Greenstreet; first Ghanaian in wheelchair to contest presidential election(Dec 6, 2016)
Come what may, many records will be set after the results of the December 7 election are declared but before then, one of the Presidential candidates, Mr Ivor Kobina Greenstreet of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), has taken a lead in the contest of records before the first ballot is counted—the first Ghanaian in a wheelchair to contest a presidential election.His is a story that has inspired many others in the disabled community, which has often been painted with the brush of stigmatisation, to venture into politics as 14 CPP members with various forms of disability contest for seats on the party’s ticket in the Parliamentary election.
Mr Greenstreet was not born into a wheelchair. A tragic accident on December 24, 1997 on the Tema Motorway robbed him of his legs. It was an accident that kept him in a hospital bed for almost a year in the United Kingdom.
A die-hard Nkrumaist who entered active politics in the 1990s, joining the National Convention Party (NCP), Mr Greenstreet describes himself as a political activist who believes in enhancing the rights and opportunities for the youth, women and the disadvantaged in society and is a firm believer in social justice, self-determination and Pan-Africanism.
Coincidentally, Mr Greenstreet was born in the very year the founder of the CPP, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, was turfed out of power through a military coup inspired by the West. Nkrumah steered the affairs of Ghana from 1957 to 1966.
In January last year, he shocked the entire country when he beat three contenders, including Ms Samia Nkrumah, the daughter of the late President Nkrumah, to pick the party’s presidential ticket to contest the election with Nana Gabby Nketiah as his running mate. It was an election he was accused of buying votes but Mr Greenstreet denies it, maintaining his competency got him the flag.
The third of four children, born on June 3, 1966 to two academic dons—Prof. Dennis Greenstreet and Prof. Miranda Greenstreet, he is a lawyer called to the Ghana Bar and the English Bar (Inner Temple) as well as a publisher. His book—Ghana Register—is a rich compilation of the details of the various Paramount Chiefs in Ghana.
It is that New Deal that inspired Mr Greenstreet’s ‘Apam foforo Manifesto to wit ‘New Covenant’. “The CPP’s version of the New Deal is to ensure that Ghanaians benefit from the country’s natural resources and Ghanaians become more united as a people.
“The politics should be less about self-enrichment and more about service and making the lives of the people better and for us to truly begin the 21st century meeting our aspiration as a nation. Up until now, we have fallen short,” he said with clasped hands.
According to Mr Greenstreet, his overriding motivation for seeking to be President of Ghana is to put in place a “Ghanaian Dream”, where any Ghanaian who is hardworking and desires to be lifted out of poverty will have opportunities to change their life story and secure their future. The “Ghanaian Dream” will see the government machinery and the civil bureaucracy responding and serving the needs of the public. This is the essence of “Apam Foforo”.
Political twist & turns
As the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) found out at its congress at Kumasi in December 2014, Mr Greenstreet is not a man who shies from controversy. He took the NDC on about allegations of corruption while delivering his party’s solidarity message.
Before becoming the Presidential candidate of the CPP, Mr Greenstreet was the General Secretary of the party for eight years from 2007 to 2015. A step back before that, he contested the Ayawaso West Wuogon Parliamentary seat in 2004 but lost it to the NPP’s Mrs Akosua Frema Osei-Opare.
Mr Greenstreet also served on the Disability Council from 2007-2009. While he exudes a lot of simplicity and gentility, beneath that veneer lays a man of steel who absorbs criticism with a thick skin.
His campaign messages have not spared the NDC and the NPP. His criticism of the NPP, particularly, has attracted verbal lashes because supporters of the party do not understand why an opposition Presidential candidate should be attacking a candidate that is not in power. Others believe he is doing the bidding of the NDC. But Mr Greenstreet parried the accusations, insisting that he was not in the race to help any candidate but for himself and his party.
He is married to a daughter of the late former Vice-President of the first Rawlings Administration, Mr Kow Arkaah, who is also a lawyer, with a son and two daughters.