Late last month, the NPP sent out a clarion call to its members who wished to contest the position of the flagbearer of the party in the 2004 elections to step forward and be counted. This, apparently, is in accordance with Article 12 (1) of the party’s constitution. As is wont to happen in such cases, some people are going to portray this as a sign of our political maturity and another example of the NPP’s adherence to the principles of democratic governance. But I am not amused. I believe that having what is essentially a vote of confidence on the leadership of JAK, or any other president for that matter, with more than two years to go in his/her mandate is the dumbest thing any ruling party could do. Unless of course, this whole exercise is a charade intended to safeguard JAK against a real challenge as 2004 draws closer.
Article 12 (1) of the NPP’s constitution states, “the election of the party’s presidential candidate shall take place at a national congress held not later than 24 months from the date of the national election”. This constitutional requirement was put in place when the NPP was in opposition. It was a move, and a correct one I might add, to afford the flagbearer ample time to counter the enormous advantage enjoyed by the incumbent NDC in terms of exposure to the electorate. Why no one foresaw the possibility of the current situation during the drafting of this article is a testament to our inability to look beyond our noses when it comes to these matters. Our penchant to institute measures or procedures to address immediate concerns, be they political or economical, is legendary and unfortunately, has been the bane of our society. It was such myopic thinking that was brought to bear during the drafting of our current constitution. It was the same shortsightedness that guided the writing of the bill introduced by the then NDC government to deal with the removal from office of a vice-president after the fights and disagreements between the president and his vice. In both cases, the overriding concern was giving a free hand to Mr. Rawlings to run the country as he saw fit without a thought to the fact that he was not going to be president forever. I guess the NDC guys are cursing themselves now for allowing the president such a free hand in the appointment of Supreme Court judges.
Coming back to the issue at hand. With credible contenders either in cabinet or parliament, I do not anticipate a real contest for the leadership of the NPP. These potential candidates will not risk losing their positions or favour with the party hierarchy by challenging the president. I believe this is the reason no attempt was made to rectify the glaring inadequacies of Article 12(1) and the NPP “big shots” are eagerly carrying it out to the letter. This reasoning, whether intended to maintain their hold on the party or to reduce the risk of party infighting, is nevertheless, shortsighted. If there were any doubts, the past year and half have shown us that JAK has neither the clear sense of purpose nor the ability to galvanize Ghanaians into doing the things necessary to lift us out of the economic quicksand we find ourselves. He has been fumbling and bumbling since the first day he took office and the party executives by pursuing a course of action that will only lead to the maintenance of the status quo robs the party of the possibility of renewing itself as 2004 approaches.
Maybe I should stop being so cynical and look at this as a genuine attempt to elect the right leader for the party. Unfortunately, I still see trouble. This scenario has the potential of splitting the party apart and rendering the country directionless for two odd years. Although a credible challenge from the general party ranks would be tolerable, one from a member of parliament would be unfortunate and a candidate from within the cabinet would be disastrous. How is the party going to look, in the eyes of Ghanaians, if a cabinet minister is going around telling everyone that he should replace his boss because he is inept? Secondly, will the cabinet minister do the right thing and resign or will he wait to be fired so he can make JAK seem vindictive thus alienating some party members? Regardless of where the challenge comes from though, whoever wins a fiercely contested race would be faced with reconciling opposing camps. The party might find itself spending more time to reconcile its ranks rather than running the country or a presidential campaign for that matter. In this regard, a JAK win will be better for the party and also the country since he can easily afford to be magnanimous in victory and tell party members to forget the campaign and focus on working to retain power. Most members are bound to heed this call and this, if handled correctly, could even score some ‘cheap political points’ with the electorate at large. On the other hand, should JAK lose, his camp would be in mood to compromise or cooperate. Apart from the potential of this causing the break up of the NPP, the country will be the bigger loser. Ghana would be saddled with a lame duck president for well over two years. And that is not all. JAK having been dumped may decide to run as an independent candidate in the 2004 elections. This is more likely than he just giving up and retiring. Despite his good intentions and democratic leanings, I do not see JAK, or any of member of the ruling class, giving up a position of privilege and power that easily. Of course, he will be buried, literally, in such an election.
Even though I see the current exercise as unnecessary and fraught with potential pit falls, in the end, I do not see it having a significant impact on the party’s fortunes in the 2004 elections. This is not because the NPP is endowed with political doyens who can bring a party back from the brink. No! It has more to do with why I always end my bedtime prayers with “Lord, please give Ghana, my beloved country, a real third party.” However, the NPP should be aware that a JAK victory at the 2004 polls portends a 2008 election defeat for them.
Ottawa, ON, Canada
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