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As the NDC wins the 'manifesto war'…

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016

Folks, there is every reason to believe that the announcement of the key elements of the NDC’s manifesto for Election 2016 has not only unnerved its political opponents but it has also proved that the party is doing serious business to improve governance. Like it or not, the four thematic areas of the manifesto, as announced by President Mahama, are dear to our democratic experiment and should be given serious thought.

Even as we wait for the formal launching of the manifesto in Sunyani on Saturday, September 17, 2016, what we have been given to know now is encouraging. At least, the key aspects speak volumes about what the government intends doing when retained in power. Those elements are already known and we will not waste time pinpointing them now. We will do so after the manifesto has been formally launched and we have had a full understanding of what lies ahead.

What has happened so far is instructive because of its implications. First, we note the huge impact that the release of the key areas of the manifesto has had on political discourse about the challenges facing our country and its citizens. Second, we see how the NDC’s move has disarmed the NPP camp and forced its “Concert Party” enactments into an overdrive. Third, we consider how the NDC’s head-start advantage in this manifesto launching should be factored into the party’s political mobilization efforts to sway voters. Other issues will be addressed in passing wherever necessary. Off, we go, then.

Over the past few days, public discourse has been focused on diverse issues such as the ongoing electioneering campaign stunts of the various political parties and the Electoral Commission’s work as far as the voter verification processes are concerned. Added to them are the implications of the public lecture given by the NPP’s Dr. Bawumia. The move by the NDC to open up its manifesto with the disclosures regarding its main aspects has, however, suddenly taken public discourse to a whole new level. The timing of the event itself can best be described as both “strategic” and “tactical”, especially as we can see from how the NPP camp is vigorously reacting to it without making any sense.

As is to be expected by keen observers of the political scene, the NDC’s move has shaken the NPP camp, throwing it into disarray. Could their claim that they won’t take the lead to launch their manifesto for fear of its contents being stolen by the NDC administration account for their hesitation only for them to be overtaken by events? Or could it be that they haven’t to date compiled any manifesto and were just using the elbowing tactics for more time to do so? What now for them to do? Throwing spells of temper tantrums won’t solve their problem.

Clearly stunned (or confounded) by the NDC’s smart move, they are shooting their mouths, spoiling for a wordy warfare that the NDC isn’t interested in. They are about, insulting President Mahama as stealing their ideas only to destroy because he can’t implement them successfully. Therefore, he is nothing a spoiler of the NPP’s “innovative ideas”. Nana Akomea, the party’s Communications Director, angrily reacted that way. Others like Ayikoi Otu also accused the NDC as “stealers” while some even went to the extent of trashing the NDC’s manifesto as a “hoax”.

Indeed, the claim by Akomea that the contents of the NDC’s manifesto so far released are the stolen NPP’s original ideas is not only ridiculous but it is also ludicrous. Can the NPP prove that claim when, from their own boasts, they had created the impression that the security for that manifesto was impenetrable? Again, having kicked out the so-called NDC moles in their camp (reference to Paul Afoko and Kwabena Agyepong), how could their “secrets” reach the NDC? Granted that they have been keeping their “manifesto” close to their chests, how could the NDC have penetrated their security/intelligence walls to access those ideas for inclusion in its manifesto? And if they are so porous and vulnerable to penetration by outside forces, what guarantee is there that they can secure state secrets if given power? Will these-face-saving utterances solve the problem for them?

Beyond these questions lie other concerns which, we hope, the NPP camp will clarify even before it launches its manifesto on October 18, 2016. The truth that hurts them now is that whether by accident or design, their own flip-flopping has given the NDC a head-start advantage to win the manifesto war up to this point. I suspect strongly that given the opportunity to launch their own manifesto, they will turn the event into the kind of work that Dr. Bawumia has been using his public lectures to do.

They will use the opportunity to berate President Mahama and his government over what has become their mantra (of “incompetence”) and concentrate on fault-finding, scare-mongering, and others that have made their electioneering efforts really boring and unappealing to the electorate. Trust them to put their book and rogue politics into full gear on the occasion instead of presenting ideas to help the electorate make informed electoral decisions in their favour, if ever. I can’t wait to hear them on October 18.

Even before the dust settles, here is what I have for the NDC as far as the use of its manifesto in the campaign efforts is concerned. It is important that the contents be reproduced and made available to as many as will want to know more about the government’s plans for national development. I hope after it has been launched, it will be given to the campaign teams all over the country and all the groups campaigning for President Mahama for use in their direct interactions with the electorate.

I expect that the party’s campaign teams will be formed at all levels (national regional, district, constituency, zonal, and unit levels) and those on the ground doing the political outreach well-resourced to spread the message. It shouldn’t be difficult for cells to be formed wherever possible to do the work. As is characteristic of the party’s campaign efforts, the house-to-house method must be used and one-on-one discussion sessions encouraged so the campaigners can reach out to the electorate with material from the manifesto and any other resource to prove what President Mahama has been able to do thus far and what he can do when retained. Evidence-based campaigning should be adopted.

It is important that the campaign teams explain to the electorate during such sessions the challenges preventing the government from solving problems still bothering the people. They must be educated enough to know how to assuage doubts and apprehensions so as not to fall for the lies being propagated by the NPP and its allies. In truth, the government cannot solve all existential problems within this short period; but unless the people are told why or why not, they will remain ignorant and vulnerable to manipulation by political opponents bent on using any means to win power.

Against this background, it is important for the government and NDC functionaries in areas of the country bitterly complaining about lack of infrastructural development and social amenities (as has come from a part of Bolgatanga and others demonstrating anger at lack of electricity, good roads, and potable water) to take up the challenge. Face-to-face interactions, public forums, where technology can be used to facilitate public education on the government’s accomplishments should also be used. These communities should be targeted for active engagement on issues and assurances given them that President Mahama’s second term would make the difference.

Then, areas specifically mentioned in the manifesto to be given projects or developed to create jobs and other opportunities should be isolated for special attention. It is important for the campaign teams to reach out to the people there to work closely with so they can see sense in the government’s intents and purposes for them in its second term and thereafter. It’s a matter of effective political mobilization, which must be done as soon as logistics are released for the nationwide campaign moves.

Other avenues also exist to be used for the good of the party/government. For instance, those leading the campaigns should speak extensively on specific aspects of the manifesto that they have specialization in and be ready to respond positively to the voters’ concerns. Intensive interactions should be used as such. Only when the people see eye-to-eye with the party/government will they root for it; and it all boils down to education. Informed people help improve democracy on the basis of persuasion, not force or physical attacks.

Whatever has happened thus far puts the NDC ahead in terms of readiness for the campaigns and the leaders must seize the opportunity to facilitate everything. Otherwise, those chafing now will slip through to doom them. From all indications, the NPP has lost the “manifesto war” and must continue to be kept where it belongs.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.