By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Inspite of its semanticistic caption, this article is not about semantics or the proper use of language in the political context which constitutes the subject of this column. It is purely about the assessment of an otherwise savvy political strategy gone awry. And that, of course, regards the decision by the National Executive Council (NEC) of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to earmark and/or reserve constituencies represented by the party’s female parliamentarians exclusively for the latter, in a bid to promoting Affirmative Action. And so now the logical question becomes: What is Affirmative Action?
Well, the term was originally minted by American liberal politicians morally embarrassed by the longstanding tradition of denying African-Americans their fundamental human rights in the Pre-Civil Rights Era. It is a 19th-century policy initiative that was not afforded any serious implementation until well into the second-half of the 20th century. It would subsequently be expanded to include white women and other racial and ethnic minorities. In its intent and thrust, the sort of Affirmative Action being promoted by the NPP-NEC is no different from that which is being advocated by the Mahama-led government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), in that the Minister for Women, Children and Gender Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, has been vigorously championing the need for an unspecified percentage of our National Assembly seats to be exclusively earmarked for the occupation of women politicians.
Even as I write, Mrs. Lithur is widely reported to be spoiling for a constituency seat somewhere in the Greater-Accra Region. What makes the NPP-NEC initiative at once strange and bizarre regards the apparently blind interpretation of the policy of Affirmative Action as being solely determined by gender ascription. In other words, rather than being predicated on merit-based preference, as prevails here in the United States, the sort of Affirmative Action being promoted by the NPP-NEC appears to be solely based on gender ascription or designation. Thankfully, as of this writing, the NPP-NEC was reported to be revisiting the proverbial drawing board in order to fine tune its Affirmative Action policy to synch with qualification and competence as its foremost criteria, with femininity being applied as a secondary or epiphenominal preferential variable.
What the preceding means is that in case two contesting candidates, a man and a woman, are adjudged to be fairly equally matched in electoral qualifications, as well as performance track-record, the party bigwigs shall be obligated to staunchly line up support behind the female contestant as a salutary means of equalizing opportunities for our woefully under-represented women politicians. This is what traditional and/or classical Affirmative Action is fundamentally about.
Where the otherwise preferred candidate, in the case of the woman politician, is determined to be woefully and grossly incompetent, the gender variable becomes decidedly irrelevant. This is clearly because the key issue or criterion here is “competence,” it is not merely about blindly filling up a certain number and/or percentage of parliamentary seats with humans possessed of female pudenda or genitalia. Neither is it a phallocentric affair, as it clearly appears to have been the case in the past. And to a remarkable extent, it still appears to be the case presently, thus the imperative need for the “salutary” implementation of an Affirmative Action policy cross-partisanly.
Source: By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
E-mail: [email protected]