A flag bearer hopeful of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Goosie Tanoh, has hinted at dragging the party to court in connection with the GHS420,000 nomination and filing fees announced for flag bear-aspirants.
Mr Tanoh and seven other aspirants petitioned the party, demanding a reduction of the nomination and filing fees, which they described as outrageous.
Mr Tanoh did not pick a nomination form by the end of the 5 pm deadline on Tuesday, 4 November 2018. However, Prof Joshua Alabi, Mr Sylvester Mensah, and Mr Stephen Atubiga, who were either signatories to the petition or shared in the content of that document, picked their nominations forms nonetheless.
Forms were also picked on behalf of Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Bagbin by some of his supporters but he has rejected it and has also hinted at dragging the party to court.
Mr Tanoh has explained that he declined to pick the nomination forms because he has not heard from the party’s Council of Elders over the petition presented to them to intervene with regards to the “exorbitant” filing fee.
In a statement signed by Mr Kyeretwie Opoku, the Goosie Campaign Team said the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the NDC was perpetuating illegalities so far as guidelines for the presidential primaries were concerned.
He indicated that not picking the nomination forms does not mean he is withdrawing from the flag bearer race, but “we will also take whatever steps political or legal to protect our interests and the interests of the party masses.”
Below is Mr Tanoh the full statement:
NDC GUIDELINES FOR PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARIES & THE GOOSIE 2020 CAMPAIGN: FORWARD EVER!
On 29 November the NDC General Secretary held a media conference at the Party HQ in Accra to present the new NEC’s proposed “Guidelines” for electing a 2020 flagbearer. The General Secretary’s address and the Guidelines released to the public that same day have attracted widespread condemnation. Eight Flagbearer aspirants, including Goosie Tanoh whose campaign O4GH is sponsoring, filed a petition to the Party’s Council of Elders, the body charged by Article 24(5)(a) of the Party Constitution with “...resolving disputes among party members and amongst the various institutions of the Party.” The petition drew attention to NEC’s failure to comply with the Party constitution in issuing the Guidelines and pointed to perceived bias on the part of NEC members. Aspirants requested the Council to intervene to protect the integrity of the process.
As of 17:00 hours on Tuesday, 4 December, aspirants have not heard from the Council. Accordingly, several candidates including Goosie Tanoh declined on principle to collect nomination forms as this might serve to legitimise the unlawful Guidelines. In any normal law-abiding organisation, notice of such a petition would have been enough to trigger a consultation with the aggrieved Parties. Unfortunately, NEC officials have indicated their intention to proceed as planned and have closed the collection of nomination forms. Various interested parties have indicated an intention to proceed to court to compel the NEC to respect the NDC Constitution. Others are considering mounting political actions to the same end. Others are suggesting that NEC’s conduct violates not only the NDC Constitution but also the 1992 Republican constitution.
Two years of Party elite manoeuvres to paper over the cracks have completely failed. The NDC crisis is once again out in the open with all the issues arising from the 2016 defeat back on the table. The only way to move forward now is an open constructive discussion of the Party’s challenges. Without prejudice to our rights to take legal action against NEC, O4GH would like to put our perspective forward to assist such a discussion.
B. Legal Issues
We believe there are three legal grounds for halting and reviewing the Primaries process.
1. NEC has not met the Procedural Requirements for issuing Guidelines for Presidential Primaries
As the Aspirants indicated in their petition to the Council of Elders Article 42(1)(f) of the NDC constitution makes consultation with the Council of Elders a requirement for issuing Guidelines for Presidential primaries. NEC ignored this requirement. NEC spokespersons are clumsily trying to spin their way through it in the media. Three main lines of “defence” have emerged so far. Some NEC members claim that the Council was indeed consulted. Others say that since the Council does not have the power to veto NEC decisions consultation is only a formality and non-consultation does not invalidate their decisions. Others argue that since NEC has not yet appointed a Council of Elders it has no obligation to consult them.
Our response to these 3 arguments is very simple. First, no consultation was held, and Party officials should not lie to the Party. Second, the fact that Council cannot veto NEC decisions does not invalidate the requirement to consult and for NEC to suggest otherwise demonstrates extreme disrespect for the Constitution that is the source of their own authority. Third, NEC cannot hide behind its own failure to appoint a Council of Elders to excuse non-compliance with a constitutional requirement to consult it (and in any case the General Secretary stated last Thursday at his Media Conference that NEC had decided that all appointees of the last NEC were to stay at post until they were formally replaced by new appointees).
2. NEC has exceeded its authority in Issuing Guidelines for Presidential Primaries
NEC has included in the Guidelines a requirement that a Contestant must have been Party member for at least 10 years. This is not in the Constitution. Only Congress can amend the Party Constitution. NEC can only provide guidelines for implementing what is in the Constitution – not change it.
3. NEC is showing bias in its management of the Primaries process.
A number of NEC members including the Chairman and the General Secretary have made public declarations of support for the candidacy of HE John Mahama. The recent Party Congress was stage-managed to promote John Mahama’s campaign with an unscheduled invitation to address the Closing ceremony and the playing over the conference loudspeakers of his 2020 campaign song. There are abundant reports of “directives” from NEC members to lower officials of the party instructing them to take steps to further Mr Mahama’s campaign. With this level of demonstrated bias, other contestants simply cannot trust NEC to run the Primaries in a free and fair manner. It makes sense to put some other impartial body such as the Electoral Commission in charge of the process.
C. Political Issues
There are at least 2 political grounds for reviewing and restarting the Primaries Process.
1. NEC seeks to impose filing fees that prevent almost all members of the party from offering themselves for leadership and is thereby denying the entire Electoral College the opportunity to vote for Contestants who cannot raise such large sums of money in such a ten-day period.
The biggest source of public outrage has been the GHS 420,000 filing fees that the NEC Guidelines seek to impose on contestants. We would like to deal with this at some length. We believe NEC settled on these fees because NDC is broke and because NEC seeks to pre-determine the Primaries’ outcome. High filing fees are a quick source of cash to meet outstanding bills, a way of reducing costs by eliminating contestants, and a way of smoothing the path for their preferred candidate who once “democratically” elected will then, hopefully, open his war chest to fund the Party’s 2020 campaign.
NDC must move in the opposite direction. What is at stake is not the rights of the various aspirants. What is at stake are the rights of about 2 million members in 30 thousand branches. If NDC believes in grassroots empowerment and in equal opportunity for all, regardless of income levels, then it cannot place access to leadership positions out of the reach of ordinary members. The filing fees proposed are an assault on ordinary members’ rights to contest for leadership and indeed to vote and may well be a violation of the national constitution. Party leaders should stop listening only to each other and pay attention to the outrage being expressed at the grassroots in and out of the NDC.
We must work to socialise the cost of Party elections such that filing fees drop to the barest amount required to cover administrative costs. The figure of GHS100,000 that current aspirants proposed to the Council of Elders can only be a starting point. We must bring fees down to a level that ordinary party members can actually afford. If we are serious we can achieve this by the Primaries for the 2024 elections.
The deeper issue here is: how should the NDC (or any Party) fund itself? The way a Party raises and uses resources is not just an administrative matter. It is a fundamental political matter that defines the relationships and accountability between Leaders and ordinary members and between the party and the wider society. A party can choose Elite Funding, where a handful of wealthy patrons (typically corrupt public officials and their private business associates) kick-back to the Party from state contracts. Alternatively, a Party can choose Democratic Funding where the ordinary members of the party provide funding (through dues, income earning initiatives, and communal fundraising) with individual donations playing a supplementary role.
O4GH rejects elite funding as a matter of political principle.
a. It distorts the relationship between members and entrenches disunity. It creates arrogant patrons / “big men” on the one hand and dependent “foot soldiers” / “agents on the other with a deep structural mistrust and resentment between the two.
b. It breeds corruption because, in order to keep resources flowing, the Party is compelled to abandon its commitment to social equality and promote special interests and illegal self-serving acts of big men.
c. It undermines the Party’s support because in time everybody sees and resents the corruption that is ruining our lives.
d. It is not sustainable; funds flow in only when the Party is in power and in a position to allocate public resources. These funds accumulate in private hands and are then only available to the extent that the Party supports funds-holders persona agendas.
NDC’s current situation illustrates all the above problems perfectly.
The NEC ability to suggest filing fees that would take a minimum wage earner 114 years to pay (assuming they did not spend on anything else) demonstrates leaders’ continued addiction to elite funding and rejection of democratic funding mechanisms that challenge elite privileges and impunity. NEC members take for granted that only wealthy people and preferably people who have benefited from patronage (and who will therefore not rock the boat) should contest for leadership of the Party!
Are there alternatives? Yes. OFGH believes Party members should pay dues and should undertake political fundraising activities. In our travels around the country to meet members of the Primaries’ electoral college, we have proposed a figure of GHS1 per week (or equivalent in goods or time). With a membership base of 2 million, this would yield GHS96million annually or GHS384 million within every 4-year electoral cycle. These funds would be sufficient to cover all legitimate recurring Party costs – including election campaigns. These sums could be invested in income-generating activities. They can be used to secure Party borrowing. They can be supplemented by additional fund-raising drives and private donations. We have discussed with branches how they would keep a portion of these funds and pay the rest towards the upkeep of constituency, regional and national party structures based on the understanding that these organs will provide the branches with specific political leadership services.
We reject the paternalism posing as concern for the ordinary man that suggests that grassroots Party members cannot bear responsibilities. NDC members are responsible adults who have opted voluntarily to join a political party because they believe it can advance their social interests. They are not irresponsible children to be pampered and exploited by the Party elite. The constraint to regular dues payment has never been the poverty of members; – even in the poorest parts of the country Party members confirm that they make similar payments to religious bodies and family associations where they can see benefits. The constraint to regular dues payment has been the poverty of imagination, organisation, and accountability of the Party elite. Of course, Party members will not spontaneously start coughing up money to pay Party bills. We will require a campaign of education, consensus building, imaginative solutions, and sanctions. We will require a demonstration of the local social influence that a functioning national Party can help its branches achieve. It will require work with the grassroots to develop creative schemes to collect, manage, distribute and account for dues. That is what NDC needs a NEC for; not to just avoid our hard problems.
In addition to democratising our fundraising, we need to rethink our primaries process so that it is more efficient, less expensive, and focused on what is really important for our future. For example, we can eliminate the individualistic process where candidates criss-cross the country in a haphazard way disrupting voters’ work and other commitments. The Party should be proactive. It should ask candidates to submit video or text manifestos in a prescribed format to the Elections Directorate by a given date for reproduction and distribution to all members of the Electoral College or to the Public with room for a number of updates during the course of the campaign. The Party should organise moderated debates at Constituency, Regional and National levels for all members of the electoral college so they can hear directly from and interact with candidates about their priorities, policies, and programmes in order to decide how to vote.
2. NEC seeks to impose an unreasonable Election timetable on the Party.
Any discussion about the time frame for the Primaries must start with a reminder: It is not aspirants’ rights that are at stake here as much as the rights of the 390 thousand members of the electoral college (representing 2 million Party members) to interrogate and assess the different contestants fully before selecting their next Party leader. This is the first time that the NDC is managing competitive primaries with such a large electoral college. As indicated NEC has done nothing whatsoever to structure the process for efficiency and effectiveness - not even provided aspirants with the electoral register! Yet, NEC appears to be in a desperate hurry to conclude the Primaries.
a. NEC has jumped critical activities (some constitutionally mandated) that one would expect of a new NEC; things like issuing the Congress communiqué, completing the appointment of NEC members, appointing Secretariat directorates and bodies such as the Council of Elders and publishing their priorities and plan for their 4-year tenure of office. All these should logically take precedence over primaries.
b. NEC refuses to spare 2 weeks to give the Council of Elders an opportunity to review and comment on proposed Guidelines (and spare the Party the embarrassment these Guidelines have caused).
c. NEC proposes to use only 46 of the 88 days that Congress has allowed for holding primaries even though they say that they do not yet have the funds for this.
d. Within this truncated period NEC is asking aspirants to complete nomination processes (including raising GHS420,000!) in 10 days when they themselves took 6 weeks to complete their nomination processes and raise the relatively modest filing fee of GHS10,000 (for the Party Chairman!).
e. NEC has made no allowance for Christmas, the New Year, impending referenda (which threaten to create their own political tensions) or early January blues when people are trying to find money and get children back to school etc. Effectively NEC is allowing about 15 days of actual campaigning directed at 30 thousand branches!
Why the rush? Why does NEC think that 15 days is enough time for candidates to introduce themselves nationally but thinks the Party needs 21 months to introduce the successful candidate to the country? The only theory that explains this and NEC’s other strange behaviour is that NEC members or the forces behind them have decided who they want to emerge as victor from the Primaries and they have concluded that a lengthy campaign is not in their interest because it gives the other aspirants time to catch up.
None of the foregoing means in any way that our candidate is withdrawing from the race. Rather than participate in an unlawful electoral arrangement that tramples the rights of millions of Party members, O4GH will continue to fight for the empowerment of ordinary branch members and the accountability of NEC and other higher Party organs to Party members through our presidential campaign. We will use the NEC management of the campaign to illustrate the deep malaise in our Party; explore ways in which we can cure it, and encourage the grassroots to join hands to defend their rights and the struggle for social justice. We will also take whatever steps political or legal to protect our interests and the interests of the party masses.
We stand ready to join hands in any genuine effort to restore decency and order to our Party life.
5 December 2018