Feature Article of Sun, 24 Sep 20176

Is the NDC really ready for Election 2020?

Article 42 of the National Democratic Congress’ constitution states that when the party is in opposition, it shall elect its flag bearer 24 months (2 years) ahead of a national election. General Secretary of the party, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketsiah, early this year reechoed this constitutional provision when he said the party will elect its 2020 flag bearer by end of December 2018 in line with article 42 of the party's constitution.

The practice over the years has been that, after every four years, elections are conducted from the branch level to the national level before a national congress to elect flag bearer. This means that by end of December 2018, the party must seal all internal elections including the flag bearer election to pave way for the election of parliamentary candidates for the next parliamentary elections.

The consensus among party leaders and supporters is that the NDC must strengthen its base ahead of the next general election which looks very probable to win. Despite the party’s excruciating defeat in last year’s election, the party’s supporters are not down-spirited.

Instead, they are fired-up and hoping that the party will walk gallantly into the Flag Staff House after the 2020 elections. Of course, there are some disillusioned party supporters who failed to go out on Election Day to vote for the party in the last elections who are still not interested in associating with the party.

Nobody can discount the fact that apathy played a huge role in NDC’s ‘wheezing’ defeat. Persons hitherto committed to the party who fell out with the party because of some reasons are still lurking around waiting to see some sanity injected into the party. We cannot leave them to remain in their state of inexplicable attrition. Such persons need “credible” party leaders at all levels of the party to renew their “marriage” with the party.

Though the indicators for a possible recapturing of power looks very positive, the missing ingredient has been our lukewarm attitude towards rolling out processes to rebrand the party. While the teeming supporters are battle ready to take the fight to the doorsteps of their opponents, those in charge of the party seem not to be in a hurry to put our house in order.

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The party's constitution provides that every elected executive at any level of the party shall hold office for four years. The last branch election was conducted on July 19, 2014, and going by the four year mandate principle, the current branch executives will exit office on July 19, 2018.

On this date, all branch executives will cease to hold themselves as elected officers of the party. The last regional election was conducted in October 2014 and the national delegates’ conference was on December 20, 2014. When a new regional election is not conducted by October 2018, then the current regional executives would all have to exit office. Same applies to the current National Executives.

The 2014 regional and national elections were originally scheduled to come off on August 31, and September 2014 respectively. However, the elections had to be rescheduled to October and December respectively because of a court case engineered by one Linus Njonolah. This case obstructed the election calendar, and nearly pushed the elections into 2015.

I gave this background to prove that election calendars are not static rules that cannot be knocked off by unforeseen happenings. This should be a source of worry to every member of the party. We have up to December 2018 to elect flag bearer yet we are uncertain when to even organize branch elections nine months after losing power!

Our mistake was to have allowed the fact-finding committee led Prof Kwesi Botchwey to hold us down not to engage in any party activity until their recommendations. The Committee was to determine why we lost the election and make recommendations thereon. The Committee was not a court, and so for us to have halted all party activities in anticipation of their report, it was a baffling episode which has done a lot of damage to the party than good.

If the party had allowed party reorganization to run alongside the committee’s work, we would organize at least our branch elections and preparing to organize constituency elections. What could have perhaps accounted for the party’s reliance on the committee were the discussions on the party’s “biometric register”. A lot has been said about this register as one of the main contributors to our defeat.

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Though this may be true, the register should not be much of a problem to the party. But it seems discussions on the register in respect of what to do with it is high on the agenda of party leaders.

The Greater Accra regional chairman of the party, Joseph Kobina Ade Coker, has hinted that the party intends to ditch its biometric register for a new one. Meaning the party will compile new register before branch elections are conducted to kick off our internal elections. This exercise will take not less than five months. If we go by this arrangement, we may not elect flag bearer by December 2018 as our constitution demands.

This arrangement may also lead to a situation where all elected executives, from branch to national, will have their term in office expired and constitutional crisis will hit us in the face.

We all agree that our biometric register is bloated and needs to be put in proper shape. But the solution to fixing a bloated register is not to compile a new one. At least, the NDC canvassed this point forcefully when the NPP attempted to force the Electoral Commission to compile a new register ahead of the 2016 elections. There is no non-bloated register anywhere in the world. And in fact, any new register that will be compiled by the party will still be bloated. We bloated the register ourselves by allowing non-party members to register for some parochial interest.

The possibility of us bloating it further when a new one is compiled is very well, especially when it will be compiled ahead of another internal election.

Those who will get their names on the “new register” are those who will elect branch executives and parliamentary and presidential candidates. Smart politicians always want to play safe when it comes to election so they will stock the register with persons who are likely to vote for them in any election even if those persons are not NDC members.

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So far, those pushing for new register for the party have not convinced anybody how they are going to ensure that non-NDC members will not get their names onto the new register.

All the party needs at this crucial time is a credible register to speed up its internal election not new register. What the party have to do is to clean the register, and expunge non-NDC members from it. That is the only way to get credible register. How then do we clean the register? A copy of the register must be send to every branch of the party and the branch executives must be tasked to scrutinize it.

The branch executives know NDC members in their areas and can vouch for their affiliation to the NDC. They should mark out all non-NDC members. This should be done by all branch executives and members at a branch meeting not by one man hiding somewhere. It should be under the strict supervision of constituency executives.

This can take less than a month to do. After the vetting of the register at the branch level, the list should be send to the regional office for further vetting for onward delivery to the party headquarters. New members may be registered after this exercise. With this, we can get a credible register. For now, the party is far behind time and if we are to be lockdown on this debate over register, we may end up electing our flag bearer and parliamentary candidates in 2020 by which time they may not have enough time to campaign.

All these elections come with animosity which must be managed before the 2020 elections. If tensions flowing from our internal elections are not doused, and we carry it into the general elections, we will suffer from apathy again. This is the reason why the framers of our constitution saw the need for the party to elect its flag bearer two years before the national election.

A section of the party has variously referred to recommendations in the Kwesi Botchwey report, insisting it must be implemented. One of these constantly referenced recommendations is that the party must find eminent persons to embark on “nationwide healing”. The best way to heal the party is to tighten the base by conducting election, starting from the branch through to national. The only way we can reposition the party to attract the lost “souls” is to give those at the base the opportunity to determine who leads them at the various layers of the party.

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If we fail to do this and we resurrect even the late Atta Mills to lead any healing processes in the party, we will just be harvesting dust in pursuit of building a three-storey bedroom. True is, majority of our supporters and Ghanaians in general have lost faith in some of our leaders at the various levels of our party, and will only identify with us if we consign those persons to the backstage of happenings in our party.

It is either we accept that we are running out of time or we hide behind some ignominious healing process to delay our preparedness for the 2020 election. Time is not on our side. Let's set the ball rolling NOW!

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