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RECLAIM, REBUILD, & STRENGHTEN THE NDC FOR GHANA – Totobi Quakyi
Ghana’s Minister for National Security and a leading member of the largest opposition party – NDC, has called on members of his party to help to Reclaim, Rebuild, and Strengthen the NDC for Ghana. He made his appeal when he gave a key note address to mark the 15th anniversary of the formation of the NDC TriState (NY/NJ/CT) in New York over the week end.
In his address, he spoke extensively of the 2008 elections and weighed in on the chances of the NDC. He also had a message for the NPP and Non-NDC members who were present at the ceremony. Here is ther transcript of the address of Hon. Kofi Totobi Quakyi.
Let me begin by expressing my deep gratitude for the invitation to be your guest speaker tonight.
As many of you know, I’ve been in the U.S. for a while now and have come to feel very much a part of you even though personal health issues make it impossible to immerse myself fully in the affairs of the various NDC chapters, or the NACC for that matter.
Nevertheless, I have established substantial contact with key members of the party here. I have also developed relationships with many Ghanaians who have (or should I say), should have an interest in the affairs of NDC. I have had the benefit of what might be called an orientation with the activities of some chapters including the NY chapter. I have formed my own impressions, and have made observations some of which I will share with you today.
NDC CHAPTERS IN USA AND NACC
To begin with, I commend the many committed members and sympathizers of the NDC in North America and in particular, here in New York. In the immediate aftermath of our defeat in 2000, while the patrician prophets were preaching imminent collapse of our great party, many of you were among those who stepped up to the plate.
You took up the burden of reorganizing the party here even as your compatriots in Ghana did the same. And so today’s event is a tribute to your faith in the NDC.
It is an affirmation of your unyielding spirit.
I would have liked to see at this gathering, all who worked tirelessly in those uncertain times; the pioneers and veterans as I may call them. Whatever the reason for their absence, we must give them their due because they too have played their part.
The little I have seen of the activities of some chapters makes me feel excited about the future of the NDC in North America. In Virginia, in Worcester [Massachusetts], and now in New York, I have seen a new generation of youthful and inspiring leaders with a sense of purpose, urgency, and a renewed sense of mission.
While admitting that most NDC supporters here as in Ghana, are rather quiet and do not look to attract attention, it is fair to note that the number of Ghanaians who participate in the activities of the NDC in the Tri State and elsewhere does not do justice to the large reservoir of goodwill the party enjoys over here.
I continue to meet people in North America who care about the NDC. They want the Party to succeed and are willing to help. What more could we ask for? Yet they are hesitant about getting actively involved for a variety of reasons;
• Some have observed that elected officials in North America appear to lack the requisite vision to support the new mission of the NDC and that they also seem to hold on to entrenched positions.
• Some sympathizers say they are appalled by the attitude of some key members who frequently drop names or use their contacts with party officials in Accra as weapons not only to intimidate and suffocate the many others who are willing to volunteer their time and effort to work for our Party, but also to entrench themselves in their Chapter and the NACC.
• Some sympathizers give account of how their loyalty to the party was questioned; or if I may be biblical, risked eternal damnation simply because they have questioned the conduct or decisions of certain key members or so-called UNTOUCHABLES in their Chapters or the NACC.
• Still ,many others complain about activities of certain individuals who specialize in pull him down tactics, backbiting and spreading boring rumors to discredit other members with whom they who disagree over matters of strategy or principle.
For eight years of democratic constitutional rule in Ghana, we were the ruling party. We set ourselves specific goals, developed a set of strategies and built structures that supported those strategies. Today, we are the major opposition party in Ghana. Clearly, we cannot expect to regain our old position based on the old structures. The time is ripe for us to renew and retool our party for the task ahead. We need to transform from a position of advantage to one of a disadvantaged party so that with humility, we can attract new ideas.
The glue that bonds all of us together is our desire to win in December. I believe that we can achieve this goal by blending the old with the new.
It means while maintaining the focus on our traditional base, we should reach out to win new converts. At the national level, we are growing the party beyond our traditional base in order to win.
Likewise, the chapters in the USA need to grow to become more effective in the affairs of the party. I believe however, that any effective re-organization of the chapters cannot be done by edict from our National Headquarters.
Any serious re-organization must essentially be home grown and must be championed by your good selves’ right here in the US. If you continue to rely on directives from Accra at each and every turn, NACC and its constituent chapters will never grow.
Indeed, the essential element for growing the chapters is to depart from tradition and embrace change and innovation.
And so, as we usher in a new executive for the New York chapter let me offer some thoughts on the way forward.
1. In our efforts to recapture political power, we cannot rely on nostalgia. We must put behind our successes and failures of the past and focus on this new day.
All of us must be conscious of the renewed call of conscience, redemption, expansion, healing, and unity for our party. These elements are the key to achieving our party’s mission in 2008. We are all leaders of our great party regardless of what positions we may or may not hold.
2. Those who have accepted leadership positions must make a conscious effort to change their mindset to support the changing times. As leaders you must listen more to ideas that will strengthen your chapter.
No one can understand an environment better than those who live in it. You should depend on the wisdom and experience of those who live in your jurisdiction to build a formidable chapter.
3. You should encourage people to participate in activities of the chapter without any prejudice. Make every effort to reach out to old members who may have recoiled for various reasons.
You may not succeed but at least you should try. Let them appreciate by your deeds and actions that the old order changeth for the better and bring them back into your fold because one cardinal rule in electoral politics is to first consolidate your support base and never take that support for granted.
In addition, please give recognition where it is due because a party that does not recognize sacrifice or reward committed and dedicated service is not worth dying for.
Last, but not the least; I urge you to keep an eye on the activities of individuals who exploit the influence and power of top echelons in the party to further their own agenda. Oftentimes, such individuals are a combination of certain dangerous traits; habitual liars, habitual rumor peddlers and habitual character assassins. They are caught in a delusional world where fact and fiction have become blurred.
These ones are the primary source of confusion in our party both here and at home.
I cite as an example of such traits, a recent rumor started by a key member in this chapter against a fellow member. I will not go into detail but to spread falsehood that a fellow member is an ex convict is diabolical to say the least.
To take personal disagreement this far is unpardonable.
But, I draw on my own experience in these matters for I too, have borne the brunt of such sick minds.
After all my solid contribution to building the NDC into an impregnable political force and, despite my years of loyal and dedicated service, I became a victim of the agents of hate, who keep spreading rumors that I am a closet NPP member and that I conspired to hand over power to NPP and President Kufour.
They are so myopic to ignore the fact that the NDC was undone in the 2000 elections by a combination of factors; complacency, lack of unity, misdirection of resources and logistics etc,
Besides, every step taken to ensure a smooth handing over was with the blessing of former President Rawlings and his then vice, President Atta Mills.
Painful as our defeat was, the peaceful transition was the crowning glory of firm and decisive efforts of the Rawlings-led years to create a stable and democratic Ghana where coups are a thing of the past.
Further, the peaceful transition underscored the democratic credentials of the NDC.
As victory beckons the NDC in the forthcoming elections, we expect the ruling NPP to do as we did and peacefully hand over back to us.
I will come back to the 2008 elections a little later when I have concluded what I was saying about destructive forces in our own midst.
It hardly matters to those who have a habit of destroying and running down their own comrades whether or not what they purport passes the test of reason or basic commonsense.
From their world of delusion, they engineer rumors about how rich a person is, even when they know fully well that the person is in a life and death situation, living on goodwill, and unpaid medical bills keep piling.
And if you expect all the people who listen to the falsehoods to know better you will be in for a big disappointment.
As for me, I decided long ago that nothing that anyone does or say will make me waver in my commitment to the NDC. I would recommend the same to all of you if you want to survive in this world of politics.
I cannot tell how many more months or years I will live, but even in death I will remain NDC.
So, Mr. Chairman and the new executive, I wish you well, and pray you possess that special type of will and fortitude to succeed. It doesn’t matter how small the group you lead is because the problems associated with leading an organization are similar anywhere you go.
I have followed the history of the NDC New York chapter. It has been one heck of a bumpy ride and I hope you will develop thick skins very fast as you assume the mantle of leadership.
I will be available anytime you need me.
My hope is for unity and a common sense of purpose to prevail within, and among all the NDC chapters in North America to enable you focus on essential activities that would help ensure victory on December 7, 2008.
It is important to remind ourselves that the elections are being fought in Ghana not here in North America. Yours is essentially a supporting role.
While communicating suggestions and views to the national campaign please be reminded that the comrades in Ghana are the ones in the kitchen and feel the heat the most. They face harsh realities which you may be unaware of.
In terms of providing support, I would suggest that in addition to whatever contribution you propose making to the national campaign, individual members could also consider offering direct help and assistance to their respective constituencies. A fifty dollar contribution a month to a constituency goes a long way. It is at the level of the constituency or branch that you find the true meaning of small is beautiful.
The 2008 General Elections
Most political pundits believe this year’s election will be very closely fought. Even the anti-NDC media admit, albeit begrudgingly, that Atta Mills and the NDC have a tremendous chance of winning.
I believe the Mighty Hand of God is at work and victory will be ours.
Ghana is hungry for a new direction.
And, Ghanaians have got it in their minds that they have the power to change the government. It’s very hard to stop them from doing that on December 7, 2008.
The electorate has cogent reasons for wanting change .Basically; it is the MOKO AYA NI MOKO ABA principle. That’s all!
Indeed, one of the compelling arguments for change in 2008 was made in an NPP TV advert in the run up to the 2004 elections. In that ad a very reflective gentleman argued that the NDC had 8 years to rule so the NPP should be given an additional 4 years to bring their tally to 8 years then we repeat the cycle of change.
Most Ghanaians seem to share this view that this is the way democracy will grow, ensure sanity in our body politic and let out the message loud and clear that we expect the best in terms of leadership, good governance and accountability. Many also believe as the Washington Post does, that “the experience of power alternating among the major parties (in Ghana) is one barrier to conflict”.
There is growing concern among the electorate that despite all the talk of economic growth the reality is that Ghanaians are living through a period of untold hardships. The GDP might be expanding but its fruits aren’t spread across more people.
Disparities in living conditions are growing wider by the day, and not narrowing. The ruling NPP has made sure the well to do and well connected thrive in leaps and bounds with millions and millions of Ghanaians falling behind economically.
For 2009 and beyond, ordinary Ghanaians and those sections of the business community which find themselves marginalized, seek a voice that will represent the interest of all; a government that cares for all; and, a government that will listen, and not take people for granted.
And, I am sure the good people of Ghana will hold the ruling NPP to the same standards that the NDC was held.
In 1998 or there about, the NDC invested in a gulf stream presidential jet which on hindsight may have been ill timed considering the backdrop of prevailing economic conditions. The then opposition NPP stated among others that acquiring a presidential jet does not bring development, that the NDC had misplaced the nation’s priorities and taken the ordinary people for granted. It was even suggested the jet with a seating capacity of 15 or so was too small and not economical.
Today, the shoe is on the other foot and we hear the NPP now in government, seeking to justify its own decision to acquire aircrafts for presidential use.
As the ruling NPP goes back and forth, on the issue, public cynicism and mistrust of political leadership is growing. Trust between government and the people is the cornerstone of good governance. Shouldn’t this be the priority of any government genuinely committed to good governance?
A couple of days ago, I read on the internet, one government official saying acquiring new presidential planes will lift the image of the country abroad.
I beg to disagree.
I think a better way to serve our national image is to remove the vestiges of poverty in our country and spare ourselves the rather unenviable title of highly indebted poor country. Besides, we should not forget that the reason for government is the pursuit of happiness for its people, not image dressing.
Global food prices are rising. Prices of basic staples - wheat, corn and rice - are at record highs. Global food stocks are at historic lows. The rise in the use of bio-fuels is projected to reduce the amount of food available for human consumption. Rising crude oil prices will have an adverse impact on transportation costs of food from overseas,
As a net importer of rice, and a beneficiary of food aid, these global developments should be of concern to Ghana. Doesn’t this also deserve to be on top of national priorities?
So, against the backdrop of situations back home, is the NDC ready for prime time?
My answer is yes, but…...
Victory will not come on a silver platter. Fashioning our campaign on inevitability will not serve our interests
In Atta Mills, the NDC has a man who is on top of the scale of intelligence of anyone in politics today. He is one of the intellectually smart national politicians of our time. He is lucid and analytical. He is a calm and reasonable person. He has an intuitive revulsion for arrogance, self conceit and dishonesty.
Our candidate is unique because of his innate ability to reduce political tension.
Prof Mills is our main asset in the coming election and the ultimate strength of our campaign lies in how we successfully project him to the electorate.
Besides his own personal qualities, Atta Mills draws from a pool of talented, articulate, and brilliant youthful men and women in the party. They represent the new NDC. These are people who look at the wider picture and are not confined to narrow partisan considerations. Together with Prof. Mills they will make a difference in the lives of all Ghanaians.
However, to achieve our expected goal of victory, we must leave no stone unturned to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.
The leadership of the NDC has been very alert and proactive in exposing serious discrepancies in the 2006 voters register especially pertaining to the Ashanti region.
Independent experts who have studied the data in question are of the opinion that the figures shown are unlikely to be an accident in view of the consistency in the assembly and structure of the data.
The facts as they are emerging have vindicated Prof. Mills who first put the matter in the public domain.
The lesson from the on going rumpus is that NDC cannot take anything for granted, and nothing should be left to chance.
Eternal vigilance is the price we will pay for victory on December 7, 2008
I believe the NDC must run a positive campaign because we have good things to say about our program and the future we deserve for Ghana. Personally, I do not believe in negative campaigning that implicitly describe the NDC as the lesser of two evils because I doubt if Ghanaian voters want to vote for evil be it lesser or higher.
And, the NDC can learn a lesson or two from the Obama campaign that has done remarkably well to stay clear off politics of mudslinging, stayed on its message even as it responds to negative attacks.
We should stay focused, work as a collective and speak with one voice. At times, we seem to work at cross purposes. And we have been too quick to jump at each other’s throat, wasting precious time and energy fighting one another.
We should re-examine these situations because they sometimes contribute to negative perceptions about our party.
We have to show to the electorate that we are a united and disciplined party intent on offering Ghana a model of a caring, purposeful and disciplined government. And we must portray a party that respects the authority of our Presidential candidate as well as high organs of the party.
As the Rev. Jesse Jackson once said; We are not a perfect party, but we are called to a perfect mission.
The NPP presidential primaries clearly established the supremacy of money in their political calculations. If their ostentatious campaign spending even for party primaries is anything to go by, then the NDC has an uphill battle on its hands.
To have money is an advantage in politics, but the lack of it in abundance is not necessarily a dispositive.
Effective strategizing, taking personal initiatives as well as seizing opportunities as they come, are key to the success of any campaign. Political lethargy, constant complaining, and leaving problems and their solutions on the shoulders of a few is unhelpful, to say the least.
Let’s operate in a spirit of give and take. A political party doesn’t function well if some members begin to exercise veto over any move that is divergent from theirs.
SOME CAMPAIGN ISSUES
It is true the NDC has the burden of a long record - that is if one adds the PNDC years - but we should not be haunted by it.
Under Chairman, later President Rawlings, we blazed the trail of economic and political change and set Ghana on the path of sustainable development.
I am among the first to admit that because we are human we may have made some mistakes in our time and we must show we have learnt lessons from those mistakes.
But, I must quickly point out that we did our best in the circumstances of the time.
For instance, from a negative growth rate of minus 2.5% we left a legacy of a positive GDP growth rate of 4.5%.
We did what the experts had said was impossible during the Busia era by extending power from Akosombo to the Northern sector of the country and we added the Aboadze thermal plant to boost the country’s energy capacity.
We changed the face of telecommunications in Ghana and under our watch Ghanaians no longer had to queue to make calls back home and vice versa.
Under our watch, the people of Brong Ahafo, Northern, Upper East, Upper West Regions got to watch live television broadcast for the first time.
We constructed good roads all over the country;
We created a new economic paradigm and pioneered policies which encouraged a new entrepreneurial sprit among a new generation of Ghanaians. The emergence of this new middle class in Ghana is one of the important legacies of the NDC.
Somehow, politically we seem to have lost that territory but, we can reclaim it by rebuilding trust and through confidence building measures.
The NDC did not build new sports stadia in those years. And as President Kufour stated in his last sessional address; development is a continuing process and no one government can claim to complete the task of development.
In another five years there will be new projects and new constructions; and the physical developments in Ghana under this NPP administration may pale into insignificance by comparison.
I am reminded of the words of a Methodist hymn which says; New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth.
One thing I have learned in politics is that you cannot lead backward into history. We cannot change what happened yesterday. What we can change is the character of the future. That should be our concern as we go into the 2008 elections.
MESSAGE TO NON NDC MEMBERS PRESENT
I believe the audience here tonight includes persons who aren’t necessarily members of the NDC. I am glad you found time to be present.
Before political parties, we were friends, we were school mates, we were family members, we were fellow church members and we supported the same football team or even different teams. Many things bind us together as Ghanaians and I regret that extreme political partisan has made us so mean towards each other to the extent that certain individuals even rivet in the personal pain of others.
I pray that we can all change how we see things so that the things we see will change.
It is a big mistake to put everything in the perspective of NPP versus NDC.
We should first ask; is it good for our people? Or is it moving the nation forward and is it advancing the course of democracy?
When we speak, let us speak for Ghana, let us speak the truth, and let us speak to our conscience because, as Prof Mills says what was wrong yesterday cannot suddenly become right today just because it is your favorite party or your favorite government in power.
I believe that real results are more important than partisan battles and good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular party. That is one big lesson we should learn from this country.
I thank you all for giving me the opportunity to speak to you.
Thank you for what you do for NDC and for Ghana.
Let us together reclaim, rebuild and strengthen NDC for Ghana.
And may the NDC be worthy of us all
Thank you and God bless
HON. KOFI TOTOBI QUAKYI - FORMER MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY AND, A LEADING MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS - Presented At the NDC Tri-State Crystal Anniversary March 15, 2008
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