Ambrose Dery Holds the Key to Unlocking the North for the NPP

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 Source: Pul, Hippolyt

By Hippolyt A. S. Pul

The 2008 elections is one of a different kind since 1992 for several reasons. First, it is the only election in which none of the candidates is an incumbent head of state or president seeking the mandate of the people. Second, it is the first election in which the two main parties have evened scores in their tenure and are now set to determine who is the better party to rule the country. Third, it is the only election which faces the potential of a viable third force, the rejuvenated CPP holding the promise of making considerable dents in the redistribution of votes in the traditional strongholds of the two dominant parties. Therefore, any party that intends to wind the elections outright or in such margins as to make it call the shots in determining the terms of a possible coalition must aim to reach out beyond their tradition “world banks” and win voters not only from the floating voters, but from the backyards of their opponents as well.

In the drawing of the battle lines, a lot has been said about the selection of the running mates for the flag bearers; and the political mathematicians have been agog with all the ethnic and regional permutations that would define the winner from the loser in this year’s elections. Central to this has been the argument for a regional balance in the representation of the political parties. And the NDC has set the tone in deciding on a running mate that they believe holds the key to their success this year. In deed, the choice of John Mahama has turned the heat on the NPP to come up with a credible running mate that can increase its chances in the north, which has so far gone largely to the NDC. In particular, the NPP is under pressure to shed its image as a southern party with no interests in the north. The party needs a regional balance to demonstrate that it is truly a national party and that it can win the hearts and minds of people in the north by living up to its motto of development in freedom. This it can only do by putting a credible northerner on the ticket with its flagbearer.

In the search for regional balance, however, many names have come up for consideration as candidates for the NPP Vice Presidential slot. However, if the NPP truly wants to unlock its electoral fortunes in the north, Ambrose Dery is the only person who holds the key for them. And here is why:

1. Ambrose is a crowd puller. Yes, some might argue that Ambrose Dery never own any election and therefore has no proven record of bringing in votes to the NPP. To such arguments, it is important to remind ourselves that in the game of politics, prior record of winning elections is irrelevant, it is the ability to marshal votes that counts. In 1992, Jerry John Rawlings had never won an election in his life time; and yet he stood for president and won, even if the verdict was considered stolen. Similarly, President Thomas Yayi Boni of Benin never won an election before he decided to run for president. He stood as an independent candidate and beat those who had won elections and had party machinery behind them.

In the case of Ambrose, however, anyone making that argument only needs to compare the votes that the NPP received in the Lawra constituency in 2000 to the votes the same party received in 2004. In 2000, out of the total valid votes of 30,113 cast in the Lawra constituency, candidate Kuffuor at the time got only 3,109 valid votes from the constituency. This represented 10.3% of the total valid votes in the constituency. In contrast, in 2004 Kuffuor received 9,474 votes out of the total valid votes of 31,042, representing 30.5%. In other words, Ambrose Dery himself received 10,549 votes.

In otherwise, the Ambrose Dery factor alone raised the NPP’s votes in the Lawra district by 20 percentage points over the 2000 performance. And this was after bus loads of registered voters who transferred their votes home in support of Ambrose were denied the chance to vote under very dubious circumstances. This must also be viewed against the background that Ambrose Dery had barely three months to run his campaign as the NPP’s candidate, as the primaries in that constituency were delayed until September or so of 2004 when he could officially consider himself as the candidate.

At any rate, it is a moot point to use prior track record of winning elections as the basis for choosing a vice presidential candidate for elections. The history of this country shows that prior electoral records are unimportant; for none of the successful Vice Presidents of this country since 1992 (the late Kow Nkensen Arkaah, John Atta Mills, and Aliu Mahama) had any track record of prior electoral successes before they came in as vice presidents.

2. He has the numbers beyond his constituency behind him too: Politics is about number. That is why Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings vehemently denounced the relevance of the north in the run up to the selection of the running mate of the NDC. And she was right. Except that she was totally ignorant of the facts and figures behind her arguments. She was completely ignorant of the fact that more than half the people. For instance, anyone who argues that the Upper West Region is the tiniest of the Northern regions in terms of population size, and is therefore incapable of affecting the electoral fortunes of any party only needs to refer to the demographics of this country, especially in terms of the regional distribution of ethnic groups. According to the 2000 Population and Housing Census, 49.8% of Ghanaians who trace their ethnic origins to the Upper West Region actually lived outside the Upper West Region at the time of the census. In deed, the Dagaaba ethnic group, to which Ambrose Dery belongs, had 50.9% of its citizens living outside the region at the time of the survey, with 48.4% of Sisaalas and 47.1% of the Walas also living outside of their places of origin .

It must also be put on record that a substantial size of the population of the Brong Ahafo region is made up of migrants from the Upper West Region. And if anyone thought this has no bearing on national elections, find out what role Ambrose Dery played in winning back the Nkoranza north seat for the NPP after it was vacated by Eric Amoateng.

3. Ambrose Dery is known and loved beyond his constituency. He is a household name along the eastern corridor of the north, from Bamboi all the way to Hamile. Spontaneous street parties broke out in places like Sawla, Tuna, and villages along the Bamboi-Wa-Hamile road when Ambrose’s nomination as Regional Minister was announced. When he lost the 2004 elections, the confreres of the dagartis in the Upper East, the Frafras, took the “dagartis” to the gutters and declared that Ambrose should have come to stand in their constituency and he would have been sure of victory.

In short, as a candidate for the vice presidency, Ambrose can lead the NPP to make in roads in the backyard of John Mahama while bringing on board considerable votes from the Upper East as well, where he lived and practiced his law before getting into politics.

4. Ambrose has paid his dues of loyalty. Rumours have it that he was removed from the Upper West Region as Regional Minister because he refused to tow a certain line during the campaigns for the flagbearership of the NPP. At the time that many of his colleagues kowtowed, he chose to stand by his believes and principles, even at the cost of his position. What Ghana needs today are men and women of principle and Ambrose is one of them.

5. Every astute political observer knows that the NPP did fared poorly in the Upper West because structures of the NPP barely existed beyond Wa, the regional capital, and the party was only heard of and known by the negative propaganda that the NDC and other parties capitalised on the NPP’s structural absence to spin and spread. Since coming into politics, and especially during his short time as Regional Minister, Ambrose was able to turn the tide around and bring the Upper West Region to the NPP. The NPP flag is now a common sight in many communities, thanks to the intensive outreach programs that Ambrose initiated in his time as Regional Minister. He has established a solid foundation and a provided the party with a rejuvenated and committed leadership that is sure to turn the fortunes of the party in the region around.

By this, he has earned the respect and command of the Party in the region. If the votes at the NPP congress were disaggregated by region, there would be evidence that his following won the day, despite his untimely removal from the region. That must be sure proof that even in his physical absence from the region, he has been able to build a solid foundation for true leadership in the NPP on the ground.

6. He understands that politics is for development: Unlike many northern politicians who get into politics for self-preservation, Ambrose knows and understands that he is in politics for the development of his people. And his people have seen the difference between him and other politicians even in his very short entry into the political scene. Many more communities in his constituency and beyond were connected to the national grid than ever before.

At the regional level, after Kofi Charlie of the Acheampong era who tirelessly created infrastructure to house the Upper West Region, Ambrose is the only other individual who has used his office as Regional Minister to accelerate the development of infrastructure in Wa to make it befit the status of a regional capital. Anyone who knew Wa before 2005 would readily appreciate the massive developments that went on between the time Ambrose took over as Regional Minister and the time he left. Apart from the reconstruction and tarring of the road next work in Wa, and the bringing of street lights to the Municipality, Ambrose Dery was the only Minister who completed the construction of the Jubilee Park in his region in time to host the Ghana @ 50 celebrations.

7. Ambrose is the man who can renew the faith of the people of Upper East and Upper West Region, the poorest regions of the country that the NPP indeed stands for their development in freedom, as its motto professes. He knows the two regions very well and can speak to their concerns more than some of the candidates being touted around. He is therefore better positioned to be the bridge between the poor of the north and the party that promises to bring them development in freedom.

8. Ambrose leads by example: Beyond physical development, Ambrose introduced and lived the practice of punctuality, highlighting the importance in the use of time as the only resource that defines the poor from the rich. His adherence to this principle, even outside his region, endeared him to many development partners who found themselves running to meetings such as the Mole Series which Ambrose chaired in order not to be late.

9. Ambrose has the international exposure and experience that qualify him for the post of Vice President. Yes, unknown to many Ghanaians, Ambrose has been involved in negotiating many of Ghana’s high profile and sometimes complex and diplomatically sensitive agreements and contracts when he became Deputy Minister of Justice and Attorney General. His involvement in negotiating Ghana out of the shackles of the Valco deal in ways that has saved the country money and energy while preserving our diplomatic relationships and international image with stakeholder countries is, of course, outside the public domain. Since his return to that ministry as a Minister, barely a month passes without his going out for one negotiation or the other on behalf of the country.

10. Finally, the party also has an obligation to honour the memories of its pioneers and stalwarts like the late S.D Dombo, Abeifaa Karbo, and Jatoe Kaleo who sacrificed in many ways to lay to nurture and grow the Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition of which NPP is the progeny by giving the Vice Presidential slot to a native of the region of their birth. Ambrose is the only person in the NPP who is sure to return that honour to the party by marshalling votes beyond his constituency for the party. In short then, if the NPP really needs someone who can help win a lot of votes, especially from committed NDC loyalists as well as floating voters, in the north and in the south, then Ambrose is the man.

• He knows the north and knows how to haul in the votes from his people.

• He is well connected in the south, especially in regions that are hosts to migrant populations from the Upper West Region.

• He commands respect in the Upper East Region, where he lived and practiced his law for many years.

• He has demonstrated selfless leadership among his people and for the nation.

He is the best offer the north can make to the NPP as a Vice President. Let the NPP flagbearer give him a chance and Ghana and the party will have real prove of his mettle.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Pul, Hippolyt