the party. The Flag bearer of the NPP, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has contributed immensely to the violent disposition of the NPP in recent times. This is how he did it:
In August 2010, there was a by-election in Atiwa in the Eastern Region to replace the Member of Parliament, Kwasi Annoh-Ankamah, who had died in July that year. The NPP won the seat hands down, but when Atiwa is mentioned in politics, what comes to mind is violence. That by-election was characterized by enormous violence. Apart from the NDC Women’s Organiser whose vehicle allegedly drove into NPP supporters and injured seven of them, there were clashes between NDC and NPP youth, who were mostly imported into the constituency for that purpose.
Later when Nana Akufo-Addo was addressing party supporters in the Eastern Region, he told them that the violence they (NPP) showcased in Atiwa was just a tip of the iceberg, and that the 2012 elections would be “all-die-be-die.”
“They think we Akans (NPP supporters) are cowards… In Atiwa, we showed them something small. For the 2012 elections it will be all-die-bed-die. All-die-be-die!” Nana Akufo-Addo declared and repeated to a cheering crowd.
In March 2011, I published an article expressing my disappointment in all those who defended and justified the infamous declaration. For me, that was a very reckless and irresponsible statement that deserved condemnation. But such staunch defence by party leaders, journalists and so-called intellectuals, emboldened the youth of the party.
In the 2012 elections, the NPP printed party T-shirts with the inscription “All-die-be-die.’ NPP MP for Ablekuma West, Ursula Owusu even wore a shirt with that inscription on a live TV Show. Yes, all-die-be-die caught on well with party youth and I don’t think anybody with all his or her senses intact will tell me that it is a chant for peace and non-violence. If there is any NPP gathering today, you will find T-shirts with that slogan.
In the wake of the 2012 elections, I was among the Multimedia crew who were nearly lynched by NPP supporters protesting outside the residence of Nana Akufo-Addo. They believed the elections were rigged in favour of the NDC and the coverage by Multimedia Group Limited prepared the minds of Ghanaians to accept the rigging. Armed police and army officers who were maintaining calm at Nana Addo’s Nima residence, formed a shield around our vehicle and escorted us to the Nima Police station for protection. While we waited for a police to escort us back to Kokomlemle, I heard some of the supporters chanting the all-die-be-die slogan. Such chants were often heard at the Obra Spot, where the party decided to pitch camp for days to protest the election results.
The growing level of violence in the NPP did not die with the 2012 elections. On August 19, 2014, machete-wielding youth besieged the party headquarters in Accra and turned a press conference by the party’s executive into a bloody clash.
Three weeks ago, the party’s chairman, Paul Afoko, and the general secretary, Kwabena Agyapong, were met with violence when they visited the Upper East Region. The information I have is that the NPP is about to introduce electronic identification cards for its members. The national executives had met regional executives in the seven regions to discuss the project and it was the turn of the three regions of the north. The Upper East Regional Chairman, who reportedly boarded the same flight with them from Accra, said the two executives did not inform him before coming. That visit was interpreted as a meeting to work against the flag bearer hence the violent confrontation. That violence is, what some believe, led to the murder of the NPP chairman and the current turmoil the party is facing.
Our elders say, if a desperate kwashiorkor enters a town and finds no children to inflict, it will settle on adults. I am not sure who ever brewed the militancy and growing violence in the NPP never thought the NPP would be the casualty. Proponents of the all-die-be-die say it is for self-defence. If the youth who attacked the NPP headquarters, the perpetrators of the Bolga violence and the murder of the party chairman were inflicted on the NDC, the NPP would have staunchly defended such actions. But the ball of violence has bounced back to the thrower.
The party is in turmoil because of the violence. When the attack on the NPP headquarters happened last year, the Managing Editor of the New Crusading Guide newspaper, Kweku Baako Jnr, described it as “a comedy of errors which has the potential to lead the party into a mutually assured destruction.” How right he was!
In the present confusion, all eyes are on Paul Afoko and Kwabena Agyepong. But the party must look beyond the two. With all the differences, not many people would have heard about the internal wrangling in the party if there were no violent incidents, which highlighted the disagreements. The party headquarters attack and the Bolga incidents are examples. These are often sponsored attacks. Our elders say if you find birds dancing in the middle of the road, don’t assume they are mad, for the drummers are in the nearby bush.
The disease that will kill a man first breaks sticks into his ears. For this reason, it is not likely the NPP leadership would heed any advice to disband the growing level of militancy within the party. But they stand to lose if they allow this to continue.
Under the normal circumstances, one would say everybody should mind their own business and allow the NPP to deal with their own issues. When the wood-insect gathers sticks on its own head, it carries them. But we cannot allow the NPP to keep on this way. If crocodiles eat their own eggs, what will they not do to the flesh of the frog? Such violence will not only end at the party level if it is not stopped. Besides, whatever happens in that party affects the entire nation.
Ghana is currently under the curse of a clueless and insensitive government. The government has frozen employment, and the private sector, which would be expected to employ, is forced by the effects of bad governance to lay off workers. Hundreds of thousands of youth who leave school every year are in trouble. The cedi is falling. Corruption is growing. Power crises have brought many large and small-scale industries to their knees.
In a country where politicians do not seem to fear God, and with a president who has developed a dead goat syndrome to the labour agitations in charge, it is only the fear of losing elections that will instill some modicum of sanity into the leadership of our dear republic. But the NPP seems to be handing victory to the NDC on the silver platter and there will not be the urgency to address our woes.
Our elders say hunger which has hope for its satisfaction does not kill. But the hunger of Ghanaians for development and responsible governance is killing us because we are losing hope. The pain is not so much about a government which does not seem to care about the woes of its people. It is the fact that there is no credible alternative on the touchline of our political pitch.
That is why the NPP’s shameful clash of big egos, fueled by ethnocentrism and set ablaze by political violence, should be the concern of all those who love to see Ghana work again.
Yes, Ghana Must Work Again!
Manasseh Azure Awuni is a Senior Broadcast Journalist with Joy 99.7FM. His email address is email@example.com