Parliamentary Primaries & NPP’s Comedy of Bad Decisions

Sun, 12 Apr 2015 Source: Braimah, Sulemana

Sulemana Braimah (suleb2016@gmail.com)

The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) has rolled out the process to select the party’s parliamentary candidates for the 2016 elections. The process appears to be going well with new names popping up. But the cocktail of bad decisions that characterised the roll-out of the process for the primaries is worth commenting on.

First is the party’s sharp U-turn on the affirmative action policy on parliamentary seats currently occupied by women. The affirmative action policy, if retained, would have been a very progressive policy for women empowerment and of course, for making a case for women votes in 2016.

Unfortunately, the party cowardly retreated after some few supporters protested against the policy. The policy was good, the reversal was awful. I think the party leadership required some doses of dead goat syndrome injection to boost their immunity for resisting demands by protesters. Better still, they could have fortified themselves with a ‘yentie obiaa’ spirit.

Party spokespersons have explained that the reason for the embarrassing retreat was that the policy was ill-timed. Ok, so the whole National Executive Committee of the NPP met to take the initial decision and throughout the meeting, no member could point out that the timing for such a policy was not good? If anyone raised the timing problem then why was it not considered? So what thinking went into the initial decision? And what was the party afraid of losing if it did not reverse the policy? Well, that was the first stanza in the comedy of bad decisions.

But my biggest problem, however, is with the policy that ought to have been reversed but was not. It is the worst of all the recent decisions by the party. It lacks logic. The explanations given for it makes it even more obnoxious and profoundly revolting. That policy is obviously discriminatory and elitist. I guess you know the policy I am talking about. No?

I am talking about the imposition of a so-called development fee on aspirants who decide to contest siting Members of Parliament (MPs). What a shambolic policy!!!

In a democratic culture, when a political party seeks to use money as a barrier to what should be an open-to-all, standard, participatory democratic contest, it must be of concern. The imposition of the ‘development fee’ was conceived in elitism and it will give birth to exclusion.

The explanations I have heard for it are at best, laughable. The first time I read about the reasons given for it, I did not believe what I read. But days later, I heard the General Secretary of party, Mr. Kwabena Agyepong, res-state those same unjustifiable explanations for the introduction of the policy.

According to the General Secretary (whom I heard speak on Peace FM), the party’s MPs have been “contributing significantly” to the party’s development, including sometimes buying coffins for the burial of party members who pass away. So, as Mr. Agyepong explained, if someone decides to contest a sitting MP, the person should be prepared to pay something as a contribution to the party’s development.

By the way, I know one former NPP man whose body was a beneficiary of a coffin donated by an MP. The late man’s name was Mr. Kofi Ohiay?ya and he lived in a village called Obr?guo Y?ya.

Ok, so what if no one decides to contest a sitting MP? It means the party will be fine without the money that would have been raised through the so-called development fee? In reality, therefore, the so-called development fee is imposed, not because the party needs more funding, but as a deterrent to potential aspirants and a punishment for those who actually go on to contest sitting MPs.

I think leaders of the NPP should have just been bold to announce their actual anti-democratic intentions for the policy. They should have simply said, sitting MPs are supposed to go unopposed, Bam. For this policy that is rather a bad one, the party did not find it ill-timed to warrant a reversal. But undoubtedly, it is ill-informed.

My problem with the policy is also informed by my experiences of how ordinary people sacrifice for their parties. Just a few examples will suffice.

During my teaching days at Kojo Betiako and my senior high school days at Tepa Senior High School (the only GREAT TESS), I was always extremely amazed at the great sacrifices some famers, teachers, lotto sellers, nurses, petty traders and other people in local communities make, just to keep their parties strong and vibrant in their communities.

In fact, in many communities around the country, the rivalry between supporters of the NPP and the NDC is such that some people are sometimes literary prepared to sacrifice all they have to make their party triumph.

I know NPP and NDC members who have turned their homes into offices of the party they support. I know teachers and farmers who struggled to buy bicycles and turned them into means of transport for party members to carry out party activities. I know young folks who have been beaten and maimed for defending their parties.

Today, if any of those teachers, nurses or petty traders who are NPP members and have served the party for years, want to run for parliament in a constituency with a sitting NPP MP, they must pay an additional GHC20,000 as a so-called party development fee. O Why? Because, in the logic of the NPP, all the sacrifices they have made, including making sure that the sitting MP won the seat in the last election, do not count as significant contribution to the party’s development.

Evidence of one having turned their homes into party offices or using their meagre resources to take care of party expenses, is no contribution. If you are an NPP member and you want to challenge a sitting MP whom you helped to get to parliament, the price is GHC20,000.

Evidence of having suffered heavy beating by thugs while you were defending the NPP, is recognised. But sorry, you still have to pay GHC20,000, if you are dreaming to take over the Chinese Chair occupied by Honourable Sikay?d? in Parliament.

Yes, they know you served as polling station agent during elections. The recognised your efforts in making the pink sheets available for the Supreme Court Pettion after the 2012 election, but sorry, those were not significant contributions to party development. The price remains GHC20,000.

Ok, so if you are and NPP member wanting to contest a sitting NPP MP and you still don’t understand the policy, let me help you. Read the guidelines below carefully, to find your level and determine how much you have to pay.

Note: For one’s contribution to be deemed significant to party development, the following must apply:

1. The contributor must have succeeded in deceiving or convincing the masses during the 2012 elections, to invest their meagre resources, time and energy in getting him or her elected to Parliament to earn the title, ‘Honourable’, on behalf of the NPP. Simply put, for any contribution to be deemed significant to party development, the contributor must first and foremost be a sitting MP. Are you?

2. After having used the party and the people whose contributions are not significant to party development to get to Parliament, one must have been making monthly contributions to the party from the extremely good remuneration and perks that come with the Honourable position.

3. After using the party and people to get to the Palace of Golden Chinese Chairs, one must have been contributing to support constituency picnics, jamborees, and other events but more importantly including evidence of having bought a coffin for the burial of a local party member.

Well wishes to all.

Columnist: Braimah, Sulemana