Watching from afar, it would be beyond easy for the average follower of Paul Adom-Otchere to place him firmly in the camp of political ideologies skewing right of centre.
But images of him being moulded by socialist thoughts or him marching alongside comrades fuelled by a spirit of resistance were much closer to the truth a few decades ago, as the renowned broadcaster’s path to this centre-right camp we find him in now started on the exact opposite end of the spectrum.
“I set out as a socialist as I believed in the beginning as an undergraduate student,” Adom-Otchere said, as he gave a brief on his political philosophy before as he spoke before a forum that had the likes of Sylvanus Tamakloe, Lee Ocran, Alhaji Hudu Yahaya.
The leftist seeds in Adom-Otchere’s life started as a child, where some tenets of the Catholic Church shaped his paradigm. The Catholic Church represented the first institution in his life that offered some rigor and discipline when he was being groomed as an altar boy in Burma Camp, where he grew up.
Key to his early left-leaning outlook was the expression of communion which highlighted the equality of men in the way the Catholic Church perceived it.
“The Father discharges the communion to all men in the same manner. So the equality of men and that kind of socialism sort of influenced me at the beginning,” Adom-Otchere noted.
More seismic events in Ghana’s history played a part in Adom-Otchere’s world view as they shed some light on the social strata around the then-six-year-old son of a young army officer.
On December 31, 1981, the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings deposed Hill Limann’s People’s National Party (PNP).
Adom-Otchere recounted how the leaders of the coup sparked a lot of enthusiasm in a lot of the younger army officers at the time.
“I was later to learn that, that excitement that the coup struck in the army officers was because a lot of them were concerned with the attitude of Mr. Riley Opoku, who was the Minister of Defence at the time and it was thought that he did not treat the army officers well.”
“…It struck a certain positive impact of something that I didn’t quite understand. Little I was to find out that these heroes of the revolution became renegades of the PNDC, as it was told that the PNDC did a U-Turn in its own political philosophy sometime in 1983.”
This U-Turn was to foreshadow a turn Adom-Otchere himself would make, but not before he rallied behind socialist icons of the past and present and vented his socialist sentiments as an undergrad in university.
He recalled that “as an undergraduate, I was part of those who chanted the slogans of Che Guevara… we were also buoyed by the maltreatment that the United States meted out, especially to Fidel Castro and Cuba.”
“We were also buoyed in this position when we read about the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, about the blessed Elijah Mohammed, who begat Malcolm X who then recruited Cassius Clay [later to become Muhammad Ali] to become a key part of the whole civil rights movement.”
Being socialist was great for Adom-Otchere. He described it as “the in thing to be. It was fighting university authorities and singing the slogans. That was what it was at the time.”
As he developed, he read about freedoms and the “inalienable rights of men” that were guaranteed by God and how Ghana’s first republican constitution did not even have a clear human rights guaranteed charter.
Then Adom-Otchere found God became a born-again Christian. From a political standpoint, some pivot of the Christian rebirth to wrap themselves in the ideology of liberation theology and the like. But for the born again Adom-Otchere, he “began to accept the central theme of man was God” and in this theme lay a path led him towards the centre-right.
“It seemed to me that the centre right political philosophy to discharge the obligations that God had placed upon man in the Garden of Eden became a spontaneous order… I understood capitalism to mean individual initiative to be developed under freedom and the right for individuals to reap their labour and that the consumer is the most important person in the whole equation,” he explained.
What followed was the reading of epistles of Dr. J.B. Danquah, one of the founding fathers of the UGCC, along with some second-hand influence from British Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Margret Thatcher, which reinforced his new political ideology.
“I noticed that when England changed to Tony Blair, he pursued almost the same centre right policies of Margret Thatcher and described it as new labor. It occurred to me then that perhaps, being centre right, maybe, was the way to go.”
Developments in post war-Angola and post-Apartheid South Africa, where a rejuvenating capitalist ideology rose out of the rubble of the former and the eventual ideological shifts of icons of the Apartheid struggle in the latter, contributed further to Adom-Otchere’s now inevitable ideological shift.
“These things sort of strengthened my resolve that perhaps, this whole left wing thing that we had done through the university and the Che Gueverra and all that, just perhaps, required a bit more research for us to draw a conclusion,” he said.
It is no secret the centre right in Ghana has always been viewed as elitist, dating back to the days of the UGCC to the current incarnation of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). Across the divide, the left is held up as the bastion of the common man, as evidence by the mammoth support Kwame Nkrumah’s Marxist leanings garnered en route to Ghanaian independence from British occupation.
But this is, perhaps, a binary way of assessing these two ideologies, in Adom-Otchere’s mind. The final exhibit in the argument for a shift to the centre right in his mind lay in Ghana’s President from 2001 to 2009, the NPP’s John Kufuor.
John Kufuor oversaw the setting up of the National Health Insurance Scheme to replace the existent cash-and-carry system, institutionalised the capitation grant, started the school feeding programme, launched the Microfinance and small loans program and introduced the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty Program, among other social interventions.
This was all done whilst this former President touted a social vision that was focused on harnessing the entrepreneurial and innovative potential of Ghanaians, thus in John Kufuor, Adom-Otchere viewed a balance within the centre right that was
“…I looked that Kufuor when he took office in 2001 and since the time of Kwame Nkrumah, the record will indicate that the no other president has achieved such important social interventions as President Kufuor, who should normally be a centred right person, did. All of that influenced me.”