A Charge To Keep?
The last quarter of this year promises to be interesting as far as the socio-political environment of Ghana is concerned. Both the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) would be going to congress to elect national officers in November and December respectively. This is part of the political requirements and obligations of both parties as well as a conscious effort to position both parties for the upcoming challenge of garnerning enough votes so as to take up Ghana?s mantle of leadership in the year 2008. Although 2008 is effectively three years away, it is quite obvious that politicians have little less than two years to do effective political campaigning that would gaurantee victory in the next general election. The reasons for this assertion are not far fetched. Among other things, the year 2006 would witness elections at the district assembly level while government would focus on efforts at stimulating socio-economic growth and consolidation within our democratic dispensation. 2007 is likely to see stakeholders in Ghana but businesses in particular positioning themselves to benefit from Ghana?s hosting of CAN 2008 so that campaigning in 2008 itself could easily be overshadowed by the crave of Ghanaians for ?non-political? football. All these would of course be taking place under the shadow of our performance at next year?s world cup finals in which our performance would by then have been rendered irrelevant to the political gymnastics of the time if not absolutely forgotten. Presidential candidates, together with their campaign teams would indeed face a huge challenge of trying to divert the minds and hearts of the electorate from CAN 2008 especially just as the media would be caught in the fix of trying to balance soccer-crazy Ghanaians interest in the cup of nations and the elections of December 2008. What all these portend is thus subject to the interpretations, calculations and strategies of the major protagonists within the political arena. However certain developments within the two leading parties give cause to wonder whether 2008 would be as easy as some political commentators tend to indicate.
Calls for ChangeBoth the NPP and NDC are currently receiving clarion calls for change by segments within their fraternity. Could this be the reflection of a belief that the political dynamics of 2008 would be markedly different from anything Ghana has experienced since the return to constitutional rule in 1992? At the launch of Abeeku Dickson?s bid for the position of General Secretary of the NPP, Daavi Ama, another contestant for the post of National Treasurer of the NPP stated inter alia ?2008 would be even more difficult than when we were in opposition?. Her statement was arguably premised on the impressions she may have gathered on the campaign trail for it is common knowledge that party activists of the NPP are disenchanted, disillusioned and disappointed by the acts of commission and omission of certain office holders within the party and those of some government officials. This presupposes that the party faces a herculean task in reviving the dynamism that contributes to campaign and subsequent winning of elections. Similarly and yet somewhat differently, Mr. Ben Ephson a political analyst par excellence speaking on Citi 97.3 FM on Friday October 14, 2005 stated that ?between the NDC and NPP, I expect the latter to face a greater challenge in the run up to 2008?. For Mr. Ephson, a factor such as the availability of money to the NPP?s presidential hopefuls and the reality of incumbency advantages places the NPP in a test of wills and principles within the democratic game. If the positions of Mr. Ephson and Daavi Ama are juxtaposed against the relatively ?mild? warnings of Akenten Appiah-Menka, one is left in no doubt that the calls for change are legitimate even if the form and type of change being called for is open to debate.
In the case of the opposition NDC, the calls for change tend to emanate from the youth wing, especially within the ranks of the Youth Forum whl clearly prefer a change of leadership of the party. Whether by accident or by design, some members of the National Executive have thrown their weight behind the call of the Youth Forum so that one is left in no doubt of the determination of the NDC to wrestle power in 2008 by a combination of internal reforms that would culminate in the election of shrewd loyalists whose tact and skills are likely to endear the party to the masses in lieu of the present situation where certain national officers are perceived to be impediments to the realization of the NDC?s dream of recapturing power. The change protagonists of the NDC have interestingly goine the extra mile of identifying Akora Mr. Victor Gbeho as the embodiment of the ideals and ideas they represent, reason for which Dr. J Tony Aidoo speaking also on Citi FM stated that ?Victor would win easily? when asked about the clout wielded by the incumbent National Chairman, Dr. obed Asamoah. It remains to be seen as to whether the elections of December would confirm this position. Yet and interestingly enough, the apostles of continuity are now the shepherds of change.
Time indeed changes!
Threats to ChangeIf Ghana?s leading parties are clearly of the view that some change is necessary for the sustenance and improvement of their chances at electoral victory, then it is important to examine the most potent threats to the drift towards change and internal reorganization. This writer is of the opinion that the most dangerous threat to the realization of the ?change dream? is a category of people I will classify as ?submarine politicians?. This category of people, ironically well entrenched in both parties are those who occupy sensitive positions in their respective parties. Their influence is more dominant in the NPP for the simple reason that some of them double as government appointees. Submarine politicians by definition are those who as stated above occupy sensitive positions, appear to sympathize with the frustrations of their party?s activists and yet do nothing to effect the requisite changes for fear of losing the perks of office. Theirs is to eat their cake and have it. Many an activist can provide a trailer load of names of such hypocrites. In the case of the NDC, its submariners are those who in the privacy of their homes and among friends pontificate about how ?the oldman is not treating the party fairly? and yet come on air to lambast perceived opponents of the same oldman they claim is treating the people they openly castigate unfairly! It appears hypocrisy itself is hypocritical to these hypocrites.
Another threat to change and beneficial reforms is the upsurge of the so-called Johnny Just Come (JJC) syndrome in both parties. The JJC?s of today are equivalent to fair weather friends who flock around when times are fine and fortune comes one?s way. In the NPP, the JJCs are primarily those who by dint of oldboyism and ethno-business affiliation found themselves striding the corridors of power. Largely because they were nowhere to be found when the going was tough for the then opposition NPP, they know not party activists. The story is told by an ex-minister of a chance meeting with a presidential aspirant where this aspirant is reported to have remarked ?you look very familiar?have we met somewhere?? The response was as apt as it was germane: ?you want to lead our party and you don?t even know me? Crawl back into the primeval ooze you spewed out of?. Interestingly the ex-minister happens to be one of the most influential movers among the youth of the party. Similarly, the story is told about how the National Youth Organizer of the NPP was refused audience by one of the JJCs ostensibly because he had dared visist him at home with his mother! These people it would appear have everything nicely sewn up for them: why should they bother about party matters when they know they can scheme their way to power? Is it a surprise then to anybody that the NPP?s sympathizers are refusing to come together in good company during by elections?
In the NDC, the JJCs are those who would have remained glued to the lower rungs of the social ladder had it not been for the benevolence (dictatorial or democratic) of Ex-President Rawlings. Thanks to his ?goodwill?, the JJCs of the NDC managed to gain some clout enough to propel them into frenzied delusions of grandeur to the extent that they would encourage and instigate confrontation with the very person(s) that placed them in positions of trust once upon a time. Similar to their counterparts in the NPP, these NDC JJCs occupy positions of trust but differ in their ability to incite some youths against the aspirations of the majority. The common thread between all JJCs is the fact that they are a minor minority but paradoxically very influential and underestimated at one?s own risk for in the specific case of the NPP, five years have been enough for them to learn the ropes to undermine the party?s interests while appearing to be promoting them. On the other hand, the NDC JJCs have mastered the art of shouting themselves hoarse about how Ex-President Rawlings is the soul of the NDC and cannot be done away with, yet dash to his opponents for reasons best known to themselves while refusing to touch the man with a one mile plank. These people would neither even think of paying the poor soul a visit nor offer him the simple courtesy of a phone call to check on his health!
Equally important but far more significant as a threat to the promotion of change within the parties under review is the absence or non-implementation of a loyalty dividend to many a party activist. This tendency largely a fallout of the JJC syndrome is the single most decisive reason for the NPP?s losses in the Asawase and Odododiodoo by elections. People join political parties for a myriad of reasons among which are a quest to enjoy some improvement in one?s fortunes and future prospects upon the assumption of power of their prefered party. Thus if those hardworking people adduce evidence showing how and why used polythene bags are better off than their pathetic selves, it stands to reason they would watch excruciatingly as their party is given a walloping by none other than their arch-opponents within the political arena.
The decline of the loyalty dividend within the NDC was first made manifest in the 2000 elections and subsequently in their apathy towards certain individuals that culminated in another electoral loss in 2004. By a series of manipulations and bridge-buidling moves, the NDC has largely addressed this problem enough to chalk back-to-back successes in two by elections. Today, loyalty dividend problems in the NDC are limited to the highest echelon of the party with very little among its footsoldiers, what with their continuing ability to take up most jobs in the country including army recruitment among others?
Nothing riles this writer than the despicable tendency of the NPP to deepen the suspicions of its loyalists regarding the issue of dividends. Any complaint on this problem is likely to be met with ?why don?t you bring a proposal on the subject?? When one eventually produces one, it is either left among a pile of similar projects or simply ignored. Follow-ups by the authors of such documents are met with excuses which end up convincing parrty activists that the demand for such proposals are just a divertionary tactic or a means of buying time to deflate a potential explosion. On a more worrying note, the authors of such proposals are sadly made to wait for a designated official to act, sometimes for hours on end. It appears that for some government appointees, the longer one waits, the more important they feel. There is no better way of losing touch with those who worked the party into power than that particular act!
Inevitability of ChangeThat change is coming is an undeniable fact. That it would sweep some people out of positions of trust is another truism. That Ghana?s leading parties would either be better off or suffer huge electoral losses depending on the management of change is another undeniable fact. This then raises the question of who manages the inevitable change. For the success of internal democratic transition, a party would need people of impeccable credentials and proven political integrity and loyalty. Money would definitely not be a factor for even as the NPP is espousing a ?back to the basics approach?, the NDC is similarly reiterating a ?recommitment to the ideals of the Rawlings tradition-social justice?. Both statements connote the fact that both parties have been hijacked by pretenders who would be swept away upon the passing of the monsoon winds of change. Managers of change would also have to bring enough clout to bear, clout that would allow them access to the various factions within their parties and thereafter strike meaningful compromises. To give two specific examples, the next NPP National Chairman must wield enough clout to be able to bang the gavel when the likes of Bernard Jaoa Da Rocha, Kwame Donkor Fordjour, R.R Amponsah and Peter Ala Adjetey are in full flight on contentious issues. Similarly the nest NDC chairman must wield enough clout to harness the larger than life charisma of Ex-President Rawlings to work in tandem with a possible dull but capable candidate in the run up to the next general election. Whether Peter Mac Manu and Victor Gbeho would be the drivers of change is not the issue: our charge to keep is to ensure that the change that our dominant parties crave does not become anathema ro the growth and deepinging of internal democracy- it must be change that would make Ghana?s democracy and internal party differences less acrimonious.