Home Politics Cheddar Revolution, Cynicism and Ghana’s patronage politics

Cheddar Revolution, Cynicism and Ghana’s patronage politics

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Nana Kwame Bediako, also known as Freedom Jacob Caesar or simply Cheddar has in the past few days increased the tempo of his political marketing and communications with others appearing on television and radio to brand himself and his messages to Ghanaian voters and the general population. As (a networked) marketplace of ideas, the Ghanaian media largely provides the platforms for different shades of opinions and viewpoints for us as citizens to find out or ascertain the truth ourselves from this multitude of ideas and viewpoints.

I must admit that the first time I ever heard his (Nana Kwame Bediako, also known as Freedom Jacob Caesar) name or saw his face anywhere was when the media highlighted the logjam between the supporters of his newly founded New Force and the state security apparatuses somewhere in January this year over the untimely and unfair cancellation of the Independence Square as a proposed venue for a Convention programme put together by the New Africa Foundation bringing consummate pan-Africanists and Africa development activists such as Professor PLO Lumumba of Kenya, Julius Malema of South Africa and Dr Arikana Chihombori-Quao of Zimbabwe to discuss Africa’s developmental challenges.

While then I acknowledged his ability and exemplary efforts in gathering these selfless advocates for genuine African liberation and development, I dismissed him as politically naïve when on the very day (January 7, 2024) of the cancellation of that African convention he described himself in his inaugural speech as the ‘saviour’ of Ghana and Africa. Subsequently, I paid no attention to him again given my cynicism about self-styled ‘saviours’ and ‘redeemers’.

But his recent engagement in the media has made his voices, ideas and viewpoints, especially in the digital marketplace of ideas irresistible to be ignored. The long and short of it all is that not only does Cheddar know what he is saying about Ghana’s developmental challenges but also has all the right answers, even if I still don’t know his personality and what he can genuinely do if he should get political power.

This is because political power is intoxicating and therefore very few can resist its trappings. Above all, I am old enough to understand that in politics there is often a vast gap between appearances and realities, rhetoric and genuine intentions and political promises versus actual delivery. Therefore, Ghanaians who expressed cynicism over his promises especially to connect the Ashanti Region to the sea (he even doubled down and said the whole Ghana instead of Ashanti) are right given the general dishonesty and shameless pretence of politicians in this country over the years.

But once we have evidence that this type of dredging of water bodies he is talking about has been done before even in Africa (the Suez Canal) over a hundred and fifty years ago, we can even do more than what Cheddar was articulating today since technology on anything has generally advanced. Other examples include our own Akosombo and Bui Dams are there for good references.

The hurdle however is not only the paucity of visionary and patriotic leaders in Ghana but also the national consensus needed for such a financially demanding and time-consuming capital project. A project of this magnitude will not take less than a decade and this is a country where the elites and the political system and practices have engendered deep divisions within the society on almost anything except the benefits of Article 71 officeholders.

The country has for many years been managed in a fire-fighting mode with a lack of consensus on any single transformational development plan and both the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Ghana often act like accounting institutions full of payment officers and not blueprints to aid national transformation and development. Added to this is the intrusive interference and dictation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and their allied agencies to ensure that Ghana continues to play its subordinate role in the global economic and monetary architecture.

So far, none of the presidential aspirants of the leading political parties (NDC and NPP) have even the courage to articulate any developmental vision that marks a break from the IMF donor-driven development that for the past two generations (40 years) has entrenched our dependency and sustained the country’s fragile economic structures. The ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ from the incumbent President Akufo-Addo, which has been the latest political gimmick, has died its natural death.

Where I give Cheddar the benefit of the doubt is his courage, political innocence and general lack of self-censorship in articulating what his plans are for Ghana and Africa during his recent media interactions. Political courage, plain speaking, and direct and uncensored answers he gave put him in a category of other key Ghanaian or African revolutionaries and transformational leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara, Jerry Rawlings and even General Kutu Acheampong of Ghana (before the Kalabule crisis). However, the big difference in this case is that he is a man of business, a private sector operative and a consummate capitalist given his answers from the various media interviews he granted.

While this may be good in opening important channels for the economy and the financial sector, the reality is that worldwide, revolutionary ideas and visions are hardly implemented by consummate businessmen like Cheddar.

The reason is that they always ask themselves the simple question: How can I protect and safeguard my domestic and international interests, businesses and wealth if things go wrong? Weaning the Ghanaian and African economy from its dependency on foreign interference and domination requires extraordinary courage and sacrifices because that is likely to incur the ire of powerful foreign interests, especially in countries where Cheddar claims to have some of his assets and investments.

These foreign interests have tentacles and appendages everywhere and that is what often frightens Ghanaian and many African leaders apart from the likes of Kwame Nkrumah from making patriotic and nationalistic decisions to help their people and protect their economic interests. Despite his good intentions and reticence coupled with serious internal disagreement within the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), even Jerry Rawlings had to succumb to the neoliberal economic order in 1983 with the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP).

As is often the case, this IMF/ World Bank model in 1983 helped in stabilizing the Ghanaian economy in the short term while simultaneously entrenching its subordination and dependency on foreign interests to date.

One other problem that Cheddar is likely to face in this difficult journey is the almost institutionalized system of patronage politics where any election candidate or aspirant has to distribute money, gift or freebies to various categories of Ghanaians even before or after they come out to listen to his messages during his political tours and campaigns.

These include opinion leaders, religious leaders, traditional leaders, and campaign organizers, among others. Moreover, he should pay attention to feedback, especially regarding how various categories and generations of Ghanaians receive his messages and the branding of his image.

This is because given the evidence of escalating poverty and hardship combined with widespread ignorance in Ghana, the TikTok generation that his messages are directed to and are the likely beneficiaries of any successful economic transformation, may see him as just an affluent young man with nothing common with them. Finally, he should look for competent and experienced people with varied practical and technical backgrounds to help prepare his messages, offer technical advice and manage his interactions with the media and the general public. Where there is a will, there will always be a way!

The author, Abdul Hakim Ahmed, PhD, Political Science, is a lecturer, Political Science, University of Education, Winneba.

E-mail: ahahmed@uew.edu.gh

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